a funny sounding title for a genre of music, for sure, and it would be if it were completely devoid of context. but context is created when we the people assign our hopes, dreams, passions, skills and love to the WORDS. therefore “Hip Hop”, in 2014, has an immense history and powerful impact on our lives. we have a fairly well-established timeline for when and where it began, who got the credit for sparking the movement, and over time both artists and fans alike developed an idea for what might constitute that REAL shit. “real hip hop”. but beneath the officially sanctioned story for the beginnings of any movement is what some might call some ‘realer shit’.
in this writer’s humble but sturdy opinion, using the word “real” has strong allusions to a Matrix style existence, wherein the “real” exist on the fringes or dwell within the underground confines of the surface level material world. usually in this scenario, the world at large that exists before our eyes is illusory, fake, not what it appears to be. most of the time the inhabitants of THIS world expound the same kind of ideals that they live and abide by: illusory, fake, not what it appears to be. MY personal estimation of “real hip hop” is something along the lines of the well-informed ‘rebel’, someone who is knowledgeable in things seen and unseen, who carves a path for himself as an individual, and who above all else, does not conform to any one standard.
what you end up with is another word we all like to use called “artist”. over the years of knowing him, listening to his music and waxing poetic on a whole buncha topics, it’s safe to say that Pete Marriott is one such artist, and is a name that should be more widely known within the larger hip hop community. to that end, i had a nice long chat with Pete about his now-released decades-in-the-making LP #REALHIPHOP.
VEE: how’ve you been? and what have you been up to in the past 12 months?
PETE: First off, before I answer this question, I want to thank you for all your support and I’d also like to thank John Book if you don’t mind.
There’s so much going on in my life right now. I had some really great moments, experienced some disappointments, had a few victories, as well hit a stumbling block or two, and then wins again, it’s a rollercoaster, but overall…my life is beautiful.
I’m still making records, my musical and production skills continue to improve in the direction I want it to go as I keep experimenting with both new and old ideas alike and I’ve made alliances with reputable brands to endorse products I actually use in my daily work life. Best of all I’ve kept my integrity intact through it all.
I’m grateful for my life and now my focus is to continue to make great art and get out there on tour and perform these records for the people. I think I more than enough proved myself as a producer with two #1’s and eight top 10’s on the college radio mix show charts, so now It’s time to show my audience what I’m made of as a DJ and introduce them to the artists I’m working with on stage.
VEE: man, thank YOU for being so generous with not only your time, but your plethora of musical talents & knowledge. it’s always a pleasure picking your brains on all things music and getting up to date on what you’re cookin up at the moment. cos let’s face it, it’s always some top notch shit.
you mentioned you’ve got some business ventures going at the moment. i do recall you were repping Image-Line last time we spoke? what’s the latest with that and how do you go about choosing who you align yourself with in a business sense?
PETE: Thanks man, I really appreciate that you’re digging the work. I’m doing my best to push myself while also reigning myself in when I’m in my studio. It’s hard because quality is a very important thing to me, so it’s pretty challenging for me to hold myself back in that manner.
I mean I’m an arTist and I actually want my art to mean something in the end of it all, but I also can’t be in the Kalium Galaxy with my work while everyone else is still on earth, so I’m constantly reminding myself of this fact, but without losing my artistic integrity.
As for the business part, I still have my endorsement deal with Image-Line for both FL Studio and Deckadance and I also have a new endorsement deal with IK Multimedia to represent their T-RackS product line.
It’s very important to me that I keep my integrity intact by only representing products that’s apart of my lifestyle. I actually make records using both FL Studio and T-RackS so these strategic partnerships make sense to me. Authenticity is the to key my personal success.
Right now I’m placing my energy into preparing myself to perform for the college and festival scenes with the artists on my album. It’s all about finding the right booking agents and getting this touring situation together. I worked very hard on this album and of course all other records I produced and continue to produce, but getting the #REALHIPHOP Tour together is my main focus right now.
VEE: it sounds like the dynamic and struggle of one’s artistry is going to be just that, a struggle. i mean in terms of straddling a line between necessary financial moves and maintaining artistic integrity. so like you said, it’s your ‘authenticity’ that sets you apart in this regard. and i think that’s the word that best sums up the album you’ve been working on that got officially released on March 3rd: #REALHIPHOP. now i’ve been a Pete stan for many years, way back since an Okayplayer by the name of Che Grand gave me a track you produced called “The Illness”, so i’m always up to date on what you’ve got cookin. but speaking of, could you say a few words on that track?
PETE: Man… Che Grand was kinda sorta my very first unofficial internet collaboration, too bad we never had a chance to do something tangible.
VEE: you’re upcoming album #REALHIPHOP is something that is both from the past and is the future, but still of “the NOW”, and most importantly is your baby from beginning to end. i’d like for you to tell the folks out there all about #REALHIPHOP, how the recording or RE-recording process has been, who is featured on the mic tip, what this project means to you on a personal and artistic level, and why people should be checking for it.
PETE: I’m going to break down my process on the emotional and the technical. Let’s begin with the emotional.
#REALHIPHOP is what I consider a legacy project . I’ve taken some joints I recorded as far back as 1987 and put them side by side with new joints that was recorded as recently as a few days ago and put them together.
There’s quite an interesting mix of guest artists on this record. I could have easily gone the route of approaching the typical peanut gallery of rappers that most indie Hip Hop heads would know, but I didn’t want to do that, not for this record.
I wanted to give people that strong sense of discovery again. You know that moment where you’re like “Yo! This is dope! Who are these guys?” Because that’s the way I grew up on Hip Hop music. I handpicked everyone because I’m actually fans of their work and I recognize their voices are just as important as anyone else doing this music today.
I’m so grateful to artists like Jazz (from the group Whistle) who’s singing some very soulful hooks. Mr. Man (of Da’ Bush Babees), E-Dot, Benz, Romance and Da’ Lord Supreme who is on a few of the joints I resurrected from back in the days.
I got LaVeda Davis on the album who I met through Stevie Soul, (a well known and respected manager in the indie soul music scene). LaVeda has been featured on Tricky’s albums and she’s bringing that jazziness on the very record I’m in my studio mixing today.
I also got my dudes Junclassic and Killah Trakz is on a couple of joints as well, DVS Jackson Esq, Random (aka Mega Ran) and Jermiside, all very dope MC’s who spit that fire.
And one voice you will hear quite a bit on the album is Otomatik, who I’m very glad my dude Al Nazon introduced me to. That dude is fucking nuts with the hooks. He definitely helped bring the fun factor to the record.
Another standout artist is Carys Matic who dropped some most serious spoken word. I chose her to be on the album’s closing song and what she said really hits home for me so I’m very excited for everyone to hear it.
I think very highly of all these artists and wish to continue working with them for as long as they wish to work with me. These are people I want to go out on tour with. I didn’t choose them because of their celebrity or social media status, but for the very same reason I want people to judge my music, for their talents and skills.
Some of the joints on #REALHIPHOP are dark and edgy, some are fun party jams, some are measured cool out joints and some are your classic boom bap joints but with a modern twist to them. I just wanted to make a solid album of good music and I think I achieved that here. This record is special to me and I hope others will agree once they get the opportunity to listen to it for themselves.
On the technical level this album has been quite a challenge and lots of fun to work on. Taking vocals that was recorded on 4-Track Cassette in the 80’s by a teenage version of myself and bringing them to the digital present and then getting them to sound good is a lengthy process of itself, but thanks to the tools that IK Multimedia provided me I was able to do it within the FL Studio environment.
T-RackS CS Grand played a huge role restoring these recordings. I used components such as the Black 76 on my drums, De-Esser on my vocals and the British Channel on my drums, Quad-Image on my pianos, The Buss Compressor, I mean T-RackS is my Swiss Army Knife, I pretty much used almost everything it has to offer.
FL Studio has always served me very well, I think because it’s like 2nd nature to me. Quite a bit of my friends are like how come I’m not mixing with Pro Tools and I’m like it does everything Pro Tools can do and more.
I also played-grammed a lot more drum parts on this album using my Alesis Control Pad with both hi-hat and kick pedals. I have great virtual drum kits such as Addictive Drums, BFD, EZ-Drummer among others. My e-drumming has really improved over the years and you’ll hear more than quite a bit of that on the album because I didn’t want to heavily rely on sampled drums, plus I get to give the album my personal feel in the beats.
As usual I chopped up and layered lots of samples and played quite a bit of piano, bass and guitar on the album. Both my Les Paul and Strat served me well on the album and at a certain point I activated my Mr. Soultronica alter ego who gave the album a few very cool synth textures here and there. Nothing too heavy, just enough to give the music that extra edge.
As far as mixing the album goes, I took a subtractive EQ approach on some songs and others I boosted frequencies. I went with what made the most sense for each song. I think one of the biggest problems in hip hop music is everyone is so focused on loudness that no one cares about dynamics anymore. My mastering engineer Barry Corliss was personally recommended to me by Jake One and Vitamin D and I have discussions about this with Barry all the time in regards to my mixes.
When I take a record to Barry he listens to my mix and then does his magic but he’ll always point out things to me about that particular song that he might like, for instance I tuck my bass under my kicks rather than place them over. The reason I do that is because I know when Barry brings my low end frequencies up they will wrap around the kick rather than overpower them.
I also mix my synths lower than most producers do currently. I’m not a fan super loud synths, they sound obnoxious and non-musical when you crank the volume up and that’s annoying to my ears, so I mix my synths to be more subdued and gel with my acoustic instruments and samples instead. Barry hears these things and knows where to seat them so I don’t lose that dynamic range.
We make a great team.
VEE: you definitely have a unique approach when it comes to carving out your own piece in the hip hop pantheon. i guess one of the most obvious differences would be your approach to the artwork/photography attached to your releases in the last few years. it really does have a bit of a jarring effect considering that most fans are programmed to buy into a specific image associated with hip hop, depending on which niche or subgenre is being represented. but it speaks to your originality that you made the decisions to break away from ‘tradition’. i also understand there’s a music video or two in the works? have you worked in the audiovisual realm before or will these be your first forays into music videos? do you come up with the concept and then hire a director or have you done any directing yourself?
PETE: As far as the artwork go it’s basically a modern take on many of the covers within my personal vinyl collection. I own lots of jazz, funk, and soul records from the 60’s and 70’s from various artists and labels and the records that stick out the most to me are the ones where the artists are not on the cover.
I personally don’t crave fame so I’m kind of indifferent to the idea of putting my face on the cover. I only posed for one cover that was A Shot Across The Bow EP and the only reason I agreed to do that was because the people who was managing me at the time insisted that it was necessary. They were wrong…
Another cover where you can sorta see me on is for the single “The Champ Is Here”, that was a shot Mrs. Marriott took while I was performing a live Dilla tribute DJ set at a spot downtown Seattle. I had Melissa Ventura a graphic designer I often work with dirty it up to hide my face a bit. I don’t know, something about seeing my face on the cover just don’t feel comfortable to me.
As for the music videos I’m working with a talented director called J. Rockaz The Observer he recently done the Yancey Boys video for “Quicksand” featuring Common and Dezi Paige. I basically played him “100 Proof” to get his opinion on it and he told me he had ideas for a video so it pretty much began there.
I know he’s a creative artist in his own right and because of that, I’m putting my trust in his vision. I personally don’t like when the label’s A&R rep or an artist’s manager interferes with my records so I told him one basic thing: Surprise me.
Myself on the other hand is waiting for the weather to get warmer for me to reshoot a video I started working on last year. My ideas is pretty complex and it’s hard to be a filmmaker and record producer and there’s a certain level of planning and logistics involved, since I’m doing it completely by myself it will probably take me about a year to complete the video I have in mind.
The good thing is I have quite a bit of cool video gear such as a slider and a jib arm and a modest collection of lenses to work with and I live in the NW where there is more than enough beautiful locations to shoot. I promise It’s going to look awesome, but like with my album, it’s going to take time to get it right.
VEE: before we finish up, i wanna throw a question at you that i’ve asked all the players who contributed to your album, which is the following: considering the album’s bold title, what is your own personal definition or interpretation of “real hip hop“?
PETE: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, which is the true birthplace of Hip Hop music and culture. Unlike the great Bronx Tale that everyone’s been sold over and over again, it was actually Brooklyn sound systems led by DJs like Grandmaster Flowers, King Charles and crews like Nu Sounds and The Blue Guerrillas that created Hip Hop. And I mean absolutely no disrespect to the sacred trinity from the Bx, but they know the truth where it all began.
To me real hip hop is about love first and foremost. I love the true history of where I come from and the fact that I grew up in a culture that I personally witnessed go from the streets of New York City to around the globe.
I love the fact that my hands touched Technics SL1100’s as a 7 year old in Lord Garth’s Basement to SL1200’s in Professor Paul’s basement when I was 14 years old.
I love the memory of Howie Tee and Chubb Rock showing me how to use a Akai S900 sampler, and how I learned how to rhyme from cats like Elliott Ness, Speed, Sir Lord Professor P, Ernie D and Jazz.
I love that CR Toney, Frankie Bones and Spliff 51 inspired me to write graf, so to me real hip hop is love.
I’m a creative soul and I love that about myself and want to share that love with others through my work.
I guess #REALHIPHOP is love.
as an added bonus, Pete has given me the opportunity of putting together a mix of his work, starting from the late 80s n stretching til today. as if all those tasty treats above weren’t enough, here’s 80mins more.
01. CHOICE MC’s (PETE MARRIOTT & BIG CHOICE) – This is The B Side
02. PETE MARRIOTT – The Rebirth Of Mr. Soultronica
03. PETE MARRIOTT – The Kidnapping (feat. ROMANCE)
04. PETE MARRIOTT – Nice (feat. BENZ & JAZZ)
05. PETE MARRIOTT – I Can’t Stop (Thinking About Her)
06. ARI UP – KEEP IT (feat. PETE MARRIOTT aka PANDA)
07. PETE MARRIOTT – Let’s Make Some Noise 2.0 (feat. MR. MAN & DVS JACKSON ESQ.)
08. PETE MARRIOTT – A Shot Across The Bow
09. PETE MARRIOTT – Rap Demon (feat. DA’ LORD SUPREME)
10. PETE MARRIOTT – Old School, New School
11. PETE MARRIOTT – Wishing On A Star (feat. ROMANCE & LAVEDA DAVIS)
12. PETE MARRIOTT – The Illness
13. PETE MARRIOTT – 100 Proof (feat. KILLAH TRAKZ)
14. PETE MARRIOTT – Fly Girl
15. PETE MARRIOTT – Plant The Flag (feat. KILLAH TRAKZ)
16. PETE MARRIOTT – The Champ Is Here (feat. FULL TIME GRIND)
17. PETE MARRIOTT – Follow Me 2.0 (feat. DVS JACKSON ESQ.)
18. PETE MARRIOTT – Plant The Flag (Remix) (feat. KILLAH TRAKZ)
19. PETE MARRIOTT vs ERYKAH BADU – On & On 2012
20. PETE MARRIOTT – Inside My Love (feat. GLORIA RY’ANN)
21. US PLUS ONE – Murder Me (produced by PETE MARRIOTT)
22. CHOICE MC’s (PETE MARRIOTT & BIG CHOICE) – Let’s Make Some Noise.