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Kon & Amir: Archaeology

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Sampling is back, but who are we really cheering on? Some popular producers may have pocketed a way to get the radio and video markets to play sample-based tracks. But before its new resurgence, Kon and Amir mastered the art and appreciation for classic records with classic sampleable elements, and doesn’t lift them at all?

The pair may very well be New York’s answer to Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow. Even that, may be an understatement. Amir is a man you cannot deny, if you know his real work. As the A&R for Fat Beats, Amir decides if your record will be in the crates for all to see when nearly the majority of Hip-Hop’s doers buy their records every week. Kon, has produced stellar works to the likes of Ed O.G., Mr. Lif, and beyond. But as the saying goes…it ain’t even bout that!

Together, Kon & Amir are sound restoration masters. These guys and their buzzworthy series of mixes have sewed together rare and dusty classics that have defined Hip-Hop’s conventions for what is dope. Kon & Amir have also spotlighted records in their mixes that while never used, are just begging for the next great butcher to rehash. With a deep appreciation for the “dig”, Kon & Amir and AllHipHop discuss the logistics of Manhattan’s vinyl underbelly, we discuss the new, official debut mixtape installment in the Uncle Junior series, and we get down right dirty with dusty dialogue. What the funk!

AllHipHop.com: I loved the Djinji Brown debut installment of the Uncle Junior Friday Night mix. How is your mix different, and reflective progression of his?

Amir: The way it’s and progression and the way I look at ours, is, ours is more like a party vibe. But it’s a party vibe that’s for grown folks. A lot of people that are into Neo-Soul, and Soul, and stuff that reminds them of a Marvin Gaye kinda vibe whateva, partying when they were young – that’s kinda what we’re doing. The music on there is a little more up-tempo. It’s pretty much the same kinda music as real Disco and real Funk. With Djinji’s joint, it’d be like he’d play some Hip-Hop, then play some Afro-Beat. It was a progression of a lot of different kinds of music. We wanted to stay consistent in what we were doing and create a party vibe.

AllHipHop.com: Did you pick the records yourself, or because of the Friday Night history, were you working within perimeters?

Kon: No, no. We picked what we wanted. In fact, we didn’t even pick them to put them together with each other. We just picked songs. I ended up mixing them to the degree where I thought they gelled together.

AllHipHop.com: Is that usually the formula?

Kon: I’m the DJ. I produce as well. We usually just put our collections together and brainstorm. I get records everyday. Anything I think might make it on to the On Track genre, I just put in that pile, and let it build.

AllHipHop.com: Your On Track mixes are very grab bag-esque. You don’t know what you’re gonna get because you don’t list. That’s so Hip-Hop, but it’s gotta be hard marketing that.

Kon: The first On Track was done more or less of, “Hey, let’s make a tape of our favorite breaks.” One, Two, and part of Three were done in the theme of “F**k tempo, we’re just gonna put this together on producer’s set. Here’s a Beatnuts section. Here’s a Pete Rock section.” That was for people who were ignorant to what was going on, on the tape. Gradually, when we got to Four and Five, I wanted to do it more [based] on tempo. So it would have a more fluid feel of a mix. I like the later stuff. But yeah, it’s not like we can put our faces on there and sell. We’re still, I guess you’d say, underground.

AllHipHop.com: Is there a high point in your career as a duo?

Kon: Yeah, I would say right now. The Uncle Junior stuff. So far, so good.

AllHipHop.com: This Rare Groove culture is growing so quickly and so sincerely. But I think it’s growing by West Coast people like Shadow, Peanut Butter Wolf, Egon, and Chemist. How is this culture of digging in New York different?

Amir: It’s not that much different. When Shadow and all them dudes was doing stuff, we actually started at the same time. ‘Cuz we first started doing our mix CD in like ’97, and my partner and I have always been into Breaks. I think a lot of the West Coast culture learned a lot from the East coast guys. For instance, when you would go to a lot of different record shows in New York in the early 90’s, I used to see Lord Finesse, and Pete Rock, and all them. I’m sure Shadow and all them used to come out here and record shop as well. You used to see those guys out there record shoppin’, and you’d pick up the vibe of what was going on. A lot of East coast collectors are super super collectors. They like to collect Disco to Afro-Beat to rare Hip-Hop. It seems like a lot of the West coast collectors are more into the Funk. But that’s the difference right now.

AllHipHop.com: Every day it seems like there’s ten new diggers out there. I lost all my spots to the new cats. You guys are top-notch at this. How does the island of Manhattan and the greater New York area still get good records and crazy finds?

Amir: It’s real hard to go digging right now. Especially if I get lazy and I just want to go to the Sound Library and I don’t want to go digging. There’s so many collectors. I feel like ten year old kids are digging for records right now. The cats like me and older, the advatnge we have is we still got a lot more knowledge than a lot of these cats. They just go directly to the wall, instead of looking inside the dollar bin. You can find treasures in there as well. They just looking for what they seen on somebody else’s want list or what they heard about. Me, I’m just looking for good music.

AllHipHop.com: One thing I want to stress to the people is, even if you fork out a hundred dollars for a record, that record is to play – not put on a wall and admire. Am I right?

Amir: Definitely. Records were made to be played, no matter how rare they are. I’ve been to a lot of collector’s houses before and they get a boner because they pullin’ out records that’ve probably been never played before. But they paid ridiculous amounts of money just so they can show people or look at it. So what? The point of this is to play these records and expose other people to good music. If you got good music, why hoard it all to yourself? But I do realize that there’s some records I don’t want to play out. That’s why I want to get doubles of some things. I don’t want to mess up that record and pay five hundred dollars for another copy of that record.

AllHipHop.com: How surprising has it been to both of you to finally be on a label, and have a record that’s dropping officially?

Amir: To be honest with you, I felt like we’d still be On Track CD’s and just doing the mix CD and that’s about it. To get to this point is amazing. Sometimes I just have to think that I’m dreaming. It just means that good things are gonna happen for us hopefully in the future. Maybe we can even progress beyond having this album. Maybe we can do something even bigger than that. I’m really gassed about what the future’s gonna present for us.

AllHipHop.com: Amir, a lot of people don’t know what you do by day as far as Fat Beats.

Amir: Yeah, I’ve actually been at Fat Beats for seven years. I’m the VP of Sales and the A&R.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking on Fat Beats, how strong of a sense of what New York Hip-Hop is, do you have? Because that is the place that serves.

Amir: New York Hip-Hop right now to me, is really suffering. Because right now everybody is just copying everybody else. It’s like, New York used to be the place where innovation and creativity was happening. Now it seems like everybody is just feeding off each other and not trying to be the next…people are trying to be the next 50 Cent or J-Live or Mos Def, but most of them decided that they want to be their own individuals. Honestly, I think a lot of innovative and creative Hip-Hop is coming out of California. I think that’s dope.

AllHipHop.com: Premier’s interlude on the Moment of Truth attacked these kids who air out the sample culture of Hip-Hop. I want the readers to see that it truly is wack to sell out Hip-Hop like that. Your thoughts?

Amir: I think that’s wack. And if you ever see any of our CD’s, you don’t never see any tracklistings. I don’t go out and tell people, “So and so used this.” That’s why Premier doesn’t have a problem with me. Pete Rock and all those guys enjoy what we do. When we first started, it was just trying to be respectful of what they’re doing. These guys out here putting out sample information, and publishing information, makes life difficult for [the producer]. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to expose people to good music. Those people, it’s all about profit. They’re not worried about what their doing to other peoples lives.

AllHipHop.com: Kon, as a producer and DJ and collector. Is there one album in Hip-Hop that still blows your mind today in terms of its sound?

Kon: There’s a few really. Wow. I’d have to say Paul’s Boutique or Ice Cube’s Death Certificate or De La Soul is Dead. In terms of how many things are going on, so many things like when you listen to the Ice Cube record, so much is happening. That definitely is a work of art to me.

Kon & Amir’s The Cleaning is available now where dope records are sold.

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