You’ve likely scrunched up your face to one of MoSS’ beats at some point. His grungy, rasping backdrops have found their way into the hands of Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Joell Ortiz, and Sean Price; and as DJ Premier’s right hand, higher profile placements are in the cards. MoSS’ ear for the obscure and his heavy metal upbringing serve him well on his new album where he provides a uniquely discordant rock-inspired stage for an explosive Eternia.
In our interview, MoSS discusses his musical roots, the circumstances that kept him from getting credited for a placement on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, and what it’s like being DJ Premier’s right hand man.
Eternia & MoSS – At Last is out now.
ML: What kind of music did you grow up on?
Moss: I don’t know how old you are, but I’m in my thirties, so I grew up probably in the early stages of hip-hop. It just so happened that my neighbor was Roxanne [Shanté]‘s cousin. So he kind of introduced me to hip-hop at the time. So he bought me Whodini’s Open Sesame album for my birthday. That was grade school days, I was dubbing stuff off the radio, and I remember that’s when Juice Crew was dropping and I think [MC] Shan was dropping and LL [Cool J] was gonna drop Radio a little after that. I grew up on that, but I was also a big rock guy. I played hockey living in Canada, so a lot of the guys I was playing hockey with, in the dressing room, we were listing to Iron Maiden, Metallica, ACDC. I’d make my own little tapes and I’d have Juice Crew, and then I’d have Metallica, and the next song after that would be a Whodini song, and then it would be Iron Maiden, and then it would be Newcleus “Jam On It.” “Jam On It” was one of my joints back in the day. I’d say, primarily that’s what I grew up on as a child. And now I’m just really open all fronts of music. I just really enjoy music.
ML: As a producer, what do you look for in an MC and specifically, what drew you to Eternia?
MoSS: Obviously, lyrics and content are important. But I think more so, I look at an MC like an instrument. For me, an MC could have the greatest lyrics and this and that, but if they don’t have a hand on the music, it’s not going to work. For someone to work with, I look for someone that’s going to sound right over my music and will be able to use their voice as an additional instrument to my music and keep the emotion that my music has. And in general, if I listen to anybody, even if I don’t work with them, that’s usually what I look for. When you listen to a song and it sounds like somebody remixed, it’s just not fitting. I like music with synergy. What drew me to Eternia was I saw her perform live. I was on tour with Masta Ace, eMC, Marco Polo and Torae and Mr. Attic. I was doing a beat show with Marco and she opened up for us in one of the cities and when I saw her perform, I saw her energy. Right away, I knew that if I did the right type of backdrop for her, that she would fit over my music. The best feedback I get is from MCs that go hard on songs or spit with a lot of emotion. I got a lot of credit for stuff I did with Ghost[face Killah] and stuff I did with Obie [Trice] and a lot of those guys are just spitting. I heard kind of a female version of that and that’s what attracted me to her.
ML: What do you think has been your biggest placement to date?
MoSS: Probably [Ghostface Killah's] “Kilo.” I think in general, journalists and DJs and everyone in the industry and fans in general — people respect Ghostface. I did “Have Mercy” on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… 2 but the problem with that was I gave that beat to Raekwon back when he was on Universal like five or six years ago. And so there was confusion leading up to the album and by the time they figured out I did the music and they contacted me to do the paperwork, the artwork had already been submitted and so my name didn’t get in the credits, but I got my money and I got my publishing and all that, but I guess that placement didn’t necessarily help me. I’d say “Kilo” and the stuff I did with Obie [Trice]. Even though I didn’t get placements through Shady Records, what that did was, it introduced me to my current manager, which in turn basically got me where I am today.
ML: What does a cosign from DJ Premier mean for a producer?
MoSS: It’s interesting because now whenever I’m in New York and I’m around Premier, automatically, people want to hear my music — where before I had to pull their arm. So I think that’s obviously when Premier approaches somebody and I ask them to listen to my music, they’ll do it just out of respect for Premier which is huge. I’ve been very lucky getting some of the placements I have and I know this is going to sound really cliche, but I really got into the music industry because I just liked making music and I enjoy it. I never actually had any aspirations to be some major label big pop producer. I never thought that would be feasible. I’ve been doing it for awhile, I’m a bit older. So sometimes you sit there and you think to yourself, ‘what I am I doing?’ It’s not like I was doubting myself, but now and again you just have to look in the mirror. And when Premier came along and said some of the things he said to me and took me under his wind and befriended me the way he did — just as someone who grew up listening to him and watching Premier take off himself — it was just surreal. I don’t know how else to put it. It was just kind of surreal. Now it’s Chris to me, it’s my boy, but it’s one of those things where at the time, it just blew my mind. This is gonna sound really corny, man, but in some ways I looked at it like when it’s all said and done, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ve achieved something. When I get credit from my peers and credit from A&Rs and journalists — and I’m not taking anything away from a fan or a music enthusiast — for one reason or another, it hits home a lot more because someone who’s competing with me is telling me that they appreciate what I’m doing, so that means a lot.