Dibiase is one of my favorite new producers out right now, but he’s been crushing independently since the mid-90s (while rocking a number of other aliases). Originally coming up as a rapper at Project Blowed and the Good Life, his ultimate goal was to make beats, which meant figuring out how greats like Preemo and Pete Rock chopped their samples. Growing up during the tumult of the L.A. riots in the ‘80s (which included his hometown of Watts, California), D.B. was heavily influenced by: the NBA, WWF, Lego, soul records, video games and their 8-bit aesthetic (which everybody seems to jock these days, but is now starting to play itself out). Over the past couple of years he has been quietly getting shine along-side other dope producers coming out of L.A. After some beat battle wins through Red Bull; support from labels like All City and Alpha Pup (i.e. Onra, Samiyam, Ras G and Daedelus); a booking agency and some recognition outside of California, Dibiase is finally getting more international recognition. I spoke with the man himself about his “strict” upbringing (really just his mom looking out); his early rap career with S.W.A.M.P.7, the Green Llamas and one of his latest projects Machines Hate Me which just dropped on the tail-end of 2010.
Scanz – “Travelin” (Produced by Dibiase)
Dibiase – “Yesterdaze” 92bpms
Dibiase – “Serchin for it” 92bpms
You are Mr. Dibiase, like the wrestler?
Yeah, exactly the wrestler. I grew up watching WWF in the 80’s. Plus my old alias was “Diabolic” because I made a lot of gutter tracks. I wasn’t really feeling what that represents ’cause I’m not on that devil worshipping stuff or anything of that nature, but the some people would call me D.B. for short so I was like Dibia$e would be cool. [I] rolled with that ever since 2005.
Are you aware of any Dibiase haters out there?
Of course there’s haters when you’re doing something they can’t excel at. Like that saying if people talking about you whether it’s positive or negative you’re doing something right.
Do people ever call you out or claim you’re wack?
Yeah only on YouTube cause that’s where most haters get courageous, but not face to face. They’re not that stupid.
There’s a sound coming out of L.A. right now, I don’t know what to call it…
Yeah…there’s a combination of slump to it, but it’s got the electronic elements, the beats is progressing as well a lot. And then that 808 knock too on some west coast stuff…a lot of people have them systems in their car – you hear the trunk rattling. As abstract as Ras G beats is, he always got that knock. He was telling me the other day: “Maaan! Cats you wouldn’t expect to listen to Ras G – that probably listen to some gangster rap shit…[know that] shit knocks.” It’s like they don’t understand it, but all they know is that it knocks. As long as it knocks, everybody can understand that. It maybe abstract, but you play it in the system, it’ll rattle…I went to [Washington High] with G.
I’m looking at this split 10” (on All City Records) with P.U.D.G.E., how did this come about?
That was crazy…I was kind of lucky ‘cause me and P.U.D.G.E. did a show and he got hit up to do a split record with All City…so [he] called on me, the rest is history. We already made beats together.
Dibiase – “Skullcrack”
What are your main weapons in the studio?
I use the sp 404 a lot, MPC 2000xl or 3000 and reason 4, Microkorg, MPD 24 and oxygen 8.
One of the interesting things about the Dibiase sound is your upbringing in Watts, CA; can you school me on that?
In the ‘80s, Watts was pretty damn crazy man. I have like little experiences that’s pretty crazy. [When] I was 4 or 5, I was in the car [with my mom], I was in the passenger seat in the front and she was telling me to roll the window up and all that. This must have been 10 in the morning – some crack-head came to the window before I rolled it up, put a knife to my neck and robbed my mom and ran off…with her purse. A lot of times, my mom was extra strict on me…she wouldn’t want me to go around the corner too much – this was like elementary years. Since she was strict like that, I had to stay in the crib a lot, playing with Legos or videogames. As I got older, I was playing basketball on the block. A lot of the homies I grew up with, they ended up [gang] bangin’…they called me ‘mad scientist.’ A lot of people didn’t make it; some people that wasn’t even bangin’, just at the wrong place at the wrong time. The best option was just to stay focused on that music. A lot of my beats is grimy, cartoons, videogames…shit’s a reflection of all of that. Or you’ll hear some soul stuff from the stuff I inherited from my grandfather and uncle…that’s the sound. It was pretty damn crazy, ’87 was a crazy year. It’s not as bad now.
What’s it like now?
I’m not paranoid or nothing…sometimes something might happen. I remember one time I was with my little brother walking to the liquor store to get some candy or something – I was hella young – I was wearing a blue sweat-suit and my brother was wearing a red sweat-suit. They had them gangs on Greg Street which wore purple…this dude – he must have been in high school (I’m like in elementary school) and he socked me in the chest. They don’t do that nowadays…back then it was way more relentless. I’m glad I survived that. Either you joined that or you stayed focused on your school work, music…I used to draw a lot too.
What did you draw?
I was into drawing a lot of ninjas of all things in elementary school. As I got older Japanese anime like fist of the North Star characters, Spiderman and Batman as well. Also NBA players from the 90’s mainly Chicago Bulls. All those sketches are probably in a trunk in the garage collecting dust.
How does Reason compare to using an MPC or an SP?
Oh man, Reason is like kind of in there for you…only thing is you gotta chop your samples in another program (that’s what I kind of don’t like). Then the MPC, that hardware…everything is in that box, it’s more of a feel thing than seeing waves and all that. You gotta trust your ear pretty much. It won’t crash on you, but the thing with the MPC is that it may freeze up on you. I had like a [MPC] 2000 back in the day and if I turned the wheel too quick while I’m chopping samples it might freeze up, so I’d kind of have to slow down on purpose…when I didn’t have to. Then it died on me in ’04 and I got a 3000. Chopping on it is kind of a pain in the neck, but it’s got 8-outs on it…
Have you ever lost albums or dope songs ‘cause your hardware froze up?
Plenty of times, plenty of times…but you know, I’d get a little pissed for a second, then I just turn it back on. Normally the beat comes out crazier than that. It wasn’t meant to be, all you can do is move on and make something iller.
Have you ever found that the somewhat restrictive nature of samplers like the MPC helps your creativity?
Back in the day when I was starting in ’95 – I know you remember the [Boss] Dr.Rhythm drum machine, everybody had those…even people who didn’t make beats. And it would quantize all the time and I was like ‘oh my god!’ For a long time I couldn’t turn off [the quantization]…so I figured out a way to get some swing on that thing.
If money weren’t an issue, what dream item(s) would you put in the lab?
I probably buy a sp 1200 because I always wanted one. I have a broken sp 12 that needs a fuse. And I probably buy a lot of Roland products. Like extra 404’s and 303’s just in case one breaks I don’t have to search for a new one or repair. I don’t care much for the most expensive keyboards and MPC 4000 or 5000 I think. I can do the same with battery operated machines. I kind of like having limitations with equipment makes the creative process easier for me.
Not many people will know that you’re a rapper as well, where did you rap?
I was rhyming at Project Blowed, I rhymed at the Good Life. I used to freestyle a lot, that’s what got me into making beats. One of my homie’s, one of his boys had a studio – he had an MPC, but he had it like midi’d up to like a keyboard, so all the keyboard sounds was coming out the MP. I was like ‘I want a drum machine that could like sample and chop – like Preemo and all these cats was doing.’ I didn’t know the MP could do that. I was on some Wu type shit, like 36 Chambers type of stuff back in the day. I went to this one studio…and the dude had an MPC and a lot of records and he was chopping up samples and I was like ‘oh snap! That’s that same drum machine, but it can chop up shit like Preemo and all that.’ After a couple of months, I got an MP in ’97. I was making beats, rhyming…I had a crew called S.W.A.M.P.7 (Soldiers Within All of My Peoples).
In 2000-2001, I met my homie Aspect. Then he had a grip of homies who rhymed and made beats and then he introduced me to them and we started the camp Missing Page. We was doing that from 2000-’04 and we was kind of on the grind; there was like 8 of us…we opened up for a lot of people man. We even opened up for MF Doom – his first show in L.A., it was in Long Beach.
When did you start with the off-kilter/un-quantized/broken beat productions you do now?
When I started, it was mixture of some of that, and a lot of experimental lo-fi stuff which is highly accepted now. I even made a few drum n bass joints in ‘97 too (well attempted to at least). I started on the off-kiltered drums since ‘95 when I using the Dr. rhythm and Alesis drum machines and 8 second samplers; trust its nothing brand new for me trust. I have tapes to prove that.
Have you heard of that movie The Good Life?
My homie said he saw me in it on some footage…in the crowd – young as hell. I used to go every Thursday; I was in high school at the time when that was going down. I was way low key…the funny thing is, I’m considered new generation Blowdian, but I’m like old as some of the O.G.s. I was there rhyming a few times rhyming at Good Life…I got the courage to do it a few times. Then they opened up Project Blowed. A lot of times, I was in the cut with the beats and the rhymes…I really didn’t want to rush into it. I’m kind of the best of both worlds.
Did you find that after you went to Good Life, you were eating better (with it being a health food store)?
I never ate food there before now that I think about it. I was probably eating a lot fast-food back then.
On some of your beats with more of that hip hop swing, I notice some serious Pete Rock influences…is that a fair observation?
A fair observation would include Tribe Called Quest, Jay Dee, Diamond D, Beatminerz, Eric Sermon, DJ Premier and a little P.R. as well.
What’s the story behind your latest project Machines Hate Me?
It was supposed to be called Low-tech Mastery. I was just trying to stick to a little concept. I was trying to use a minimalist sound, make it dirty as possible…try to stick to the theme. Machines [are] like the listeners, a lot of people stuck on that radio stuff, you know? They like certain trends, they don’t like what they like, they like what everybody else likes – I consider that a machine. It’s gonna be on vinyl, it’s just digital now…a lot of it is pretty much 8-bit, I even try to experiment with some Dubstep, but not like full-fledged Dubstep, [it’s] still got that hip hop swing to it.
What does 2011 bring?
2k11 is gonna be extra busier; more releases with a 12″ on All City, a 7″ and EP with Fat City, a remix album of Machines Hate Me featuring a lot of my friends some you may be familiar with some you may never heard of. A project with 14kt out of Michigan and I just dropped Sound Palace recently. Also I got with Surefire.Agency so I’m doing a lot more shows this year. I’m just trying finish up a lot of these projects and set up a proper tour for the releases. Currently [I am] finishing my project for All City with my 90’s R&B flips. We’ll see who claims that style or who it gets compared to.
Have you considered rapping on your new productions?
I used to, but I don’t really trip off rhyming anymore. I do stuff with my latest camp Green Llamas, I rhymed on a few songs, but other than that…I might put some of my old stuff on Soundcloud. I don’t really see myself rhyming too much now; I don’t really have the energy for the multi-tasking thing…now I try to put all that energy into the beats. When ’05 started, that’s when I kind of stopped rhyming. I started entering these beat battles and then I started seeing these beat showcases and I’m like ‘damn! I don’t even need to rhyme anymore to get the crowd hype!’
What’s the story behind Green Llamas?
We about to let the world know! In ’07 the homies dropped an album called Uncut Raw…I be putting some of them songs in my mixes today. There was this radio show called the “Green Llama” and [we] would sample a lot of that stuff…basically some of them were smoking trees. Green to represent trees, then the llama is a heavy spitter – it’ll spit on anything [laughs].
The Green Llama camp, Project Blowed, the homie dot kim, Brainfeeder fam, my uncle, All City fam, P.U.D.G.E., my girl, the homie John Wayne.