Filed under: Bronx Bombers,Interviews,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Having already given us the Heavy Bronx Experience series, the Hear No Evil mix CD series and The Zulu Beat CD, as well as having produced Cappo’s debut album, the P Brothers really stepped it up a notch with their new album. A few years back I talked to Ivory, now it’s Paul S’ turn in the spotlight, as we discuss The Gas, the legacy of Nottingham and the merits of Betamax videotape factories.
What’s your take on the album?
Paul S: I think we got the best rappers we could get, and I think we got good results from ‘em. If I wanted to go and buy a record myself, it’s the kind of thing I wanna hear. It’s been hard, going back-and-forth trying to get it finished. I’m pleased with it, hand on my heart. It’s the kinda LP where you can just sit back and listen to the whole thing and take it all in. For the last eight years, if I’ve ever bought an LP I’ve only ever like three or four tunes on the LP – if that.
Ivory: I’ve never put so much effort into something. This album was hard, man. Every obstacle that could be put in the way has been put in the way – prison, two people rapping on the same beat and you can only use one version. When it comes out, the one thing I can do is stand behind it with my arms folded and say, ‘Well fuckin’ beat that, then!’
Did you record most of it in New York?
Paul S: It was backwards and forwards. We’ve got a studio called The Gamblers where we did Cappo’s LP, which we always record at and do the final mixes. We was in New York recording bits out there and going back between the two. We’ve been lucky, we got into contact with most of the MC’s we wanted to work with. We just kinda clicked, had a good vibe with ‘em. It just came together.
What happened to The Castle album?
You know how we had [Heavy Bronx Experience] Volume 3 that never came out back in the day? We went in that kinda direction. Sometimes when we do what we do, it gets to the point where you have to save that and go back to it later on and do different things. When the universe came about, The Gas was the original form, and we’re trying to go back to the original foundations. The kind of elements you need to make good music. The Gas seemed more appropriate for what was going on at the moment.
Nothing new with Sadat X for this one?
Nah, there’s a few things we were working on that didn’t turn out in the end, for whatever reason it didn’t fall into place. Money Boss Players, Milano and Roc Marciano – everything we were doing with them was just falling into place, so we just went with that.
Have there been any good shows out in Notts lately?
Hip-hop in England is wack. It’s just corny people on the scene – it’s just a load of bullshit. In my opinion it’s just rubbish. People are just lost and confused, following fashion and trends. They’re not really doing what’s in their heart or following hip-hop – they’re just doing what they think they should be doing in the modern times. The tag ‘UK Hip-Hop’ is a load of nonsense. Hip-hop is hip-hop in my world.
Are you still working with the guys from the Heavy Bronx Experience stuff?
They’re just doing their own thing. 45’s doin’ his thing, Cappo uses the same studio that we use and he’s doing his own LP. Scor-zay-zee – I’m not even sure what he’s doing right now. Notts has kinda fragmented. At one point it felt like Nottingham was coming together and things were really happening and moving in the same direction, but it feels to me like that’s not the case anymore. You get certain people here and there doing things, but it’s hard to get unity in Nottingham. ‘Cos of where we are, we always wanna show and prove and be the best, but it’s hard to get to be something that comes together. When we did our EP’s we were lucky that Nottingham was in the kind of state where everything came together, but we had to move on. UK is a weird place right now, it’s a lot of politics goin’ off that I’m not really interested in. When I got into hip-hop I was into ‘hip-hop’, not a specific type of hip-hop.
How do you and Ivory work together? Do you have certain things that you specialize in?
We just come up with stuff and go in the studio and just work ‘em out. We’re into digging, we’re always looking for records. We’re out there looking for records, all the time, constantly. We’re digging in the crates – that’s the form of what we do. Wherever we are, we’re looking for records and coming up with stuff. Most people now have bought their keyboards and their little fancy programs – that’s just a load of nonsense.
What was Nottingham like in the 80’s?
It was pretty intense back in the 80’s. You had to rep. You had to basically come with something or that was it. It was all about being the best – the best breaking, the best break-beats, the best graffiti artists – and everybody in Nottingham is very competitive. But we was always the best – you can ask the top London cats from back in the day and they’ll all tell you about Notts. We’re on it. We got it all on lock-down. All this other stuff that goes off in England, that’s for the all the media and the rest of it. I don’t care about what gets printed about these people, this group – it’s all about Notts. From 1983 all the way through, people from Notts have been repping – and that’s it. Because our town is small, it’s very intense. Everybody was kind keeping everyone else going. We’re very competitive – that’s the nature of hip-hop.
Was Rock City a dangerous spot?
Yeah, people used to get robbed, beat-down. You had Tennison Youth Club, Russell Youth Club, Spiders in Clifton. There’s loads of spots. Barracudas, then later on you had a place called Bojangles. People were serious about what they were doin’, man. You had a place called New York, New York, believe it or not. Because of the way we had our scene in Nottingham, we thought that everybody in England had the same kind of scene as we had. But as you get older and start traveling around, you realize that people didn’t have it the way that we had it, so we were really blessed. We had people coming here from New York back in the day pass tapes around. We got ‘Zulu Beats’ tapes early in the 80’s, and that was a big influence on certain people. You had certain guys that went out collecting records…it was just a certain atmosphere. Hip-hop was really alive in Nottingham.
In some ways it was better when there was a chance that you’d get hit in the head with a bottle if you got on stage and you were wack. Now everywhere is safe for all the toys so there’s no way to filter out the weak shit.
Because you’ve got the internet, people are sitting in their bedrooms talking shit about people, always talking about the negative parts of things – they never talking about the positive things. Back in the day, if you felt like that and you went to a jam, it got dealt with in a physical way. That’s how it went down. It was no hiding behind computers and stuff like that – it was very much a full-on thing. You knew your place and you knew you had to be ready when you went to represent and do your thing. You knew full well you had to be ready to go and do your thing on a good level, if not – you knew what was coming. It seems very easy for people to make records or come out rapping, and as much as the art form is very expressive and people are supposed to come across and do their thing, there’s a lot of people that aren’t ready yet to do their thing, coming out doing it – thinking they’re ready – when they’re not. A lot of people coming out nowadays – to me – aren’t ready. They need a few more years working on what they’re doing. That used to be an old school rule – you wait, see how people get down, you develop you’re thing and you just move forward. That’s kinda been lost. Now everyone wants to be famous or they want to be ‘The Man’, but the world ain’t like that. In the spiritual world you’ve gotta develop and wait for your turn and then do your thing. But you’ve gotta know when you’re ready, and people nowadays, they don’t seem to know when they’re ready or not. The standard of hip-hop is so low and the quality control is so low that people think they’re ready when they’re not.
Do you have a lot of tracks that you recorded for the album didn’t make the final cut?
We’ve got a couple of tracks we made for different people that didn’t work out how we wanted to work out. We made a helluva lot of lot of beats for this LP. You’ve got to make a lot of beats to make a good LP. Sometimes we make certain beats that people didn’t pick that I think are really bad, and I think to myself, ‘Fucking hell, why didn’t somebody pick that?’ Obviously rappers have gotta get into a certain zone themselves, so their looking for a certain things in a beat – so that’s just the way it goes down. Some of the betas we did for this may be used elsewhere, but when you’re making records you always want to do something different, something new. If you make a lot of beats there’s always something you end up doing – sometimes by mistake – and you just think, ‘Yeah, that’s something different’. We’re the worst critics of what we do – our quality control is number one.
Is there anyone else that you have to play it to when you’re being too critical?
Nah. We never play it to anybody else. If me and Ivory don’t feel the beat, then we don’t send it out. If we play something, we both know in the first few seconds if it’s good or not.
How did you guys connect with Money Boss?
Money Boss – one of our favorites. I remember I got a tape from New York from this guy called DJ Enuff, and ‘Killed In The Crap Game’ was the second-last tune. It was the time that Biggie Smalls and Junior MAFIA was coming out, and I heard that ‘Killed In The Crap Game’ tune and I thought, ‘Fuckin’ hell! Who are these guys?’ Then I went to New York and tracked the record down. Money Boss Players are so underrated. You’ve got EPMD and those sort of groups when they split up, and Money Boss Players was gonna be one of the last good New York rap groups that came out. All the rappers were A-1 rappers – there was a quality about them that was official. They was the next thing, but for some reason the Cop-N-Go record never came out. When me and Ivory started doing our thing we just started to get involved with Money Boss Players, and ‘Blam Blam For Nottingham’ was the result.
There seem to be a lot of people out to get a quick buck out of rap these days.
If you’re gonna do the kind of hip-hop the way we do hip-hop you can’t rely on that to make money – you’ve gotta do other things to make money. People need to realize that. A lot of the youth ‘round here think that when they’re slingin’ and doing certain things in the street, they seem to think that, ‘Yeah, we can do this, make some money and then we can do some rapping’. It doesn’t work that way. If you wanna do proper hip-hop music, you can’t look at it in terms of making money out of it. You might as well make a factory selling Betamax video cassettes – you’re not gonna make any money. Hip-hop is about doing your thing.
I liked how on The Zulu Beat CD you guys cut up your own breaks instead of the same old stuff.
That’s one of the favorite things that we did. The hip-hop tunes were the big tunes at Rock City back in the day and all the break beats – that’s me and Ivory’s break beats, the records we found. I’m very proud of that, that’s definitely one of the best things we ever did. I don’t even play it, I don’t listen to it – but I know it’s bad. For us and a lot of cats in Nottingham who looked for records, those ‘Zulu Beat’ tapes were our blueprint. Some guys from New York came out here to do some breaking in the 80’s, and Afrika Islam did tapes for them and they were breaking to his cassettes. They gave out copies of his cassettes and we heard that record ‘Yellow Sunshine’ and we were like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ From there we really went into that zone where we was all digging for records. We was going out of town, going to flea markets, everything. I used to leave school and go and look for break beats. In Nottingham, we really took this culture seriously.
Did you used to battle other sound systems back then?
Not really. You used to get your break beats, put them on a cassette and go into a hi-fi shop and play them. You’d just pause button the break beat and make it longer, like you were on a sampler. We’d ring each other up and play each other records over the phone. Break beats were real underground and competitive. When you’d DJ out you’d play your normal tunes and slip a couple of break beats in there, but it was a spiritual thing, man. Break beats were very spiritual. It was so guarded that you didn’t want to go out and play them in that kind of environment. Master Scratch was a DJ from Rock City days – he played break beats out in clubs. He was very advanced in the selections he played. When you heard those ‘Zulu Beats’ tapes we used to get, you though, ‘Right, I’ve got to come out that good or not at all’. Another difficulty back in the day was once you found a record that was really bad, trying to find a second copy of it was quite hard…but we did. I started looking for break beats from end of ’85, ’86. Our history and the intenseness of our scene made us good at what we do. When we came out making records, it was just our time to do it.
Buy P Brothers music here.
P Brothers feat. Sadat X, Eddie Cheeba and G.S. – ‘Come On Down’
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