AllHipHop represents for those who can recite a
verse from beginning to end, those who quote lyrics to explain serious life situations,
and those who have an arsenal of punch-line snaps in they raps. But AllHipHop
has just as much love for the producer. From eight bar loops, to live instrumentation,
to the Triton, we love true beat makers and trunk shakers. AllHipHop’s Paine has
kicked off a series of interviews with the greatest, most innovative producers
in Hip-Hop history. In depth interviews looking back, looking forward, and always
looking for the perfect beat.
We continue the series with Easy Mo Bee. Mo Bee
stands firmly at the line where hits meet streets. Perhaps no Hip-Hop producer
better makes the "ballad" better. From producing half of Ready to
Die, to producing some of Tupac’s most artistic works, and giving Craig Mack
the heat that put Bad Boy on the map, Moe Bee has a dynamite resume.
But beyond that, Moe Bee is a Grammy winning
producer for Miles Davis’ Doo Hop album. Miles had an unbending eye for talent,
and Moe Bee is proof of that.
Without a doubt, Mo Bee is a man who just drips of soul. While stern in his
grave approach to the music he makes, it’s not uncommon for him to break out
into song, or hum the notes (in damn near perfect pitch) of a dusty Jazz classic.
This is a man who aspires to play every instrument
in the band, and know every groove ever released. Don’t tell Masta Ace, but
Easy Mo Bee is Hip-Hop’s official "Music Man."
Die-hard fans have always argued the two pillar
sounds of the music – Dre vs. Premier. While both are timeless masters of their
craft, right in between stands Easy Moe Bee. A man who combines the glitter
and the grime to a beautiful finish that makes even the greatest MC’s, sound
AllHipHop: One thing that no producer in Hip-Hop
has done better than you, is put emotion into the track. How emotional do you
get in the process, and do you plan out these effects before?
Easy Mo Bee: Wow! First of all, the emotion you’re
talking about, as far as I’m concerned, is soul. I get a lot of from my father.
It all goes back to the different music that [he] used to play. A lot of Blues,
Soul, Jazz, real traditional Gospel, Shirley Ceasar, Aretha Franklin, Sam &
Dave, Bobby Bland, Elmore James, B.B. King. Real, real grimy forms of the music.
That’s where all of the musical taste and experience comes from. I just grew
up with it, and I went on to being a DJ myself, playing records. From there,
I went on to make records, and that’s when I became a producer.
AllHipHop: I never realized that you produced
Miles Davis last album. What did you learn from the man?
EMB: You don’t have to always be perfect. I watched
him, he and Tupac, they had a particular recording process, and that is like
– when they started recording, they didn’t want you to stop, and they didn’t
like to do punch-ins. In other words, a song typically has three verses. And
Tupac and Miles would have you start the tape and let it run all the way through
the song. "Don’t stop. Don’t punch me," in other words. Some people
do a verse and stop, and do a second. Miles did not like to stop. [Of the songs
on Doo-Bop], he nailed in one take. If there’s anything I got from him in those
sessions, it’s you don’t have to be perfect. Just be yourself and put all of
your heart and soul into it. And most importantly, your point will get across.
There’s a lot of great records with mistakes on ‘em. James Brown got a lot of
records like that, where the bass player would mess up or something.
AllHipHop: Do you think those mistakes yield
a vulnerability that makes good Hip-Hop?
EMB: Well, I think the art of freestyling has
almost been outlawed. Most of your favorite rappers nowadays, most of they raps
are pre-written. There’s not too many people that just freestyle, or improvise
on a record. Now, ODB or Dirt McGirt, do you know a lot of the records ODB made
were improvised? Live, on the spot. Yeah.
AllHipHop: Isn’t that largely true of Biggie’s
Ready to Die too?
EMB: Well, what Biggie would have, just like
Jay-Z, he didn’t really write down too much either. A lot of times he went into
the booth. You’ll see him sitting there for the last hour, forty-five minutes,
hour and ten minutes, just mumbling to himself, nodding his head. He ain’t writing
nothing down. Then, he just jump up, "Aiight Mo, I’m ready." He’d
go in there and nail every verse down. As far as I’m concerned, that’s improvising.
It’s recorded, but recorded in the minute. Busta Rhymes is very good at that,
I worked with him before. Who else? You know who was very improvisational? Tupac.
I watched him in the studio between sessions, and he would just spit, what I
would call, reality raps. The average East Coast rapper, when he freestyles,
he’s freestyling some braggodocious, material, this and that. But Tupac, it
amazed me, he had the ability to freestyle reality type raps. He’d talk about
what’s going on in the world, police brutality, whatever.
AllHipHop: You can see that in the freestyle
with Biggie and Kane. The way Big did it, and the way Pac did it. Night and
day. Both amazing.
EMB: Right. Exactly.
AllHipHop: A key element of Ready to Die was
its concept. Was that your idea, as the main producer? Were there any other
ideas on the table?
EMB: Actually, the concept of the album, that
was Puffy and Biggie’s alone. I didn’t have anything to do with the actual concept
on the album. I did [half] the album. Pre that, on the Who’s the Man soundtrack,
I recorded the first studio verse Big ever spit. That was "Party &
Bullsh*t." I’m the first producer that Big ever went into the studio with
and recorded with.
AllHipHop: Lord Finesse was talking to us about
that early Bad Boy team of producers. You were part of that. Do you as a builder
in that label, feel cheated by the way that label has seemingly turned its back
on its roots of real Hip-Hop?
EMB: First of all, in the very beginning, Puffy
just had various producers just doing work for Bad Boy. Then eventually, he
got the idea to create The Hitmen. I was never a Hitman. There’s a lot of people
out there that never understood that or never knew that. I never became one
of the Hitmen. I was asked to. Or rather, I was asked to in a different way.
[Puffy] asked to manage me. At the time, I already had a manager. So I told
him, "I’m already managed by somebody. I don’t know about all that. I’ll
get back to you." And, I never got back to him. Honestly, I think he always
took that real personal too. Because, I could imagine early on especially, him
wanting to have a piece of, and the control of Easy Mo Bee – this guy whose
doing all these great beats and songs for [him]. Because I never became one
of the Hitmen, I noticed I didn’t really appear on anymore of the Bad Boy projects
after say, Life After Death. And I had to really push for that.
AllHipHop: And the reason you got on that, relates
more to Big, right?
EMB: Oh, me and Big didn’t have no problems whatsoever.
Big would’ve recorded with me til’ the end, and I know that. There was an element
to what I brought to his music, that I’m sure he would’ve made sure to include
on any albums. I had to push to get "Going Back to Cali" and "I
Love the Dough" on Life After Death.
AllHipHop: What are the terms with the lawsuit
against Bad Boy?
EMB: It’s concerning royalties owed. Back royalties.
Let’s put it like this: On the Born Again album, a lot of people don’t know
that "Dead Wrong" was originally produced by Easy Mo Bee. It was remixed
by Chucky Thompson, but it was originally produced by [me]. I still haven’t
received any money for the Born Again album. Also, a throw-away verse from the
"Dead Wrong" was used to construct "Hope You N*ggas Sleep."
There’s that, there’s so many other different things. There’s issues of issues
of things that were done that are finally beginning to be dealt with. For instance,
when Puffy used my "The What" for the "I’m Going Down" Mary
J. Blige remix, in the credits he has it as "remixed by Sean "Puffy"
Combs" or whatever. That’s my track. Things like that.
AllHipHop: Since you’re looking for new blood
to work with, we got to ask. When you put your work alongside an MC, what do
you look for? What moves you?
EMB: First, before I even check for what they’re
rapping about, I always check for his flow, or the more technical term would
be the cadence. That’s real important to me. In other words, we talked about
the – you called it emotion, I call it soul – when you think of a sax player,
like God rest his soul, like a Grover Washington, Jr., or any of the funky,
soulful sax players, when they play, they don’t play on a click. It’s very freestyle
the way it ends up on top of the beat. I always felt like rappers should rap
like that. That would be the amount of soul you put in it. That’s what I’m looking
for. I’m very soulful. I wanna know if you’ll get real soulful with me.
AllHipHop: People had all sampled
"More Bounce," but on "Going Back to Cali" it was so fresh,
and so new still. Is that how you challenge yourself, to redo the already done?
EMB: Okay, that one – I told myself to do that.
‘Cuz "More Bounce to the Ounce" was a record that I always wanted
to sample, but who made "No Future In Yo’ Fronting"?
AllHipHop: I think MC Breed.
EMB: Yeah, MC Breed used it, EMPD used it. I
wanna use this record. But what can I do to set it apart? So what I did was,
I dissected the record as if Roger Troutman gave me the master and I had access
to the individual tracks and sounds. I kept the drums the same. The bass, I
made it travel how I wanted to. Some light keyboard pads added to it. There’s
the light machine gun synthesizer added to it. The reverse waah waah. A lot
of people don’t know that. You know what made me feel better about that record?
Right before he died, I got to know Roger Troutman over the phone. Rufus Blaq
introduced me to Roger Troutman. From then on, me and Roger had our own conversations.
First time he talked to me, he said, "Easy Mo Bee! A lot of people used
my record before. But you flipped that [joint]!" That’s exactly what I’m
trying to do. That’s the biggest endorsement coming from the man who made it.
Now, peep that! That’s deep, right?
AllHipHop: What’s the next step for you? What’s
2004 hold for Mo Bee?
EMB: You’re about to see Easy Mo Records. With
Easy Mo Records, you’re about to see a span of R&B to Hip-Hop and anything
I decide to try my hand at. There’s a girl, her name is Kilidee. This is a white
girl whose so soulful, man. My barber passed me a CD. I played it for my lawyer.
He said, I’d regret it if I didn’t work with this artist. I’m working with Mendoza,
from Brooklyn. I have a good feeling for a R&B group named Duvall. In each
category, I like to get comfortable with an artist, and build from there. I
want to learn to play more instruments. I want to play. I ain’t gonna be comfortable
until I can play. I play keyboards and always played drums. It’s a natural progression
Serious inquiries for Easy Mo Bee production,
contact Omar McCallop at 919-413-7401