Hundred Proof Music
Chris Karnes über seine Arbeit mit dem aufstrebenden Produzententeam Hundred Proof Music, die Schwierigkeit, heute auf dem Musikmarkt Fuß zu fassen und seine ganz persönlichen Lösungsansätze, um in der stagnierenden Rapszene an der Ostküste endlich wieder für frischen Wind zu sorgen.
Your website says that you started your career producing for a local group called The Logistics … why did the group break up?
The group didn’t really break up as it kind of disbanded. After a few projects people just started to do their own thing and focus on themselves. Confucius went on to drop a couple of solo projects as did Rocky B and Frank Fingaz. What’s funny is today I actually got a call from my brother (Frank Fingaz) and he said the Logistics just recorded a song together for the first time in about 5 years. So there may actually be a Logistics reunion project in the works as we speak.
What kind of sound did you bring to the table back then?
Aw man, those were the good old days. It was just raw hip hop. I was using an SP-12 Turbo and Acid Pro 1.0 and the beats were knocking. We were bringing a sound that the area hadn’t heard before. The Logistics really introduced local hip-hop to that part of the city, and that’s why the final group CD was titled “Northeast Originators.” It was really just local hip hop, nothing glamorous, but that’s what made it special. It was just riding music that the whole area could feel.
How have you changed your repertoire up to this day?
Well, I evolved from making music for my local area to making music for the world, but the reality is I’ve gone back to what I did then: having fun. I got caught up in trying to push “mainstream” beats for a while, tried to do the whole “underground” thing for a while, but as I learned and grew, it’s all about enjoying the artform. The SP-12 is long gone and I’ve owned almost every piece of gear trying to find my favourite sound, and ended up nearly where I started. An MPC-60 and an ASR-X. I’m still a sample junkie (especially international music, so e-mail me some hot german stuff!!). The only thing that has changed between now and then is the millennium and my accomplishments.
You worked with a bunch of nameable artists – could you just do a little namedropping and tell us how you hooked up with the single artists?
Well, let’s see, I’ll start with Doap Nixon, some of you may not know him yet, but by July 22, 2008, you will. His release “Sour Diesel” is dropping on Babygrande worldwide, so go pick that up. Linking up with Doap was completely by chance. We had a studio set-up in Philly, he needed a place to record, we met up and we just clicked musically. He recorded a lot of his pre-album material with me then started working elsewhere once we closed up shop. Through him the track with Outerspace came about, which you can check out on my MySpace and his mixtape. The Killah Priest and Jacka (of Mob Figaz) tracks were set-up thanks to my people out in Cali, Da Evangillest and Josh. These kids just hit me up one day looking for beats, I had no idea who they were for or who was gonna end up on them, then I just get a call that says they’ll be out in New York recording with Killah Priest telling me to come out and chill with them. So me and Confucius are on the first train out to NY, miss the session, but still get to enjoy beautiful Park Slope Brooklyn for a few hours of freestyle sessions.
How difficult is it to get a well known rapper flowing on your production?
It’s pretty hard unless you know their people. I mean, I did it the old fashion way when it came to Shabaam Sahdeeq, I just went to his show because he was one of my favourite artists from the Rawkus era, gave him a beat CD and got a call the next day. Other times though, people just don’t wanna hear shit, especially bigger name artists. I’ve been in meetings with A&R’s, shopped beats to the majors, but the reality of the game is, nobody cares about you unless you’re somebody. It’s not even about the music anymore in the mainstream, and that’s fucked up. It’s really hard out there to get any names on your shit because they’ve got it flying from every angle. The best way to do it is connect directly and physically through their associates, or make yourself known so they come after you.
Alot of producers release their own album sooner or later – how do your plans look like?
Man, I’ve been trying to do that for years. I would really love to, but I don’t want to do it half-ass. Everytime I’ve started it, by the time I get 10 – 15 beats I wanna use, I make new ones that I like more or I use the ones I was saving to pay the bills, you know? I think I’m going to wait until I’m a little bit more established and can get the names I really want on it. But don’t expect me to pull an Alchemist and start rapping on it. I really want to do a political-themed album that would be some real monumental wake up the generation type of stuff, so that’s what I’m putting together in my head. Will it ever come to fruition? I don’t know.
I listen to alot of rapmusic from all over the country and from time to time I feel like especially the eastcoast scene is heading towards a crisis. There seems to be a lack of innovation and fresh new ideas. How do you see this?
Absolutely. The whole game is in a depression, just like our economy over here, and it’s for the same reasons. A lack of innovation, a lack of new creation, and a stale mentality on making the same old money and pleasing the same old people. The street artists are content on being hood celebrities, the underground artists are content on being underground artists, and the mainstream artists are too afraid they might lose a couple sales to make some real hip hop music. It’s definitely one of those things that will change with time. The whole digital music revolution is forcing labels and artists to find a new way to generate revenue. It will get to the point where the public decides what is good, not the radio and the industry. It’s all going to be monetized through internet advertising soon, and if we don’t want to hear 50 and Plies every 2 songs, they won’t be played. Just look at how Pandora, the online radio station you program yourself works, that’s the future and that will bring back real hiphop. That’s the only hope we have.
Do you have something like a vision of the perfect rapsong?
I do, and we came really really close to accomplishing it on the last Confucius album. There’s a track called “What I Know Now” and it features Mike Reka (http://www.myspace.com/rekaking), Access Immortal (you all know him), and Shotgunn out of Philly. It’s got everything that I think a perfect track needs:
1. An extremely hot sample
2. Climbing Strings (supplied by Mr. Frank Fingaz)
3. Hot verses from multiple artists
4. A live bass line (supplied by our own John Katz)
5. Amazing soulful grimy male vocals on the hook and adlibs
6. A message
7. Drums that knock really hard
That’s what you need for a perfect hip hop track. Variety, some knock, a crazy sample, and a little bit of soul in there, and a meaning to the song. Very few songs accomplish most of these things, but when they do … wow! Nas and Mos Def are probably the best at pulling this off. For Nas I think “Let There Be Light” from Hip Hop is Dead, and Mos Def I think “Travellin’ Man” off the Dj Honda project HII. One other would be the Busta Rhymes “Through the Storm” w/ Stevie Wonder. That’s what I think when I say “Why can’t ever track be put together like this?”
What are your next projects?
Well, that’s a little up in the air right now. First there’s the Doap Nixon project that will be coming out on 7.22.08. I’ve got a track on there. Frank Fingaz and I just did a remix to a Coldplay track which you can find on my myspace page. I’m looking to do some work with a few local artists out here in Philly, and a lot of people out in New York. Hopefully I can get something on Mike Reka’s “Track Cocaine” which is in the works (check out the video for “Fire”). Other than that there’s a lot of stuff in the works that isn’t set in stone. We took a little hiatus to regroup so there probably won’t be much else released from us until late fall. But there’s already a lot of good stuff in the works, now it’s just about making some new tracks and building more connections to get the credits up.
What about the club scene out there in Philly – what are the hot spots for rapfans visiting the city?
Philly is a strange town for hip hop, there isn’t really a set venue for hip hop, there are a lot of different nights for different shows. One venue that throws a lot of events is The Khyber, they host the Beats and Rhymes that 215HipHop.com puts together. There are so many different venues it seems like there’s at least 2 good hiphop shows a week all year long. Dom P of Public Axis definitely promotes the best shows in the city, so anyone looking for events in Philly, check out http://www.myspace.com/dom_pinelli