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June 20, 2008

Jeff Spec

Jeff Spec
Illustration by Pearl Rachinsky

Introduce yourself, crews affiliations etc?

Jeff Spec, I’m a rapper/producer from East Vancouver, from the City Planners crew

It seems you reemerged with a seemingly more mature sound on Rhythm and Blues and have really found your voice. How would describe the style and sound of your new album, …a little night music?

I would have to call it soul music… obviously it’s hip hop, but I’ve always been big into soul, and the influence just found its way in more and more over the years. I really went ahead with getting more personal in my music too, and people have been telling me they can really relate, so I guess that’s mission accomplished.

Will the City Planners ever release a crew album? What is the legacy of the City Planners?

I don’t want to say never for the crew album, because we still talk about it from time to time, and it’s still all love in the crew. We definitely have gone in different directions as far as our music over the years, but whenever one of us brings up the crew album we all get a little bit excited. I think that our legacy is a whole different take on the DIY mentality… We never waited for people to tell us what was hot, or that we were ready to put our shit out. We would just all vibe out (for every one of our solo albums from the 2000-era we were all in the studio most of the time) and make joints that we thought were knockin, and put it out the way we wanted to, from the songs to the cover to the actual release. It’s not the most practical way to do things these days, but it got our names out, and we still get a lot of love for being the ones to really do that back then.

You have emerged from behind the mic to establish yourself behind the boards as a producer. What inspired you to start producing?

Basically just needing beats. Even before I was really into the production side, I would dig for records and just bring them back to Sichuan, and get him to mess with the samples I found. I still do that because I think Sichuan is the illest, but I found a ‘voice’ in production I guess, too. It’s just one more way to express myself and to reach out to more artists to collab too.

What do you use to make your beats?

The MPC 2000XL mostly, that’s a classic machine and I love it. I’ve used the SP 1200, the Akai S950, the EPS, the ASR 10, random drum machines, the Triton, any keyboard I can get my hands on, Reason… I love it all, but the majority of my beats are straight off the MPC.

Are you a hardware purist when it comes to making beats? What do you think about producers who use software?

I think that change is great, it’s a part of life. EPMD got flack back in the day for sampling at all, so when I put my inspirations into that light, I can’t hate on the next man for using FL studio, Reason, Logic, or whatever… as long as the beat is hot, I’m with it.

What do you enjoy more making beats or rocking the mic?

The mic, definitely. That’s me, I’ve always done it since I was like 8 years old.

How did you get started at such a young age?

I never thought about how young I was when I started… I just heard hip hop and it really spoke to me, I could relate to a lot of what people were talkin about. I heard Special Ed’s ”I Got It Made” and I had to do something, it just called out to me.

When I think back to the earlier days of Western Canadian hip hop you were a central figure with cassette releases when most had not even started rhyming. Then there was a sort of lull in your career and now you are back fresher than ever. What would you do differently if you had a chance to do it over? What would you do the same?

Sometimes I ask myself that same question… I think I would go back and tell myself to chill on releasing so much material, and to focus on more quality, and spending more time pushing one project at a time. Also, I would have just taken a more natural, open approach to writing like I do now. After I decided that, that’s when I took a hiatus from putting out material, I just wanted to get real with myself and only get back to business when I got to making material that I thought needed to be made. Every time I release an album now, I feel like I’m really contributing something to music, and putting my best foot forward. One thing I wouldn’t change is everything that happened along the way, it made me more seasoned and helped me understand what I’m in this for.

What is a typical day in the life of Jeff Spec like??

Jeff Spec - A Little Night Music

I try to keep it as un-typical as possible. I spend a lot of time working with other artists, in their studios, I feel like it tightens things up when we all work together and learn from each other. I try to write at least something every day, make a beat or two, record a few songs a week, send out a lot of emails, and just work on any next ideas to keep myself hustlin. A lot of times I make myself a list at night of everything I need to accomplish the next day, just to keep me on my game.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I think the realest place I can get my inspiration from is just everyday life… I try to find new ways to tackle subjects that everyone can relate to, and when people tell me it worked, that’s a whole new inspiration. Musically, though, I really get into the old 60’s and 70’s (and earlier) soul, like Willie Hutch, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The New Birth, Aretha Franklin… I love hip hop from all eras, I couldn’t really pick a favourite.

What was the first rap album you got?

I used to buy a lot of the compilations like Hot Rap, Def Rap, and the Rapmasters series when I was a kid… They had tons of good artists on them. The first album I actually had must have been Ice T’s Iceberg.

What is next?

?The new album, …a little night music is my main focus right now, I plan to tour all year to promote it, hit the colleges in the fall, get into the States some more, you know. Me and my man Lokeynote just did an EP that we’re dropping for free on the internet too, called the Free Press EP, right now we’re aiming for the end of June. The EP is just some extra promo for people who don’t really know about me, just to hear what I’m all about so they can come and check the show and get the album knowing what they’re going into.

Epic has a line on his track “Old Guys Are Ready to Rock the Mic” where he shouts you out ‘when Jeff Spec was known as Intellect and Farm Fresh was in his tape deck’. Was Farm Fresh ever in your tape deck and why the name change?

I never listened to Farm Fresh… I didn’t know too much about them back then. I switched my name up because I thought it put me in this box, like a word with a dictionary definition was just a little over the top for me, you know?

Do you have any shout outs, stories or any parting words?

I just want to give it up to everyone who is doing their thing for hip hop music in Canada right now, from the artists to the supporters and all that. It’s never been easy to do it big here, and it’s taken some time for our ‘urban’ music to establish its own voice, but I see a lot of great things happening right now, and I think we’re on the verge of really building it to where it needs to be. Also, I just have to let everyone know that they can check me on facebook (under Jeff Spec, I even have a music page), or see me on myspace for music or soundclick for beats.

12 Responses

  1. fresh!

    jeff spec is one of my favourite rappers!
    good look on the interview chaps!

    go get a little night music everyone, front to back, great album.

    i recently realized how well the first song opens the album.

    jeff’s a genius!

    ya baby thats the style!

  2. Canadian hip hop vet for sure. Been bumping jeff spec aka intellect for years.

    “A lot of times I make myself a list at night of everything I need to accomplish the next day, just to keep me on my game.” —–hahaha dope i do the exact same shit

  3. First I heard of Jeff Spec was on Alleged Legends, dope as hell. I think my bro even has one of his tapes still.

    Looking forward to checking this.

  4. dope interview. jeff spec has a sick verse on the deezus cd also. just to clarify i meant that farm fresh was in my tape deck. sometimes i’m sloppy with english.

  5. yeah he slaughters broke st on alleged… I mean that’s one of my favourite canadian rap records ever and I think over the whole thing bird runs shit… but spec kinda takes the spotlight for that one track.