Published Jul 23, 2009Although a longstanding yet largely underrated pillar of hip-hop's sacred East coast underground, multi-faceted beat selector DJ Spinna has come to represent so much more than just rap-focused beat craft, attaching his name to various endeavours from Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to George Michael. Of course, there's been no threat of the man leaving the genre behind but news that Spinna's latest offering, Sonic Smash, represents his first dedicated hip-hop full-length in nearly a decade still comes as a bit of a shock. Thankfully, the Brooklyn resident's talent for constructing all business, foot-on-pavement, underground soundscapes remains as on point as ever, the proof coming in the variety of murky minor tones and straight-ahead throwback beats trading off on cuts like "Lights Out," "New York" and "Lyrics Is Back." Though containing no true title song, the record's most explicit sonic smash moment comes via the blazing "Get On Down," a track set up by an attention-perking snare and horn combo before the breathless flow of newcomer Fresh Daily simply lays waste to the track. With help from a healthy crew of both old and new schoolers (including Shabaam Sahdeeq, Breeze Brewin, Señor Kaos and Torae), each providing some memorable wordplay, Spinna's career-long golden touch proves once again to be infallible.
Having dabbled successfully in so many different genres over the years, do you find that work has influenced your hip-hop production?
You know, it's funny, I always kind of think of things in categories when it comes to genres, so I try to be true to every category I do. If it's a house record, I try to be true to that, with respect to what's out, the history of it and the records that have influenced me. If it's a hip-hop record, obviously I have my influences, in people like Pete Rock and Premier, J-Dilla, and I try to be true to it no matter what. They influence each other to some degree but not that much. Like, when I make a house record, I still chop drum breaks and pull out dirty records and find ideas but you wouldn't know that when you hear the record.
With your now famous Wonder-Full series, I heard you actually had a chance to meet and perform with Stevie.
Yeah, he came to the party twice and I spoke to him after one of the Wonder-Full parties back in 2002. Fast forward to 2005 and his daughter came to the party and he called her on the cell phone while the party was going on and spoke to the audience after his wife had given birth to, what, his eighth kid or something like that? So, by that point we had already established a relationship, and at about the end of 2007 was when he had a concert in New York at Madison Square Garden. So, we went to the concert, then we ran over to the club and started the [Wonder-Full] party, and a family member of his was trying to get him there, but he actually [only] got there at about four in the morning. A lot of people had left by that time, but he got on stage and spoke to the [remaining] people. That was crazy! That was the official, "okay, the party is definitely an institution."