Tone Glow 096: RP Boo
An interview with the pioneering Chicago footwork producer RP Boo
RP Boo is a DJ, producer, and rhythm technician from the South Side of Chicago. A sort of footwork anchorite today, he’s nevertheless spent some 30 years around the center of Chicago’s ever-accelerating dance music landscape: he’s performed with the House-O-Matic dance crew, produced several landmark recordings of the late Dance Mania era (which somehow universally came up short of official release or eventually dropped under another artist’s name), and ascended to the role of elder statesman during footwork’s Planet Mu-driven global breakthrough in the 2010s. Corrigan Blanchfield spoke with the producer over Zoom on May 10th, 2023—two days before the release of Legacy Volume 2, yet another archival collection from the bottomless RP Boo back catalog. He seemed to be enjoying his respite and anxiously awaiting the new album cycle in equal measure, as apt to find joy in the fifteenth consecutive listen to a song—or visit to Tokyo—as in the first. Over an hour and a half, Boo flexed razor-sharp recall of ’90s South Side history, taking a little time in-between to hold forth on his love for roller coasters, English class, and taking walks in Poland.
Corrigan Blanchfield: What’ve you been doing this year?
RP Boo: Well, did a couple shows… but other than that, just relaxing and doing things around the house. Always walkin’ my neighbor’s dog in the morning, so that takes up my time, but other than that I might make a couple tracks now and there. Just takin’ it easy, relaxing.
What’s relaxing for you?
Listen to music, and take walks. Or sometimes ride my bikes around a parking lot. That’s it! I’ve done so much in Chicago that I’m used to it, I know I’m gonna have a busy summer, as well as fall, so let me just relax. From 2021 September I was in and out every month until November of last year, so it was just a constant run. I don’t know if it might happen again like that, but let me take as much rest time as I can get. Recently, just building and collecting BMX bikes. The ones I really like I can just buy from the spot called Flatlandfuel, and get it and just build it from out the box. I bought my tools for the bike, bike stands, and they give me something to be able to really get the ins and outs on just taking apart bikes and just putting them back together.
Are you maybe a little bit retired? Is that type of touring something you’re trying to actively step back from?
I know if I get the job, it’s work. I take it as work; I always enjoy the people. I used to be so enthused about gettin’ on a plane, like “I’m ready to go!” But if I get a flight, it’s just a regular day to me now, and I started feeling like that about a year ago, after I came back from Australia. “You know what? It’s just a job.” (laughs).
Do you have a single route you hit every time or are you a wanderer?
It’s a set walk. If I’m goin’ South from my house, it’s a road that’s not even ten years newly built. It’s gonna be a little township, so I go that way and it’s just nothing but land. If I’m goin’ North, I go in the back, by the beach, and just walk to, uh—because I’m on 79th Street—so I will walk to 77th and back. But it’s a nice spring view back there, especially in the morning time.
What kinds of places have stuck out to you in your travels?
Europe, I done been all through the UK, China. I’m on my way now, in about two more weeks, back down to Brazil. I haven’t been to Canada in a couple years. I been doin’ a lot of stuff in the States this year, especially in and out of New York. It’s been a while since I’ve been to New Zealand, but one of my favorite places of all time is Kraków. I got so used to going to Kraków, everytime I get the invitation I’m like, “Yeah, I’m comin’!”.
It was the first place I’d ever been outside of the United States, and the first day I was there I went to go get my artist package. They had this young lady, she walked me from the hotel to the town square and back. So she says, “I’ll be back at a certain time to come pick you up,” and I already had a map—I like to read maps. So I told her, “You don’t have to come back. Trust me!” And from that day, I just walked, walked, walked. And I got so good at doin’ it, especially walking across certain parts of the streets that, me bein’ a tourist, it’s not like in the States. You really have to be aware of where you at. I will never forget that place, and so every time I go back to Kraków they’re like, “We already know—Boo’s out walkin’!” (laughs).
I love London too. When I’m in London, I walk the streets for at least two hours a day, just goin’ places. I always end up buying a nice pair of shoes while I’m in London. And that was the first place where I’ve been that… no, no, it was Japan that was the first place where I actually got to see the cars and the traffic opposite from the States. But for London, it’s just a little bit different. The UK taught me how to really be aware of how you cross the streets, because that’s a different type of traffic! (laughter). I noticed even coming in and leavin’ out, you just can’t go one way or another way. It’s like a maze trying to get in or out.
Did you ever travel much around the US before touring?
No, I actually starting touring around 2013, ten years ago. Two more days, which is Friday, which’ll be the 12th, is actually… ten years ago, when Legacy was released, it was released on May 13th. So once it came out that I didn’t have my passport, and I had tons and tons of offers to play, so I had to get a passport. And after I get the passport, a lot of the shows wasn’t there, and the only thing that was available at the time was Kraków, Poland. Then I end up going to Tokyo, Japan for the first time. And this was no agents. 2015, 2014, I did two out-the-country spots. Then 2016, that’s when it took off because I ended up getting an agent for the US and an agency for the UK & Europe. That was just “go, go, go, go.” 2017 was kind of a mild year, but 2018, 2019—super busy.
When you heard somebody wanted you to play in Tokyo, for example, did you have any concept of these places at all? I know you’d seen Godzilla, obviously.
I was gettin’ heads up on how the people in Tokyo really loved what I was doing, and it was a great opportunity for them to see. So I never took it as… I’d see something watching The Price is Right back in the old days, and they’d show “oh, a trip to Tokyo, Japan!” I’d just see the pictures. When I’d get there, I’d take it for what it is at that moment. And it was amazing, bein’ able to sightsee, didn’t expect to be able to take a train ride from Tokyo to Osaka on a bullet train. I saw, for the first time, this is a dumb stupid lookin’ mountain! It just stood out. I saw Mt. Fuji on the train from Osaka, coming back into Tokyo, and I saw something I knew nothing about, and it just caught my attention. I seen this tall tower on the expressway and (pantomiming typing) googled it, that’s the Tokyo Skytree. And they heard me talking about it, so the day before I left, they said “we’re gonna take you to Downtown Tokyo.” Soon as we get off the train, I’m like “there it go right there!” Fascinated by it. So the second time I went back, I actually went inside, and went up. That was a beautiful view. The food was good too.
I’ve wondered about a sort of recurring theme in your music—classical samples, big orchestras, soundtracks—what draws you to that?
I could even watch old cartoons as a young kid and just think about something I’m hearing—a lot of people couldn’t figure out why I smiled a lot. And these are things goin’ through my head to keep me going. I could just walk down the street and start laughin’, and people wouldn’t know what I was laughin’ about. But it was the things I was thinking about that I’d heard over the years, the music I took in, but I’d never thought about being a producer. I was just more about DJin’, and then when I got into the production, it was listening to what was clearly out in the Ghetto House scene. I started hearin’ a lot of the guys use more radio samples of certain rap tracks. And I was like, “wait a minute, let me take the things that I’ve got my hands on, and use it as that.” Samples that I know I liked, that nobody had ever thought about using, and let me see how this works.
One of the first ones I used for myself that kinda changed the game was “Weekend,” it was “Weekend (Tonight Is Party Time).” I took that, and that one would be on the Classics, “Try 2 Break.” So what I did with “Try 2 Break” was use just a little bit of the sample, when she says “you see baby, I was patient.” Then I took, um, a sample that Deeon did to say thank you for being an inspiration. Because I used “Weekend” as an inspiration too, because that was one of my favorite tracks in the ’80s. And then when he used Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us”—the way he used it, I had the record, so I was able to play it the way he played it, but I was able to combine it all and play it. I didn’t think nobody was gonna like it, and when I played it for the first time, I think it was at this spot called Cavallini’s, everybody on that dance floor went nuts. I was like (claps) now I’m not afraid to take that step! The icebreaker, let me really see what’s finna happen.
How early had you begun putting mixtapes out? If I just googled your name, I could easily come away thinking that you started making music in like 2007.
The first mixtape I did was in 1995, early summer of ’95. I wasn’t producin’, and that was called My Time to Shine. At that time, DJ Slugo knew where the place was at, so he actually did one side, I did the other side, but it still had “DJ Boo, My Time to Shine.” When he took me to the place, it was in Lombard, Illinois, and I did one after that called Dazzmatazz. Oh man, Dazzmatazz was like super serious, I went in on Dazzmatazz! That’s when I started makin’ tracks—“Baby Come On” was on there, the ice cream truck, it was a couple more tracks. But then, after that, that’s when I did No Edits Allowed. I did one side and DJ Rashad did the other side. We cannot find that tape for no— that tape was serious. That’s when I debuted this track called “Suicide,” Rashad did a Mario Brothers track that just flipped the script. I’m talkin’ ‘bout he just flipped the script. So I did four or five mixtapes, but it wasn’t consecutive like the rest of the guys. That was more like their bread and butter, they hustled. I had a job, so until I felt like it was time for me to do something, I just went months and years before I’d do somethin’ else. Like I said, I had a job, a good-paying job.
Where were you working at that point?
Were you good about keeping your own archive, or are some of the tapes gone for good?
They downstairs in storage, I’m talkin’ ‘bout down-stairs. I have two cases of all the tracks that was made that I was able to hold onto, because those that came prior before that, it was about four or five tapes that had a lot of indisclosed tracks that I was never able to grab because I lost the tapes. So I was like, “I’ll never lose no more tapes.” I still got my tapes, I still got the four-track that I used to play from in the mixes. That’s the same four-track I did the recordings on, so I still got a double tape deck, JVC with the pitch control. Still got it all, it’s in the basement! (laughs).
I talked to Clent a couple years ago, and he was saying that even something like “Bounce” he doesn’t have the track for anymore.
Well, Clent—I learnt, messin’ with Clent, they was like “what happened to that track? Oh, I lost that track.” I ain’t tryin’ to lose no more tracks!
Are some of these tapes where you’re pulling the selections for Legacy Volume 2 from?
It took me like about four or five months before, let’s say about 2003 or 2004, I had got a digital CD burner and player. What I did, I just started taking all the tapes and transferring everything from tape to digital, and then from digital to storing them inside a computer. It took me like six or seven months. Once I got everything transferred and done, it was wrapped. So by the time we got to doin’ Bangs & Works and Rashad going back and forth into London talking with Mike Paradinas, Rashad already had a nice folder of RP Boo. He was able to swing somethin’ over to Mike Paradinas, and after we got everything done, he was like “can we get an album?”
He already had a list of the tracks, but as time was going on and progressed, every time I’d make a track I would send it to him. But he was saying that in due time he wanted to do another project. When I found out about Legacy Volume 2, he want to do Legacy Volume 2 and he sent me the playlist—I was like “Whoa! Uhhhh…” He explained that he wanted to bring some stuff that was in the archive, some that was already released but was not fully on a RP Boo project, and a couple that was never released that he already had in the folder. So Legacy 2 was already set by the time—he was like “ok, here you go,” and when I looked at it, I was like, “no problem!” I know who made ‘em; if you wanna ride with this, let’s go.
So he’s kind of A&Ring these records—you sent over the whole archive at some point, and he’s working through them and compiling.
Yeah. It’s a lot that he don’t have, though (laughter). But I tell people, in due time I want to do a one-man show, just pull out the heavy artillery. Just go at people. “Where’s these tracks coming from?!” When I’m talking ‘bout these tracks are hard, they’re hard. Early days of footwork, the birth era of it.
All through the ‘90s, it seems like there was a real tendency towards cliquing up—House-O-Matic, Teklife later on, Beatdown—but your modern day image is very much that of a solo figure.
You’ve gotta be an individual more than anything. And it was things that I have endured with bein’ nice with people… other than the dance group, the first group of producers to become, for me, was Beatdown. Then something took place, and I was like “you know what, it’s time for me to leave.” And that’s when I stepped away from Beatdown, and I formed D’Dynamic. And D’Dynamic is just me and my music. So the “D” stands for “Double,” which is me and my music, and “Dynamic” is the energy, and the force that it presents. Then I noticed, me bein’ by myself, I was able to do more. And I just stayed that way ever since. I always had respect that wherever I go, the people I run across, I meet, still have love for Beatdown. Then all the other groups and cliques that came about, I was real cool with ‘em. But I still had the job, so I just stayed to myself. Only time I come out was if I had to DJ, then round about like 2003, 2004, if they was doin’ the dance downs at the park districts, I would come down and help set up the sounds with the sound technician, his name was Homer Cunningham. Every time he set up, I was the man to hook it up—everybody knew who I was, and they knew they had a trick comin’. And the trick was… “he got another new track.” There it go (claps), I always had new tracks every time I step in the building.
I saw an old local news video of House-O-Matic and was kind of struck by the leadership structure of the group being President, Vice President, etc.—I feel like it’s much more common now to hear “CEO,” kind of a business angle.
The president’s name was Ronnie Sloan—right now, he’s doing something that he used to do back in the past, he used to promote concerts. He’s doing that heavy now, he does it for the Horseshoe Casino in Gary—is it…—in Indiana. And he’s bringing in a lot of big-time celebrities, from the hip-hop world, the R&B world, this dude’s doin’ his thing. And he still live in Chicago! I still talk to him every now and then, make sure he’s ok.
We had fun. Him, for the South Side of Chicago, he was one of the main reasons the ghetto house parties and the underground parties, he was the promoter of it. He started off with DJ Deeon and Milton, then 1992 or 1993 I joined. When I joined, I presented him a mixtape, said play it if you want to. And he played it, then like about an hour later a young lady comes past and says “where you get that tape from?” Me not knowing what was about to come next, he told her it’s a guy who just joined the group, right before you came. Right before I left, I was approached to say “do you have your own records? Can you do a party for us next week?” Ok, no problem! So I’m expecting to see DJ Deeon and DJ Milton, since that’s who used to DJ for this guy. I didn’t see them. And he says they’d parted ways a couple months ago, he’s just starting fresh. So as they started fresh, I was the freshest face for House-O-Matic. But the South Side of Chicago knew, if they throw a party you gotta be there.
When I first played, I played with this guy named DJ House, he passed away a couple years ago, and a guy named DJ Carlos. And when I got through playin’, that night, they was plottin’ against each other. I didn’t know it, but they came and told me separately, but they had the same plot. The plot was: one of us has to go. And they wasn’t talkin’ about me! They was like, we know this guy, and he’s very good at what he do, so that means one of us gotta go. So I’m DJing for House-O-Matic—me, House, Carlos, then Carlos left, and then a guy named DJ Fat Cat would come in every now and then. That went on for a couple years, and then Deeon and Milton came back. And when they came back, that’s when the third party, the young guy, Slugo came in. That was a package. But I still had the spot to where the people knew Boo. I wasn’t producing then, but I was still knockin’ it back—I still had more of that meat of spinnin’, and they might close out the last two hours.
And this is like the roller rink, high school party era? What were the spots?
This was takin’ place before the rinks started throwin’ their own parties. They might have a little dance competition, but I’m gon’ say from ’92 to like ’96, South Side of Chicago Elk Lodge was the place to be. I don’t care who was throwin’ parties, that was the place to be. Then after ’96, we went to Cavallini’s, that was the South suburbs. Then, South suburbs, there was the Markham skating rink. That’s where Rashad lived, in that area, so Rashad kept that hot. Saturday nights, they kept that hot.
Then after ’97, that’s when the skating rinks such as Markham, Southside suburbs, The Rink Fitness Factory, Southeast side, and Route 66, Southside, every Saturday night they had their crowd. That’s where the juke scene, of the dancin’ juke—because juke is not a genre, at all—they was at the roller rinks. But those that was seventeen and older, they would come to Cavallini’s, but then we went from Cavallini’s to Dolton Expo, they was comin’ in from all three spots. Dolton Expo was just a whole different territory. Next thing you know, everything just stopped. The millenniums comin’ in, 2000, Rink Fitness Factory slowed down, Route 66 got bought out, they turned it into a church, and the only place that was still up and runnin’ for a little bit was the juke dance party at Markham skating.
What caused that shift, in your mind? I think everyone agrees there were a million little reasons happening at once, but they’ve all got their own emphases.
Well, the millenniums came in and the music changed. People started growin’ up. Felt like they didn’t have to do it anymore, life got older. And then we started dealin’ with a lot of promoters that was iffy. It was a bunch of crooks, so a lot of people just stopped messin’ with ‘em. It just went over to the dance downs, you got more dance groups comin’ in, so people went more to the dance group scene and doing performances. But it was another spot called Union Hall, Union Hall is where those that was in dance groups, that was more of footworkers, that’s where they would come. And they’d just go at it. It was real nice, like the early 2000s, and then around ‘bout 2002 it just got quiet. I call that “the glitch,” because parties died down, the music changed, and next thing you know, round about 2004, finally, it’s a new day. It was a dance competition, but later that day it had the first stage presentation of just footworkers, from different dance groups, cliqued up. And they just went at it, from start to finish. Routines was footwork, battles of footwork… a breathe of fresh air. And from that moment in 2004, until present, that’s all its been. Strictly footwork.
Back prior to the glitch, where had you been buying records?
It was more radio. Very little ghetto house was being played on the radio. But due to the mixtapes, we hip! For those that knew about Dance Mania, all they do was go to the West side of Chicago, to Ray Barney’s, because that was the headquarters. But I started going there late, I used to buy my records from… first it was Luke Records, downtown Chicago, then I was working at Chuck E. Cheese, on 51st and Kedzie. They found out I was a DJ, and somebody said “have you ever went to, uh, it’s a record shop down the street?” It was about a seven-minute walking distance for me, from the job to the record shop—it was called Hot Jams. And Hot Jams had everything that was out, everything that was from Dance Mania, and that was my introduction to imports, and a lot of—I knew about techno, but I didn’t know about a record shop that would sell techno. They had it all there, and I was shopping there at Hot Jams for years, until they closed down.
I talked to Ray a while back, too—it was crazy to me how purely he was into the business aspect of things, totally content to leave the A&Ring and creative elements to the guys on the roster.
I really never sat down and talked to Ray. When I met him, we went to go pick up some test press. The test press we were gon’ pick up, “Baby Come On” was on that test press. “Baby Come On,” the ice cream truck, uh… I forgot the name of the other tracks.
Is this that big mystery white label with PJ and Slugo?
(laughs). I’ll get to that one! So when we went there to pick up the records, I remember Slugo asking him what he wanted to do with the test press. And it was one of those “I don’t know,” because it was something different. So he just did the hundred test press, we took fifty and distributed ‘em out. Then I think DJ Thadz came in and grabbed a couple, and he distributed ‘em out. As I started playing these tracks, when people started hearing “Baby Come On” for what it was, they was like “where’s it at?!” The next thing you know, that’s when Ray shut down Dance Mania. And people were like “we can’t find that record for nothin’!” Maaaaan, only if… you should’ve pressed it.
And then with the one you talkin’ ‘bout with PJ, it was myself… everybody did a side apiece, so PJ had a vinyl, he was on one side I was on the other side, that’s when I debuted “114799,” “Sex Talk,” and “Night and Day.” And that was Dance Mania 285, that never got pressed. But years later, right before he stopped the production of Dance Mania, there did come an official 285, but I didn’t know about it. So when that happened, “114799” got picked up—Slugo, I think it was Godfather wanted some tracks and it was sent in there. They wanted to make remixes around it, so that’s when all the remixes came up, that was that. But there’s a guy in Japan, I forget his name, that has every single Dance Mania record that was ever cut up under Dance Mania, including the official 285 and the unofficial 285. He got it all (laughs). I had so many records, but around that same time everything started going digital, and that was it!
When exactly did you start posting on Twitter?
(laughs). That’s a good question! I was late to Twitter, I was behind schedule. I’d never heard anything bad about Twitter, and I had to get the hang of it. I started posting on Twitter after Legacy, volume one. I like Twitter better than all of ‘em now. MySpace was fun. I wasn’t a big fan of hoppin’ on the internet like that, because I kept myself busy, working ten hours a day. If I’m not working ten hours a day as MySpace came in, I’d go to the footwork functions, and if I’d go on MySpace it was more about the uploads and videos with Wala Cam. That’s the only reason for it, but then around 2008 or early 2009 I got on Facebook. But I was still working, so it was very seldom that I was on.
What really made me start using it more was when I first heard of the footwork group Terra Squad. And the stuff I’m hearin’ about Terra Squad, I’m hearin’ that they’re takin’ care of business on they floor to where they were gettin’ rid of people that I knew. I gotta check them out! So I tuned in, see what the footwork world was like, and when they started doin’ Bangs & Works Vol. 1, that’s when I started saying ok cool. Talking with Mike Paradinas, keepin’ up with Rashad as he travels—that’s what made me start bein’ on the internet more, being supportive of Spinn and Rashad. That was the only way I could talk to them, other than if Rashad pick up the phone, but I don’t want to call him from overseas. But I didn’t start diggin’ deep into social media until Legacy first dropped. When we learned the business now, I have to be interacting with the fans. It just took off from there.
Without all the YouTube tutorials, instructional DVDs, how were you studying up on dance moves when you were in groups for a bit?
I knew how to do a couple of dance steps just from watching people, but I never ran into the dance group scene until, I think it was, ’89? It was a group called Mega Move. I was a good year and a couple of months in the neighborhood, so I was like “oh, it’s a dance group.” I wasn’t dancing with them, I was just making their performance tapes. Whenever they went into doing, at the time, talent shows, a lot of people was wonderin’ who was making their tapes. I had a lot of respect from that, then I remember we danced against House-O-Matic before I’d really saw House-O-Matic. That’s when I first seen the orchestrated routines of “5, 6, 7, 8,” and the routines was real good. At that time they wasn’t doing what we call “gimmicks,” that came later.
One day we went to dance at a community college on Southside, and Mega Move was performing but we didn’t know House-O-Matic was gonna be there. We get the “we not gonna dance” from the president. And from that day, I found out that the dance routine we was doing had actually been stolen from House-O-Matic. They had an inside source bringin’ us the routine. So then we get word, and the word was “we gonna perform,” because Ronnie was there. We went on first—we had gimmicks, we had different scenes, then we do the routine. House-O-Matic came on like three groups after us—they wasn’t there performing for competition, they was there to show support, because they was the biggest group in the city. The dances that I learned, they was doing the same dances, but they was doin’ it more shapely, they orchestrated to their own perfection. I was like, “We did that! But ours didn’t look like theirs!” So I ended up with House-O-Matic like two years later. So it was House-O-Matic, Phase 2, K59 came years later, so the main ones were House-O-Matic, Phase 2, and U Phi U.
That’s that track off the first DJ Clent record, right?
(laughs). Yeah! The first ones to ever do that was… Slugo did, “The Coalition.” The Coalition is House-O-Matic, Phase 2, K59, House Arrest 2, Total Impact, Main Attraction. Main Attraction is the only group that’s from the West side. Total Impact is a branch off from House Arrest 2. But I knew all of ‘em. I made them all dance. We had so much respect for each other, we did more parties than anything! The only time House-O-Matic would do were events that were sponsored by the city, or a showcase—it was never a competition. But the last shows I performed with House-O-Matic, it was House-O-Matic and they danced against K59. That day was… I’m talkin’ ‘bout, we destroyed that stage. But we lost. But we like “let them have it! We already know!” It was rigged (laughter). We didn’t have to search for a certain dance style, because everybody was revamping things. We didn’t have to worry about routines, the footwork was more about elevating to sharpenin’ up your skills. The parties just made you sharpen up your skills, that’s all it was. There were no new dances to ever come; it was about creativity and what you already have, and just expanded.
What were your big dreams at that point in your life?
Me in high school was all about graduating. Ended up gettin’ my first job in my junior year, and I end up working at—before Chuck E. Cheese, it was Showbiz Pizza. I did that for three years, buyin’ records, DJing. It was more about what life brings in front of me, but it was one day I made a decision on that I saw, the day that I graduated from high school. I’m the oldest child, so my brother that’s eleven months younger than me, we graduated the same day. We was with two more of our friends on the corner, directly across the street from my house, it’s nice, hot—I think it’s like in the 90s—a car rolled past and turned the corner, and as the car pulls off, we didn’t see, but we kinda heard the car stop. And whoever was in that car, they shot at us on the corner. That was the day I was like, I thought about it real fast and real quick. I said let me find something else to do, and that something else to do was stay out of trouble. That was it—1991. Because I was just all about school.
Then I met a young lady that was introduced by a friend of my brother’s, and me and her was kinda like dating, and in February 1992 I get the, uh, “We expectin’.” And that just changed everything, changed the whole dynamics. Let me continue to do what I was doin’—take care of this child, be there with the children’s mother, goin’ back and forth to work. What kept me occupied was buying records. Bein’ able to sit at the house and play music all day. That was my passion. When I finally got out to start DJing party parties, outside the neighborhoods, it was the reaction of the people that kept me going. My mind was: if it’s a party, go do the party. If it’s not a party, go to work. Good-paying job, stay at work.
And then one day, things got bored. And it was like after 2005 or 2006. I’m tired of going to the Wala Cams, I’m tired of doing this. I used to go rent a car, take trips to go to different amusement parks in the United States. I did Six Flags in St. Louis once, I didn’t like that one—boring. I did Kings Island a couple times, and then somebody said, “Have you ever tried Cedar Point?” And when I went to Cedar Point I was like (claps) “this the best!” So I found myself going to Cedar Point every now and then, and I just loved to be in the house on my turntables, just play, play, play for hours, just by myself. Listen to music that people wouldn’t even think that I was buying at the record shops, different dance styles that I would only play secretly to myself. And that was it, until that one day when DJ Rashad came and told us about Bangs & Works Vol. 1. But I was about to just give up, and one day, round about 2006, I was watching the news here, I didn’t know that Dr. Dre, Snoop, they did the… I forgot that tour they ran! They was here in Chicago, and—
Oh yeah, it was a huge DVD thing—When the Smoke Clears or something?
Up in Smoke! Up in Smoke! The Up in Smoke tour. So I’m watchin’ them on the stage, and they were showing back angles from backstage. You could see Eminem walking across the stage, and you can see the spotlight on him. And for some reason, the light flashed, and when the light flashed that whole arena lit up. I was like “ooooh!” Those people! That’s what I want. That right there, I want that crowd. It’s gotta be something else, but in due time, it became—I got to see that crowd.
What makes a good amusement park, in your mind?
The roller coasters. Roller coasters and how it’s set up—I never did any places in Texas. The first time I ever been to an amusement park was 1985, I went to Six Flags. My mother and a guy that she was dating, he was like, “I’ma take y’all to Six Flags.” And as we was goin’, it’s probably about an hour and twenty minutes from here, and he was like, “the first ride you’re gonna see is gonna stand out—the American Eagle.” And when I saw it, my eyes were like, “now I get to see it! What it really looks like!” Because the only movie that I really saw, that got me into going to amusement parks, is I watched the movie called Zapped! What is that, uh Encino Man where they was at Magic Mountain? And National Lampoon’s Vacation. All that’s Magic Mountain. And after that, I just started seeing more and more. Every amusement park under the Six Flags that I went to, nobody knew that I went other than those I invited. I could come home the next day and my mom’d be like, “Where was you at?!” (laughter). “In another state! At an amusement park.”
But I did finally get to go to Magic Mountain, and that’s when, uh… what ride was out that I wanted to ride? Superman, I finally got to ride Superman there. While I was in Japan, I’m riding on the train coming home, and I saw something, and I was like “is that what I think I just saw?” So I asked the guy when I get home—I say “Shunpei, if I’m not mistaken… when we was on the train, I could’ve sworn I saw a roller coaster that was on the street, but it was comin’ outside of this building.” He googled it to me, he said this is the place. And there’s another spot not too far from Mt. Fuji, and the roller coasters they had there… I was like “oooooh!!!” And they had the X there, which is at Magic Mountain, but Magic Mountain had it first. I finally get to ride this ride. The X2 at Magic Mountain, that was the most vicious ride I ever rode. So I look for stuff like that.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Anything arithmetic, math. But then in my senior year—this gonna make sense—I used to hear these kids for years and how it was a subject they didn’t like, they didn’t like English. It was a teacher that came in two years prior to me graduating, and no student in that building liked her. Her name was Mrs. Devins. And I got her, I was like “oh, no—I got Mrs. Devins.” I got in her class, and she turnt out to be a pretty cool teacher, real cool teacher. She used to talk to all the students—she kind of helped me progress into what I became, and what I’m doing now. She was the one who taught me how to pay attention—she told everybody, she’d say, “Just because this room is full, and just because students sit in the front of the class, that don’t mean they the smartest person in this room. You can sit anywhere in this room, and if you pay attention, you can pass this class.” I wasn’t really good on, um, pronunciating things, and she broke me of that. When she talked to me about it, she didn’t say anything about it was something wrong; she just broke it down of “this is why.” We started doing what they called, she said “we gon’ start doing essays,” she explained the structure of the essay as five parts—introduction, three body parts, and a conclusion. So as I’m going through, she’s helping me out to clean up my mistakes, and when I graduated out of her class, I graduated with an A+. I paid attention.
I didn’t put two and two together until years later, but a lot of people couldn’t figure out, when I got good at my production, how it was orchestrated with the tracks. But it was sittin’ right there the whole time: introduction, three body parts, and a conclusion. And the third body part was what creates it; for instance, on this (holding up Legacy Volume 2 LP)—“Burn Off This One” is one of the last tracks I did, and it’s orchestrated like that. Before it comes back up, that breakdown, it’s the third body part—here come the conclusion. But I used to always have a lot of the breakdowns, like the late 1998 all the way to 2009 when my drum machine broke down, that was the ones that had the whole body parts. A lot of people couldn’t figure it out. And I’m like “I learnt this in high school, in my English class!”
Thank you for reading the ninety-sixth issue of Tone Glow. See you on the raging bull.
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