I got in touch with producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Daniel Merriweather, Duran Duran) three weeks ago to talk about his favorite beats of the year. After he thoroughly educated me (I’ve listened to “Katy on a Mission” 40+ times), Mark was nice enough to field some questions. I was surprised to find out the Grammy winning, actress dating musician is just as disillusioned with pop music and celebrity antics as us normal people.
I have a really hard time with celebrities or famous musicians sending each other tweets across the thing when they could just get each other’s phone number. I always accuse Wale of being guilty of that. Like ‘Yo Diddy, what are we doing tonight?’ which I just think is like, ‘OK, you have his phone number, you could text him.’
I would listen to [Trunk Muzik: 0-60] over the new Eminem album fucking any day of the week and I’m not comparing [Yelawolf and Eminem] because they’re white. It’s got the same rebel spirit and a lot of the same pain and passion, all that thing, but it’s got such a better– it’s light and he’s got a sense of humor about things and he has clever lines and stuff like that. Eminem’s just become this moan-y, whiny like, ‘me, me, me’ thing. It’s like, ‘dude, you’ve fucking got 50 million in the bank, what is still so horribly wrong?’ But anyway, that’s not for me to say.
Record Collection and radio
I don’t think Record Collection fits in anywhere, to be honest. I don’t mean that like I’m wearing it as a proud flag, I’d more than fucking happy to have my records on the radio. But I just think that– obviously we’re on the radio in other countries. “Bang Bang Bang,” it was a hit in England obviously, but it was my first hit in Australia and Germany and New Zealand and Japan and places like that, which is quite strange because kind of a left field single. It’s got a weird form, and it’s got a sing and then a rap and then a chorus and then a rap and then a sing, do you know what I mean? But anyway, I think people like it just because it’s a good record, it’s got a good beat, whatever, I don’t want to get too into it.
But I don’t listen to the radio. I can’t listen to it. I mean, I listen to Hot 97 occasionally if [Funkmaster] Flex is playing and I just want to hear what’s going on. Flex and Enuff, Peter Rosenberg. There are people that are really good DJs on there.
But the music
But the music, it’s gotten to the point where it’s so watered down on the radio that a song like “You Be Killin Em” by Fabolous sounds like fucking “Come Clean” by Jeru the Damaja. It sounds like the most hip-hop thing that was ever made because in context, what else is being played? It’s just such a fucking oasis.
And I’m not like a grumpy hater, somebody who doesn’t like stuff that’s popular at all. It’s just that when I started DJing in clubs in kind of like my peak, it was in a really amazing place at the most commercial hip-hop was arguably the best. The stuff that was the most accessible was Jay, Dre, Snoop, even the beginning of Fabolous and that New York era up to T.I. and Outkast and stuff.
And then there was a dumb down takeover that happened about three or four years ago and I was DJing the tail end of that, going to Vegas and playing a one and a half hour string of songs that sound good in the club and I didn’t really mind playing if you have a good way to put them together in a set that’s clever. But you’d never want to hear them sitting at home on a Sunday. There’s not much depth or soul to the music.
It’s basically what disco was in the late 70s. Soul music evolved into disco and then people found a formula. They’re like, ‘Oh, people like this, it sounds good in the club, and then they want to listen to it the next day, so we have the formula.’ And all of the soul music became, for the most part, 120 beats per minute with the same strings and the same cheesy hooks about dance routines and stuff. Back in the 70s, no one was suddenly like, ‘Oh, we’re in the disco era now, cool! It’s Tuesday, now it’s disco era!’ It took five, six years for people to revisit that era and see what it was just like it would take six years after the war to make a Vietnam movie or a Desert Storm film.
I think ten years from now when we write the book on music, or we start to write it, on this era, I think this will be looked at as the time when we don’t call it hip-hop anymore, it will probably get its own name. I know we’ve kind of flirted with names like snap music and other stuff, but I really think most of this stuff isn’t really hip-hop anymore. It’s just it’s own form of something.
I was listening to the 80s station on Sirius the other day and I was like — even the songs we kind of laugh at because the 80s was a bit easy to make fun of because visually it was a little ridiculous and whatnot — the songs were still pretty good and there was some substance to it. And I was thinking, who the fuck is going to want to listen to the 2010 channel twenty years from now to hear these records back to back? I don’t think that many people.
One of the harbingers of that to me was when the industry word turned from good to hot. ‘That’s a hot record’ instead of ‘that’s a good record.’ You could see the sea change happening there.
The minute you start doing house club versions of “The Time of My Life” and then rapping over it, I might as well be DJing a Bar Mitzvah with a drum machine in my pocket.
Obviously, there’s things like Jay Electronica that are still beams of hope. I’m optimistic because whenever the ship stays around too long and gets super stale, it just kind of comes back around.
I play with Q-Tip. He does a party on Friday at the Ace Hotel, so whenever I’m in town I do that. I enjoy that. But the thing with the band is, we did a couple of shows in New York and a couple in LA with Miike Snow, but it’s such a big band and it’s pretty expensive that unless we really started moving some major fucking units, it would be hard to justify the expense of bringing the band, but I’ll probably do some DJ stuff. Me and Q-Tip are talking about maybe touring together as a DJ team or some kind of entity and I’ll be touring a lot overseas in Australia and stuff a lot [in 2011].