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Talking philosophy
with DJ Nu-mark

"If it bumps… we keep it"

When a DJ/Producer releases an album, he's doing more than getting out material. He's answering a question.

Now to start, you have your Shadow and your Krush… simply put, DJ's known primarily for their work in the realm of DJ album, a type of animal that gained mainstream popularity in the mid-90's. It followed no set of rules for the artist except to get his then vision onto several (often unrelated) tracks. They'd take foreboding soundscapes, 70's drum loops, and twisted random materials and see what they could come up with that would be pleasing, yet different to the listener's ear… sometimes joined by a list of hip-hoppers and R&B crooners, sometimes not.

Then it changes. It becomes a slightly different game for people like DJ Nu-mark, originally of Jurassic 5 fame. Like Babu (Dilated Peoples) and RJD2 (Various Artists), folks tend to prick up their ears at the idea of a group's DJ going solo. The initial leap of faith concerned with wondering "what the hell does a DJ do with an entire album?" has been breached years and years ago… but the question of "what the hell will that DJ sound like away from the band?" is still a relatively new one providing many different possibilities.

Nu-mark attempts to find a suitable answer by returning to his roots on his first solo run. This return entails the help of one Pomo, a veteran in the SoCal scene and a man that Nu-mark happily praises as "…responsible for bringing me into the middle school era of Hip Hop (he gives examples like Just Ice, Stet, True Mathematics, Mantronix, EPMD, etc...) I was still stuck on listening to U.T.F.O. when I met Pomo." Together, they hone their collective turntable experience into an album which Nu-mark says isn't overly complex, and is inspired by the tradition of hip-hop beat tapes. "Simple, not a load of change ups, just a instrumental project that resembles a beat tape… Pomo and I have been setting up beat sessions with each other for at least 10 years now." He indicates that it wasn't just time to make the DJ release, but that it was just the natural progression of beat collecting over many years: "This is a project long over due. We'd go beat for beat at his crib or mine just as an inspiration to keep creating."

This inspiration results in the loose, yet well-constructed aura that pervades Blend Crafters, a result that can only happen when two completely professional artists decide to let their craft just happen naturally. Nu-mark notes that it is a completely different process to creation working with just one like-minded artist on the project "I was really able to take my time with this project. We were able to record at our own pace since all the tracking and mixing was finished at Pomo's studio. It was also cool to vote on beats between two people." Compared to his work with J5, Nu-mark says of Blend Crafters: "This project is a touch more free spirited with no true goal at the end of the day. The motto was 'if it bumps then we keep it.' "

When you listen to Blend Crafters, you'll be pleased with what they've decided to keep. It's not an attempt to completely rewrite the rules of DJing and mixing, but it shows enough variety and skill so that it doesn't feel underdone in any way. Lead-off track Melody is soulful and memorable, and leads to thoughts of lost weekends just letting the man on the tables do his thing with some dirty drum loops and blues samples. Bad Luck Blues is dark stuff, with a layer of twangy guitars in the background providing the foundation for some heartfelt singing in the fore… call it the perfect music to break-up to in the vein of depressing luminaries like Portishead.

Regarding much of Blend Crafters, Nu-mark states "If you like instrumental Hip Hop beats then this might be up your alley." This must be the inspiration behind Flute Fidelity and Unwind, two tracks that seem ready to inspire many a drunken, embarrassing freestyle session with their unassuming backbeat. Stripped completely of the overproduction that plagues much of hip-hop today (a foul trend sometimes mistaken for "progression"), they're quietly infectious tunes and represent the spirit of this album. Or to quote the man: "Focusing on doing one thing 100%. Too many ideas confuse people."

The future is full for Nu-mark. Along with work on a new Jurassic 5 album, he'll be touring with the group, playing solo shows, and getting to work on… well… Blend Crafters Vol. 2. He remarks that the original Blend Crafters was held up for quite some time in the face of other important releases, but here's to hoping that Volume 2, which may have a special guest instrumentalist, has higher priority.
Whatever may come, he'll be sure to be in the studio, drawing ideas from "…dirty drums from the '68 to '74…instruments that are not meant to be instruments…kids toys, trash can lids, pots pans and the natural element of life…I borrow from life." It's a typical statement from a guy who strives to find the beauty in simplicity, and applies it to his music. The future of DJing may very well go in vastly different directions than Nu-mark's work, but he's more or less unconcerned as long as he remains part of it. To that end, he'll always be armed and ready with his favorite beat-making equipment.

"An MPC 2000 and my records," he says matter-of-factly.

--Maurice Downes


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[email protected] | August 2004 | Issue 53
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