Q&A with Brikabrak and Naeem Oba
Starkville, Mississipi is known for a lot of things: the arrest of Johnny Cash for public drunkenness, which inspired the song "Starkville City Jail." Real life American gangster Machine Gun Kelly lived there while studying agriculture at Mississippi State University. Starkville also gave us local vinyl slanging, non-request taking, DJ Brikabrak. We caught up with Brikabrak and Minneapolis MC, Naeem Oba to find out about their latest collaboration and what a Brikabrak is, exactly.
Westword (Ru Johnson): The inevitable question, what is a Brikabrak?
Brikabrak: Brikabrak is the most useless shit in your house. At garage sales when I was a kid, we would have a brikAbrak section because it's just shit that doesn't fit anywhere else. My first five shows, I didn't even have a name. Aesop Rock said "brikabrak novelties" on "Labor Days," and it hit me one day. It makes perfect sense.
WW: Does it? In Hip Hop if nothing else has a place and a use, it's the DJ.
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B: I'm kind of an ironic kid. It's still kind of pointless to be a hip-hop DJ in Starkville. There wasn't anyone that understood what I was doing. I went through a techno phase and came across a guy named Pish Posh. He was on two decks with vinyl all night. I had never seen anyone manipulate records before and I just stood there, clapping. He'd cut the fader off, speed the record and just catch the noise. It was freaking me out! It was six or seven years later when I got turntables.
WW: I heard you have some rules -- specifically no requests.
B: I'm a DJ. Every time I get a gig, I make sure to tell the people that pay me that I don't do requests. It's as simple as I don't have it. I'm on vinyl and I have to spend money on this shit. Why would I buy that? I'd hate myself if I owned a Justin Timberlake album.
WW: What's up with the collaboration with Naeem Oba?
B: It's called *You Are Not One of Us. *Big boy things in February or March.
Naeem Oba: I have a friend, King Karnov from Minneapolis. He threw me a joint and me and Brikabrak banged it out, the rest is history. We're both hardcore hip-hop heads.
B: It's just original hip-hop...a DJ and an MC. Almost every track we've done has got the boom bap with it.
N: We're working with a lot of heavy cats: Illmind, Haircut, King Karnov -- it's heavy. People have strayed way too far from the fundamentals of hip-hop. We're taking it all the way back to the basics. Turntabalism, having solid beats and well thought out rhymes.
WW: How does the idea of movie imagery play into DJ-ism?
B: I watch movies pretty constantly. From the first time I heard cuts and scratches, it was all very visual to me. You can watch and feel the movements. Even if you're not watching but, if you really watch a DJ, you can tell in his shoulders and in his head how funky he's trying to get. It's a really visual art for me.
WW: Can we talk about Lil Wayne?
B: I feel like I used to come down on artists like him for having the bullshit songs that get played on the radio but, half the time, if you listen to the album, there's some very real samples and beats. Even a few hard lines. I like anybody that's completely out of their mind. He's crazy! At least he plays the game right and does his thing.
WW: What's the difference between hip-hop and rap?
N: The culture.
B: Rap is somebody digging into the culture and taking what they think can make them something.
N: Rap is the exploitation of the culture.
WW: Favorite Sample?
N: Tower of Power "Sparkling in the Sand." It's beautiful, flutes and bass guitars, organic and soulful. It's crazy with the whole live band thing going on.
B: The one sample that got me into the idea of sampling was "Hardcore Hip-Hop" by DJ Shadow. At one point the song is going crazy and it drops out and it's just the guitar lines. That was the first time when music ever really moved me. I kept rewinding to that sample, not even the whole track. It's one of my favorite joints ever.
WW: What's the point of all this?
B: To show everybody we're better than them.
N: We're not working with Joe Blow down the street making beats on a computer in his mother's basement. My solo project, "The King and I" is out in January. We're not fucking around. There are too many guys out here with trash.
N: it makes me want to pull my ears off.
B: We've been told on a lot of occasions to basically go back where we came from cause we're not from CO, so with "You Are Not One of Us," we just wanna kill it.
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