Hip-Hop has expanded from something that was local (United States) to something that impacts the world. Some established hip-hop artists in America have tapped into the international market to find beat makers based on this global growth of hip-hop. American based hip-hop cds have been impacted by the influx of international talent (such as Shuko, 20 Syl, Dj Honda, Dj Mitsu, The Returners, Hitfarmers, Snowgoonz, Jazz Liberators, and more). Dela is a French producer who is sought after by emcees worldwide because his style is nostalgic and reminiscent of when hip hop producers utilized the sample as well as soul and jazz music.
First and foremost thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for this blog. I read on your myspace page that you started making music when you were about 10 years old, who were some of your influences growing up and what motivates you to perfect your craft as a beat maker?
Okay that's a scoop right here, but when I was 10 my main influences were pretty much Nirvana and The Pixies. I was heavy into alternative rock, and I couldn't find anybody of my own age who shared the same passion, so that's when I started learning every instrument I could put my hands on, so I could eventually play everything by myself and be my own band. Then when I was 13 somebody at school lent me Enter The Wu-Tang, and that's when I started getting into Hip-hop. The next year or so another friend put me on Tribe and asked me to make beats for him, and that's when it really began. What motivates me is, basically, good music. That's why people like Pete Rock and Jay Dee used to motivate me a lot. I would hear their latest productions and come home and be like damn! I gotta get back to work!. Honestly I don't get this feeling very often anymore, but I when I do it's always inspiring.
What kind of equipment did you use when you first started making beats and what do you use now? Do you incorporate live instrumentation in your music?
I started using a computer, a soundcard that could sample, it had like 4 megabytes of ram, and a very basic midi program. A few years later I upgraded to an Ensoniq ASR-10, then to a MPC-3000 & SP-1200, and for the last few months I've been travelling a lot, so I got on the MPC-1000, because it's small and easy to bring everywhere. I use more and more live instrumentation in my music. Actually me and Kam Moye (Supastition) were talking about doing an album together, and I think I'll only use live instruments on this one.
What are some of the obstacles that you encountered when you first starting making beats?
I would say that the main obstacle was getting the information, getting to know about how it's done, and finding dope samples. Like, when I started I didn't know anything about break beats, I was wondering where could I find drum sounds.. Nowadays one could get a lot of knowledge from the Internet but back then you pretty much had to figure out everything by yourself. And in Paris records are pretty expensive and good ones are hard to come by, of all the cities I've been to it's one of my least favorite places for record digging, so that didn't help either.
Some beat makers who are up-and-coming struggle with creating their own sound while you have a style that is best described as relaxed and focused. How much affect did your upbringing (most notably living in Paris) have on your music?
I think what may have had a big affect on my music is that I used to live 1 hour away from Paris. And where I lived there wasn't much to do, so I would always take the bus, the train, subways... And of course I'd always have a walkman and headphones with me. So most of the time I'd take the train late in the evening, coming back from school or whatever, and the last thing I'd want to hear is something hype or aggressive. So I'd bump some Tribe, D'Angelo, Pete Rock, etc.. I think that definitely played a big role.
I have noticed that you have collaborated with a plethora of artists from America. How is American hip-hop perceived in France? Who are some of your favorite French artists and have you worked with some of them?
French Hip-hop grew so strong that the younger heads might be like "I don't listen to American Hip-hop". Most of the time it will be because they can't understand the lyrics in English. But for people from my generation and older, most of the time we grew up on US Hip-hop. French rap has always been very inspired by whatever was going on in the US at the same time, but it also developed it's own identity in lyrics, flows, and sometimes beats. My favorites in France are Les Sages Poètes De La Rue, Les X-Men, Oxmo Puccino's first album. I've worked with some of my favorites and I hope I'll get to work with many more.
The Internet has definitely been pivotal (in terms of exposure) to a variety of beat makers outside of the United States (such as Shuko, M-Phazes, 20 Syl, Dj Mitsu, Dj Honda, and more). How has the Internet helped you in your career?
I hooked up with a lot of people through the Internet, without it things would have been much, much different. I hooked up with Slopfunkdust and Illmind in 2002, when I became part of Beat Fanatic. Even hooked up with Phinydee, who helped me make Changes Of Atmosphere, on Okayplayer back in 2003 or something. Of all the people I work with today, there are very few people that I haven't met through the Internet or through somebody I hooked up with on the net. It's a great tool if you know how to use it, but at the same time it kinda fucked up the game, now that anybody can set up a myspace page, upload a couple tracks and spam your ass lol.
What inspired Change of Atmosphere and Atmosphere Airlines and what type of mood were you in when you created those albums?
Atmosphere Airlines was made in a couple of months, that was just a quick mixtape so people could get to know me before the album. But still I wanted to do it right. For Changes Of Atmosphere, I was in a "I need to get the hell out of Paris" kind of mood, hence the title lol. As soon as I finished the project I flew to Montréal. More seriously, it took a lot of time to make this album, and I was a little bit nervous, it being my first album and all that. Looking back I'm pretty happy of how if went, I just wish it would have been released in better conditions. I wish we would have found a good label to push the project and give it a chance to shine. Changes has been inspired by a lot of things. One being the movie Carlito's Way. It inspired the cover art, and I used a audio extract from it in "Chill". Basically I wanted Changes Of Atmosphere to be about being stuck somewhere, living the big city life with all it's stresses and issues, and just dreaming about leaving everything behind and going elsewhere.
The artwork for your projects resembles something that was contrived during the Renaissance era (especially Changes of Atmosphere). Who created the masterful CD artwork and were your ideas and thoughts integrated into the finished product?
Phinydee told me he knew a writer called Ley, who did the painting.So I sent him a little text explaining him my vision of the project. And I told him about this scene in Carlito's Way where Pacino is in the hospital, and the billboard ad starts animating. The final cover is the first he made, he only had to make it smaller at the last minute because the first one was so big we couldn't scan it or anything. But we went back & forth for more than a year, tried to make another version but we ended up going with the first one. Only the Japanese version of the album has a different cover.
When did you link up with Drink Water Music and what projects are you currently working on?
Well Drink Water is basically my friend Phinydee. One day he hit me up saying he wanted to make his own record label and that he wanted me to release the first album. I wanted it to be a small project and I thought it'd only take a few months, but it took 2 years and a half. I'm not sure he still wants to keep up releasing records, now that he's seen how fucked up the market is lol. So I'm not sure there will be any more Drink Water Music releases but who knows ? Personally I'm working on a lot of things right now. The two main projects being my own new album, and another album I'm producing for my good friend and rapper Tasco from France. But I have a ton of other projects in the work, so next year should be a very productive year.
Which artists would you like to work with in the future?
Nas, Jay, Q-Tip.. If I could work with these three, then I'm good, after that I can retire. I hope I get to work with Blu again, Jay Electronica..
I see that you have recently relocated to Montreal, how was the move and did you experience jet lag? The international influence is definitely noticeable in Montreal, does living in the city bring back memories of residing in Paris?
Montreal is very different than Paris, much more laid back. Paris is full of stress, it's a big city and it seem like there's always drama going on when I'm there. Montreal has a ton of record stores, too, so that is definitely helpful ! It's been great relocating here, and definitely inspiring. But I'm supposed to move back to Paris at the end of the year, and I'll probably move again next year.
How can the masses get in contact with you?
I'm always on Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, I try to get back to everybody who hits me up.