Last year I had a really great conversation with Easy Mo Bee in anticipation of the Notorious movie release and I have posted various portions of it over the last few months. As I was going through the conversation I found some extra gems that I felt folks just needed to hear on general principal. Everything from his early influences to time stretching is covered in the following graphs. And if you missed those past interviews about the Bad Boy days you really need to treat yourself to some edutainment.
His early influences
Let me make this clear right now. There is a God but after Him, if it wasn’t for Marley Marl I wouldn’t be making beats right now. Before I even met him I considered him my mentor. I played such close attention to his production. Long before they made the Sp-1200 I dreamed that they would make a machine that sampled. Early drum machines came with factory pre-set sounds and back in ’84 I dreamt of a machine where you could take a kick from this record and a snare from this record and make my own drum kit. So when they made the Emu SP-1200…Ced Gee…man these are my heroes. Ced Gee from Ultramagnetic, who we believe did some of those early BDP records and the Ultramag stuff, Ced Gee and Marley were two of the most famed to get hold of the machine. So when I heard that stuff they made using the machine I dreamed off, I said that’s it, I’m producing. So I was like my brain and mind were not too small for thinking that. They created a machine to do that.
His favorite Beats:
I told somebody else that “Machine Gun Funk” was one of my favorites. The beats [for Bad Boy] were dark but danceable, that’s a hard thing to achieve, to get a real grainy hip-hop sound but to make them sound good on the radio. It was nothing planned. It was just what was inside of me. “Gimme The Loot” is [anoter] one of my favorites. I like the bass response in that record. It used to rumble walls. The same way Craig Mack’s “Get Down” would. Bob “Bassey” Brockman mixed that record down…like a rough and it was the last thing I heard. I mixed it and walked away from it. I went to The Tunnel one night and Flex threw that joint and I watched people go crazy for it. I stood there not saying anything just watching people and checking out the acoustic response. I like the bass in that record. And I like “The What” for it’s grainy 45 type sound. The record was all crackily and I didn’t care. A little later people would go and put pops and clicks in their records but the record I sampled for “The What” was really scratched up but I didn’t care. It sounded good and felt good. That was the real thing.
Originally “Ready To Die” was supposed to contain a sample from The Rascals but we couldn’t clear it. I remember when Puffy came back and said we gotta change it up. I loved that record the way it sounded. So I said I’ll keep the drums the same and put something new in there that didn’t have to be cleared but combine some live musical instruments. That’s when Chucky Thompson came into the studio and he came up with the wa-was, I sampled them and inserted them into the song where I wanted them. Chucky Thompson, the guitars he gave me I’d treat them like records. I would have him play for like two minutes and out of the two minutes I would listen back down and take a loop of the best part. I’d dirty em up and put them into the Akai S950 and when you played it back it sounded like an old record. I even got into a little keyboard playing on that record.
I wasn’t using a lot of live instruments in my productions back then. When I worked with Miles Davis he had Deron Johnson, his keyboard and guitar player, would play live stuff on what we were doing with Miles cuz that’s what he was used to. You had some people in hip-hop doing it, but not many. Naughty By Nature would have live stuff but that wasn’t a big thing for me. When I was faced with it I was able to make it work. Sometimes when you bring in live instruments you can tell right away. But it’s a good thing and it sounds like a record that was sampled.
I still prefer to do things by hand. Sometimes I chop my stuff tight if I want that effect. But if you chop too tight or too close you’re chopping a snare or kick that already contained a reverb and EQ, so if you cut too tight, even it if its just .08 seconds worth, you’re not giving people a chance to experience that sound for the record.
I gave my MPC 3000 to my brother LG. He did the whole Ill & Al Scratch album, stuff like Nas’ “One Love” remix, stuff with Shaq, The Boogie Monsters. We both always had that bass heavy sound. That comes from growing up in the house and our father playing those 45s. I don’t care how digitally refined we become, ain’t nothing like dropping a needle on a 45. It’s such a full, warm sound and I always wanted my beats to sound like that.
The real Easy Mo Bee is my father, Osten Harvey, Sr. He would play stuff in the house like Kenny Burrell, Sam & Dave, Al Green, Sam Cooke. The stuff he played was an education. He’d play the US Bonds, Credence Clearwater Revival. He opened me up to all kinds of music. By the time I was 12 I knew I wanted to be a DJ, that’s where I started. I always loved the music. It’s a natural transition, just like Pete Rock, DJ Scratch. It’s a natural transition for a DJ to play records long enough until soon or later he wants to make ‘em.
Today I sit back and listen to stuff I did and say Easy you was either real high or a genius. People ask me “what were you thinking” and I wanted people to go back and listen to Busta’s “Everything Remains Raw.” It was not just a beat, but then it had decorations. Aww man. There is a lot better equipment now but in the Sp-1200 when you slowed things down you’d get this real gritty, scratchy sound. The actual technical term for it is Ring Modulation. For the bit rate of the machine it can’t handle the frequency you’re taking it to. But today you could slow something down way slow and it’ll be crystal clear. That’s how they do those house mixes of R. Kelly and them. They take a slow record and time stretch it. Time stretching is effecting speed without affecting pitch and they even have turntables that did it. You can ask D-Nice or Kid Capri, Q-Tip, Funk Flex…DJ Scratch and Lord Finesse gave me time stretching lessons over the phone but I never mastered it. I do that stuff by hand. If a loop is 4 bars long, instead of using the 4 bar loop as a whole you go through the sample and chop down every step. Every step would be “boom, boom, boom” When you put things in a sampler you’re putting it against a metronome. Every step of the way you have to make sure the sample is real tight. So I give ode to all the digital equipment but I’ll still do it by hand. It makes me feel I did that. Some things just have to be done by hand anyway.
His first turntables…
There was a company that was out called BSR. We’d make jokes that it stood for Bull Shit Record player. It was one of those where the 45s would drop down in a jukebox kind of way. There was a sensor for the tone arm and if you put it near the end of the record, it would jump up. I hated that! So I couldn’t cut no breaks if they were near the end of the record because the needle would jump up. I put up with all kinds of stuff early on.
When I got my first real pair of turntables they were Techniques but they were the B 101s. Back at that time the B-1 and the direct drive D-1 was real popular. We had just past through the 1600s and 1800s with the knob pitches on them. When I got thise B101s you couldn’t tell me nothing. I ahd a Numark mixer and I was DJing break beats, electronic, funk. My father’s old records. Then I watched Red Alert play “Rock Box” new on the radio. For a period hip-hop was all just about keyboards and drum machines. But when the sampling drum machines came along, hip-hop came alive.