Lucy’Lo is a DJ, producer, and member of the hip-hop group 84.85. I sat down with him before a concert last month and we had an in-depth discussion. You can download the show for free or stream it with the player at the bottom of this post. We spin some tracks from his group and some classic material from Lou Rawls as well.
I transcribed the interview and will be presenting it in three parts here on Silent Cacophony. Enjoy!
Chase: “Alright everybody, this is Chase March and I’m here with Lucy’Lo who is going to be going on stage a little later tonight. So what kind of stuff do you do?”
Lucy’Lo: “We do hip-hop that’s informed by current dance music, dance hall, older hip-hop, and what’s going on right now. Just 808, samples, and synths.”
Chase: “Nice and you’re in a group known as 84.85.”
Lucy’Lo: “84.85 is just our birth years. It’s just me and a dude who’s the rapper. I’m the producer, he’s the rapper.”
Chase: “So how did you get into music production? I see you’ve got some nice gear here.”
Lucy’Lo: “I was a DJ through high school, spinning as part of the Legit Soundcrew and we were DJing through highschool, all vinyl, and when I went to university, I met a guy across the hall from me who said, ‘You can DJ, can you make beats?’ And from that day on I learned to make beats. That guy, his best friend in that collective is my partner now in 84.85.”
Chase: “So you’re from Toronto?”
Lucy’Lo: “I’m from Toronto originally, born and raised, went to school in Ottawa for four years, which is where I met my partner who is from Ottawa and has since moved to Toronto.”
Chase: “Awesome. At DOPEfm
we deal more with the underground hip-hop and your style is a little bit different than that.”
Lucy’Lo: “It is a little bit different but it’s underground in its own way. It’s by no means pop, it’s by no means radio, it’s by no means geared toward a particular market. It’s just two hip-hop heads trying to make something suited to them.”
Chase: “That’s the interesting thing about hip-hop, there’s all these different genres of it. I hate to admit that maybe I’m a little narrow-minded when it comes to what I like, ya know? I have certain tastes and some of the more ‘out-there’ stuff, it takes me a little bit longer to get hip to that. Like, prior to tonight, I’d never heard of you.”
Lucy’Lo: “We’re pretty low on the totem pole as it stands but hopefully rising. So, it’s no issue that you don’t know us yet.”
Chase: “So you have an EP out?”
Lucy’Lo: “We have a self-released EP that we put out about six months ago and a single that came out on Intelligenix with that song ‘Breaking My Back’ with six remixes on it by Canadian DJs and producers. We’re in the process of recording another EP and yet to be determined how it’s going to be released.”
Chase: “Do you have an online presence? Are you on Twitter?”
Lucy’Lo: “Both of us are on Twitter
and we’re on MySpace.
Presence is a funny word because there are certain things we’ve neglected. But you can look us up online. What we lack in presence we’ve been hustling in the city to raise our live game up and we’re quickly becoming a premier act in Toronto, highly sought after, and we’re just trying to make our way out of the city now.”
Chase: “Do you do a lot of sample-based production?”
Lucy’Lo: “I do. I like to go back and forth between the two on each song. If I make a track that is synth based, I like to sample the synths from hard gear and then also use samples here and there for texture. I also like to make fully sample-based material. Samples are a big part of it. I’m a record collector, that’s the first love and how I got into production.”
Chase: “Awesome because I think that is something that is sorely missing in hip-hop these days. Cats are afraid to sample almost because of all the legal ramifications and bullsh*t like that.”
Lucy’Lo: “You know what I call that? If we get caught for one of the samples we use, that’s what we call a good problem, when you’re big enough that someone’s recognizing that you’ve sampled something of theirs. That’s not something I fear, that’ something I look forward to. That’s a good problem to have because someone’s paying attention to you.”
Chase: “Yeah but at the same time, I think the sample police kind of need to stop. I actually read a post recently,
somebody put it up on Twitter
about”Reality Hunger: A Manifesto” which is a book that was recently published. In it, the author has sampled other author’s works, like paragraph for paragraph and pieced them together in his own book. So it’s basically a book full of sampled work from other authors. And if you think of it that way, that’s actually legitimizing sampling. And if he can get away with that, just by putting references in there, what I’m thinking is that if we were able to footnote our samples somehow, maybe at the end of a song or at the end of an EP, or a bonus track or a lost track at the end, saying we sampled James Brown and we sampled Run-DMC and we sampled The Monkees, or whatever, and we put that down, then we’ve footnoted it and we’ve created something new out of it.”
Lucy’Lo: “I think there’s something to that. Hip-hop comes out of sampling and repeating break beats. There would be no hip-hop without that. Hip-hop precedes the invent of drum machines and whatnot. So I do think there’s something to that. But as a musician I kind of feel that if someone samples me in twenty years, it’s not that I need to get paid for it, but I want the recognition that this is where this chord progression, this melody, this break comes from. So I do understand the need to credit the sample as long as your crediting the sample as the sample, I don’t like the passing off as your own.”
Chase: “Yeah. There’s a lot of bloggers these days that will find samples and put together sample sets. Every sample they can find from the original album, they’ll put them together in a set that you can download. On the one hand, I know a couple DJs that are pissed off about that because they’re like, ‘We dug that stuff up, nobody knew what it was, you don’t need to put it out and say GangStarr used this.’ So it’s a debatable subject.”
Lucy’Lo: “I understand where they’re coming from but at the same time, he dug it up too and this is his hustle. These DJs have dug stuff up for their own sets and for production value but someone else found it initially to use it and they dug it up and referenced the second coming of it. That’s their hustle, doing it out in clubs. And this blogger’s hustle is putting it out in albums. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I have friends who are very similar who want to keep everything hush-hush but everyone has their lane and you need to respect that. With time and with new technology comes exposure.”
Chase: “Yeah and that makes sense. It reminds me of my work in television where we never wanted to reveal that fourth wall. So you want to keep your tricks, kind of thing. But people are so educated to these things today. I mean, pretty much anyone with a laptop can music these days if they choose to, right?”
Lucy’Lo: “You’re looking at my primary work station right here. I have a lot of hard gear that I like to make music with but I can make a song beginning to end on this little piece right here.”
Chase: “And what is that?”
Lucy’Lo: “I’m just pointing to my laptop. With a laptop you can do a lot these days.”
Chase: “It’s pretty interesting you’re using Mac too. I’ve been having a problem with mine because if I create something on GarageBand and then export it to iTunes, it won’t let you burn it as an MP3. So then I have to burn it as an audio CD, put it in my laptop, rip it to Media Player, and then I can burn it as an MP3. But if I try to upload that to my podcast, I get a file error, However, if I upload it directly to my website, it works fine. And I’m wondering if this is the evil of Apple, not wanting to make their files compatible. Because I’m finding it a problem. I’m actually annoyed too that if you buy something off of iTunes, it’s an mpeg4 and iTunes won’t let you burn it as an MP3 either. And I think if we have music we should be able to own it however we want.”
Lucy’Lo: “I totally agree with that.”
Chase: “How about this? I had a cassette tape stolen from me when I was a teenager but I bought the cassette tape. It was OGC ‘The Storm’ and I lost it. So I found it online and downloaded it for free. Would you consider that stealing?”
Lucy’Lo: “With technology comes certain new issues and ‘Is it stealing?’ You got something for free should be sold, that is in some senses theft.”
Chase: “But I paid for it in an earlier format.”
Lucy’Lo: “But you bought that format. Like if you bought the tape and you took a CD from the store, you still stole the CD even though you bought the tape.
Do I think it’s wrong?
I think online we go a little further these days by doing things for free. I think people are kind of f*cking up by trying to sell everything. We have stuff on iTunes so people can buy it but if you wanted to buy it on iTunes for 99 cents, I’d give that sh*t to you for free if you wanted it because I’d rather get it in people’s hands. It’s not that I think all music should be for free. I think in this time or in this weird period of limbo with music whether your either buying it hard on a CD or you’re buying this invisible f*cking thing that’s an MP3. I mean, what is it? It’s zeroes and ones.
It’s like buying a condo here in Toronto and you’re buying a box in the sky and you don’t actually own any land. You know what I mean, if this thing disintegrates, what do you really own? You don’t own the land that you’re based on. You own this invisible thing in the sky. That’s kind of what I feel an MP3 is. You don’t actually have anything physical. So I don’t know if I’m really comfortable with the sale of it yet.
I buy a lot of MP3s. I DJ house music and I DJ off of Serato on my computer. I use vinyl to control it but it’s still using MP3s. And so I do contribute to that economy. At the same time I feel weird about it because I don’t actually own anything. If my harddrive wipes away, I don’t have anything that I’ve bought. You own zeroes and ones that’s it.”
Chase: “Yeah, there’s something to be said about actually having something in your hands and being able to look at the liner notes and read production credits.”
Lucy’Lo: “That’s why I’m a vinyl junkie. I still buy a lot of CDs because the art work. You can flip it over. you’re looking at the 12 inch by 12 inch square. You’ve got this beautiful artwork. You can pull it out, you get the liner notes, you get the write up on the back. You have something physical. This is yours. You bought it. It’s in your hands. You can see it, you can feel it, you can smell it. With MP3s, you just kind of have a file. All you can do is listen to it. You can’t do anything else with it. And so I don’t know if it’s right to charge for it at this time.”
Chase: “Plus I find it’s not as valued. Quite frankly, there’s people online that download stuff and never listen to it. It’s like, ‘Oh, there’s something, I’ll download that.’ They might not actually like it but it’s so easy to get.”
Lucy’Lo: “Yeah, how many times have you gone to a blog and you download something that sounds like you might like, even by an artist you love, and you just never actually listen to it?”
Chase: “I’ve done that just in my own digging because I like the cover. I’ve bought things before because of the cover and I find I download stuff because of the cover sometimes too, which is really weird.”
Lucy’Lo: “You download stuff because of the cover art?”
Lucy’Lo: “I saw this video that was so compelling and that served as the cover art for me. I stream this video every day but I don’t know if I actually like him or I just find the art compelling.”