Filed under: Interviews,Jersey? Sure!,The 80's Files,The 90's Files,Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Having returned to the music game five years ago after an extended hiatus, DJ King Shameek is back rocking clubs on a regular basis in New Jersey and beyond, but you most likely first saw him do his thing with Twin Hype for their dance floor classic “Do It To The Crowd.” Shameek took some time out of his schedule to talk about his roots as a DJ and early production techniques, King Sun vs. Ice Cube and his involvement with the mysterious diss record “The Truth” in 1999, which may have inspired 50 Cent‘s “How To Rob.”
Robbie: What made you want to take deejaying seriously?
DJ King Shameek: I was living in California at the time – I’m originally from New Jersey – but my uncle was at a legendary club in Newark, NJ called The Zanibar, so every time he used to come to California he would always bring a couple of records and give me some stuff, and I would see photographs of him deejaying. That’s when I really started trying to persue it a little more, get turntables and stuff like that. This is when they didn’t even have a mixer with a cross-fader yet. I was getting these microphone mixers that just had the faders up and down, so I would just sit there with a left and a right, putting one up and then putting the other one down! It was hilarious if you think about it now. I was always collecting records and I inherited records from my parents – they brought me up on a lotta Motown stuff and some Spanish stuff here and there. I was preparing myself in my adolescent years, toying around with my father’s record player, trying to scratch on them! [laughs] I would try to do that when he wasn’t watching. I ended up leaving California in ’87. Before that I was just doing a few gigs by being featured here and there, it wasn’t until I came here that I started producing and deejaying professionally.
What was the first record that you worked on?
The first record was released in ’88, it was an artist that was signed to Jazzy Jay‘s production company, that was on Cutting/N.V. I was just doing some beats here and there and he heard some of the stuff that I did. We didn’t really have a budget or anything, we ended up recording it on a four-track cassette player that I ended up bringing with me from Cali. We gave them the master and they ended up pressing it and putting it out. Marley Marl was playing it, Red Alert was playing it, we were getting some love.
What was the name of the MC?
The artist is Kid Seville featuring Jazzy Jay and Shameek. The 12″ had a few songs on it but the main song was “Make It Funky.”
How were you putting your beats together at that stage?
It was done live as far as the samples – I was scratching in certain parts. I didn’t have a sampling drum machine like an SP-1200 or anything, the drum machine I may have had might have been a Roland Dr. Rhythm or an Alesis drum machine that had very small, thin, stock sounds. There was a foot pedal sampler that I had, a D.O.D. or something like that, and I was just triggering that along with the track. I would just bounce and bounce and bounce [to the tracks on the 4-track], so it may have sounded like it might have been a semi-big production, but it was only on 4-track.
That must have been exciting to hear your first record on the radio.
That was cool. I got a lot more work off of that, when they were playing it. That’s when I started recording with Twin Hype. Funny thing is, that’s the same way we recorded “Do It To The Crowd.” This was in a larger studio with 24 tracks, so I didn’t have to bounce anything, but that whole song was just two bars looped on a 16-bit sampling mixer – one of those Numark mixers that first came out with the 16-bit sampler. Everything else was just scratched in.
How did you meet the Twins?
There was a producer named Hollywood [Impact], a Spanish cat from Newark. I was doing a lot of scratching on club records – an artist by the name of Deniz, I did scratching for Sweet Sensation, Lizette Melendez, Tony Terry – with a producer who I had met through Hollywood. Hollywood saw me building a name and he tells me he’s hooked-up with the Twins and wanted me to be their DJ. I just added the finishing touches of the cutting and the scratching, and the last song that we recorded was “Do It To The Crowd.” You remember how back in the days artists would dedicate one song to their DJ? To find out it ended up being the first single? Wow, I was amazed. I wanted it to be different than the DJ just scratching, I wanted for them to write a verse and for to answer with a cut, so it was actually going back and forth.
That was the same time that hip-house was jumping off, right?
We fit in nicely with my experience with club music, and Jersey is really into house music. A lot of the elements that I used in “For Those Who Like To Groove” and “Do It To The Crowd” as well as the scratching that I did on an earlier record before that with King Sun. He did a song called “On The Club Tip” so we were riding that wave. That was the only song that he touched the whole dance scsne, he was more of a lyrical, straight hip-hop cat.
You also went on to work with him on the Righteous But Ruthless album?
Yeah, that was King Sun’s second album. I had already done the first album with the Twins and we came off tour when King Sun told me he was working on his next album. That was when I got into the producer’s chair and started doing more production professionally, when everything else was just co-production or doing scratching. King Sun picked a lot of tracks, which I was surprised, because I thought he had other producers. I did six songs and Tony D from Poor Righteous Teachers fame did the other half of the album.
King Sun had a reputation as a guy that didn’t take any crap.
[laughs] That may be the reason why he’s pretty much been black-balled from the business, I believe. He’s called out a lot of people, and I don’t know if any of them were bridges that he burned or might’ve said something to the wrong person. He was likable by a few, but hated and envied by a lot.
What led to you both working together?
He was our labelmate – we were both on Profile Records. Hollywood Impact was going to produce a song for him, and that’s when they contacted me to do scratching. I was good friends with Kutmasta Kurt, and Kurt would get a lot of these drops for his radio show in California, so I remember playing a lot of King Sun stuff and hearing drops from him, so to be able to work with him? I thought it was dope. I was pretty much star-struck.
You also produced some songs on Select such as Romeo Black?
There was a group called Style that was also in the whole camp of Hollywood Impact – Tony Tone, which was T La Rock and Special K‘s brother – I might’ve done a little bit of scratching on that project. They ended up getting signed to Select Records, and that’s where they connected us to Romeo Black, who was an artist for DJ Cheese who was producting them at the time. They wanted a track beefed-up so I stepped in and started doing production for some of the songs and arranged it a little differently. Another artist that DJ Cheese had was a girl by the name of Nefatini, and I ended up producing a song for her which ended up landing on a soundtrack called Talking Dirty After Dark, which was Martin Lawrence‘s first film.
How had you developed your scratching technique?
In California there was a real big DJ movement, a lot of us would practice cutting. That’s where the DJ crews came out of – the Skratch Pikelz, DJ Q-Bert, DJ Rectangle and so forth – a lot of those Bay Area cats, as well as those cats from LA – Bobcat and Joe Cooley. We were really trying to get our own sound. There was a lot of times that I was just locked in the house cutting it up when my boys wanted to go and play.
Why do you think the scratching was more advanced out there than the rapping at that point?
That’s a good question, I’m not really sure. I’ve never been asked that question to give you the right answer! [laughs]
Was it perhaps because there were more DJ shows than live rapping?
I remember going to a lot of events and even being in DJ battles, even before I came to the east coast and found out about the battle of the DJ’s that they had at the New Music Seminar. We would have our own set-up – it would be a really big hall and then a DJ would come in with their own speakers and try to overpower somebody. I would prevail a lot of the time, even though my sound system wasn’t major. I was always doing the cutting and fast with my hands, I’d play a lotta songs back and forth to wow the crowd. I’ve always been that type of DJ that wante dto hit people with the shock and awe. One of the first songs that I may have done something with was “Renegades of Funk” by Afrika Bambatta, and he did that little chant, “Ee ah dah yah oh ohh/Ee ah dah, ee ah dah.” That record I grew up on, which was originally a salsa record from Willie Cologne, and he says that chant in the song. I had that record, cos my father had it, so I would throw in that record and the crowd would flip! I would play the original and go back and forth, so I was always that cat to challenge my crowd, I wasn’t one to just do something that was safe. If they didn’t like it I would find out right away – of course I didn’t use it in my next gig but for the most part that’s what made me stand out. Just being able to listen to so much other music, I kinda had a head start before a lot of other DJ’s started buying records and wanting to scratch.
Plus your actual record collection played such a large part in that era, being able to play records no one else had was a big drawcard.
Right. If my father said, “Oh yeah, that part of that record came from a so-and-so song.” “Oh shit! I gotta have it! Take me around to any store, we’ve gotta look for it!” We’d drive to San Francisco to look for it. If I came to visit family that I had on the east coast I’d be in the record stores, so I’ve always been into digging and shopping.
Did you tour extensively during your time with Twin Hype?
We toured for a good two and a half years. ’89 we jumped on our first tour. We went as far as Europe, probably could’ve went further if the deal situation was still intact, but that crumbled with the second album that Profile Records didn’t want to put out. So we agreed to put out an EP which contained five songs and they did a video which didn’t do as well as the first project. The twins had a situation where they didn’t really have their mind right and got a release from the label after asking for it. They weren’t able to shop another deal, and they didn;t have my support because I was busy doing other things.
Why didn’t they have your support anymore?
There was a lot of drinking and stuff. I don’t know if any drugs were being used, but there was definitely a lot of drinking! As you get older, you start to treat this as a business and you see other situations that are better for you so you grow and you make that move. As I got older I didn’t want to be hanging out, I didn’t want to drink, I didn’t want to look for chicks – I had responsibilities. I hadn’t heard from them in a while and I found out that they were locked up in prison like everyone else did, through The Source magazine.
They were accused of robbing a gas station?
Something like that, they were claiming that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it was funny cos they had a song on the second EP called “Wrong Place, Wrong Time.” It’s funny how life imitates art, pretty much the same thing that happened to Slick Rick.
You also mentioned that you were at the NMS when King Sun got into something?
I remember Ice Cube at the time having beef with Above The Law, they were opposite teams with them being down with Eazy-E and Ruthless and Ice Cube leaving and creating his own force. The Lench Mob were there and they had an exchange of words and started fighting. That might have been the first fight in New Music Seminar history! King Sun was cool with Ice Cube and he ended up fighting with them, and pretty soon Ice Cube was saying that they were down with him and they were giving him shout-outs on a couple of songs on his album or EP or whatever he had out at the time. I remember King Sun sending Cube some demos and saying he was trying to get a deal now because he was already off of Profile Records. I was recording with Sun at the time, but I didn’t record this song with Sun – it was “Wicked.” It had the same deal where it had the Jamaican accent of the cat saying, “King Sun get wicked!” So Ice Cube ends up sitting on this demo, and Sun is calling him, “Yo, have you heard it? Have you heard it?” He can’t get in touch with Cube, so he ends up hollaring at J-Dee from Da Lench Mob, cos he was the coolest one out the crew. He was like, “Yeah, yeah! Ice Cube got it, he plays it all the time in his car!” Apparently it grew on him to want to want to record it and put it out! So he did that song and Sun was like, “Yo! What the hell is going on?” He ends up approaching him during Ice Cube’s performance at The Palladium in New York. He got on the house mic – I think Flex might’ve been deejaying – and he ran into the both and was like, “Yo Cube! Yo, it’s your boy King Sun! WHat’s up, man?” They had an exchange of words and then he was saying he wanted to battle him. So Sun went to rush the stage and Cube had security stop him!
Cube invited him onto the stage?
I wasn’t there during this event, but Sun told me that Cube was on the mic saying, “So what? I stole ‘Wicked’!” He just proved right there he pretty much jacked it. So Sun said, “Let’s battle!” and he said, “Yeah, let’s battle!” Sun went to approach the stage and that’s when the security ended up escorting him off. This was in the paper, and it was hilarious, cos the paper didn’t know who the other rapper was. It ended up coming out later on when he jacked Cypress Hill with “Throw Ya Sets In The Air.” That’s how Cypress Hill ended up shouting out King Sun in one of the songs that they dissed Ice Cube at. There was another song that we actually did that was dissing the whoe Westside Connection, I believe. That was something that never got pressed-up or released, but it got played here and there just on the strength of who King Sun was. I’m still sitting on all that stuff so I may release that stuff at another time. I’ve got a lot of stuff that I did with Sun, with the twins, T La Rock…
T La Rock?
T La Rock came around a lot to our sessions cos we would be there with his brother, Tony Tone. We ended up doing a song together thta I did some scratching on, and the song was called “On A Warpath.” I believe it was only released in the UK with Sleeping Bag.
King Sun also did that record about Tupac, didn’t he?
It was called “Caliphony.” [laughs] That was a demo of some sort but he didn’t release it. When he linked up to do a mixtape with Doo Wop he ended up re-producing it and did a regular kinda track. They ended up pressing it and it made a little noise. That was Sun for you! Sun would always talk about whatever was the center of attention, to get some of the light too.
Have you kept in touch?
I did get him a deal with some of the stuff that we recorded after the whole Profle situation was over and done with. I was shopping his stuff, and when I took it to a label they liked it, they signed him, they gave him money. They weren’t really a hip-hop label so having Sun signed to their label was a little too real for them so they deaded the situation. After that it got a little difficult to work with him. For some reason, everyone I kinda worked with were in some way difficult to work with eventually so I would stop the communication. Then he moved to California and he was trying to get at Ice-T‘s camp, but I’m not sure what materialized of that. Apparently he’s back here in the east coast.
You also did a record called “The Truth” around 1999?
Wow, you really dug deep, baby! That was an artist by the name of LP. I’ve never really been asked who he was, only because of the nature of that record, but he is the cousin of somebody that’s in the Diggin’ In The Crates crew. It was an artist that I stumbled apon by meeting his mother. She knew who I was and said, “You’ve gotta hear my son.” I geard a demo and I was like, “Wow, this kid is dope!” He sounded like that whole Diggin’ In The Crates camp and he was from The Bronx, so I ended up doing some recording with him and ended up finding out later on who he was related to, and he also has a rapper that’s a pretty well-known underground rap artist. I had gotten him a deal and for things beyond my control it didn’t work out because he wanted to do songs that were compatible to what was being played on the radio, but I kept trying to beat into his head that we don’t have that kind of money for that kind of promotion. Don’t expect your stuff to get played on the radio unless you know people that are going to do you favors! I wanted to stay on the underground level and we recorded that song. The song did fairly well and created a lot of underground buzz, and I took a trip to England and let them hear it. They were like, “Oh well, the track is cool but this is what’s going on right here now.” So on the flip side I did a different mix that didn’t sound too jiggyish. That was that era when people weren’t feling that jiggy sound.
He went at so many big names on that record.
He had another name before, but we just used his initials because we never really knew what would come out of it. He was going at a lot of people, and right after that is when 50 Cent came out with “How To Rob.” LP was playing his stuff, before we pressed it up, at one of Diddy‘s studios, and The Madd Rapper – Deric Angelettie – was there and he kept telling him to play it and keep playing it. I’m not sure if that’s how the idea came about for “How To Rob,” but 50 got a lot of flack for that from other rappers and got stabbed and got shot. That’s why we kept that artist on the hush. The album ended up getting turned down by the distributor that was going to release it because the artist wanted to make more stuff that was commercial. It’s funny. cos someone put out a YouTube video of the song with pictures of each artist he would talk about, but on the listing it said that Papoose did the song! I thought that was hilarious.
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