DJ Platurn is a household name in the Bay Area. A 20 year veteren in the DJ game, founder of the Oakland Faders and organizer of The 45 Sessions, which is my favorite show in the Bay Area. Needless to say Platurn has a plethera of accomplishments through out his career. I sat down with him to discuss his second installment of "So This Is De La Heaven pt.2" and to also unravel why De La is one of the best rap groups to ever grace a 12" and what certain elements combine to make such a beautiful array of music. You can click on the link to listen/buy So This Is De La Heaven Pt. 2 here
N: I believe Tribe and De La are The Beatles of rap. They have similarities in their experimentation and humor. Do you believe thats key in making great albums?
P: I think humor and experimentation go hand and hand. Think about being a fly on the wall during some of these sessions where they're putting this shit together. Especially when you take the way they were rapping back then. They were non-sensical, young, making shit up and also being cryptic.
Humor and experimentation was key in their creation. The hip hop that I took notes on were the artist’s who were really adamant about redefining themselves. That was what was more interesting to me than anything. Dudes like Cube. Watching the evolution of that dude from project to project was really interesting and The Beastie Boys and Outkast did it as well. They had to keep themselves entertained. You have to be of a certain mindset to take that on. I mean, there are artist’s out there who have made thirty albums and all of them sound the same.
I don't know if there’s a group out there that did it as different as De La did. Every album was unique. Every time I listen to De La Soul I hear something different. That's how I do my own work as well, I have to keep myself interested. Tribe did it to. That’s why I love their shit more than anything. The Roots did a good job of holding up that ideology as well. That’s where it ties in with The Beatles reference because that’s exactly what The Beatles did.
N: When was the first time you heard 3 Feet High and Rising?
P: I really like telling this story because it gives credit in a very interesting way. I didn't learn about De La until I took a trip back to Iceland for Christmas in 1987. This was before the full album came out. Plug Tunin had already come out as a promo single but you weren't hearing any De La on the West Coast in the U.S. yet. The reason I first heard them in Iceland was because their whole promo started trickling through Europe before it made its rounds through the U.S.. I was at a youth club that my cousin would DJ at. He showed me the artwork and I was like, man this is some different shit! It was nothing like the rap music that I knew and I was very intrigued by it.
When I came back from Iceland, not too many people were on to De La. Dudes knew of the JB's and Tribe because they had made their mark, but not De La. After a while they started playing the Buddy remix at dances. It became a radio hit and that's when it really started getting big. I remember I had the Buddy cassingle but the cassingle didn't have the remix on it, so you had to get the vinyl to get the remix.
N: The Buddy remix was a big radio hit. Do you feel that people looked at radio and mainstream music differently back then than now?
P: The people who grew up on this music didn't think about the music in terms of mainstream or underground. We just knew it as what it was. I think that idea changed when the ideology of the rapper changed. Back then, you had dudes like KRS and Rakim really controlling the game. You had to represent when you brought your product to the table or you got shitted on and at some point that just stopped being a priority. I don't consider myself one of those dudes who only glorifies the golden age and shits on anything that’s not from that time, because thats so far from the truth. I like a good amount of my ignorant shit too, you know what I mean, I don't necessarily need to finely tune into what the MC is saying when I'm listening to the music. Sometimes I like it to be simple, sometimes you want party music, and sometimes you want heady music. Nowadays, I don't know if we were ever going to see that level of experimentation, especially with sampling. It went a great length and rapping went a good length as well. You had a lot of white boys in the 90's doing some weird rap and producers who took the art of sampling and completely flipped it on its head. Sorry if I'm going off on a tangent here but I think that when cats started getting so experimental with it, it stopped being fun party music. I believe that's what that era of music captured. You could be different, weird and conscious and still make party music.
N: I think it also has to do with what these dudes parents were listening to.
N: They gained a sense of what makes a party jump off.
P: Absolutely. I think it’s also very interesting when the art of sampling started to dive a little bit deeper, before then they were messing with simple loops. It’s not like Heartbeat is a complex loop. That was De La’s biggest hit at the time besides Me Myself and I, which was one of Parliament's biggest hits as well. When sampling started to become more complex and you listen to tracks like Award Tour, where there are seven different samples in there or Eye Know, where they use The Madlads joint with the Steely Dan joint and it works so well melodically. You had to have that kind of ear and understand music to be able to make that type of art function. That was early on and then you think about a track like Award Tour or Oh My God where they took the Lee Morgan bass line and put the Kool & The Gang horns over it. Those are loops. That art of making incredible songs out of different records is amazing.
N: In a time where the DJ world is over saturated with “DJs” and the real art of the DJ is getting more lost in the mix of media, does it surprise you that So this is De La Heaven has received so much love?
P: I'm pleasantly surprised. I know that there are folk’s who are older and don't go out and are interested in this stuff, but there are also kids, like that duo Disclosure, who did an Ameba 'Whats in your Bag' interview and they shout out Gang Starr, Dilla, EW&Fand Tribe. They wanted to talk about why they loved all this stuff which gives real insight into where their heads are with music. Point being, it’s a welcomed thing that people still want to be challenged.
N: What’s the recipe to making a successful mix-tape?
P: I think the people who are attracted to this sort of thing are people who are attracted to timelessness. I'm not trying to sound ethereal or hippie about it either. I'm very attracted to music that withstands the test of time. I appreciate people who have the capability to make a piece of art that will transcend time. That’s why jazz plays such a big roll. It has soothing attributes to it and you're not always going to want this crazy shit. Basically, you're not going to be listening to Dubstep when you're 70. I'm not dissing any of that because it’s for the kids, but there are certain things that you hold onto as you mature. I think that’s why I made this second mix-tape. I don't look at music as a straight line of time, with a sense of urgency, it’s not really my style.
N: That’s great. Making music myself I feel I have to get music out as quick as I can because of where the industry is and everyone's short attention span.
P: Look at a DJ mix as an album. The first one took me a year to make, all wax, all OG. There was a couple of parts that I probably took fifty to sixty takes. Such a pain in the ass. For this last one I did the first 7-8 minutes of the mix well over a year ago and then sat on it for about 6-7 months while I went through in my head what this mix should be. Here's the vibe that you're trying to achieve, here’s the respect that you're trying to show, here are the mixes you didn't do on the first one that you still want to show case, here’s the music that you absolutely want to be played, and here’s the music that maybe make the grade. Take all of that shit and slap it together to make an hour's worth of music. It takesa lot of thought because have to show respect to the music and really allow it to breathe.
N: Do you ever believe that you’re a vessel for the muse?
P: I think anybody that comes from our school believes that. I remember fucking with a beat machine back in the day and putting on a record and all of a sudden there's a piece of music that just lays in perfectly.
N: Familiarity is a big part to DJing, but taking them into that “ohh” factor you were talking about is also crucial. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
P: Basically what De La did with sampling and layering, I’m doing the same except that I'm opening it up a little bit more. Trip off the fact that you're going to hear an additional 8-16 bars of something you're already familiar with. The ideology is that it’s going to open up your mind and let you see that this music came from something else. Testing your familiarity is great.
N: What are your top 5 De La tunes?
P: 1. In the woods off of Buhloone Mindstate. I remember listening to that track and how mellow the intro is and how heavy that beat is when it dropped. That album is impeccable through and through.
2.Talkin bout Hey Love. It was brilliant because they made it dark.
I can't pick anymore. I never listen to De La as tracks. It’s always an album for me.
N: How many records do you have that are affiliated with De La albums and straight De La?
P: I have sections in my collection that are strictly broken down for Native Tongues and De La records. Number wise, thats going to be a tough one. I know there are at least two crates for each. Two crates worth of Tribe and 80 records roughly in a crate. I also have a two boxes of Native Tongues 45's. It’s so nerdy.
N: Haha, I wish I had that many De La 45’s. Do you have a favorite De La era?
P: I do. I think the De La soul is Dead era would have to be it. If I were really going to be put to the test than it would have to be DLSID for sure. It’s definitely the one. 1991-1993, that era of hip hop is dear to my heart.
N: Can you pick between emcees? Trugoy or Posdnuos?
P: Oohh! No ones ever asked me that! That’s a really tough one. Trugoy always seemed like the wise father. Pos was the braggadocio dude, fuck you up in a battle type shit. I think they all play their roll. I think those guys came from an era where the group was bigger than the individual. It’s the same thing with Tribe. Maseo had ill rhymes; he was a character. They all played a roll. They both were trios. It’s a teepee. They're all supporting each other.
N: I don't feel like anyone has ever tried to copy De La's style.
P: That’s true and then you have to think about where they pulled their shit from, like Posdnuos’ on beat, off beat style.
I hear GrandMaster Caz and Spoonie Gee in Pos, but I hear a way more intricate word play in there. I hear intonation and cadence, super old school rapper type shit. The overall picture is bigger than the individual. There are so many people that look at De La's legacy and go “these guys made it so much more digestible for the mainstream.” You cannot forget where they came from. I think it's really important to showcase multiple facets when it comes to music because that’s what people are. You know what I'm saying? People are complicated and fucked up. They're hard to read. Sometimes they're really basic and simple with the way that they talk and or approach life and sometimes they're intricate.
Sometimes I'm stupid and sometimes I'm intuitive. Every person on this planet is like that and I think that’s an important aspect to this music. It’s Life. Sometimes it’s calm. Sometimes you see it for what it is and sometimes it's obscure and random and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. How awesome is it that rap music can do that?
A lot of the times people take hip hop for its face value, its superficial value. Let’s think about the fact that there is such a huge portion of hip hop music fixated on requiring material things. Why is it like that? Lets dive a little bit deeper.
There are reasons and hip hop opened me up to this. When hip hop stopped only fucking with James Brown loops and started fucking with jazz and psych rock, these became really important aspects of sample based and golden era music.
N: Do you have a favorite De La Sample?
P: I can tell you about the one that took me the longest to find. When I found it I lost my shit! It took me ages. Again, this is hard to pick but when I found, Al Hirt "Harlem Hendoo" from Ego Trippin', I didn't know what it was.There's a great break on the other side that’s super funky. That album’s crazy because it’s him trying to do his soul cover shit. All of Al Hirt’s albums are horrible except for this one. There might be another but I've never heard it. I think the album was a dollar. I listened to it and couldn't believe that they pulled this!
Check out DJ Platurns website for upcoming events and overall baddass sheeit here