Producer Spotlight: Raj Mahal - Spikes / What Do You Know (Ari)

For anyone new to Raj Mahal could you tell us a lil bit about yourself, how you got into producing and the essence behind your sound?
I am from Detroit. I feel like that does give me some bragging rights, but not only because of the beautiful music that has come from there, but also realizing the history that has become embodied in me. Growing up, the first time I heard hip hop I fell in love. That was my music and it spoke to me in an inexplicable way. My older sister said hip hop was just a fad, but I felt very different. For years I appreciated the music through out its many phases and faces but the aspect I appreciated most was the beat making. I was the type to listen to the beat first before the lyrics and found that if there is a dope beat that even mediocre emcees could fly. So I started DJ ing in at 19 or 20. I was going to Saint Andrew's hall to check out House Shoes for a few years by then and found a lot of inspiration from him. I soon after lucked up on my first mpc 2000. There was a producer ("REC") that had been in the game for a while who helped me to get my chops up. After working with a few emcees in Detroit, I took a long hiatus from music because the streets consumed me for a while but all along I was still working on my chops. In Detroit Dilla was a hero. For me he is like what Bob Marley is like to Jamaicans. The truly innovative genius that came from him inspired so many of us.

Hip hop beats inspired me to search out other genres which lead to a great appreciation for music in general. It also inspired me to teach myself guitar and music theory so I would be a stronger musician. Now I am truly grateful to be able to pursue music once again in spite of bad life decisions that I made in the streets. But through all my experiences I try to embody them in the music I aggregate. The passion, angst, sadness, and ultimately the Spirit I put into it with a more artful approach.

What equiptment do you use in your studio setup?
My studio set up is pretty simple as I am a minimalist nowadays because I can be with technology. I have an Akai S950, Ensonic EPS 16, Ableton Live 8, Akai MPD 26, Goya Classical Acoustic guitar and an AT2020 Condenser.

Who are your top 5 producers / musical Influences?
My top 5 producers/influences would probably be J. Dilla, James Brown, Funk Brothers, Lee Perry, and Curtis Mayfield. I study the past because I find it to be the greatest inspiration.

What albums you listening to at the moment?
I am listening to a lot of Dorothy Ashby right now. I am rediscovering an album for myself and seeing just how much content there is in the "The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby.” I am amazed of the musical compositions, the seemingly effortless blending of musical styles and most of all the lyrical content. I really find strength in the way that life and death is presented in the lyrics.

Which upcoming producers should we be on the look out for?
As far as future producers there is so much talent out there that seems to be forging a real interesting foreshadow. I feel like music is growing in a depth that has been missing for a while. And the generation of bedroom producers is growing out of its infantile stage. My first mention would be Cos. Not only because I am working with him but also he is putting real musical attributes into his work. Some others would be Obliv, Doc Illingswoth, Cream of Beats, and Blunt Guts peeps. These are folks I believe to be truly under the radar that will have their turn to shine and hopefully will pull me up too.

What has been the main highlight or your career so far?
I have had quite a few highlights thus far in my musical career. I met Dilla. I met Dre. But I love performing and would say this is really important for my motivation. I had a crowd of 1500 in New Orleans where I head lined while playing this crazy ableton set that had them going schizophrenic. Also, I played in front of a small crowd of about 50 in Chicago that had no idea who I was and weren't familiar to the genre of music that I was playing surrounding the DJ booth totally fascinated. Anything that inspires me to keep going is a highlight.

Any previous releases or upcoming projects we should be aware of?
My only release as of yet has been on a label out of Detroit called Exchange Bureau on a compilation called Assorted Goods. I am currently working on a few concept albums.

Raj Mahal links:

1 comment:

  1. Nice!!! My Lil' brother Stephen with the vid, and my brother in music, Raj. Thanks for showing these homies love!!!