We recently caught up with East Coast transplant / now Seattle based MC/Rapper Spekulation to ask him a few questions about how he got introduced to The Teaching’s music, his experiences attending The Hang, as well as the story behind his recent sampling of our song ‘Beautiful Brooklyn‘ on his digitally released album ‘Hack Job – The Instrumental Mixtape‘ (released on May 19th, 2010).
Feel free to click on the player below to listen to the song while reading the interview:
Q. What was your first impression of The Teaching back when you happened upon The Hang at Lo-Fi?
Actually, the first time I heard The Teaching was at your first gig at The Musiquarium, which I tend to think of as a faux-swanky lounge downtown filled with young professionals and expensive cocktails. So, technically my first impression of The Teaching was “damn, these guys are way too nice for this place” and “that dude with the long hair rides that snare like he’s on a Biggie Smalls record”. A couple months later I made it down to The Hang at Lo-Fi for the first time. The whole experience was pretty overwhelming, and I’ve been to The Hang so many times since, that I don’t really recall my exact impressions, but I do remember feelings.
I go a little crazy when I hear music that I need to sample, it quickly becomes all I can think about. So, my first time at The Hang I remember a constant feeling of panic and anxiety hearing the music changed from movement to movement, and all these samples kind of floated into the ether, never to be heard again. Honestly, it was traumatic, and a lot of my motivation in making music in the last few years has probably come from trying to deal with it in some positive way. But now that I say that out loud, this whole thing sounds a little crazy.
Q. You’ve mentioned once how The Teaching’s music & what was occurring at The Hang reminded you of what was going on when The Roots and similar bands were coming up on the East Coast. What do you think are the main strengths or elements that differentiate the Seattle Scene to what was going on where you were coming up through music on the East Coast?
I think the main strength that differentiates the two is the fact that the scene here is still going on. I mean, The Roots obviously still play and collaborate with the artists they grew up playing with, but at this point it doesn’t seem like that’s where their power comes from. It’s just sort of a novelty. And maybe that will happen here eventually (if history is at all trustworthy, it most definitely will), but it hasn’t happened yet, and that’s something we should not take for granted.
Creatively, I don’t think there are many differences… Both communities are made up of young musicians trying to find their own sound within the context of building its own musical movement. In The Roots case, it was the neo-soul tradition… In Seattle’s case, who knows? I don’t think we’ve really figured that out yet.
Q. What was your inspiration for sampling our music and many others in the New Seattle Music scene?
Purely selfish…on several levels, really. Any song I’ve ever sampled has been because I needed to hear it with my ears the way I was hearing it in my mind. I’ve made a bunch of songs from sampling that never see the light of day, just to get it out of my head and make myself a little more sane. So, because I was spending so much time listening to New Seattle music, it was inevitable that I was going to re-imagine some of what I was hearing.
On another level, I just wanted to prove it could be done. I think it’s a widely held misconception that HipHop music seeks to do anything differently than jazz or other types of folk music, in borrowing or sampling from artists and peers. One of my goals is probably to put that misconception to rest. I get a kick out of making people uncomfortable, especially when their discomfort is a bit absurd. So its endless fun for me to take music that people already love, flip it, and then throw it back in their faces with the question “do you still love it?” The answer may be no, but then I get to ask why that is, given that it’s fundamentally the same music, and the approach is basically the same as that of any other folk tradition. Demanding that people answer that question has always been a large part of what I do.
And on a very direct level, I wanted to work with all of the New Seattle artists, but that’s a hard sell when you’re “that rapper who hangs out in the back of the club and doesn’t say much.” So sampling became my way of showing the artists what I thought was possible. And I think it worked. My latest record, The Depression Era EP, has very few samples on it, but a bunch of original music and performances by artists that I met through sampling for my first record.
So, in short, selfishness was my motivation.
Q. How did get the idea to remix The Teaching’s new song Beautiful Brooklyn with well known artists Jay Z & Lil’ Wayne?
I’ve always really liked the catchy melody of The Teaching’s original track, how it kinda gives you that feeling of walking across the bridge from Manhattan, seeing the dark brown bricks of Brooklyn get closer. But every time I hear it I can’t stop the voice in my head shouting, “Maaaaaan, that ain’t Brooklyn!” Like the song needed a pair of Timberlands, some blunt smoke, and a Yankees fitted to really be the Brooklyn that I know.
The funny thing is, I had similar feelings about the Jay/Wayne song too, because I always thought the beat lacked any sort of Brooklyn vibe. It’s got this really over the top 808 drum loop, which has become a hallmark of HipHop production down South… and absolutely no melody or instrumentation whatsoever.
So, in that sense it was a no-brainer. But I think it paid off for me in that I got showcase two groups of great artists that, on the surface, might seem to juxtapose one another. I think it’s safe to say that The Teaching’s core group of fans might be hesitant to listen to the newest Jay-Z & Lil Wayne single. Just like I feel confident in saying that Jay and Weezy’s main audience would probably be unsure about picking up a record by The Teaching. Admittedly, this is probably not the best business model on my part, but I think it’s worth it because the people that do overcome the apprehension have that much more music to appreciate in their lives. And that’s dope.
Q. Where do see The Teaching’s music playing a role in future samplings on your records or collaborations in the future?
My approach to this whole thing has been, I’m gonna keep bothering artists and stealing their music until they tell me to go away. So, from my perspective, I’m just waiting on The Teaching to put out another album. And if you could keep it in 4/4 time, it’d really make my thievery a lot easier.
Q. How would you describe The Teaching’s sound to someone who’s never heard us before?
You know, it means such different things to me every time I experience it. So I probably wouldn’t try to describe it, I would only insist that they experience it. Especially people like me, that grew up listening to HipHop records, because when I look around the room at The Hang, the people that are most visibly excited are the kids with the backpacks and crooked caps. Because to HipHop kids, The Teaching’s music is immediately accessible, in a way that a lot of other jazz music isn’t. The particular ways you transition between movements, the use of silence to build anticipation, are techniques that we can see as almost “turntablistic.” But, bottom line, I don’t want to get too into descriptions because Lord knows you’ll disprove me in just a couple bars.
Q. Share with The Teaching’s fans how your music may appeal to them or broaden their musical palette so to speak.
When I watch The Teaching perform, it’s always fun to hear the songs evolve and progress, as new ideas, melodies and rhythms are introduced. I don’t feel like what I’m doing, at least in terms of the process, is very different from that. I just tend to linger in those moments for a little longer. And I think your fans probably appreciate that facet of your performances, so I suspect they would at least find my projects to be interesting.
But I think a good test would be to go buy a record by The Teaching and listen to it. If at any time you find your head nodding uncontrollably to the beat, then I think it’s fair to say that you would enjoy my music.
More info about Spekulation, his up-coming shows, music, videos and much more can be found on his website at http://spekulationmusic.com