featured interview

S-Ence Hustlin' like Simmons A student in classic hip-hop, Philadelphia’s own producer Shawn Johnson is trying to put the essence back into rap music, starting with his collaboration with Dave Ghetto, entitled ‘Hustle Simmons’, who turned our dusty, sweaty and gloomy office into a refreshing oasis of inspiration this summer. He has a website, a Myspace (d’uh), and an extensive blog so probably you already heard of him and his latest project but in case you don’t…

How did things started out with Dave Ghetto?

A mutual friend of ours who is our photographer introduced us and gave him one of my beat tapes. Couple of minutes after he finally got the beat tape, he called me for a couple tracks. Initially they were going to be for one of his projects he was working on but he liked more and more tracks so he decided he wanted to just do a whole project.

The album was already released on-line, then you got a deal with Traffic…

Dave worked that one out. Since we got a pretty good response to the digital release, Dave got the Traffic connect through his Counterflow (Rec., ed.) connect.

Are you glad that the album is gonna be a retail or wouldn't it make a difference (because people only go shoppin on-line these days right)?

Definitely! It’s going to be my first project that everyone will be able to here. Digital is cool but there are still people that cop CD’s, not as much but if we have that opportunity to get physical CD’s, why not, you know? Something for people to cop at shows too.

The name 'Hustle Simmons'…it's from Russell Simmons we guess, why exactly Russell Simmons?

That was all Dave's idea and I agreed with him on that. The name is catchy, and emulates one of the hardest working cats in the business. Dave's vision made sense since we are both 'Hustle Simmons' in a sense.

How would hip-hop look like without Russell Simmons?

I honestly can’t even imagine what it would be like. That was the foundation for a lot of artists we looked up to. It would probably be all types of fucked up!

What Def Jam artists were you fan of? The minimalistic hip-hop of Run-DMC, the crossover of The Beastie Boys or the love songs of LL Cool J?

I’ll give you a couple current and former cats. Run-DMC and LL is a given but I’m not going to lie, I was never into LL's love songs (laughs). Ghostface, Jay-Z, and Nas of course, Onyx, and Grafh to name a few that are or was on Def Jam.

Is Russel Simmons for you the prototype hustler?

Nah, Russell is only one part of the prototype. If you could ‘Frankenstein’ - the dealer, the musician, the 9-5'er, the family man, the overnight shift worker and probably could include a few more, that would be the prototype.

So who in the rap game is a prototype hustler?

I know I'm going to get hate on this one, but 50 Cent is probably one of the smartest music business dudes.

The Hustle Simmons album has already been leaked before it actually came out...did you expect it to leak so soon?

Truthfully I didn't expect it at all! Thought only major label cats got bootlegged. It’s cool for the promo side, but its taking away from money that can be used for the next project.

There's also a DJ Corey Hill who calls himself Hustle Simmons, do you know him?

(laughs) Nah, a couple people brought it to my attention, but hey he’s in a totally different realm. He DJ's for roller skating rinks and kids.

There are mostly affiliates guest starring on the record, except for Buff1 right?

Correct, that was another Dave connect, I never even met Buff1 yet. He blessed the single though!

You have a pretty extensive blog that is constantly updated, where do you find the time to write for it?

That’s funny, because I probably wouldn't be blogging as much if it wasn't for my 9-5. I work a computer support job so you are constantly checking e-mails, and...waiting! It’s a reactive job, not a proactive job you know. So basically I have time for everything from sending out e-mail blasts, blogging, talking on message boards and other business stuff.

What is your top-5 of Internet links?


How would hip-hop look like without the Internet?

That's a good question. Real shit would probably still be on the radio. I feel that when the Internet came to the masses, the quality control flew out the window. Anybody can get heard. Anybody can put something out.

So what's your advice for some of the beginning producers?

My advice would be: do yourself a favour, and not worry about how you are going to something, just do it! I love going on message boards and seeing how much people worry about how others make beats, or what they use especially big name producers. It cracks me up. Another tip is don't be a record snob while sampling; sticking to one genre is limiting. There's way too much dope stuff out there. Drums are the most important thing in a track. I could go on for days but last thing I would say is stay working. Playing catch-up isn't fun when people are calling for beats.

Drums are the most important thing in a track you say, they are indeed all over your work, so when you start working on a beat do you start with the drums?

Yep, simple 1-2 kick. I just want the tempo frame, the click gets on my nerves. The 1-2 kick is why people call it boom bap I think. I lay the sample, then go back and redo the drums to compliment the sample.

We can easily guess one of your biggest influences is Jay Dee, do you think that the spirit of Jay Dee wanders in the Hustle Simmons album?

Not really, he’s an influence but when I make a beat, I don't think of how he would do it. I just do it. When the beat comes out and it sounds like one of my influences, it’s just a subliminal thing. I have too many influences to just say it’s the spirit of Dilla. Even our influences start sounding like each other.

What's your production set-up?

Beats on the MPC 4000. Vox - Audio Technica 4040 Mic. I track and record everything through the Mackie 24.8 mixer into Digi002 Protools set-up. Up until a week ago I had Alesis MK2's and KRK V4's monitors with all the cones pressed in (laughs). Now I just got some Event TR8's. It’s the only brand new piece of equipment I own.

How has your set-up changed since the beginning of your producing days?

A hell of a lot, I started on a drum machine. Yes, a machine not a sampler. It was strictly drums and bass guitar shit with some corny sounds. Then I went to a 1000, and a Samson mixer to Sonar. Now it’s the semi pro set-up, less hardware failures with cheap shit.

Do you collect records for collectin, like are you a cratedigger, or strictly for makin beats?

I would love to be a collector, but in reality the ones that collect are the ones that have dough from the music. Since I'm an entirely new producer I'm spending my 9-5 money, I have to spend it where it counts.

What's the first rap album you bought?

I'm not going to front, lie or come up with a typical hip-hop head answer. My cousin got me to buy Kris Kross – ‘I Missed The Bus’. Sad but true.

What's the last rap album(s) you've uploaded unto your iPod?

Shawn Jackson – ‘First of All’.

What emcees are still on your to-work-with-list?

I’ll give you 3 of my infinite list. The 3 B's. Busta Rhymes, Buckshot, and Black Thought.

What was the last pair of sneakers you bought?

The last pair I bought were the Jordan 3's. I love that shoe but was never able to get it before. I decided already what I’ll be getting next but not in order, I got a long ass list!

Do you have a collection of sneakers?

I wouldn't call my kicks a ‘collection’; I just have a lot of kicks, with no rhyme or reason. Most sneaker heads look down on people buying the (GR) general releases, but I don't care, just as long as it looks good. If you got to have $300 dollar sneakers to make yourself look good, you are doing something wrong.

Is lemonade still a popular drink?

I get more props on stunts than Bruce Willis.

When will everybody have a Mac instead of PC?

When they finally realize, that people who buy Mac’s aren't being pretentious, we just found out how much better it is than a PC.

What's next for Tha S Ence?

Now what fun would it be if I spilled the beans. Just keep a look out!


Breakbread fam, Slang, B Young, Adroit Media Group, Mars Five, Public Wizard, Dub Cesar Apparel, Dojo Clothing and the academy.



POSTED 10|01|2008
conducted by cpf

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