"I have a Chinese soul record," uptown beatmaster Showbiz was telling me over the phone on one of those frigid east coast days this past winter, a good day to be at the rest talking about beats on my cordless 'cause I wasn't tryin' to set my size 12 foot outside. "Chinese. I bought it from San Diego. Chinese writing on it and everything. I expected a beat on it 'cuz it said 'Chinese Go Soul'. That's the weirdest [beat record I have], and it's fat, too." Well, I guess that's another joint that I'll be looking for until I'm on social security...
Showbiz and fat beats go hand in hand, as any of you who really know hip-hop should know full well. Boogie Down borough-style street flavor from Show has propelled joints by Lord Finesse, Diamond, KRS-One, Maestro Fresh Wes, and Arrested Development, to name a few. And the debut album by Showbiz and A.G., "Runaway Slave", is a paradigm of what true hip-hop music is all about: inventive sampling, raw street vibes, and no fake bullshit gimmicks or attempts at watering down the product to satisfy that crossover crowd. Butter, not margarine.
Putting together fat tracks on the level of Showbiz isn't something you just wake up one day and start mastering the next. For most, it takes years of studying the arts and developing your skills, accumulating your record collection. Showbiz's origins go back more than a decade, deejaying in the Bronx with peops like his man, Diamond. "Me and Diamond was collectin' records from back in the days. We met each other doing the electric boogie. Then we started gettin' with the records. We were both already deejaying, but we didn't know it until we got to know each other. We started giving each other the names of old records."
Show was a little reluctant to give too much away as I started asking about some of his favorite beats in his collection: "What you mean, beats that we used to cut or beats that we sample and we don't want everybody to sample the same thing?" He did drop a few names on me, thankfully. "Sam Rivers, Eric Dolphy, alla' that. It's a lot of jazz records that I like. I like big band, too, like Shelly Manne. There's a lot of drumbeats that's made by different artists [like] Grady Tate, but you gotta come from all different types of music, being a producer. There's a lot of different sounds out there, a lot of different records that haven't been touched."
But the real key to hooking tracks up isn't just having beats that no one else has, it's what you do with the beats, even if they might be well known. "Everybody's sampling Sly and the Family Stone drums now. I used those on a song called 'Represent' on our album. [The beat] is still dope, though. But it's how you flip it, it ain't really what you use. 'Cuz there's a lot of people who have a lot of records, but don't really flip it. That's what me and Premier always talk about. A guy can use something, then you can use it and rock it, too."
At the time I was talking to him, Showbiz was hard at work on his new joint with A.G. (which may already be out by the time you read this), as well as finishing up his man Big L's debut release and a compilation for Sony, so check for the '94 shiddit from Show. Beat lovers worldwide will be open, no doubt.
By the way, I've been getting quite a few letters asking if I produce tracks or what. Matter of fact, yes I do. Fat, juicy ass tracks sautéed in creamy butter sauce (or so my peops in the Bronx keep tellin' me). And I'm mad cheap, so get with me before I start blowin' up spots on that major label-type level. For more info I can be contacted by Writing Me.
Big up all the beat finders who've been sending me top ten lists. Keep 'em coming! Next month I'll run the first one from my man, Supreme. Until then, this is the Soulman signing off. Chill.