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DL Incognito - conducted by Phayde  

DL Incognito

November 2003

These are the transcripts of an interview with DL Incognito. The interview was conducted by Phayde on November 20th, 2003.

MVRemix: Just for the record, explain your name.

DL Incognito: I used to be in a group and my partnerís name was Low Key Genuine and I was DL Incognito. Itís kind of a play on words, you know, DL and Low Key. We were both underground, up-and-coming emcees that no one really knew about, so basically DL stands for Delivering Lyrics, then Incognito. Itís not really DL as in Down Low, but kind of the same meaning, you know what I mean?

MVRemix: Have you been to Vancouver before?

DL Incognito: Nope! First time.
And youíre staying for a day? Thatís a damn shame.

DL Incognito: If we had gotten here earlier then at least weíd have time to go around and sightsee, Ďcause weíre really cool with [local emcee] Kemo, you know? He used to come to Ottawa and weíd always hook up with him, but unfortunately we missed the [earlier] flight because of people and traffic. [Laughs] I got a good view from the airplane. The Rockies looked impressive. I wish we had more time here. Weíre doing a few nights in Nelson, which is probably a really small place, and itís too far to come back here.

MVRemix: So how long have you been doing this for?

DL Incognito: Iíd say no more than four years of really doing it, as far as putting stuff out, getting stuff together, going into a studio and actually doing it. But as for being involved in hip-hop, itís something that I kind of cling to, so Iíve always been into it, as far as being in street teams, putting up the posters, break dancing, all that stuff. We used to do it all. A lot of everything, you know? Itís been a little while, but doing it seriously, four years, I would say.

MVRemix: Were you satisfied with the response that [your debut album] A Sample and A Drum Machine got?

DL Incognito: Yeah. Weíve pretty much gotten a great response across the board. Everyone really thinks it is exactly what I wanted to do, which was do a hip-hop record but take a real minimalist approach to doing it. Basically, my production setup is a Roland SP30, a keyboard, an MPC 2000 and a crate of vinyl, you know what I mean? I donít use much else. Itís to show people that if youíre not a musician, leave it alone. I mean, pressing three keysÖ The Neptunes, they do it well Ė props to them Ė but not everyone is going to duplicate that sound. A lot of the big tracks now are still sampled records. Theyíre crate-diggers. Theyíre finding that obscure little loop that you can chop up, or not even chop up, and finding that something that the average Joe doesnít know where it came from, and making a beat with that. That sample has all the elements that you need, as far as bass lines, hi-hats, whatever. If I canít play any music, then Iím better off sampling records than trying to play a few keys. I can play the piano a bit, but you know what I mean.

MVRemix: Yeah I know what you mean. Like with emceeing, everybody and their granny raps nowadays. Itís okay to just be a fan.

DL Incognito: Yeah Canibus said that once in his interviews too. There are tons of things you can do. If you canít rap or produce, then you canít rap or produce! Itís like how not everyone is good at basketball. Whatever. I just wanted to put out a record that was kind of done the old school way, the way hip-hop was meant to sound, and give it that early Ď90s sound. I think we accomplished that, and it got me a lot of respect as far as a ďrealĒ hip-hop artist as apposed to someone trying to fit in to whatever trend is going on, but we didnít have the distribution that we were looking for as far as getting our stuff across Canada. We have national distribution, but the way HMVís set up, someone in Vancouverís going to have a really difficult time finding the record, whereas someone in Toronto, or Ottawa, or any market close to where weíre from, will be able to pick it up. It makes it hard for people out west or far out east to get the record. And for us, touring is hard as well, so weíre not able to reach all the fans but we pretty much got what we wanted to do, and it got me national attention.

MVRemix: What are your thoughts on completely computer-generated beats through programs like Fruity Loops and Cool Edit Pro?

DL Incognito: I feel like you gotta use whatever you gotta use to make your stuff. Whether you take an MPC or you take an ASRX, or an ASR10, or a SP1200, or you use programs like Q-Base or Acid or Fruity Loops, if itís a good beat, itís going to be a good beat regardless of what you use. Iíve found that with the computer sound, itís very sharp and doesnít give you the sound that an MPC or a digital machine might give you. Nowadays pretty much anything can be fixed in mixing and mastering to sound like anything. Thereís definitely a different swing that you get from an MPC thatís not as precise as a computer would be, but Iím sure there are guys that know really well how to use Fruity Loops, or how to use Acid, to have a swing thatís comparable to a swing that you get from an MPC. I feel like if it sounds good, it doesnít really matter because 99 per cent of people donít know or donít care what you made your beats on anyway. As long as you do it right, it doesnít matter what you do. Some people swear by the MPC 3000 over the 2000, or the 2000 over the Excel, or the SP1200Ö you know what I mean? People have made dope beats on all of those machines. Itís about you as a producer and how creative youíre going to let yourself be.

MVRemix: So what the fuck is up with the Nine Planets?!

DL Incognito: [Laughs] Basically right now weíre doing the Mic Check album, which is the first French release that weíre going to drop from Nine Planets. Thatís going to be out pretty much in the Quebec market. Itís going to be available national, but our concentration is really obviously for the French provinces. Right now Iím doing the new record. Just going to start recording that, thatís going to be called Life Is A Collection Of Experiences, and thatís probably going to be due spring or early summer. Weíre going to film Mic Checkís video in December. [The first album] A Sample and A Drum Machine is out in Singapore and Taiwan and weíre going to hopefully get it out to Japan as well. Weíre going to try and get some stuff in the US. Weíll do a couple 12Ēs. Do the grind, you know. Go back to work, basically, for 2004.

MVRemix: What would you say your ultimate goal is?

DL Incognito: Weíre just trying to give Canadian hip-hop an identity, you know what I mean? I never say that Iím a ďCanadian rapper,Ē but Iím Canadian and I happen to rap, which automatically makes me a Canadian rapper, but because the industry here is so up in the air, we donít have anything thatís set up for anyone. Weíre trying to basically just build that foundation so that someone else can come and be the superstar, you know. Weíre just trying to be the EPMD, the KRS-One, whatever. The building blocks. Because Canada has a lot of good artists that have started and done some stuff, but thereís never been the movement that came together at the time that allowed the industry to put money back into hip-hop in Canada. Rascalz did really well, but then no one followed up. Few years later, Swollen did really well, but who else is coming up after that? Thereís no consistency in groups putting out material. You get Swollen, you get Rascalz, you get Kardi, you get DL, you get Classified, and weíre all at the same level at the same time so that youíre actually checking for Canadian content as apposed to once in a while you hear a group that comes out with a single, or one record here. Itís so widespread, whereas the Americans flood you with product. You canít miss American products, but you miss Canadian content, so you donít even know itís out there. Basically that what weíre trying to do. Be a successful hip-hop label and work successfully within the Canadian market. Not necessarily trying to be the torchbearers for Canadian hip-hop, Ďcause Iím not necessarily sure what cancon isÖ yet, anyway.

MVRemix: What makes you different from every other emcee out there?

DL Incognito: Itís not as much that what Iím doing is different, but maybe what Iím doing in this era is probably different from what most people are trying to accomplish. Weíre still trying to keep it very early Ď90s, very simplistic. A lot of people are trying to do the clubs, do the big money tracks and sign to the majors, and weíre content doing the independent crowd that almost every successful rapper out there right now thatís making money did. In this era, everyoneís trying to get signed to a major and you donít really want the ďdo-it-yourself, book your own tours, press up your own CDs, press up the vinyl,Ē and all the stuff that you have to do. Thatís what I think makes me different. That sound is just generated from us doing what we want to do, and not an industry telling us what we should be doing. I think people appreciate the fact that weíre just ďkeeping it real,Ē and that gives us an edge, maybe, over some rappers that are just hoping they get signed.

MVRemix: What makes you happy and what pisses you off?

DL Incognito: Iím a passive dude. Thereís not much that gets me worked up. Music is probably the stuff Iím most passionate about. When I think about things within the industry that we work in, that could get me worked up, how some people are so close-minded. Especially here in Canada, we canít even recognized talent if itís in our face. Thatís not just with music, that goes with any industry in Canada. Doesnít matter if youíre doing film, if youíre a poet, if youíre doing TV, if youíre a singer, a rap artist, whatever. Thatís the ďbrain drain,Ē that you have to go to the US. A lot of people could be successful here, but they never get a shot. It pisses me off as far as being Canadian and having to go through that. But besides that, you only live once and you canít waste your time being stressed with little things.

MVRemix: True. If hip-hop was a woman, what would she look like?

DL Incognito: [Laughs] Ah, man. Sheíd look like Halle Berry. Just perfectly put together, when everyone in the game has an opportunity.
What about hip-hop right now?

DL Incognito: Hip-hop right now is pimped by the industry. A ho, you know what I mean? Youíre just paying to get on. Itís all about money; itís all about glamour. Thereís no room for anybody else. Thereís no room for the Erykah Badus anymore, thereís only room for Trina or whatever. [Laughs] Everyone should have a shot. Like Tribe was doing well when EPMD was doing well, and when Redman was doing well, you had all these different styles of hip-hop and everyone was selling. Now, itís only the south. We get BET and we see all the garbage and itís so horrible. I couldnít believe it. Five years ago, or even 10 years ago, you would have never seen like 95 per cent of these people. They never would have had a shot. It all becomes so commercial that itís a joke. Like MC Hammer was popular once, you know what I mean? [Laughs] He was the shit! Vanilla Ice made his money, so there was that era in hip-hop where it was okay to make money, and suddenly the Wu Tangs and EPMDs and Mobb Deeps came out and everyoneís like, ďOh, shit.Ē It goes in cycles. Everything goes in cycles. The Ď80s are back. The styles, the trucker hats. You know if I did that five years ago Iíd be laughed at. Von Dutch, whatever. Thereís always room for indie fans. Now with the Internet, thereís more room to do your own thing. Like Swollen, they are by far the most successful Canadian band, or group, or label. By far. Weíre talking about going back to the days when Maestro was platinum plus, you know? This market is unprecedented. Iím sure some people hate on them now because of their success, but what theyíve done is just amazing. The underground scene will support you put out product. If you work hard, someone will recognize that youíre working hard. The Rascalz, as well, are very consistent when it comes to putting material in your face.

MVRemix: Tell me something I donít know about DL Incognito.

DL Incognito: Iím a millionaire? [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yeah, thatís why thereís seven of you packed into a van.

DL Incognito: Yeah, like 30 of us in there. [Laughs] Nah, man. You just met me and this is how I am. Thereís no surprises; Iím pretty down to earth. An approachable dude, you know? I donít have any secrets, anything for the tabloids.

MVRemix: Dammit. So whatís next?

DL Incognito: Weíre doing the new record. We want to come out with a series of 12Ēs. Weíre trying to expand our label, so weíre going to look to maybe sign a few acts. Thereís a TechTwelve project out now. Just been working on the new album, Life Is A Collection Of Experiences. Trying to get that out for spring or summer, and thatís about it.

MVRemix: Anything else you want to add, or say to fans?

DL Incognito: Basically just plug the record! Make sure that people out here keep going to the HMVs and keep requesting that they bring in more units of our CDs because itís up to the HMV buyer in this region. My record out right now is called A Beat and A Drum Machine and the new one is called Life Is A Collection Of Experiences. Weíre not sure yet who weíre going to go through for the distribution [of the new album], so weíre going to wrap up the recording of the record first, then kind of shop it around here and outside of Canada. Youíll probably see the 12Ēs in the next few months, but as far as releasing [the new album] weíre looking at April or May. Doing the record gives us an opportunity to tour and get out there, Ďcause what you really got to do is hit the road and let people meet you and do the grind. Thatís why you pack 20 dudes into a seven-passenger van. [Laughs]
Keepiní it underground!

DL Incognito: Keepiní it real.

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