KUrated. DJ Nu-Mark.
About the series...
KUrated is an invite-only opportunity to honour and showcase game-changers in all forms of music-focused creativity. The vision is to connect artists and industry professionals with existing and new audiences, as well as their peers. It is a chance for artists to share their unique perspective on the creative process, monumental moments, influential pieces of art, and the industry.
It seemed only proper that we feature a legend with the launch of our KUrated series. We are grateful that Dan Englander, KU owner, was able to chat with hip hop producer and member of Jurassic 5, DJ Nu-Mark!
You, Z-Trip & DJ Babu coming together
is an all-time classic lineup.
How long has it been since you’ve all performed together? I’m not sure that this exact lineup has ever existed?
I’ve played with Z-Trip at Redbull 3style in Chile last and I know I’ve played with Babu and DJ Day semi recently but I just can’t place when and where. Looking forward to seeing them all in one place!
Who came up with the idea for Heavy Servings?
Boombap Kids brought this project together and my assistant Mike Buguoan worked with the team there from time to time.
Can you elaborate on what it is, for those that don’t know?
I’m not exactly sure to tell you the truth since this is my first episode with them. I know there’s puppets bouncing to our tunes and it should be an interesting mix for what I plan to play!
With all of you in different locations how will you pull this on-line event off and how did you choose the foundations?
I believe the bulk of the dj’s are meeting at a designated studio that they have set up. That’s how they’ve done it with past dj’s. Masked up and sanitizer on deck!
I like thinking back to how I first was introduced to music, and my first memories as a kid were listening to Dionne Warwick & Carole King in my dad's car. How were you introduced to music?
I got introduced to music through my father’s record collection and eventually playing drums at my junior high jazz band. My mother had 8 tracks always on deck in her car so there was always that pumped up moment of singing and acting crazy in the car before I arrived at school.
Those early J5 records had
their own unique sound & style.
Was there competition between you and Cut Chemist to find the best break for those records?
The goal was to complete the sound for the sake of the group. There were plenty of beats that were dope but rooted in a different style that didn’t meet the mark…. a lot of those were mine. I kind of had a darker swing thing going when I met the group and my sound morphed to fit the group’s sound. And yeah, a friendly competition fuelled not only Cut and I but the mc’s as well!
Where did the influences come from to produce them?
There was one very heavy meeting with the entire group on Cut’s porch where he played a small but very potent set of beats that everyone responded to. I think that meeting set the tone for the texture that proceeded. After that it was a fun game of “Oh wow! Look what record I found in my mom’s garage that would be the perfect skit, drum break or bridge”. That bubbly funky Fat Albert bump became kind of a thing for us at one time.
Music used to be an event. You had to be in the right place at the right time and have access to the recorded Stretch & Bobbito show. To me, the buzz and anticipation isn’t the same. How do you feel about it?
The thing I miss the most is really the “New Releases” bin at the record stores. The physicality of music is and will always be important to me and I guess I took it for granted as a young adult. But yeah….I do miss setting a specific time and place for an important musical event. I think it helped compartmentalize my brain a bit too. There was a time for output and a time for input etc.
What’s your all-time favourite beat or bars
that changed your life?
Don’t have one. It changes day to day and week to week. There’s some songs that simply don’t hold water over time. That said, my one rhyme keeps standing out for me: Kool G Rap’s line of
“My brain is like a factory constantly creating
Material stitch by stitch for decoration
Lyrics are fabrics, beat is the lining
My passion in rhyming is fashion designing”.
As far as beats, I really dig “Untitled” by Slum Village. Never thought I’d like a song that faded in or had the shortest mutes in the world but those are just the small flares that made Dilla the king.
In your collection which record
is your crème da la crème?
It changes from time to time but my Eric B & Rakim test press of “Follow The Leader” album is fun.
Between djing, producing, or the finished product what does your enjoyment come from? Or is it from something else?
I enjoy setting goals for the year of projects I’d like to complete. I treat them like bucket list of collaborations that have to happen before I die. My Zodiac Tracks series was one of those goals that I had to tackle. My recent collaboration with Method Man and my live Toy Sets were written down and meditated deep before I approached them. Aside from music, gardening has literally grounded me and reset my energy and mind to focus myself for the day to day.
One of the questions I like to ask all the artists that sign with KU: What other forms of art or expression inspire your musical process?
I’m very visually inspired by worn out walls and textures. I like a rusty or paint ridden walls. Water colour has that same effect on me….something about multi tone colour inspires me.
You’ve had a long defining career in the hip hop culture. What do you attribute your sustainability to and what kind of things keep you in tune with your process and productivity?
Thank you. I try to stay active even if I’m not inspired. Even if it’s simple rudiments in the studio, it eventually leads to a great idea that energizes my next project. I’m also very tired of looking back, talking about “back when” and “taking it back”. I’m working towards being my best self possible so I can contribute something meaningful that can’t be easily duplicated.
When you look back on all of the studio sessions that you have done, are there any moments or particular sessions that stand out to you, or were life-shifting?
Yes, my recent “Zodiac Killah” session with Method Man. We were working on set for a television show called “Drop The Mic” (I’m the DJ and he’s the host). One day I told him I need an exclusive song to wrap up my two years of Zodiac Tracks mixes I’ve been doing on my socials. I asked if he’d listen to a beat while we were on set, placed some headphones on him and was nervous. I can’t just say “Oh he hates the beat he’s trippin” (he’s Meth / Wu)…so it had to hit! Instead I was happily surprised when he started bobbing his head and sayin “Oh yeah Nu, I’m fuckin with this”. Was a great day. The craziest part is he came to my studio, didn’t say much, picked up the correct pair of headphones in my vocal room and just said “lets go”. Thank God I was ready for him with the Protools session. He knocked it out in basically one or two takes. It seemed like he’d been recording at my lab for years. After that I played him beats and we just vibed out. Was a long awaited rewarding day for me! That session fuelled my ambition to create my 6 drum packs (Crate Expectations) and my Ableton Live collaboration the “Créme de la Crate” sample pack for producers.
I’m looking forward to hearing more innovative beats and ideas. Producers have really been pushing the boundaries with editing and a broader dynamic range. I can’t imagine how big it will become!
Interview by Dan Englander – 21/11/2020
The KUrated series is only complete with a curated playlist by our featured artist. Here are some recommended tracks from the legendary crate digger himself, DJ - Nu-Mark. Featuring Ethiopian singers and musicians spanning the period from the 1960s and 1970s to modern-day.