Ladies and gentleman, here we are with another epic interview. This time starring is DJ Mike Love, brought under the spotlight by his “American Gangster” remix project, called “Nigerian Gangster”, entirely based on Fela Kuti samples. His remix of “Roc Boys (And the winner is)” gained props from DJs and listeners worldwide, us included of course. Easily our favourite hip hop track of the past year. Well, let’s read what he has to say, then let’s visit his MySpace and blog, download his stuff if you haven’t done it yet, and most important don’t forget to give props to the man!
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi readers. allow me to introduce myself, my name is Mike Love. DJ/remixer based out of Chicago Il. Born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin which is about 2 hours north of Chicago
Do you consider yourself more of a DJ or a Producer ?
DJ. I’ve been spinning forever and when I hear “producers” talk they’re always saying things like “Pro Tools HD is today’s standard” so since I believe its not what you use but how you use it, call me a DJ.
What’s your aim when creating tracks? I mean, what do you go for, the party banger, the innovative track, the all time classic, what else?
I want something that sounds good in the car because that’s where I listen to music mostly. I mean, where’s the first place you take a track after its finished anyway? The car. The reason Nigerian Gangster was really 808 heavy is because the Midwest United States is heavy car culture and I’m used to hearing music beating up the block & I want mine to do the same.
Tell us a little about how you work. What kind of equipment do you use to produce?
Simple set up i do everything on my HP laptop. All beats are done in FL 8 (aka Fruity Loops) and tracked out into Sony Acid where I use a lot of plug-ins. Mainly Waves stuff a lot of Audio Damage Plugs & PSP Plug-ins. Dozens of plug-ins actually. too many to name.
When you create a track, where do you start? I mean, do you start with a sample, a drum beat or what else? And how do you proceed?
Always the sample 1st because the sample tells me how the drums should be programmed underneath. If there are drums in the original sample I might try to stay near the original pattern.I usually keep it simple and start out with a BOOP-BAP-BOOM-BAP pattern and build from there. or I just might keep the BOOM-BAP pattern because the loop is so dope the drums dont have to be overdone.
How has your sound changed or developed since you started producing?
I bought an EMU SP-1200 when they reissued them after the Pete Rock, Large Pro SP 1200 explosion of the early 90′s and I must say you really have to be creative when all you have is 10 seconds of sampling time. And that’s 10 seconds for EVERYTHING, loops, kicks snares, hi hats, etc. I think my stuff was more creative back then when I listen to some of my old SP discs so sometimes I revert back to that 10 seconds mentality and try not to sample a 16 bar loop just because I can.
Your “nigerian gangster” remixes made a lot of noise. You were one of the first to sample african music instead of the classic JB/CTI/80′s dance stuff. Do you think sampling artists from Africa, Brazil and stuff like that is the next level in the sampling game?
Well, I sampled the music because I loved it, it was underexposed, and I knew people that loved Fela like me would love it. I didn’t care about everyone else because they weren’t gonna get it anyway. African & Brazilian samples have always existed. Masters at Work and dozens of others have incorporated the sounds into house music but because cats don’t really “dig” for samples anymore it probably wont happen in hip hop. I thought about making it my “lane” but it was more authentic to me to just do that project and leave it be instead of being the guy who rapes the Fela catalog for samples.
Who is your all time favourite DJ/Producer? And who’s the best around now?
Dr. Dre. I still get inspired by Straight Outta Compton. Its a very minimal album. Hard drums, loops and live minimal instrumentation like a played bass or guitar lick. Dre’s live instrumentation over samples on albums like DOC’s No One Can Do It Better, Above The Law’s Living Like Hustlers and The Chronic are a primer TO ME on how you play live music over samples.
Now you are a veteran, but how was it like when you were a rookie DJ? Have you ever been nervous before playin? Have you ever made some bad mistake while playin? Do you have some funny story about that?
As a DJ like any performer you definitely get antsy before you go one. I’d be in the venue trying to get mentally ready and a female friend was at a party with me and she gave me the greatest idea ever. She was like, why don’t you pray before you spin? That was such a simple suggestion but it really put me in a better place and helped to clear my head before I get on the set. Every artist you know does it, why not DJ’s? So I find a quiet spot in the venue, I bow my head and pray for myself & the safety of everyone in the club.
This is a question we always ask because we are very concerned about it. Being basically 90′s Hip Hop heads we rarely find anything interesting coming out now. What’s your idea about it?
If I get 1 thing a year I’m excited about I’m happy. Considering I’m out of the demographic I’ve come to realize they don’t make music for me anymore. I’m ok with pulling out my 80′s joints and my 90′s joints and my early 2000′s joints and being totally happy with that. I’m not mad at what the kids are listening to. I’m never gonna become my dad & say “you kids just don’t understand real music like the kind we had” because guess what? that’s what his dad said. And his dad before that. If you’re interested I’ll welcome you to the music I grew up on. If not, thats cool too.
In your career, which is the record you used to spin most?
I’ve always played for the average club goer so whatever was hot at that time. If it was Eric B & Rakim, that’s what I was playing. If it was Snoop & Dre, it was that. There are no guaranteed records but I do believe Poison by BBD, that Fatman Scoop record Be Faithful & It Takes 2 by Rob Base may be the biggest “crutch records” of my DJ career. If nothing else is working, throw one of them on and someone will dance.
In last years you’ve shot lots of mixtapes, have you ever released any mixtape which is not deeply related to hip hop?
I did a lot of hip hop mixtapes but I grew to hate those because some rappers are the worst people to work with in the world. Just give me the acapella then I dont have to worry about you not showing up for a session or some other lame excuse that rappers come up with. Getting music from from quality talented rappers is like pulling teeth so just gimme the ‘pella.
Among the artists you’ve seen performing live, I mean dj’s as well as MC’s, who impressed you much?
Kid Capri changed the way people n Chicago DJ. I will scream that from the top of Sears Tower and back it up with facts. DJ’s were still heavily into house in the mid-late 90′s even in the black clubs. it would be mostly house/classics and like a small hip hop set. Kid Capri spun an afterparty at the house of Blues in ’96 and I swear every DJ had a spun like that afterwards. The Twilight Tone ( Common’s 1 time tour DJ) was also an influence because he taught DJ’s here to only play hip hop for 30 seconds per song. There are other cats like Jesse DeLa Pena and DJ 33 1/3 who were also doing hip hop but Twilite Tone did more commercial spots so I think his style ended up influencing more people because he was the guy everyone saw.
Name top 3 recent mixtapes worth buying (not necessarely blend mixtapes)
Drake-So Far Gone
Drake-So Far Gone
Drake-So Far Gone
I just like songs, man. I don’t need someone screaming at me or telling me the name of the songs. I hadn’t heard any Drake but EVERYONE was talking about him. When people I respect started quoting his lines in their facebook status I was like, let me check this dude out. I’ve been hooked ever since. Its the only CD i’ve burned for the car in 2009.
You know Kanye and some other big artists from Chicago, right? Tell us more about them from your point of view.
Lupe Fiasco is the truth. I dont even know if people understand how cold he really is. I remember I used to meet Lu at McDonalds parking lot and he would play me songs in his truck and act em out while he was rapping. he’s a really talented dude
Kanye is someone I saw the talent early and to this day anything I need from his people I can get because I supported him in the beginning. If I need Kanye acapellas I can get ‘em.
About Kanye, it seems that lately he is trying to do something new to reach different people outside the hip hop target (witch is already huge itself…), what do you think about that?
I’m not mad at all. I think as an artist you want to stretch outside your comfort zone and he didnt brick with 808′s & Heartbreak so you can always come back to a more general hip hop style
Of all the stuff you’ve done, which are you most proud of?
Nigerian Gangster. I’m answering these questions because of that project. It was a project that hit people in the heart because it hit me in the heart. People still contact me on myspace & download it from my blog to this day because the music still reaches people because its timeless. I can only hope to do another project that connects with people like that again but if I dont, I’m glad I brought some aural enjoyment into peoples lives.
Tell us about your current projects and say what you want to our readers. Future projects, some shout outs, something to listen that you want to recommend to our readers…. Feel free to say what you want. And of course thanx a lot for you time! Peace
Thanks to Magesy (rip) for having the motherlode of Fela joints for me to download & get into his music. Pete Rock for the Shut ‘em Down remix, it still inspires me to this day & everyone in Milwaukee & Chicago.
Current projects include a Kanye remix project called ‘Ye: The Mike Love Way and remixes of a bunch of exclusive acapellas I have lying around like Carl Thomas, Jodeci and a few others.
Bigup to my blogs MikeLoveNotWar for my latest work.
Check Dj Fresh G for my radio mixes from my early days in Milwaukee.