Djinji Brown Interview (by Timid)
Producer, DJ and artist Djinji Brown politic’d with Timid on his latest release from Seven Heads Uncle Juniors Friday Fish Fry Volume 1 and his style and view of music in general.
So umm how’s things going with this new release?
Djinji Brown: Umm well so far so good, haven’t had any bad complaints about it so far. So that’s always a good thing. That’s just about it, a couple of DJ gigs, not a lot though. Still waiting for some more like parties and stuff like that, just more promotion. That I can actually put my hands on, but it’s been received well so far.
Okay, yea I was just listening to it earlier today and it’s definitely got a nice vibe to it. Let’s go into a little background on you for cats that are unfamiliar with you. You’ve done some production work for a lot of cats like you know Pete Rock, CL Smooth…
Djinji Brown: Lets, lets get that clear. I was an engineer. A lot of people, a lot of the writers they see me produce and they see Pete Rock and they missed over the very important part that was an engineer for a lot of those guys. So I was a main assistant engineer for Pete Rock, for A Tribe Called Quest, for the Jungle Brothers I actually did production for Supernatural…but on my bio where it says he did production for Cassandra Wilson and Barrington Levy. That’s actually not correct, I did engineering work with them. So that’s something that needs to be, you know, the more chances that I get to clarify that, the better.
So how was it – working with those cats?
Djinji Brown: Great.
I just saw not to long ago Jungle Brothers did a show here. I got a chance to sit down and talk with Afrika and Mike G and I mean they’re some real cool cats. You know, they do a hot show they do they thang. So it must have been kinda nice being around that vibe.
Djinji Brown: Yea, they’re real nice guys.
You also had a PE connection.
Djinji Brown: Yea, well again I was an assistant engineer in the studio back in 91 til like 97 and I used to work with Eric “Vietnam” Sadler. And this was after he had left the Bomb Squad, I didn’t actually work on Public Enemy’s sets, but I did get a chance to work with all the different producers. I even worked with Hank and Keith Shockley on their own projects as an assistant engineer as well. I got a chance to meet Chuck and all those guys, but unfortunately not as Public Enemy, but I did work with Eric Sadler, he was one of my first production mentors.
So you’ve been making the rounds in the background?
Djinji Brown: Yea, for years. For years, it’s really been in the past two years that I’ve been putting records out underneath my own name as my own artist and stuff like that. I’m just trying to get more of a following than that of just a producer for hire that didn’t work. I was trying to do that, but my sound didn’t catch on that way.
You just dropped Surround Sound recently also.
Djinji Brown: Yea, last year I did.
Right, so you’re actually making a pretty good name off of that right there too.
Djinji Brown: Well yea that’s, that has been the springboard for everything that’s been happening since its release. It’s been good, a lot of the people…I basically did the album so that I could branch away from rap and just focus more on the Hip Hop aesthetics that I find in all music and that was…I wanted to just you know reach out to DJ’s regardless of genre and find out you know what’s the common thing that we all have. The turn-tables and the mixer and you know so there’s a Hip Hop aesthetic to me I guess in all kinds of music, like you know there’s all kind of aesthetics in Hip Hop, but I just wanted to umm as I’m growing you know I was just hearing more stuff than just raps and it had nothing to do with the growth of emceeing or even how I may feel about the art form or not. That had something to do with it, but more importantly just the evolution where I wanted to hear other sounds and other things that kind of appeal to me today.
Right just kind of exploring other areas and realms, kind of like with what Outkast is doing on that joint.
Djinji Brown: Yea I mean you know, its…
It’s just what it means for him at the moment.
Djinji Brown: Right, right and I think that’s what art is, art is always something that’s changing. I think if you put it into a crystallized case and keep it pristine, I think that it becomes something that’s in a museum and it loses its life. So that’s my own particular outlook and philosophy on art. So that’s why I say my foundation and my aesthetic will always be there, but I can take that to different branches and to different directions and that’s what Surround Sound was the beginning of.
I definitely agree with that philosophy right there. So describe exactly what is a fish fry?
Djinji Brown: Well a fish fry is just that, you get together and you fry some fish. It’s a term for you know like a get together find you a little shack, yea let’s go to the fish fry get some fish. But in this particular situation it’s reminiscent of Wes Jackson’s dad who used to throw a fish fry you know once every month on a Friday or so. He was always working and busy, but the brother could throw down and he would just get the family together and friends and all the kids and just have an assortment of fish, you know. Whiting, red snappers, scallop, shrimp, a fish fry you know you just get all the flavorful fish and you put it in together and you get your batter and boom that’s what makes all the difference fishes taste similar to the cook. That is he just uses that same batter.
Yea, it kind of becomes like a community event, which is definitely a beautiful thing.
Djinji Brown: Yea it’s just like a barbeque, but we use fish instead of meat. You know I eat everything, I’m not a vegetarian or anything, but for the fish fry fish is on the menu.
So on this album, what’s the reasoning behind The Market?
Djinji Brown: Well The Market there’s gonna be six installments. And the market that’s where you first go to the market, you buy the fish. The second one I think is The Cleaning. You know you go take your fish home and you clean it. There’s a whole concept that Wes has behind the series and he wanted me to start it off with The Market so you know you go and get a whole bunch of different fish. So that’s what I did, I went fishing into the sea of music.
So what was your idea when you took the approach to putting this together?
Djinji Brown: Just to mix it up, you know. It wasn’t really so conceptual that it is just an expression of the type of music that I like. As a producer I give you the music that I can make and that I like, but as a DJ I can give you the music that I can’t make, but that I love. So it was really simple as far as just trying to mix up the different genres because that’s what I do and that’s what I am. Not just a rapper, I’m not just a house guy, I’m not just a Salsa guy, I’m music aficionado more than anything. That’s what I’m trying to get out more so it’s just like the whole flag of how does it relate to rap is good, but in the same breath I think it pigeon holds on making everything, you just don’t see the bigger picture of music and of art. It’s like if it doesn’t have anything to do with rap immediately cats kinda tend to run away from it. And you know, that’s not what the forefathers did because we didn’t have this crystallized thing called art. So you know I’m not trying to be nostalgic, but in the same breath there’s a lot of old music and a lot of new music out there that Hip Hop people aren’t hearing.
Oh yea, definitely. If you take a listen to some of the early Hip Hop with African Bambada and the like you’re gonna hear some of these other sounds that you don’t hear today.
Djinji Brown: I mean exactly. And the funny thing is that even in the underground movement you know it’s pretty much keep alive the concept of the four elements and you know, you know you can go to different countries and you can go to different parts in American and find those four elements. Just like I said, kinda almost in a museum like state. You see what I’m saying, where I mean the break-dancers all have to be fuckin like Barishnakov and the graffiti artists all have to be like you know, the greatest. The DJ’s all have to be so fuckin tight before they go out. Emcees have to be better than the next man, they’re not even better than themselves. They worrying about being better than somebody else, they can’t even control their own breath. You know, so there’s so much kinda like…competition, which is understandable and I think it makes you know an art form and the people in the art form work harder, but in the same breath it kind of I felt a certain juvenile competition.
And you kinda lose something.
Djinji Brown: You know what I’m saying, it’s like you’re always so concerned with what this guys doing. It’s the beauty of the art coming out yourself and certain artists you know, you feel that. Like wow this motherfucker is really into what he or she is doing. They couldn’t give a fuck. I mean they care about the world, but they also, you know what I’m saying they’re doing their thing. And I think those are the people who I have always been attracted to.
I definitely understand what you’re saying, by trying to be pigeon holed you lose something. I think as far as people still keeping their creativity and still keeping Hip Hop to what’s kind of the root you can kind of find that in cypher’s on the corner versus you know someone up in a studio. Or you can find that on the cardboard where b-boys are coming and just doing their thing with mixing it up with capoeira or you know, they just do whatever they feel.
Djinji Brown: Right exactly, and in my set I play like that. I used to do capoeira in the 90’s and stuff. So when I started working in nightclubs and just seeing kinda like the jumping from parties and even some of the house parties where brothers were doing capoeira moves to house music and break beats. I was like oh I got this, so I’d take it one step further. I’d go right to the middle of the set and play a straight bidibow(?) song. You know, and cats respond to it. And it’s b-boy shit, you know what I’m saying, it’s b-boy shit. I’ve seen it, I do it, I’ll play a straight samba from 1978 from a samba school, I’ll play a rumba, then I’ll play “Looking for the Perfect Beat”. You know what I’m saying , I just try to kinda keep it moving like that. People do respond more so than they think, you know, they’re implexed more than they think they are half the time.
And I think dee-jaying like that kinda brings it back to what the DJ was originally. Where the DJ had the control of actually setting the tone and a mood, instead of being a slave to a play list that the people have heard on the radio.
Djinji Brown: Right, exactly exactly. And I think that’s what I want to continue. You know, once again it’s not about being stuck in a tradition and saying I’m only going to do it like Bambada and Larry Levan. Of course not, that’d be foolish, but also to overlook those two and say well, this is how it is now, and nigga’s don’t give a fuck about playing a mixed set. I can’t do that either. You know what I’m saying, conceptually where I want to create and get into those emotions that people came out to really lose and find. You know, you come out to lose your anger and to find something else. So that’s what I’m trying to be a catalyst or a vehicle.
I think you captured that pretty well in this mix cause I mean I’m hearing the Cuban sounds, I’m hearing African stuff, Hip Hop, R&B blends, some funk in there. I mean it’s like a crate diggers dream on this CD.
Djinji Brown: [laughs] Thank you. That right there, what you just said. That’s one of the best complements I could get as a record collector, producer, DJ, all those things. That right there is like more so than the technique, it’s the selection and it doesn’t matter how many records you have when you go to make a beat, you know what I’m saying, it’s what sound you’re choosing. That’s what makes the joint hot.
There’s just like all kinds of sounds on here. I mean, it kind of reminds me of a DJ Muro mix tape from Japan his King of Digging series where he just took all kinds of different vibes and put em’ together. It’s kind of similar to that except for…I think you pushed the envelope a little bit further instead of sticking to something that’s more familiar to people. You expressed a little bit more.
Djinji Brown: Thank you. Well I’m trying to do that in a way where it’s not scary. I realize that consumers even as open-minded as we think, even myself when I go to buy a record I still want to know a little bit of what it is that I’m purchasing. It’s still a product. You know what I’m saying, it’s still a product. So it’s one of those things where you don’t want to be so left field where people are afraid of your creativity, but you still want to have something where you can give them a surprise at the bottom of the fucking cereal box. You know what I’m saying?
I can definitely see b-boys like rippin’ up the cardboard to this joint.
Djinji Brown: Good, good, that’s what I’m trying to get at.
Definitely works. So you got any upcoming projects or anything that you’re working on at the moment?
Djinji Brown: I’ve got a few things that I’m working on. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to speak about em’ because they aren’t solidified yet so I gotta just say that I’ll be doing a lot of dee-jaying stuff, you know to promote the album right now. You can look for some stuff in 2004, but I just have to get back to you on that right now.
Okay, well yea you can definitely let us know anytime. You coming anywhere near Florida on that DJ promotion?
Djinji Brown: I’m trying to. I’m trying to set up a whole little East coast thing. So we’re in the process of doing that right now.
Okay, I’d definitely like to know about that. There’s a spot here where we might be able to slide you in on too.
Djinji Brown: Okay, well anything could help. If you want after we get off the phone or whatever you can contact Michelle again and you can just slide that information towards her. But yea for sure I’m trying to do anything I can just to get…I haven’t even played in Florida. So I’m definitely trying to get down there.
Definitely, definitely, that’ll definitely be hot.
Djinji Brown: Sure, for sure. It’s close to Cuba too and all the Caribbean vibes I be dealing with.
Alright, well I’ll let you go back, I know you got other interviews you gotta do.
Djinji Brown: Okay then.
Any last, final words or anything you want the people to know?
Djinji Brown: Just enjoy the music and not just my music, don’t enjoy it because you know…just enjoy the music as it is, you know what I’m saying, just enjoy the music as it is.
Djinji Brown: Just enjoy it.
Alright well, good luck with this and I’m gonna see how the other Fish Fry’s come out and it sounds like it’s gonna be a nice series.
Djinji Brown: I think it will be.
Thanks to Room Service for setting this up and to Danielle Harling for transcribing the interview.