Puff Daddy may have redefined what a remix should be in recent Hip-Hop history but that doesn’t mean today’s musicians can’t push those boundaries. For some reason, the mash up is seen as the little, less talented brother to the remix. Maybe it’s the high energy, ADD nature of mash up superstars like Girl Talk that hit you with so much audio information that you can’t compute and appreciate the hours of research that go into creating the music. Or maybe it’s because people see “DJ” in the artist’s name on a project and dismiss him as someone who pushes buttons instead of an aficionado of grooves and flows. Whatever it may be, remixes in the form of a mash up can make you fall in love with a song all over again and make you appreciate the a phrase in a rap lyrics or a hi hat in the beat, where you least expected it. One man who is doing all of that and more is Amerigo Gazaway. The Nashville DJ, producer, crate digger, and lover of all things soulful caught the attention of not just bloggers and their readers, but also angry label executives, with projects like Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to The Pharcyde, Fela Soul, and Yasiin Gaye Sides 1 & 2. His most recent project is a tribute to James Brown, titled The Big Payback Vol. 3.
But when Amerigo chooses to remix the music of his choice, they sound as organic as if the artists had met in a studio and created the music themselves. You can call him the Noah of remixes, pairing up the spirit animals of some of the greatest artists on his own projects to create something you and your grandfather can put on the stereo. We were able to discuss his creative process, record labels hating on him, and some of his favorite remixes. Check out the interview below and stay up to date on his work at his website.
I have to say, the first time I heard the Bizarre Tribe project, it felt like it was meant to be.
I’m happy you got it before it got taken down.
Yeah, about that. I understand that some industry folks had issues with that project since they claimed you used the recordings of Tribe and Pharcyde, when in reality you searched for the original samples that those artists used for their music.
Correct. Yeah, I kinda reconstructed my own beats using the sources Tribe had sampled for their beats. I mean there were cuts here and there from Tribe’s catalog but that was under like 2 or 3 minutes on the entire 50 minute album. We considered that fair use from our standpoint.
So basically 2-3 minutes of using the music led to their disapproval. But if anything, I feel like it was helping them by bringing some new attention to old songs.
Definitely. We’ve faced some hurdles but I’m not discouraged. I’m starting to have some hope, seeing people come around and started to reach out to me for more official projects, getting samples actually cleared.
How do you go about finding those original samples that artists use in their music?
Every project is different. With Bizarre Tribe I think I was just DJing in my bedroom one day and I played the “Electric Relaxation” instrumental and the “Runnin” acapella on top, and thought that sounded crazy. Then I also remembered back in the day when I used to DJ I also did a mix with “Passin Me By” and “Bonita Applebum.” And I had completely forgotten about that joint. The combination of those two epiphanies led to the creation of a whole album, Bizarre Tribe. It’s different every time. Sometimes it’s a little more thought out ahead of time. I always keep a notebook with each project like I’ll dedicate a whole notebook. There’s a lot of research that goes into it. A lot of times it’s when I’m digging through records, in my collection or a record store. Just seeing the names or the album covers, visually, something will trigger. Like with Yasiin Gaye, that was triggered by “Modern Marvel” by Mos Def, the track he did on The New Danger album. It was kind of a tribute to Marvin Gaye. I was listening to that one night and thought it would be so dope if it was a whole album.
Is there an artist you want to do a similar project with, but you haven’t found that other artist to pair him or her with?
Yeah. That’s a good question actually. There’s a lot of projects I can’t do just for obvious legal reasons. It depends on what I can get my hands on a lot of the times. There’s not a lot of acapellas out there for certain artists. Like with Bizarre Tribe, I got lucky because that was actually the year that they released it, the 20th anniversary for the album, so they re-released it as a box set with all the acapellas for all their singles. So I was able to get my hands on like 7 or 8 joints. I’ve been working with this guy, Goodwill Projects, which is DIY acapellas. They use a method of phase inversion to isolate the vocal tracks in a song. So we’re able to get our hands on certain acapellas of tracks.
That’s pretty dope. I’ve noticed that a lot of the projects use music older than the last five years. Is there a reason you avoid contemporary music or are you just drawn to the older stuff?
I’m definitely more drawn to that era of music. Not to say that I don’t enjoy the new stuff coming out. People are still making awesome soul music all the time. It’s a fascination with the older stuff as a record collector and a real Hip-Hop head. Hip-Hop is a gateway drug to the whole world of music. It’s a balance. I like to balance and maintain the integrity of something that’s old and put a new twist on it to make it fresh again.
How did you get your start in music? I saw that in your Facebook profile that your dad was a Jazz trumpet player.
He definitely played a big part. I grew up, in the summers, making beats on his keyboard, samplers, and mess around with Casios. He took me on tour when I was in high school. That was my first experience on the road and performing in front of a live crowd at a venue. That was invaluable to me at the time. My older brother and sister were into Hip-Hop in the golden age and put me onto a lot of stuff. Also WRVU, here in Nashville, the radio station–Count Basie and DJ Egon host a show called the 911 Emergency Show, which I used to listen to all the time back in the day. I got a lot of my tastes in Hip-Hop from listening to them. Egon actually went on to create Stones Throw Records. I’ve seen Count Basie a few times–bumped into him at the grocery store. It’s a small town (laughs). A lot of dope music here.
That’s interesting that you say that because when you say Nashville, you don’t expect Hip-Hop to follow. It’s usually Country or Rock.
There’s a lot of dope talent here and we’re bringing a lot of dope talent here. I actually just opened up for Oddisee here and that was a really incredible show. Nashville came out, man. They really supported it. There’s a thriving Hip-Hop scene here and I was glad to see it last night. We have a lot of local blogs like Break on a Cloud, that cover stuff. We have the Boom Bap here in Nashville, which is a monthly party hosted by my friend Case Bloom and DJ Rate, with special guests. We just had Cosmo Baker the other night and DJ Premier. They also do it in Miami and Philly.
And for my final question. What are your favorite remixes, one that you did and one that another artist has done?
That I’ve done, I guess I’ll go with “Inner City.” It really resonates with me a lot because I’ve been traveling so much this past year. Something about that song really sticks with me. Done by another artist… there’s a couple good ones. There’s a Biggie and Frank Sinatra mash up that made a lot of sense. They really go well together, musically and conceptually. There’s also JJ Brown who did a Ludacris and Jackson 5 jump off. That was kinda crazy. I had that in heavy rotation. I’m always on the look out to see what other people are doing. DJ Wick-it–he’s here in Nashville also–he’s a pretty well known mash up DJ. he did a Black Keys, before Blackroc, a couple years back that was pretty big on the internet.
Bryan Hahn is still waiting for a Fabolous and Neptunes mash up. He’ll be patiently waiting for it on Twitter (@notupstate).