Tell us who you are, and where you come from...
Hi, I'm Shan, and I come from Poble Nou, in Barcelona. To me, Poble Nou means "Poble Bronx", since it used to be a troublesome area in the 80's because it's close to La Mina. They were both some sort of sub-ghettos", a bit like Barcelona's Bronx.
So you're a local, born and raised here?
Yeah, born, raised, and the whole lot! I've lived in this district all my life up to last year, when I left because I had to leave the flat. But my life belongs to Poble Nou, I'm a son of the Poble Nou.
What is your profession? What do you do?
I'm a producer and hip hop Dj who has worked with several local groups, and played music in many of the Barcelona's night clubs. I've been in this since 1994, and I've worked in all the high standing night clubs in the city: Otto Zutz, Jamboree, Catwalk, Rebelinos… Lately, I hardly ever work as a night club Dj. I'm more into producing, working on a couple of records that are going to be released very soon: one is a Reggae album, and, on the other is a hip hop album with a guy called Fusion.
That's more your thing, right?
Yeah, it's obviously where I feel more comfortable. Besides, I'm also producing my own LP with some Funky and Old School tracks. I'm looking for a fresh sound, trying to find new things. We're in a contemporary, modern, and innovative city like Barcelona, where artists are constantly trying to create fresh stuff. After many years in this business, I try to look for different alternatives.
What kind of music are you more into? Who are you inspired by?
Anything from Funk to Jazz, underground hip hop, some American hip hop (not the mainstream or nonsense kind). It depends; I usually try to find a more Nu-Jazz hip hop, a bit more Soul...
Are you talking about the sound, or do you also mean the message?
Both: the sound, is essential (especially in terms of how it's produced), but so are the lyrics, which have to be mature, serious, and not necessarily sexually-oriented, like the trend shows us lately. There are many Gangster lyrics, the "I sell more than you", "I'm stronger than you", or "in your territory, or in mine" stuff. This is a fully American issue, but let's get real, and down to Earth: in Barcelona, and these kind of things don't happen. I mean, we have certain districts where there is more drug smuggling, and so on, but people try to make a living out of it, the gun issue is something that doesn't really mean anything to us. That's why we don't have as much Gangsta Rap as In the US. I mean, there are obviously conflictive districts in the south of Andalusia, in Barcelona, or Madrid, but it's a whole different thing...
You lived in Madrid for a while, right?
Yeah, I was living there for two years, in the suburbs (in Villalba Collado). Then I moved close to Moncloa, but circumstances in life made me come back here.
How does Madrid's hip hop scene compare to Barcelona's?
There's a lot more hip hop than here, especially Spanish hip hop, which is much bigger than international or American hip hop there. People obviously know about the mainstream stuff in Mtv, like 50Cent and all of that, which is supported especially by the Latin American community. But Madrid' true hip hop culture doesn't have much Old School style, the Grand Master Flash thing, which is what I have always been into.
My buddies in Zona Abrupta are a whole different thing, they create a more mature and lyric hip hop, because their origins are completely different, and they have been in this for a long time. Besides, they have had the influence of the old American military bases in the suburbs.
I got to Madrid for the first time in 1989 or 1990, and the first person I met was Z, the current Dj in FranT (Alcorcón). It was one of the first Barcelona-Alcorcón trips, one of many in those years, due to the graffiti connection. Back then it was Face, Chechi, and I. In any case, my evaluation comes from just two years of experience, so I don’t know as much as I do from Barcelona's scene.
What about here? How is it? Do you feel well in professional terms?
This is my house! As I said, Barcelona is a contemporary city, very innovative. Many artists come here looking for new tendencies in clothing, music… There is a lot of musical exchange. If it depended on me, I wouldn't get out of Barcelona, I feel great here!
Who knows, though, maybe somewhere down the line I will end up in an island… I have to be next to the sea, and Barcelona has an influence on me as a producer because of what I feel, the vibrations that I get: the sea, the air, the city itself… the conditions that you live in make you feel artistically inspired, or empty. Besides producing, I'm into graffiti since 1986, and I have painted with famous people like Fazi, Ae, New York's Shento, TFP… real Old School people.
So you started off with graffiti when you were very young, and then you passed on to music?
Yeah, I originally painted graffiti, but I started listening to old that Old School American hip hop that drove me mad (and still does), and watching how they did it. There are four basic elements in the hip hop scene: Dj's, graffiti artists, the Mc's, and Beatboxers. So graffiti got me into everything else, and I introduced myself in the music industry as a Dj (and, later on, as a producer). It was just an evolution, who would have told me that I would be producing music so many years later when I started doing graffiti...
Back to music. What do you think of French, English, or European hip hop?
In my opinion, French and American hip hop are the two major influences, and the third one in importance is African hip hop, especially the one coming from Senegal and Gambia, like Dara Gee. They have a very strong African percussion base, and also the original hip hop base. America is still number one, and France is also important because of all the immigration they have had, with artists like Sinik, Supa Crew, Mc Solaar… Latin hip hop would be in last place: we have a fairly new culture, we are just starting to experience immigration (and consequent influence from other cultures), but we are growing strong. Although there has been an evolution, we lack maturity. Both as a Dj and as a producer, I often feel happier working with foreign people, because they are more mature, both mentally and musically. At least in the hip hop industry…
Tell us a bit about your productions, and tell us where you want to get with them.
The first thing I like to find is a good sampler. This is basic. It's how the musical bases are enriched, whether it's Soul, Funk, etc… I want to look deeper, and find that q classic sampler, something original. I want to make versions, but the kind that make people say: "Wow, this is a I know this song, but this guy has really turned it around!"
I like to create good hip hop bases, especially with flowing bass (I like them to be fat). The reason is that bass is a very important piece in hip hop, the other important part being beat. These are the two basic elements to find a good hip hop base. I'm especially focused on looking for freshness, the kind that I feel here in Barcelona, and this is what I can mix with all of my years in the music industry.
My biggest project is to release an album, if everything goes well I will have it produced this year. I want to have a good look into my guest artists, because I have pretty good contacts in Barcelona, Malaga, England, Russia, Germany, or Africa. I will finish the design and everything else next year. You see, I want to create a universal LP, a complete work that I can somehow express. I don't want to release a typical rap album. Don't get me wrong, I like Spanish hip hop, but just some of it. I listen to those who have fresh stuff, like Zaragoza's Violadores del Verso, Malaga's Picos Pardos, Chacho Brothers, Solo Los Solo … There are globally interesting LP's, but my idea is to release something more diverse, both in producing, and in the languages used in every song.
Music, my lifestyle, and my freedom to be where I am. Last, I have to mention love, whether it's family, friends, or partner love…
To finish off, what is your piece of advice for those who are getting started in music?
Look for the basics, whether you are a hip hop, techno, punk, or rock fan. It doesn't matter! Find the reason to follow that style, get informed!