Producer Spotlight – Moe-Z

(Note: this is also posted at Can I Bring My Gat?)

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Radio – Groovin’

Radio – Niggaz Get Clowned

2pac – Young Niggaz

Remember when Hiphop used to have a ‘rebirth’ every few years? Like how when PE ruled the world and everyone was pro-black and grouchy, that De La came out of left field with “3 Feet High”? Remember how after that a gang of other dickriders artists started getting lighter and happier, trying to tap into the Daisy Age cash cow (I see you PM Dawn and Dream Warriors).

Or when Dre dropped “The Chronic” and instantly switched the game up on what had come previously? Following that particular album’s release, flowers and dayglo shirts were tossed in the trash, as guns, bitches, and funk loops became the new way to get paid.

And while it certainly became tiresome at times wading through all these ‘also-rans’ pimping a successful formula, every once in a while, you’d get an album that while influenced by the original, still gave enough of a different look while keeping an enjoyable and listenable sound to make things worthwhile.

Enter Radio’s “Recognize Da Real”, and this writer’s first introduction to Moe-Z. There’s not an awful lot of info online about Radio – it seems that he and the homies DarQ and Roc Chill dropped this album in 1995 on Interscope and then vanished off the face of the earth. At the time I was going through one of my ‘COLLECT THEM ALL!!!!’ spells (as completists like myself are prone to do), snaffling up every G-Funk styled release in sight, and originally picked this up from the mighty Depth Charge mail order store in Leeds (backpage-ads-from-HHC represent), before coming across a cd copy a few years later in some bargain bin.

Its not a GREAT album, but its certainly not a bad one either. The trio’s vocals and delivery are standard west coast fare, but it was much of the production that really grabbed my attention – partly because some of it was actually really good, and partly because some of it BLATANTLY rips off “The Chronic” (‘Psychotic’ for example, is based around the exact same synth run as the one on ‘High Powered’)

Much of the production was handled by Moe-Z, and to be honest with the lack of info on Radio himself, I didn’t expect to find much online regarding his producer. Surprisingly though, I dug up his site fairly easy and found out that he did a shitload of work for 2pac, as well as stuff with Wu-Tang, Yo-Yo and Tevin Campbell and John Mellencamp amongst others.

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Moe began performing in talent shows – imitating Michael Jackson – at age four. “I had a little Afro and I sang and talked like Michael Jackson,” he recalls. But Moe’s fondness for his eccentric idol faded in the 1980s. “After the Thriller album, I thought ‘This guy is weird.'”

At his father’s urging and to 10-year-old Moe’s initial chagrin, the family moved to California in 1977. “At the time I was singing and my father thought it would be a good idea to get me famous,” he says. “We took everything and moved out there. I pitched a fit all the way.”

But once Moe settled in to his new Long Beach environs, it became apparent his father’s hunch was on the money. The family became involved in gospel music at a local Baptist church; meanwhile Moe’s dad financed the budding musician’s habit by buying him a guitar and drum set from the Sears catalog, plus a piano for Moe’s sister. “She didn’t care diddley squat about it,” Moe says. “Then I started messing around with toy piano.”

Soon Moe switched to bass, by taking two strings off his beige guitar. Later he began recording songs using a two tape decks – a cassette and an 8-track cartridge player. In effect, he was multi-tracking songs, layering instruments and building towers of sound.

“My father is like, ‘Whoa! What did you do?’ He bought me a little four-track after that.”

At 17, Moe started his first group, a cover band called Xzzotic Persuasion that played “gospel-funk-rock inspired by Prince.” When Moe decided to write originals, he pinched from the Prince, his new inspiration. “I would take scraps of Prince’s songs and make my own. Of course they sounded like his,” Moe laughs.

After Xzzotic Persuasion disbanded in 1987, Moe delved into hip-hop music – on a dare. “A guy I went to high school with played trombone in marching band. He was getting into rapping and I said I could do the music. He bet me I couldn’t.”

This is where the Radio album comes in, as well as credits on 2pac’s “Me Against The World” (‘Young Niggaz’, ‘Outlaw’, ‘Lord Knows’) and the affiliated Thug Life album (‘Cradle To The Grave’), and a ton of other stuff.

Moe-Z also pushes out product on indie Funk House Records, with his own albums “Child Support” and his collab with Ben G, “Next Of Kin” currently available.

Moe-Z Website

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