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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 partner’s name was Low Key Genuine and I was DL Incognito. It’s 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. It’s 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 you’re staying for a day? That’s a damn shame.

DL Incognito: If we had gotten here earlier then at least we’d have time to go around and sightsee, ‘cause we’re really cool with [local emcee] Kemo, you know? He used to come to Ottawa and we’d 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. We’re doing a few nights in Nelson, which is probably a really small place, and it’s too far to come back here.

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

DL Incognito: I’d 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, it’s something that I kind of cling to, so I’ve 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? It’s 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. We’ve 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 don’t use much else. It’s to show people that if you’re not a musician, leave it alone. I mean, pressing three keys… The Neptunes, they do it well – props to them – but not everyone is going to duplicate that sound. A lot of the big tracks now are still sampled records. They’re crate-diggers. They’re finding that obscure little loop that you can chop up, or not even chop up, and finding that something that the average Joe doesn’t 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 can’t play any music, then I’m 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. It’s 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 can’t rap or produce, then you can’t rap or produce! It’s 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 ‘90s sound. I think we accomplished that, and it got me a lot of respect as far as a “real” hip-hop artist as apposed to someone trying to fit in to whatever trend is going on, but we didn’t have the distribution that we were looking for as far as getting our stuff across Canada. We have national distribution, but the way HMV’s set up, someone in Vancouver’s going to have a really difficult time finding the record, whereas someone in Toronto, or Ottawa, or any market close to where we’re 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 we’re 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 it’s a good beat, it’s going to be a good beat regardless of what you use. I’ve found that with the computer sound, it’s very sharp and doesn’t 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. There’s definitely a different swing that you get from an MPC that’s not as precise as a computer would be, but I’m sure there are guys that know really well how to use Fruity Loops, or how to use Acid, to have a swing that’s comparable to a swing that you get from an MPC. I feel like if it sounds good, it doesn’t really matter because 99 per cent of people don’t know or don’t care what you made your beats on anyway. As long as you do it right, it doesn’t matter what you do. Some people swear by the MPC 3000 over the 2000, or the 2000 over the Excel, or the SP1200… you know what I mean? People have made dope beats on all of those machines. It’s about you as a producer and how creative you’re going to let yourself be.

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

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

MVRemix: What would you say your ultimate goal is?

DL Incognito: We’re just trying to give Canadian hip-hop an identity, you know what I mean? I never say that I’m a “Canadian rapper,” but I’m 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 don’t have anything that’s set up for anyone. We’re trying to basically just build that foundation so that someone else can come and be the superstar, you know. We’re 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 there’s 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? There’s no consistency in groups putting out material. You get Swollen, you get Rascalz, you get Kardi, you get DL, you get Classified, and we’re all at the same level at the same time so that you’re 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. It’s so widespread, whereas the Americans flood you with product. You can’t miss American products, but you miss Canadian content, so you don’t even know it’s out there. Basically that what we’re 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, ‘cause I’m not necessarily sure what cancon is… yet, anyway.

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

DL Incognito: It’s not as much that what I’m doing is different, but maybe what I’m doing in this era is probably different from what most people are trying to accomplish. We’re still trying to keep it very early ‘90s, very simplistic. A lot of people are trying to do the clubs, do the big money tracks and sign to the majors, and we’re content doing the independent crowd that almost every successful rapper out there right now that’s making money did. In this era, everyone’s trying to get signed to a major and you don’t really want the “do-it-yourself, book your own tours, press up your own CDs, press up the vinyl,” and all the stuff that you have to do. That’s 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 we’re just “keeping it real,” 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: I’m a passive dude. There’s not much that gets me worked up. Music is probably the stuff I’m 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 can’t even recognized talent if it’s in our face. That’s not just with music, that goes with any industry in Canada. Doesn’t matter if you’re doing film, if you’re a poet, if you’re doing TV, if you’re a singer, a rap artist, whatever. That’s the “brain drain,” 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 can’t 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. She’d 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? You’re just paying to get on. It’s all about money; it’s all about glamour. There’s no room for anybody else. There’s no room for the Erykah Badus anymore, there’s 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, it’s only the south. We get BET and we see all the garbage and it’s so horrible. I couldn’t 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 it’s 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 everyone’s like, “Oh, shit.” It goes in cycles. Everything goes in cycles. The ‘80s are back. The styles, the trucker hats. You know if I did that five years ago I’d be laughed at. Von Dutch, whatever. There’s always room for indie fans. Now with the Internet, there’s more room to do your own thing. Like Swollen, they are by far the most successful Canadian band, or group, or label. By far. We’re talking about going back to the days when Maestro was platinum plus, you know? This market is unprecedented. I’m sure some people hate on them now because of their success, but what they’ve done is just amazing. The underground scene will support you put out product. If you work hard, someone will recognize that you’re working hard. The Rascalz, as well, are very consistent when it comes to putting material in your face.

MVRemix: Tell me something I don’t know about DL Incognito.

DL Incognito: I’m a millionaire? [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s why there’s 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. There’s no surprises; I’m pretty down to earth. An approachable dude, you know? I don’t have any secrets, anything for the tabloids.

MVRemix: Dammit. So what’s next?

DL Incognito: We’re doing the new record. We want to come out with a series of 12”s. We’re trying to expand our label, so we’re going to look to maybe sign a few acts. There’s 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 that’s 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 it’s 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. We’re not sure yet who we’re going to go through for the distribution [of the new album], so we’re going to wrap up the recording of the record first, then kind of shop it around here and outside of Canada. You’ll probably see the 12”s in the next few months, but as far as releasing [the new album] we’re looking at April or May. Doing the record gives us an opportunity to tour and get out there, ‘cause what you really got to do is hit the road and let people meet you and do the grind. That’s why you pack 20 dudes into a seven-passenger van. [Laughs]
Keepin’ it underground!

DL Incognito: Keepin’ it real.

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