You’ve been making a lot of noise producing for DMV artists as well as artists from all over. What have the last couple months been like for you?
It’s been crazy. It’s such a good time to be from the DMV as an artist and as a producer. It’s a good time. My career didn’t just start with Wale. My career started eight years ago when I was producing for local artists and cats that had deals like Pastor Troy and others. It’s come full circle and it’s coming back around to where I’m able to work with the new guys coming out of the DMV. But I’ve been doing it for awhile on the local and national level. It feels good to get that recognition from working with fellow DMV guys like Wale and Marky. It’s a good time.
Was it hard staying focused when you worked with local artists who never really made any big moves?
The whole thing is the industry doesn’t really respect D.C. They say, “You’re from D.C? You’re on that gogo stuff.” Or they say you’re country. They don’t really respect us as a music mecca. They don’t understand that gogo is one of the livest forms of music ever. There’s so many musicians and there’s so much talent here that it’s bound to shine at any point and it’s shining now. So it’s been a real struggle. As an independent producer, I get love wherever I go but it’s just a struggle trying to break into different cliques and different labels. They’re not really recognizing D.C. They go to Timbaland and Polow Da Don but these producers copied our sound. They don’t come to anybody in the DMV to actually make that sound. So it’s long overdue.
How do you incorporate gogo music into your production?
For me it’s really about the percussion and the drum patterns. It’s the whole energy of it. I come from a different era of gogo than the gogo of today. My gogo is a little more laid back and chill and it’s more song oriented and stuff like that. The new gogo is a little bit more little more hype. I see both sides of the gogo eras and I just try to incorporate it as much as possible with who I’m working with. It’s not saturated in it but I’ll throw it in where I can. I just like making beats, man.
You’ve been able to work with most of the big D.C. artists and a lot who didn’t make it big. Why didn’t some of the local artists make it?
I worked with Wale and Marky, who recently signed with Universal. I’m working with Tabi Bonney as well. I recorded Raheem Devaughn. I worked with gogo band Scout of D.C. I worked with C. Rayz Walz. I’m on his new album Original Recipes. Me and him are real close and we’re working heavy on some things. I worked with E. Ness and Cormega and Lake. I just did a record on this cat named Theo coming out of Rhode Island who’s making a lot of noise and his project just came out. I'm working with a lot of people, man. A rack of people. I worked with Mr. Cheeks. I worked with a lot of people on different levels. And I ghost-produced for people. I worked as an engineer too. I worked with a lot of people on a lot of different levels. I recorded a lot of sessions. There’s just too many people to name.
When you first came across Wale, did you think he had that talent to take it to a major level?
I met Wale on a humble situation and I heard some things about his music in the city. He was making some noise and when I actually met him and when we got in the studio, I knew he was talented and I knew he had something different about him. I believe in him so much that I worked on his first to mixtape and didn’t ask for a cent. That’s because I believed in him and his music. I done seen a lot of artists come and go and I done seen a lot of people from the DMV make noise and that’s all it is. It’s just noise. So I have seen it. I just work. Their talent and their things that they’re doing business-wise is going to take them to where they need to be. But he had something special and it shines through and he made some good business moves and it shows.
How far do you think Wale can go in the game?
I think he can go far. The whole thing with Wale is when I sit back and analyze the whole music game right now, I think Wale is in a good position but he’s in a tough position because in actuality, a lot of Wale fans download music for free. So that may be something that comes to bite him when it comes time to release an album. Are they going to buy the album and support it or are they going to download it for free? It’s such an age where everybody downloads it for free. They’re taking music. At the end of the day he has a good situation but he has a tough situation with the internet and with all the downloads. He can do it if it’s done the right way and he’s with a label where he probably can do it the right way, but who knows? Just from the outside looking in, I hope they don’t download the hell out of that album.
Why should we check for Marky, who recently inked his deal with Universal?
A lot of people don’t understand that Marky had a deal before he got with Studio 43 or Kenny Burns or me. He had a deal with Trackboyz when J. Kwon was real hot. He was out there in St. Lou, writing songs and doing things out there. He had a deal at the age of 15 or 16. That situation didn’t quite work out because you don’t hear about the Trackboyz anymore so of course it didn’t work out. But he came back home and he linked up with some D.C. dudes and it worked out. Kenny Burns work helped him and the work I did with him on the mixtapes really helped. It really jumped if off. Dude is talented!
I’ve been hearing your work for over four years and your sound has really improved over that time. How did you grow into a more polished producer?
To be honest with you, I’m from D.C. Nobody taught me how to sample and nobody taught me how to take sounds from records because it’s just not D.C. D.C. is music, live percussion, so on and so forth. I’m not from New York, where my pops was a rapper, you know. My family is government workers, you dig! Nobody ushered me into the game. I went to some of the big producers in D.C. to help me and they didn’t help me. I had to learn on my own. Throughout the years I’ve constantly studied music and I’ve studied sound. I took some music theory lessons to learn music theory and I learned how to play what the cats in the old days were playing. I learned how to play what Isaac Hayes was playing.
I’m still studying music to this day. I’m still in school right now studying music. I’m constantly studying and evolving and staying in the studio and learning music and going with the different fads and the different sounds and trying to revamp it and understand what people are doing musically in the old days and in the future. I used to sample a lot. Now I would say I sample about 25% and I play about 75%. Most of the new stuff I’m doing for Ankh Amen Ra is all original. I mean, the new stuff I’m doing with him is real original. He’s like a big sample-heavy dude but what I’m doing with him is live and it’s fresh and it’s new. It’s going to shock the world.
What inspires you when you sit down to make a beat?
I mean, what inspires me is the fact I can make what I like and another artist hears it and loves it just as much as I do. It’s just how I’m feeling that day. I can depict how I’m feeling through music and through beats. One of the reasons I started making music was because it was something I could do myself. I could be in my own world. That’s why I started making music. It wasn’t for no money or for no girls even though I love the women. It was something I could do for myself and on my own and I didn’t need anybody to oversee it or to tell me what to do and what not to do. That’s what inspires me. Another thing that inspires me is when new artists are coming up on the scene and they want to work with me, that inspires me.
Working with older establish artists doesn’t inspire me that much. When new artists say they want to work with me, that’s what inspires me. That’s what keeps me going – working with new cats. And let me tell you this, I get more fulfillment out of music and I feel more success when I blow an independent artist up just off the music that we’re making. It doesn’t fulfill me or do anything for me when I work with a wack major artist that’s signed and he just has a machine behind him and millions of dollars. It’s more fulfilling when I work with artists that don’t have budgets or a machine behind them and the music is heard and it’s successful. So I love working with independent artists. That’s what really inspires me, working with artists that really don’t have a buzz or a name and they get recognized.
I just signed my own artist to my Strange Music Label. Her name is RatheMC. We just put out her first mixtape A Mixtape About Something...I Think. It's presented by myself, HypeBeast.com and Mick Boogie. It was inspired by fellow DMV artist Wale and his mixtape The Mixtape About Nothing. It's doing wonderful and all the reviews are great. I got three calls from labels being nosy just off that mixtape. We are working on her second joint now and we have a few dope collabs and surprises. She is the truth! She writes, raps and sings. The internet is calling her the next Lupe/Lauryn/Kanye. She was signed with Lil’ Mo at first but that ain't work out and she came my way and it's been stamped ever since. She is the truth, believe me
D.C. has always been knocked for two things, not being a hip-hop city and fans not supporting their hip-hop artists. Is that true?
I don’t agree with that, for one, because there were rappers from D.C. in the ‘70s and 80's like Fat Rodney and D.C. Scorpio. In the 90's you had Non Chalant that killed it with her song "5 O'Clock in The Morning". There was also Sugar Beat and Chuck Brown. They broke down major doors and put out major records. We had rappers back in the day. They just didn’t get a lot of shine. We’re not a hip-hop town. We’re a music town, period. We have everything in D.C. like jazz, soul, gogo and funk. I mean everything!
I think a lot of the problems that D.C. had in the industry in the 90s, especially in New York, stems back from the ‘80s, the drug epidemic and the crack era. If you do your research, there was a lot of tension between DC and New York and that stigma has stuck with the newer generation as far as music in the industry and trying to go up to New York and get on and build relationships with cats in New York is difficult sometimes. It put a dark cloud on D.C. because we killed a lot of New Yorkers and New Yorkers killed a lot of Washingtonians. I think the tension of not letting D.C in the game in the ‘90s comes from the ‘80s crack era. Things are changing now slowly but surely!
Is it fair to put Maryland, D.C. and Virginia in one group and call it “The DMV” when all three areas are so diverse?
I mean, they’re all different places but they all embody the sprit of Washington, D.C. One minute you’re in Maryland ad you cross the street and you’re in D.C. That’s how close it is. One minute you’re in Virginia and you cross the street and you’re in D.C. or you’re in Maryland. You have people who come to D.C. to party and do the gogo scene. Cats go to Virginia to party. I think everything is so close together that it’s one big melting pot. I don’t care if you’re from Maryland. D.C., Northern Virginia or Virginia. It’s all the same. Cats dress the same way everywhere around the city. The music is all the same and it’s just one big melting pot.
You’ve also released a few tracks with you on the mic. Are we going to see more of you rapping?
I just did that for fun. I’m not really a rapper. I did the “DMV Rap Up”. That got a lot of love on the radio and on the blogs and on the internet. My main focus is on the production and my artist RatheMC and how to change the music. That’s what my focus is, really pushing her. She’s so dope, man. She’s like a mix of just everything. You can’t even really label her. And plus I try to do stuff that’s against the odds. As far as rapping, I rap here and there. I’m on a couple of records from other artists. I got a couple of records coming out with some people. It’s production and RatheMC first. Everything else falls under that. That’s what it is. Oh, but I am better than 95% of the rappers out there and I rap part-time. (laughs)
What is it about RatheMC, besides the fact that she doesn’t sell sex, that made you want to work with her?
I mean, she came to me as just a talent and she has the versatility. She can rap and she can sing. She’s creative. I put her in the studio and she did a whole mixtape in a week. She has a new mixtape coming out October 1 and it’s phenomenal. She’s just a workhorse. She’s phenomenal. I can give her some beats and come back and it’s phenomenal. She’s already musically trained and she can play a little bit on the keyboard. Her look is so fresh and it’s today. It was a no-brainer. Plus when I got other rappers in the studio and she’s in there, they all say, “Shorty is the truth” and I respect that and I acknowledge that. I had to mess with her. They also say, “She’s a superstar.” It’s only right that I take what I learned in the last 10 years and I work with her. This is this the first artist I signed and that I put money behind. I’m going all in on it.
Good luck with that. When you’re sitting down to make beats, what equipment do you use?
I mean, as far as music now, I’m an old school head when it comes down to making beats. So I’m on the MPC 60, the Roger Lynn version. I’m on the MPC 3000 and the MPC 2000. I’m on the keys and the ASR 10. I got all this equipment. I don’t use Fruity Loops and no Reasons. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s just not me. I only use the computer for Pro Tools to record. Everything else is hardware. I even bought an MPC 500. It’s all hardware for me, man. It’s all on what I feel. Originally I’m not classically trained or none of that. I just go on how I feel and every day I go in the studio it’s something different. I may start with the melody first or the drums first or the sample first. It just varies. And sometimes I don’t go in the studio for weeks and then I’ll go in the studio for two or three weeks and just make beats. It all varies.
You also keep up your own blog, ForTheDMVOnly, updated on a regular basis. How important is that to you?
The blog game is crazy. I just started ForTheDMVOnly.blogspot.com a couple months ago. It’s for everything DMV related. I can use my name and my influence in the DMV and in the independent industry and in the industry as a whole to get my friends to come through and check out what’s hot and just to check out the music. I got a good name in the independent scene, in the industry and in the DMV scene. I post what the artists send me. I listen to it first but I post it. I’m not going to be like a lot of these other blogs and be the judge and jury and decide what’s hot. I’ll put it up and let the people decide.
I got an issue with blogs because they put up certain stuff and they don’t even know the artist and they don’t know too much about what’s going on with the artist. If you really look at blogs they all post the same damn thing. How fun and interesting is that? I’ll post it and the comments and the downloads will say it all. That’s really what it’s for. It’s for the city and what’s happening in the city and it’s for the DMV only. I do fashion, open mic shows and everything like that. That was my whole goal in doing that and I already got some advertisers wanting to put some stuff on there and some sponsors. It’s really taking off. I use my blog to break artist not to dick ride what the top 10 blogs post.
What’s the next move for Judah?
Honestly, man, in this game and in the industry and the music business, my next step always is to stay humble and to stay loyal to the people that helped me out and to stay true to the people that really made me progress as a person and as an artist. It’s really about staying humble and learning more music and getting out there and trying to expand the sound and getting independent artists and working with them whether they’re out in Cali or New York or wherever. And I’m trying to work with major artists if they feel hungry and creative. My next step is to blow up the DMV and have the world recognize the talent here. I’m pushing my new artist RatheMC. It's really about working with the new artists and putting the music out there. It’s about putting my music out there and eventually they will take notice.
I been working on some new records with Wale for his album, I think I'm on Tabi Bonney new album, I'm doing the new Ankh Amen Ra EP and I'm on the new joint he just dropped, The Awakening. I'm about to work on Marky's album under Studio 43/SRC Universal. I got some production on some video games coming out. I just signed on to executive produce a new project with HypeBeast.com and Mick Boogie. I got some stuff with C Rayz Walz, Balance from Oakland, Fred Knuxx from Delaware…Man, I'm just working, working and working. I am blessed!