Wednesday, August 11, 2010

P-Money 2001

Spied this great video from back in 2001 via GeorgeFM- it's P-Money dropping his routine at the World DMC Champs - he came third equal that year  (with DJ Kentaro). I interviewed P-Money that year for NZ Musician magazine. Here's the interview below.

The thing I remember from this interview was, even tho P-Money had some success and made it to several overseas DJ battles and was going places, he was talking about how his overseas experiences made him realise that the local hiphop scene had to step up its game - he wasn't just in it for himself. That's cool.

Scratch and win
by Peter McLennan (originally published in NZ Musician magazine February 2001)

P-Money is one of our nation's finest hip hop DJs - if you are looking for proof, he has won the New Zealand ITF (International Turntablist Federation) DJ Championship an unprecedented two years in a row.

An expert scratch DJ, P-Money has recently starting to make his presence felt as a producer of his own beats, working with MCs Ill Semantics, Four Corners, and on Che Fu's next album. He's been involved with bFM's hugely popular 'Trueschool Hip Hop Show', alongside well respected DJs DLT and Sir-Vere for several years, and currently hosts the show. He's a humble guy, who works hard to be the best he can be. Step up, P-Money!

"It was DLT who started referring to me as Money, taking the piss, cos I'd do tricks like Cash Money. I was looking for a DJ name and I thought, 'Yeah, that'll do'."

DJing took hold of Pete Wadams at a young age.

"I've been practising my skills since I was about 12. That was when I first attempted a scratch. I got a turntable when I was 14, and then I got a decent set-up when I was 17. I've been seriously DJing as a career for the last three years - since I was about 19.

"The first gear I used was a Sony mini-system my dad had, that had a turntable on the top, and I would just scratch with that, using the switch between Phono and Auxiliary to cut out the sound. So I had two fingers on the switches and cut the sound that way, moving the record back and forth to see what happened. I thought 'This sounds really cool!'.

"I discovered scratching from the music I was listening to, which was hip hop music, like Run DMC. Jam Master Jay was their DJ. On the video for Walk This Way, there's him on turntables cutting the record at the start and you can see and hear what he's doing. I thought, 'That looks cool, I want to put my hand on the record and see if I can make that noise'.

"The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff had this song Parents Just Don't Understand, it was a really corny song. It was the first record I ever owned. I went to the record shop with my dad and he got it for me. I got tired of it in about five minutes, and then one day I played the other side - I didn't even know there was another side of a record! I was pretty young, must've been about nine.

"I flipped it over, and there's a track called Live at Union Square 1986, and it's the intro to their live show. It's Will Smith, the Fresh Prince, and he goes 'Check out my DJ, he's gonna do some amazing new thing you've never seen', and it was the transformer scratch. There's this record called 'Dance to the Drummer's Beat' by Herman Kelly & Life, and there's a break down at the start of it, and he (Jazzy Jeff) just starts turning the sound on and off, the transformer scratch - dah, dah-dah, dah - and it just freaked me out, it was amazing! I was thinking 'How do you make that noise?'.

"I used to scratch with that record (Live at Union Square), cos I didn't know what the original sound was, 'til a few years later, and then I realised that it was just turning the record on and off, and I was blown away by that."

A lot more of what he has learned as a DJ came from experimenting.

"You just sit down and study a record, I think any musician is the same. The turntable as an instrument is only coming into its own now - and you really can play the turntable as an instrument - it's being proven more and more with each new guy that I see. At the ITF finals, there was this guy called A-Trak (the 1999 and 2000 ITF World Champ), he's just turned 19, and he's doing amazing things. He's a full-on musician, he just freaks me out. I can't achieve what he's achieving at the moment, and he's three years younger than me - but I'm going to get there!"

P-Money got started in DJ battles at the first local ITF DJ championship, in 1997.

"I heard about it through the 'Trueschool Hip Hop Show' on bFM. I was a big fan, always used to listen to the show, and I was like 'A DJ competition? Wow!'.

"A DJ battle is a competition where DJs scratch and do tricks. They get a chance to demonstrate their stuff in the opening routines, then there's two DJs set-up on stage, and they take turns for 90 seconds each, and you've got to come up with whatever you can in that time, then the other DJ will respond and try and outdo what you've done. Then you get one more chance, and they reply, and the winner advances to the next round. It's an elimination process, 'til there's one guy left. We have qualifiers in the regions, in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There was about 50 DJs entered last year, and they all battled, and that was great, and then the winner goes overseas - and that was me!"

So how do you prepare for a DJ battle? Practice, practice, practice, advises P-Money.

"You could say I'm always preparing, because whenever I'm practising, I'm looking for new things. There are records called 'Battle Breaks' that have short stabs of sounds and really big raucous beats you can use. But I often choose to use songs that are already out there, mostly rap songs, but I've used Peking Man before - I use whatever I can find. It's like sampling. Say you want to sample one piece of music and there are all these different sounds in there, you might end up taking five different bits and rearranging them into a new track - that's exactly what I do on turntables, but I do it live, in real time, and that's where the challenge lies."

P-Money remembers that first DJ battle in '97 with a certain degree of bemusement.

"When I look back on it, it's hilarious, cos I was shocking! It was just a confidence building thing more than anything."

He placed fourth but was back the following year, feeling more confident.
"I thought 'Yeah, I'm gonna win this, I'm better than everyone else'. I had this real attitude, cos I thought that's the way you win."

Unfortunately this confidence didn't prepare him for getting knocked out in the first round.

"I went home and thought 'Why did I lose? Shucks man, that sucks'. I was going to give up battling, it was too much time and effort."

But in 1999 he gave it one more shot: "I went in the Wellington Invitational Battle competition and won the first round, and I was thinking 'Yeah!'. Next round I did my Rakim routine, my most well-rehearsed routine, done it a million times - and I messed it up! I felt really bad. I went out the back and thought 'Oh well, I definitely lost that', but then I won! I was like 'This is the craziest game in the world; when you think you're gonna win, you lose, and when you think you're gonna lose, you win!'. Then I went to the next round, the finals, and I thought 'Well, I'll just leave it up to God or whoever', you know? I'll just do my thing and be humble, and hopefully it'll be good enough, and they'll like it - and I won! So I kept that attitude.

"The whole experience of DJ battles has, in a weird way, shaped me as a person, like 'Stop thinking you're a hot shot, you're not that good', cos everyone's got to practice.'"

Winning the local ITF champs has given P-Money the opportunity to foot it on the world stage amongst the best of his peers and take in some amazing sights. In November last year the world finals were held in Los Angeles where he placed eighth. The year before in Hawaii he came in fifth out of the dozen DJs representing the best of almost as many countries - including UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, Belgium and Australia.

"In LA the talent on stage was the best I've ever seen, seriously. They were just so good. There were these guys doing crazy, musical patterns, like taking a regular hip hop record which is in 4/4 and about 90 bpm, like I'm used to, and slowing it down to 3/4, a waltz - just doing a whole new arrangement of the song, and changing the pitch of the instruments so it's a new melody too! It's hard to explain without witnessing it. Those dudes are just beyond me."

DJ Sir-Vere (Phil Bell), organiser of the local ITF's, went with P-Money to both ITF World DJ Finals. He recalls P-Money's first time up on the world stage, in Hawaii in 1999. "The playing field at that was a bit more even, whereas this last year the standard was a lot higher. It's getting way more competitive. The standard was incredible this year at the Hollywood Palace in LA. The winner A-Trak could've won it lying down!

"This year, the world took three steps forward, and we took one. I think that even though Money didn't make the battle rounds, maybe that's where he was ranked, you know? He totally got cheated out of seventh in LA."

P-Money typically sees a challenge: "People would consider me to be quite developed technically, quite skilled compared to the average DJ here, then I go over to the world champs and I'm like that guy at the bottom again. We have to pick up our game here quite a bit. I'm trying to take it to the world, trying to be on that level and doing production for international artists overseas. So I want to take it there, but I don't want to be the only one!"

This DJ isn't just into playing other people's music - oh no. He's got designs on making music too.

"I knew how hip hop groups worked; there's a rapper, and there's a DJ. So, I just assumed the DJ must create all the beats as well, so I thought 'I need to do that'."

Searching through music magazines in the early '90s trying to find out what DJs used to make music, he discovered drum machines.

"I got a Boss Dr Rhythm DR660 drum machine, after much persuasion of my father - 'Dad, I want a drum machine for Christmas!' It was that and my birthday present and half my own money. That was in my last year of high school. I was fully into making beats and I had a good turntable set-up by then."

P-Money left school, got a job in a fish and chip shop, and saved up to buy a Tascam 07 four-track. He also had a toy keyboard from when he was a kid.

"By combining those elements, I made my first tracks. I started off with a loop of some static on the end of a 45, and I attempted to sync my drum machine to the tempo of the static, cos I didn't like the drum machine sound, it was too stale. I needed something else so I added the static. Then I played some real bad chords on my toy keyboard and layered some scratches - it was a big, layered mess of stuff.

"I'd do loops on turntables, cos I didn't have a sampler, so I'd have two copies of a record, and just start it, run it for a bar, then just repeat on the other turntable."

His next purchase was a Roland MS1 Sampler.

"Once I started sampling stuff, then I really started to hear the records I'd been listening to for many years, like Public Enemy and De La Soul and all that. I started to pick apart the production. I was learning how to get good at scratching and DJing and learning production techniques, all at the same time."

He's recently made the leap to an Akai MPC 2000 XL sampler.

"For the last two years people have been starting to say that the beats I have been making are really good. I started working with Che Fu, cos he was interested from a DJ point of view, cos he's also into DJing. He liked my beats, so we've been doing some stuff. I joined Che's band as DJ and we're working on more demos for his next album."

He's also recorded some of his own tunes, with Four Corners from Hamilton and Ill Semantics from Auckland.

"We recorded them at Studio Six in Papakura, which is just a bedroom set-up, but it's pretty flash, and put down the vocals. I put them out there just to test the waters, and people loved it, it was number one on the bFM Top 10 for four weeks. That's more motivation to pursue that. Hopefully they'll get released, if someone's reading this, get in touch! It's the same old story with everyone - you need some cash behind it to get it out there. So, that's that long assed story!"

Let's ask an expert - what makes a good hip hop DJ?

"You've got to have good records and you've got to be technically skilled and understand music. You've got to understand timing in songs. Like, if you're doing a mix of two songs, you've got to understand how many bars there are and how many beats there are to a bar and all that. You don't have to be able to read music and know all the technical terms, you've just got to be able to feel it. I didn't know what a bar was, I knew how the music went, I was like 'Ah, this many loops', I had different words!

"There are heaps of things as far as turntable set-up that you need to be aware of. You have your record, and it sits on the platter, between the record and the platter there's a thing called a slip mat, and if it's not spinning back easily when you're scratching, you can experiment with different types of plastic under the slip mat, like from inside record sleeves. I also have my turntables set up vertically, which is battle style, with the arm the furthest away from you. That's so when you're going from one turntable to the other you're not hitting the arm. I use a Vestax Pro 07 mixer, Shure M44-7 cartridges, and Technics SL1200 turntables."

What if you're an absolute beginner?

"If you're starting out, I'd say get whatever you can get your hands on. I mean, a belt drive is cool, if you're 12, 13, and you've never scratched before and want to get into it. If you're already at that stage, then I'd say don't mess around with anything other than a pair of SL1200s. It's a big step up, but you'll know if you're going to keep doing it so you'll know if it's a waste of money or not. Just save up and buy yourself a decent set of turntables, and there'll be no looking back after that. I went through about five belt drives. I saved up and bought a pair of 1200s. You can buy one, and then that'll be enough motivation to buy the other one. You can get them secondhand too."

Good advice - on the money, every time.

P-Money's Top 5 Records (in no particular order)

Gang Starr - Moment of Truth
Bob James - Nautilus
Public Enemy - Fear of A Black Planet
Wu Tang Clan - Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
Jeru the Damaja - The Sun Rises in the East

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