Babu: 20/20 Vision
With the first Likwit Crew project over, a new one coming soon, and Dilated Peoples album 20/20an album he claims is for the original fans who have held us down since day onecoming sooner, Babu has a lot to talk about. Check this must-read interview.
HipHopDX: Whats been going on with you guys?
Babu: Really, up to last week, we were just getting the final things done for the new record. To the last minute, we were trying to work out some problems we had with sample clearances and just wrapping up photos and artwork, trying to make the deadline for February 21. Were trying to really stick with that so this last week or two has been really stressful about getting everything in and getting it right.
For the majority of this year, Ive pretty much been putting everything on hold for this Dilated record. Ive been doing some things with my man Defari for this Likwit Junkies project here and there, and I still go out and DJ whenever I get a set with the Beat Junkies, but for the most part, Ive been really going hard at this Dilated record.
HipHopDX: What kind of reception did you receive with the last album, Neighborhood Watch?
Babu: Its weird, it really depends on who you speak to. Some people would say that it was out breakthrough album, and we caught a new visibility that we had never gained. You speak to someone who had been with us since before The Platform with our independent ABV 12-inches, theyd probably say they werent too familiar with our last album because they didnt listen to it. It really depends on where you stand. For me, I loved our last record. I really could never understand how Capitol promoted it. They just got a hold of This Way, and they just had blinders on them, they couldnt see anything else that we had planned. There were all kinds of things that were supposed to happen. There was supposed to be a video for Marathon, we were supposed to come and hit them after This Way with another 12-inch, but the label just sort of capped out and didnt show faith in our project.
But its a beautiful thing, I love that song, I love that last album, but it was a rough time for us. Evidence lost his mother at that time, I gave birth to my second child, and on top of that, it was just a crazy situation. It was a lot on the table at one time. I cant fully blame the label for dropping the ball, even though that was a big part of it. Internally, as a group, we werent at the best mind state to be promoting an album, either.
HipHopDX: Why would you say that older fans didnt listen to the album that much?
Babu: Well, I think that goes hand-in-hand to the fact that not only did the label get blinders when they heard the song that we had done with Kanye, it totally shifted on how we wanted to promote this record. The label, when it comes down to it, they just saw that song and nothing else, to be perfectly frank with you. You know how they think, (they think) in terms of plaques and dollars and cents. So they heard that, and they were like, Oh man, weve got to run with this. We had a whole plan formulated that they just threw out the window. To be honest with you, that album is just straight stupid, its hard-ass, its just the same shit that weve been doing. But the focus that the label and the media [gave it], it just didnt give the true impression of what we, the members of the group, wanted to do. Thats my only qualm. I dont regret any of the music we made on that last record, that shit was banging as fuck! I was just listening to it the other day.
If youre a hardcore fan, and your one impression is a video you see on MTV with us with Kanye West, I cant blame cats for walking away and not taking the last album as serious or giving it as serious a listen as they would have given to Expansion Team or The Platform. I just think it got promoted in the wrong way, the focus just wasnt on the right thing. I want to go out there and tell people that didnt get the last record, if you can get over whatever your qualms are with us and our music, and go back and listen to that record, you may find eight or nine jams that you didnt hear that were just classic Dilated jams.
HipHopDX: Do you think you got a bigger new fan base from that album?
Babu: Not necessarily. I think at that moment, we definitely gained new fans the moment that the record was out. But I think those kinds of fans were the ones that just hop on and off the escalator real quick, if you know what Im saying. If we come back with another song in that realm, theyll be there, but they arent the type of fans that do history on a group and know that we did Worse Comes To Worst and Work the Angles. Were new to them, we might as well have been a new group for those new fans.
Its a blessing, man, I think that the thing we did get from that is that our resume, as far as having notches on our belt. The real positive is that it also opened us the doors for us to play on another level now, a few more doors just opened up just from the notoriety of that track. It enabled us to play in different venues, and open up and have other people open up for us who never would. It enabled us to touch more people. I think that was the beauty of it. This is the first time in my career that (I think for the first time) some of the relatives in my family really understood what I (do) as a job now [laughs]. It took for us to be on a Kiss FM, or an MTV to finally see what it is Im doing with my life.
HipHopDX: What was it like putting together the Likwit Junkies project?
Babu: The best way I can describe it just that it was fun. Half the reason that Im still active on downtime with Dilated is just to keep my head creative and clear. Making music and playing in the big leagues, theres a lot to deal with. A lot of it is work. I try to keep myself and my sanity in-tact by going out and doing things in between records like a Duck Season, or a Likwit Junkies like this year. Defari is a close friend of our group, hes like a family member to Dilated. We did a jam for my last Duck Season, and I was like, Why dont you do a jam for me? Ill give you a beat, and well just trade jams, and well have three things, one for your project, and you do something for mine. Those jams ended up being the Behold My Life, Behold My Life Remix, and we did the first Likwit Junkies song on my last Duck Season with a song called I Got This.
From there, me and D formed a really nice chemistry, and we just started hooking up. Hed come out to my home studio, and wed sit there and bang out on the spot, three songs in a day, four songs sometimes. After about a month or two of hooking up once or twice a week, we all of a sudden had a little bit more than an albums worth of material just sitting here. It was real organic and natural, and I wanted it to stay that way. From top to bottom, not only did I produce, but I mixed and recorded the whole thing at my home studio, no engineers. We saved all our money to do a little low-budget video, and get the record mastered at least. It was something I really enjoyed, I really felt as if we werent being restricted by sample clearances, and we werent as concerned about the dollars and zeros, we just wanted to put out some hot shit. Were both still hungry attitude type artists that have to stay busy all year doing shit, and Im blessed to be able to have an outlet like that to work with another great MC like Defari. It was pure enjoyment, I love being in the studio and doing that shit.
HipHopDX: Youre a well-respected DJ in hip-hop. If you had to make a choice between making music and actually spinning at clubs, which would you choose?
Babu: I dont know, its hard. One day, you can go out to a club and catch that vibe where youre controlling the crowd, youre selecting, youre killing people with everything you drop, people are losing their minds, and theres nothing that can replace that. But at the same time, I love being in the studio and making that music and playing it for people and performing it for people. I think Im split down the middle, I dont think Id be happy doing one or the other. I think that subliminally, Id be going crazy trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I guess if I had one to choose, Id have to go with the source, it all started with my two turntables, records, and a mixer. But its evolved into the beatmaking, so I look at that as my second love. I guess if I had to choose, I would have to stick with the pure necessities of just having the turntables around.
As of lately, though, I really have been working with the production more and more over the last three or four years. To me, at this point, the lines have been blurred, theyre all the same. That energy I used to put into a DMC battle, is the same energy I put into making a beat for a Dilated record or LJs record. Ive tried to just take all those energies and apply them to different avenues that I want to express myself in.
I love it all. I hate to say it, but Im a fan of all kinds of DJing. And to touch on what you were saying earlier, I know the industry tends to focus on DJs sometimes that technically dont even DJ. I feel you, it kind of bums me out on the low. But at the same time, I think thats part of the evolution of the DJ. Its a loose evolution. Nowadays, DJs in the industry, whether you know if they were DJs in the past or if theyre currently still DJs, some heavy movers and shakers in the industry started out as DJs or still claim to be DJs. And I think its become part of skill DJs need to work on and recognize, just their hustle. I believe in balance, and I believe at the end of the day you have to back it up with hand skills, having a record collection, and being nice with it. But at the same time, theres a lot of cats like that, when you put them in the room, theyre going to clam up and wont talk to anyone, so no one will ever find out that theyre an ill DJ. I think that the skys the limit for DJs nowadays, DJs have their own shows on television now, car shows and shit. More power to us. Im definitely not one to hate. But at the same time, I give the most respect to dudes that have those hand skills, no matter what level theyre playing at. Its always nice to hear someone that can get busy and appreciate the art form still, because thats my original drive of this whole game, and Ive got much love for all those cats who are still in the trenches on those decks.
HipHopDX: How much of a connection do you get with fans of your music by DJing?
Babu: I think it definitely helps. For any endeavor I do, whether its Beat Junkies or Dilated, I think that me being recognized as a DJ first before someone who makes music has always helped me. But there are a few occasions where it has worked against me. I think that sometimes when people get a production sampler CD from me to hear my beats, and it says DJ Babu on there, theyre going to get a preconception in their head of what I am or what the beats are going to sound like. Hes a backpack cat who cuts it up, whos hardcore, hes from Dilated, he used to work at Fat Beats, and whatever they know about me. Where as when you get a blank tape from some Joe Schmo youve never heard of, youre going to hear it with wide open ears, without any kinds of preconceptions. So sometimes, I think its stopped people from listening to my music at all, or if not with different constraints on their ears.
But at the same time, it has worked in my favor. Theres probably been a cat who says, Babus is nice on those damn decks, hes probably nice in the studio, too. Ive always tried to use it to my advantage. Something like Duck Season is really a mixtape, but Ive always used it as something to slyly put my production out there at the same time. I know a lot of producers who wish they could create a platform for themselves to play their own music that they make, and I attribute that to my DJ background. It all works hand-in-hand. Ive always taken pride that I have battle scars from my battle days, and now I play on a real level. When I go around now, and I do radio promotion or anywhere I go see another group and they have a DJ, I get mad respect from cats from that work I put in, and it feels good. I would hate to be one of those DJs with a big huge rap group, and people just consider you a stage prop. Ive seen DJs have to do thatI know theyre really nice on the low, but theyre up there every night, and even if theyre on a record, theyre trying to prove themselves, they arent out there being entertainers and performers. Im really (fortunate) to be able to walk the path I have, and Ill keep dealing with the hands how theyre dealt to me and take advantage of my strengths.