Earlier this month, HipHopDX spoke to DJ Rhettmatic about his musical direction role on Ras Kass' upcoming A.D.I.D.A.S. project. In that same discussion, we spoke to The Visionaries producer/deejay about his legendary deejay clique, The Beat Junkies. The west coast turntablist collective has seen a resurgence early this 2010, with several individual projects from DJ Babu and J. Rocc, as well as Rhettmatic's busy year ahead.
"What's crazy with The [Beat] Junkies, especially for Babu, J. [Rocc] and me, is Bab's just had his release party for [The Beat Tape Volume 2] release party, and his mini-documentary film. [Looking at that], it's cool that we all support each other," said Rhett. "We're all busy separately, we still push each others' [projects]. We still deejay together. We do a thing called Night Life here in L.A. We used to do a monthly thing, but the last thing we did was a [J] Dilla tribute with Slum Village. Anyways, we throw these events 'cause it's our way to do things together - just to hang out. We don't do it to make money." Rhettmatic also said that the Junkies sporadically do Beat Junkie Radio through UStream on the 'net.
Although the collective no longer releases the acclaimed mixtapes that they did at the top of the millennium, featuring slaughtered singles from Defari, Afu-Ra and Choclair, the mission never changed. "We all evolved as artists, but we kind of had to re-invent ourselves, whether we want to or not. We went with the times and do what we love to do. The cool thing is people are still checking for us, with whatever we do. That's a blessing." Rhett also pointed that logistics have changed, as Babu has a family, DJ Shortkut lives in the Bay area and DJ Melo-D in Las Vegas. Mr. Choc is now a deejay working with Soul Assassins. "All we do is make sure we help each other. It's all family," said a proud Rhettmatic. Regardless of the separate responsibilities and projects, under the Beat Junkies masthead, he said it feels like, "we're all putting something out together."
One of the things Rhettmatic is doing this year is joining the MYX music label to release a project with Michigan veteran emcee Buff1 as Crown Royale. "It's a project I'm really proud of," said Rhett. "I just picked up the master CDs yesterday. I'm trying to turn it in to mix pretty soon. The thing with [Buff1] and the Crown Royale project, it's actually dope. It's actually my first project that I [fully] produced by myself, since like '94, '95 and shit." Sixteen years ago, he produced Key Kool & Rhettmatic, which boasted an early Ras Kass appearance. "A lot of people don't know I do production. I did half of the production on The Visionaries' albums. I was one of the main producers."
Rhett says that while The Beat Junkies are known for flares and orbital scratches, 2010 may reveal their individual production expertise. "This is a way to break away to break away and show cats that I can do beats. It's the same way with Babs. Everybody knows Babu is the deejay for Dilated Peoples, but they didn't know he made beats. J. Rocc makes beats - same thing; nobody knew that. J's about to drop a solo album on Stones Throw. I'm excited about that too, 'cause he's bringing back an art of sampling where he's looping, and layering loops. His album, to me, is the 2010 version of [DJ] Shadow's Entroducing. Think half James Brown, half Portishead, half Brazilian Funk. When people hear it, they're gonna say, 'Whoa!'" Previously, Rocc had also done production for Visionaries as well as KRS-One. "People didn't know. The credits he did, they write his name wrong [in the inserts] or whatever," said Rhett with a laugh.
MYX released albums last year from Kam Moye and Jern Eye, bringing Crown Royale an eager fan-based for the collaboration. "I know people are surprised that we're making an album. Even more surprising is that people are excited about our project" [Laughs] "We're both like, 'Huh?'," said the modest deejay.
Getting a new opportunity to produce a full body of work, Rhett compared the experience to when he used a bedroom ASR as an a teenager. "The only thing that's changed is the technology. I always try to upgrade with the times. You just grow. Compared to my production in '94 or maybe '98, it's better than before."
Crown Royale is expected this May.