Although Jurassic 5 has been disbanded since 2007, the members of the groundbreaking Los Angeles, California Hip Hop collective have stayed true to their sound and purpose. Producer DJ Nu-Mark for instance, remains rooted in rare groove samples and a strong hommages to the 1980s and early 1990s Hip Hop that inspired him.
In April of 2012, Nu-Mark released two tracks off of his Broken Sunlight series, a collection of tracks released two at a time in six allotments through Nu-Mark’s own Hot Plate Records. It’s an innovative decision that he hopes will keep fans hungry for more. “I just wanted to make it a little more palatable for my audience and just kind of release them as I go,” said Nu-Mark during a recent phone interview with HipHopDX.
All of the singles are free to download at www.unclenu.com, and so far, they have been well received. The full LP is expected for an October release date. The tracks released thus far features artists like Bumpy Knuckles, Large Professor and J-Live, among others.
During the conversation, Nu-Mark touched on the creative process behind the album, Hip Hop’s generational gap and life after Jurassic 5.
HipHopDX: So first off, what have you been up to this summer?
DJ Nu-Mark: This summer: I’ve just been wrapping up all these 10 inche [vinyl releases]. [Broken Sunlight] has been kind of a build-as-you-go kind of campaign and release-as-you-go kind of campaign, so I’ve been doing a lot of like artwork, or whatever, surrounded by the Broken Sunlight thing and finishing the final details on the album sequencing and videos as well.
My goal was, I was trying to do a video for each single, but that didn’t really go as planned. [Laughs] [I] Didn’t have enough time to bounce back from every release, so yeah… I kind of stopped like doing the whole art packaging and then going up and doing the whole video concept and working with a director and all that. So it’s been pretty much all work and no play right now, but I got a vacation scheduled for October. [Laughs]
DX: So the plan was, all along, to do a release-as-you-go kind of thing, you didn’t want to just release one album?
DJ Nu-Mark: No, I just don’t think anyone cares about albums anymore – not in my world anyway, maybe in the Pop world, like mainstream Top 40 kind of stuff. Like really caring about what the numbers are going to be the first week and how it charts and I guess the album as a whole, even though that world is still very single-driven. But for me, I just kind of felt like people were kind of mixing up albums and buying $0.99 cent downloads or buying that one banger so I just wanted to make it a little more palatable for my audience and just kind of release them as I go, you know? And in some ways they used to do that in the Sugar Hill [Gang] days. I remember a lot of 12 inches being released before albums would drop. So I guess it’s kind of a whole new thing, I’m experimenting with. So far I really like it ‘cause everyone is able to hear what I’m up to and I’m spacing them out enough where people don’t get kind of bogged down.
DX: Yeah, so it’s been well received too?
DJ Nu-Mark: Yes, very much so. More than I thought actually so I’m doing it to kind of clear the palate as what I’ve been doing the last two years and I kind of forgot about, “Oh yeah, people are going to hit me up on Twitter and e-mail or whatever and tell me how much they like things and this last one especially, the Ernie Hines [“Our Generation”] re-edit that I licensed, a lot of deejays are thanking me ‘cause I gave them acapellas a drum-apellas of the 1972 classic of “Our Generation.” So yeah, man, I’m having a blast too, I’m having a really good time working with a lot of different artists as well.
DX: Do you see what you’re doing as a blueprint for other producers to follow?
DJ Nu-Mark: I mean, it’s really working for me and I had a lot of dead air after [Jurassic 5] disbanded. I kind of had to just say “Okay, I’m not going to [release records].” I was creating music, but I wasn’t really like driven to put out music. I was kind of like home still doing what makes me happiest, which is production and deejaying and all of that. But I had to take a break and just kind of rethink everything and rethink, “Do I want to do music? If I do, what is it going to be? And I need to find a way to present it that’s in no way what I used to do with a group.” So I think doing this- like just spoon-feeding I guess, a little bit at a time, really worked for me kind of wrap my head around who I want to be as well as what my listeners can handle. [Laughs] You know, I don’t know sometimes people put out projects and it’s like, “Oh there’s 24 tracks on it, or 16 tracks or whatever,” and I can’t even listen to that no more. Yeah I do love albums and I do love album sequencing and skits and all that, don’t get me wrong. But it’s really tough when someone goes, “Yo, my new album is out,” and just blast you with 20-something songs. Like I personally…I’m all over the place right now, like when I spin I spin Latin stuff, Funk, Soul, even like rare Electronic stuff from time to time and like. So this album is really kind of a reflection of where I’m at right now. There’s kind of an up tempo, fast b-boy break joint at the end of my album and then I got like a Latin joint with Quantic. So I’m just all over the place, it’s kind of a sign of the times.
So to answer your question, yeah it would be a good blueprint, and I would like to do it again at some point. I don’t know with who or when, but yes I would like to do it again, ‘cause it’s working for me. Kind of reminds me of the $0.99 cent download or when you go fishing for one song at a time.
DX: Sure. With this album you’re still killing it with the instrumental samples as you’ve been known to do. Can you talk a little about your digging process or how much you’re just listening to music in general?
DJ Nu-Mark: Yeah, this record was more of a reaping-of-the-crops kind of thing. I mean I’ve been record digging, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been kind of cherry picking what I need to fill my collection, and mostly on the [Internet] ‘cause that’s kind of the way dude’s are digging these days. I personally like the way I was digging for records on this album just because I was able to- with eBay, it’s kind of leveled everything out, you know a lot of people say it’s driven prices up, but for me, when I would walk into a record store when record digging was really popular, a lot of those guys that were behind the counter knew who I was, so they would jack the price up. So now I’m getting a fair price worldwide. So yeah, digging for this album was fun, although I didn’t do a lot of it because I had a lot of records that I still hadn’t chopped up. So it was more me going through my own catalog from those years of digging saying, “Okay, I really need to put this to use or that to use.” So that was kind of the process to it, I didn’t really… I just filled a few holes and used what I already had.
DX: Sure. Moving on to something else, can you tell me a little bit about Hot Plate Records and what’s going on with that?
DJ Nu-Mark: Well Hot Plate [Records] is just an imprint that I set up just as an avenue for me to release music. I just feel like it’s a different ballgame, the music industry doesn’t even resemble what it used to. So I had this drive [to] do Independent stuff in the early ‘90s with my group and Interscope [Records] kind of took over and that seemed to be the most… I guess it was the best move for us at that time. So the dream of me doing a label was kind of thrown out the window and I had to put my full focus on J5. So now, without the group and with the music industry changing the way it has, it’s going to be a great avenue for me to release mixes or more albums, or collaborations or whatever it is. So yeah, it’s a brand new start, I guess.
DX: Do you feel lucky, like you’re beating the system because you’re in communication with guys like Large Professor and J-Live all on your own?
DJ Nu-Mark: I just feel lucky because I started when I did. Even from way back as a kid, I just feel very fortunate. I’m always telling my girl this, it’s like “Damn, I got to witness…“ like I got to appreciate the James Brown era of the ‘70s and ‘60s Rock classics, even AC/DC. But then I got to witness the birth of Hip Hop and saw the strangeness of new-age music and then got in the game with J5 like right at the right time. And we got out of the game right when that window of opportunity of record sales was closing. So my timing… I knock on wood all the time… I got very, very fortunate with this because I just don’t understand how new artists do it now. Hats off to them, man. The cats who are making noise now… it’s tough, you know, they’re like a small fish in a huge pond, whereas back in my day, if I wanted to get something heard I’d press a white label and that would create buzz instantaneously. Now it’s a little different, everything is very visual, if you don’t have visual component with your song, you’re kind of almost dead in the water in a way. And people’s attention spans are much shorter now, you can’t make a four minute-plus song anymore; it’s down to like three and two minute joints, it trips me out. So yeah, it’s crazy now.
DX: It’s cool to listen to your tunes, because I’ve listened to the recent stuff and it’s still the same Nu-Mark formula, it’s just contemporary, it sounds newer and updated.
DJ Nu-Mark: Thank you! That’s really what I was trying to go for, thank you very much. That’s pretty much the best compliment I can get for me to go forward.
DX: So that was what you were going for, you don’t feel the need to switch up your formula or anything?
DJ Nu-Mark: No. I mean, when you hear this album in its entirety, it’s all over the place. I’m sure there’s going to be a writer saying, “Well you lost me at the Latin shit,” or something like that. I really don’t give a fuck, ‘cause right now I’m not really creating music for notoriety I guess, ‘cause I feel like I proved myself with J5 in a way, but now I’m just doing music that comes strictly from my heart, so when I look back at it in twenty years I’m like, “I’m really proud of that era,” you know what I mean? I know a lot of people are saying I’m just doing it for myself. A big part of me is doing it for myself, but getting it out there so people know where I’m at.
But on this record I wanted to make sure I kind of closed the gap on the new school/middle school stuff I was teling you about, so that’s why I worked with TiRon & Ayomari, I brought in some new young blood. They’re hungry and they’ve got talent. There’s a lot of those dudes out there right now that I couldn’t see myself working with. So that’s really what it came down to, like I could see myself working with those dudes. And there’s another kid whose less known than TiRon & Ayomari named Haas and he’s really dope, he’s on my album as well. But I switched it up in that way, working with new kids or whatever, but my production sound is… I think you said it best, it’s what I’ve been doing but adding a new flair or contemporized or however you want to say it.
DX: Do you stay in touch with, or have you worked with any of the J5 guys in the last few years?
DJ Nu-Mark: I haven’t worked with any of them since we disbanded, but I talk to [Cut Chemist] quite often, and I had lunch with [Chali 2na] right before I left for that last European tour I was telling you about.
DX: No plans to do anything with any of them?
DJ Nu-Mark: Not right now, but never say never. I don’t see anything on the horizon as of right now.
DX: Sure. And last, but certainly not least, if you can name one, what might you consider to be your favorite beat that you’ve ever made?
DJ Nu-Mark: Oh wow, God damn dude. That’s really tough, it’s always like the new one I’m working on [laughing] like it’s always on the fucking drum machine like right now. But I don’t know, it’s funny ‘cause the other day I got invited to Bobbito’s screening of Doin’ It In The Park, have you seen any of that, man? It’s a basketball documentary and he put “Canto de Ossanha” in the rolling credits, and it sounded really fucking good, I was telling my girlfriend, I said, “Damn, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been inspired by one of my own beats.” Like usually after I make it bro, I’m like over it. I listened to it like 900 times while I was making the beat and then tracked it with the vocals and then I mixed it and then I mastered it, I don’t want to hear that song no fucking more, and then it’s something that I’ve got to obviously play in my set, so your old percussion gets old quick. But that one recently I was like, “Damn that shit sounds good.” It was off of J5’s Feedback album.
But really, I’d have to say “What’s Golden,” because that one got the most notoriety and I could play that anywhere in the world and the crowd always goes “Ah!” I’ve got videotape footage of that that’s going to be packaged with my album actually, I did a DVD packaged with the Broken Sunlight album and there’s a scene where I’m talking to Chuck D and then it switches from him talking about “When is J5 getting back together?” And then it’s a clip of me playing “What’s Golden” in front of like 15,000 people at a venue and they’re all going “Ah!” But I like the way I chopped that beat and it just feels right every time I listen to it.