I can only be in New York for like three days tops. It’s too busy for me; too many things going on. I definitely prefer more laid-back, mid-size cities.
story by Mike Scales
photo by Jason Messer
Fans and critics alike were somewhat appalled to learn of DJ Shadow’s jump to “hyphy” with the release of his new record, The Outsider, earlier this year. To say the least, it was a sad day for many in underground hip-hop and questions began to arise: Did he just do it for the money or does he really like that crap? Doesn’t he realize that this sound is simply not going to last? It is not the future. What Shadow may have been better off doing was studying up on the label & crew who actually do boast “the future of hip-hop”: New York City’s Definitive Jux Records.
Producer, emcee, ex-Company Flow member and CEO El-P launched Def Jux around 2000 and has since built a small empire of some of the finest rappers, producers and DJs indie hip-hop has to offer. In April of this year DefinitiveJux.net introduced fully-downloadable versions of the entire Def Jux catalog, a first for any of the independent hip-hop companies. Things at Def Jux are moving so fast, in fact, that even some of its top artists can’t keep up with its progress.
“Aw damn, they got a new website?” exclaimed an excitable Mr. Lif while talking Chicago Innerview’s ear off over the phone last month. “I gotta check that shit out!” Lif, one of Def Jux’s best emcees and resident goof-ball, certainly has a lot to be excited about. Fresh off his first solo European tour, it’s clear the man is in a whole new state of mind. Along with a “healthy-size” crowd at every show, Lif also described the trip as “one of the most amazing experiences of [his] life…I saw Greece for the first time, spent three days in Amsterdam,” he explained, “and our last show was in France at this place called Metz that was absolutely breathtaking.”
The whimsy of Europe was a far cry from his days in New York prior to his trip, when Lif stopped by the studio to lend his voice to El-P’s forthcoming album, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Apparently the vibe wasn’t exactly right and, if he had the chance, Lif would probably have done if differently. “I can only be in New York for like three days tops,” said the Boston-bred rapper. “It’s too busy for me; too many things going on. I definitely prefer more laid-back, mid-size cities. The session itself just felt a little rushed too. I usually record a few takes or sometimes I’m inspired and let it all flow in one take, but I just wasn’t feelin’ it the way I normally would be.”
Chalking up that particular session as a loss shouldn’t faze the confident Mr. Lif, however. His latest banger of an album, MO’ MEGA, is still receiving rave reviews and has even garnered enough attention to be nominated (by writers, DJs, webmasters, artists, fans, etc.) for a Plug Independent Music Award for “Hip-Hop Album of the Year”. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Lif revealed his plans for the release of yet another full-length for Def Jux in the near future.
“The record’s actually almost done. It’s gonna be a bit of a return-to-form for me,” he said. “People who dug I Phantom and my earlier stuff are gonna be really into the new record.” Lif also revealed that he’ll be utilizing a whole new production team for the project, though he promised we will hear some familiar Def Jux voices like (most likely) Aesop Rock, C-Rayz Walz and others. If the new material goes as planned, it seems we’ll all be living up to the label’s latest promotional tagline and “bumping that shit like they do in the future.”
Mr. Lif :: with The Coup and Abstract Giants :: Abbey Pub :: December 9.