So much of my youth was spent sitting in front of speakers. Like most music fans of a certain age, I made boxes full of pause-button mixtapes on cassette tapes. 60-, 90-, even 120-minute Maxell or TDK tapes.
Hip-hop tapes. House music tapes. Reggae tapes. Classics tapes. Latin music tapes.
I recorded music spun by radio greats like Wildman Steve, DJ Riz, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Funk Flex, Bobby Konders, Dahved Levy, Mr. Magic, Pete Rock, Special K and Teddy Ted (when I could get their faint signal in LI), Stretch and Bobbito, KALX’s Beni B, O-Dub and Matt Africa, Sway & Tech, Mike Nardone (when I could get his signal in LA), Jeannie Hopper, Chico Alvarez, Merlin Bobb, Frankie Knuckles, Timmy Regisford, Marques Wyatt, the list goes on and on.
I recall sitting up late recording De La Soul play cuts off 3 Feet High and Rising before it dropped; mad freestyle sessions of LONS buggin’ out at WBAU; being amazed then saddened when I checked my Bobbito tape and realized that I only caught part of “Protect Ya Neck” from a then-unknown Wu-Tang Clan. Hearing Eminem wreck the mic on Sway and Tech’s show that included Chicago’s Juice, Kwest the Madd Ladd, Thirstin Howl, Craig G, Kweli, a few others. I swear that’s the same cypher that Dre was listening to which eventually got Marshall signed. Few in the studio knew who he was that night, as he rhymed “foster mamas” with “Nostradamus.” (Digitizing those cassette seems almost sacrilegious now.)
Not to mention the tapes from pro DJs (Ron G, Doo-Wop, Kid Capri) that I bought or dubbed from others.
In this 8-minute “TDK Chronicles” segment (extended from the :35 trailer that was released last week), Nas breaks down the whole culture of recording from radio shows and splicing together favorite joints to make a perfect personal mixtape. He talks about the speed it took for him to spin the box’s dial up and down from WBLS to Kiss, trying to catch that song at the precise moment. He recalls the feel, sound, and smell of the actual tape. (“That’s science right there.”) He describes how he and his homies would listen and analyze other MCs rhymes and how that essentially improved his lyrical ability. He gives props to his favorite rappers and even shares who would be on one of his homemade mixtapes today. Plies, really?
Great interview nonetheless.
(The “TDK Chronicles” series features others in video treatments like The Strokes and The Walkmen, as well as Q&As with Toyko Police Club, the homie Jason Newman, who founded Hip-hop Karaoke, and Gotty from the Smoking Section.)