featured interview

Parallel Thought Young and restless New Jersey's Parallel Thought is the underground's latest hip-hop sensation. Being only teenagers, these producers already have worked with the most respected underground artists of today. Their latest EP is the fore-runner of their upcoming debut full length on MF Grimm's DayByDay Entertainment and reveals their unique freshness with the production tools. By the way, Parallel Thought is more than just a producer's squad.

What's the difference between the production crew and the group Parallel Thought?

Drum and Knowledge: Basically it's simple, and we would like to clear this up for the record. Parallel thought consists of a production duo named Drum and Knowledge along with our DJ Apendix Hed, and a dope emcee from Alabama, currently going to school in New York City, named Caness.

How did you meet?

D and K: We met in high school. After getting to know each other the two of us got together to start talking about music and decided that we wanted to make beats. After Adam purchased the MPC2000xl we got to business. The first night with the new machine we cranked out 5 beats and we were hooked. After a while making beats, Adam introduced Jeff to a friend of his (soon to be DJ Apendix Hed ). After the three of us got to know each other some more, Apendix Hed decided he wanted to be a DJ, so Parallel Thought?s original line-up was born. Soon after that we all came to the conclusion that we really needed an emcee to officially be a group. After searching on-line we met an emcee who called himself Sol Infinite. We then linked up with him and released an EP called, ?Mind For The Takin?, which we did independently and of which we only pressed up 100 copies before the group went through its first line-up change. With things not running smoothly with our original emcee, we were on the hunt for a new raw talent that we felt could grow with us as a group and individually. That emcee was Caness. And that?s how Parallel Thought all met.

You?re all very young. At what age did you start to listen to hip-hop?

D: I really only started listening to hip-hop once I met Adam. At the time I was in a punk band so that was my main focus. But once I started to hear what was out there in the hip-hop scene both mainstream, like Nas and Jay Z, and underground, like Illogic, Blueprint and Atom?s Fam, I was definitely impressed by the talent I was hearing.

K: Once I got into middle school is when I started really getting into hip-hop. Wu-Tang was the first shit that had me open. From there I was listening to it all, studying the classics. There was even an unspoken time in my life when I was hard into old school No Limit shit. That would be Master P, pre-Ghetto D, I think No Limit put out one of the south?s most slept on records; Young Bleed?s ?My Balls & My Word?.

DJ Premier and Pete Rock are mentioned as one of your influences...but I guess you never experienced the heydays of these two...the early/mid 90s...still you?re production is very much 90s influenced, do you listen to a lot of the mid-school hip-hop?

D and K: I think our music sounds so 90?s influenced because we keep things simple and sample-based for the most part. Not to say that some of our beats aren?t complex, cause sometimes we will tweak samples till they don?t sound the same as the original at all and I also love to do that. Premier and Pete Rock are by far hip-hop?s greatest producers. They are two producers that will always be relevant to hip-hop.

Besides them who are your fav producers?

K: Fuck it I?m going to just say that Premier and Pete Rock are by far hip-hop?s greatest producers. Other than that, I got a long list of producers that have influenced me; Dr. Dre, T-Ray (slept on), Da Beatminerz (gritty NYC sound), Marley Marl, the whole D.I.T.C., Havoc, Jay Dee (illest drums), Large Pro, Prince Paul and RZA. Other than that, I?m feeling Cryptic One, Madlib and Belief.

D: Got to love DJ Shadow.... ?Endtroducing? is amazing. El-P also gets a lot of my respect for tweakin shit but still keeping it sounding good and bringing a different style to hip-hop. I also like Blueprint?s instrumental stuff a lot. Other than that, I have more favourite beats than I do producers in general.

On ?Chorus II? you used the same Donald Byrd sample as in Pete Rock & CL Smooth?s ?All The Places?, is that like a tribute to Pete Rock?

K: I would say that we payed tribute. I have the up most respect for Pete Rock and what he did with the sample. So when Drum and I approached that beat we wanted to make sure we did not flip it like Pete did. I think it came out well. On our production album we have a track with Vordul and LoDeck called ?Pancake Brain?, for which we flipped the Nautilus sample (Bob James? ?Nautilus?, ed.). That Nautilus sample must have been used a thousand times but we flipped it differently. So in a way, every time we flip a sample used by the great, we are paying our tribute.

When did you start ?doin? hip-hop?

D: As soon as we got the MPC, so we were both around 15 at the time. The first song we did besides with our own group was with Illogic when we were about 16, so I guess you might count that as when we started ?doin? good hip-hop (laughs). Everyone starts out making OK music, but I like to think that we progressed pretty quickly. Some of the Illogic songs you?ll hear on the album were actually made when we were 16, so I think that?s impressive.

K: It?s funny how some of our original beats still sound fresh today, because a bulk of our early production was scrapped. We were both young and still learning the trade. I was samplin God-knows-what and getting drums that sounded like an obese bitch farting.

Some of you have a musical background, what instruments do you play?

D: I probably have the most musical background of the group. I started playing the trombone in 3rd grade so I learned music early. I then started playing piano a little, which I picked up from my mom. Then I moved to taking guitar lesson and played in a punk band for a few years. After that I picked up the drums (hence the a.k.a. Drum) around age 17 and played in a hardcore band. Drums are my mainstay now but I still try to keep all my skills up and play some live instruments in our beats like the bass line in ?Freaky? feat. Pack FM and Jean Grae.

How important is live instrumentation in your production? What do you prefer while producin; sampling or playin live? Who does what?

D: Besides bass lines (which I play) we don?t use much live instrumentation for now. I would say it just heavily influences how we make beats. You will definitely hear more beats with live instruments later on in our carrier, but for now we are just getting really comfortable with the more tradition ways of making hip-hop.

Is there any kind of music you like to sample? Jazz, rock, soul, classical music...?

K: We will sample everything and anything. The minute a producer limits what he samples, he limits his sound. My friend worked at a day-care and he let me raid the basement, and I ran out of there with a couple hundred children records. That?s the best part of hip hop that you take any sample from any genre and flip it.

Would you consider producing without sampling?

D: I personal would, like in a live instrumental type of album, but for Parallel Thought I think we will always stay very grounded to sample-based beats adding the occasional live instrument here and there. I just think that?s the way good hip-hop is best made. When you get too much into non-sampled beats, you get into keyboard type shit that for the most part I very much dislike. I guess that?s part of the reason you might say we have a very 90s influenced style.

Drum, do you still play at a hardcore band?

D: You could say that (laughs). Right now we are going through a transition. We lost a guitar player and are just trying to regroup and get back on our feet. I don?t know if we will pull through, but we are trying. If you interested in hearing more about that you can visit naghamadi.net. Nag Hamadi is the name of the band. We also have a Myspace that you can visit.

Would y?all like to make other genres of music? Say, make beats for R&B or pop artists, Neptunes-style?

D: I would definitely produce for other genres, but not keyboards style in regard to those type of beats. We would probably just do our best to adapt ?Drum and Knowledge? to whatever we were doing, whether it be R&B or whatever.

K: We don?t make beats with any specific artist in mind. After we make a beat we might say so or so would sound good on it. If a pop artist wants to jump on a track I have no problem as long as the business is straight. The day will never come when our production will cater to one specific sound.

What?s your production equipment?

D: Mostly just the MPC. We do use some other things for synth type bass lines when needed. And obviously some live bass guitar is played. We will probably start playin with other stuff just to get different sounds out of samples, different filters and things, but other than that we mostly stick to what works, and for us that the MPC. MPC till we die.....

K: I feel bad but we have an EPS-16 just sitting around in the studio. For some of our beats we used the EPS for sampling because it allowed us to lower the bit rate to 12. Caness came through to the studio one day and stole the start-up disk. I?ve been lazy but I got go get another one.

Why do you solemnly swear to the MPC?

D: The explanation is pretty simple. We are comfortable with it and it does what we need it to do. I also love that we have the upgraded sample time. That helps a lot cause I usually like to use a lot of sample time within different beats. It gives me room to play with.

What equipment do you want to buy yourselves in the future?

D: A reel-to-reel recorder so we can play around with that warm sound. Definitely some more effect processors and stuff so we can mess around with bit depths and get a real gritty sound from some live instruments. I really want to be able to get my live drums to sound so gritty that you can?t tell the difference between them and a sampled break. Once we can do that it?s a rap for real. Other upcoming producers should fear the day when we get good at that. (laughs)

K: Final Scratch is something that I think would help our production and live show

How?s the hip-hop scene in Jersey?

D: The stuff that I have heard around here where we live is from certain labels who?s name doesn?t even deserve to be printed in this interview, flat out suck. And that?s being nice.

K: There is definitely a scene in NJ but it?s not very organized. Out by us we just have a bunch of people who front. They freeze when they step to the mic, or can?t make a beat for shit. We learned to do our own thing and not get caught up in that bullshit. For the other parts of NJ, I?m really not up on what?s going on.

Do you know/ever met any local hip-hop artists/legends such as Tony D, Redman, LOTUG, EL Da Sensei, Tame One,...?

D: Unfortunately no, but I would love to meet Redman especially. Brick City fools. (laughs)

K: Tame One is going to be on the new project we are working on with C-Rayz, I?m def excited about that.

?Stay Sleep? w/ Illogic already appeared on his ?Write To Death II?, why did you decide to include the track on your EP?

K: ?Stay Sleep? was actually supposed to be on the EP before the decision was made to also put it on ?Write To Death II?. Illogic liked the track so much that he asked us how we felt about him putting out as well and we had no problem with it. I believe that ?Write To Death II? is more of a collection of songs that were either old or didn?t have a home. It?s always good to get your material out all over.

How did you hook up with Illogic?

Illogic was the first artist we worked with. I contacted the manager at Weightless and he hooked me up with Illogic. Illogic hopped a bus without listening to any of our music. He got here and we pumped out a bunch of songs in a few days. Illogic really gave us the motivation to jumpstart our production.

You already worked with the cream-of-the-crop in underground for this EP, was there anyone else that you wanted to have on the EP?

The EP is only a taste of what is going to be on the ?Parallel Thought presents...? album. So there wasn?t anyone else we wanted on the EP, but there are more we want for the album, which is about 3/4ths finished.

D: I would love to have Ghostface, Redman, Raekwon, Method Man, basically all of Wu-Tang.

K: I wanna work with Sean Price, Young Bleed, Kool Keith, too many to name.

What can we expect from the LP?

D: If you thought the EP was good then the album will blow you away. Just expect our sound to grow and a lot of guest surprises.

How did you record for this album, did you jump in the studio with all these MC?s or did you exchange through mail, Internet?

D: We actually recorded all the songs, except ?Chorus II? and Slug?s verse on ?Don?t Ever Think?, at my house. So we got to hang out with the artists and really get to know them more than if it was just a regular session. None of it was done through mail though. In the case of ?Chorus II?, which was originally recorded at my house, we went up to Walz?s crib in the Bronx to bring him the song. And Slug we met up with in a studio in NY and got to chill with him for a night. It was definitely a lot more fun that way and helped to build a relationship with almost all the artists on the EP.

Except for the artists on this album, who did you collaborate with?

K: We have tracks with MF Doom, Poison Pen, Cryptic One, WindNBreeze, I-Self-Divine, LoDeck, Cannibal Ox, to name a few.

Why isn?t the track with MF Doom on the EP? Is it gonna be on the LP?

K: It will be on the LP, but we didn?t put it on the EP because it will be released as a 12?? hopefully soon. So we wanted to keep that almost as a single for the album.

How was it like to work with MF Doom?

K: We got to Doom through Devin at Nature Sounds. We sent a beat CD to Doom. He recorded in ATL and sent the track to us. The funny thing is Doom altered his verse and put it on ?MM...Food?, on the track ?Vomitspit?. Just so everyone knows the track we did, ?Vomit? is the original and Doom remixed his verse for his album.

Who was the easiest/most fun artist to work with, any anecdotes you have?

K: They honestly were all great to work with. No one acted like a rock star, all conceded and shit, it was really all a bunch of musicians who just love music. And as far as stories go, let?s just say we got lots of pictures of people passed out asleep like Poison Pen and C Rayz Walz, who did so sitting on a guitar amp in the studio.

How did you end up with DayByDay Ent?

K: We were sitting around with this EP with no home. No one knew who we were and DayByDay was the only label to take a chance on us. I left a message on Grimm?s number and that day he called me back. He had me sending over the EP and he loved it. Since then everyone at DayByDay has showed us nothing but love.

You?re already at this level at an early age, don?t you fear a burn-out, a moment where your motivation will disappear?

D: Not to be cocky, but I don?t see us burning out at all. For me anyway, since I have been doing music for so long, I will never stop. I would actually like to quote our own emcee Caness who said, ?I?m a do this thing till my name is discussed/ cause my love for the game ain?t the same as your lust.? I think that line describes it for me perfectly. Caness, as everyone will soon find out, is a damn good emcee.

What?s the ultimate goal for Parallel Thought? To make a track with 50 Cent and get filthy rich or to become valuated players on an underground level?

D: I?d say both. I want to be respected in the underground before anything else, but I would sell a beat to 50 cent just to get money even though I think he sucks horribly. We wouldn?t change our beats for any amount of money though. If 50 wanted a track, you can be sure it will sound like a Drum and Knowledge beat. I think he really sucks by the way.... And if by some stroke of luck he reads this, I hope he decides to stop rapping.

K: We will never change as sound, period. If we respect you as an artist we can bypass the business. If Nelly wants a beat he can hit me with a pound of pure and 50 G?s.

How do you feel about the current hip-hop scene?

D: The underground scene is great. Just like in anything you will have people who kind of stink, but for the most part I?m real happy with hip-hop right now. There is a lot of good music out there in the underground. Mainstream is even getting better because you have people like Kayne West and Just Blaze who heavily sample and make it well known that they do so. That to me is hip-hop.

K: The only problem with underground hip-hop is that it?s oversaturated. There seems to be way too many releases each week. It?s hard for fans to sift through what it dope and what isn?t.

Are you still in school?

D: Yeah. I?m going to SAE I NYC right now for audio engineering. So look for my name on the credits for more then just future Parallel thought releases. For once I?m excited to go to class and it feels great.

K: Yeah. I fucks with that.

Word association:

GM Grimm:
Apendix Hed: Legend

C Rayz Walz:
K: Dervish.

El-P:
AH: Original.

Slug:
D: Bottle of wine.

Loer Velocity:
AH: Smooth.

The Nets:
AH: Jackers.

The Sopranos:
AH: The finest.

If you had to choose between Drugs Liquor Sex or Cigarettes what would you choose?

D: Sex.

AH: Sex.

K: Sex, come on for real, it doesn?t even compare.

What?s your fav drugs?

D: Weed, even though I don?t smoke much anymore.

AH: Pussy.

What?s your fav liquor?

D: Cruzan Rum.

AH: Henny.

K: 1947 Country Club.

What do you look for in a woman?

D: Nothing specific really. Plus I?m taken so it?s a moot point.

AH: Everything I?m not.

K: Lips, my girl has em perfect so I?m good.

What?s the best smoke one can have?

K: That dipped shit.

AH: Piff.

What?s next for Parallel Thought?

K: We are about to drop this MF DOOM 12??, it has a bonus song we did with iCON the Mic King and a ?Vomit? remix by Cryptic One. We just finished a project with C-Rayz Walz, this is our best work yet. Caness is working on a mix tape and he has started a project with Loer Velcoity that he will be producing. After all that is out, we will finish this production album and getting started with Caness on his project. Drum and I are working on an original sample mix.

Shout-outs:

Peace to Caness, C-Rayz, Cryptic One, Belief, Grimm, Azar, everyone we worked with cause the list is getting long. Cop the record, good looks Platform!

 

POSTED 11|02|2005
conducted by cpf

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