Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Can You Dig It? Vol. 27: Skinny Friedman
Name: Skinny Friedman
Claim to Fame: I’m one half of the DJing crew called Philadelphyinz. Apt One is the other half. We’ve been doing parties in Philly for three years and parties in New York for a little bit less than that. We do a little bit of everything and play as many places as we can because we love DJing. We also produce, write a little bit; are jacks of all trades and generally wonderful human beings.
Photo Credit- Ian Meyer
Representing: It’s complicated. I grew up in North Carolina and moved to Pittsburgh for high school. That’s where I really laid down my roots and met most of my lasting friends. I went to St. Louis for college at Washington University and that’s where I really got into DJing. I moved to Brooklyn after that and I’ve lived in Brooklyn for three years now.
Every time I tell people my background they ask, “How come you’re in this crew called Philadelphyinz if you’re not from Philly?” The answer is that my whole family is from Philly and I’ve been visiting there regularly my whole life. My parents are from Philly, I’ve spent every thanksgiving ever in Philadelphia, and my brother went to college there. I’ve spent a lot of time in the city. More importantly, I didn’t pick the name (laughs). The name just kind of stuck. Me and Apt weren’t really out here trying to rep Philly aggressively; so much as it was just a name we had. I feel like I can claim Philly a little bit because I spent a lot of time there growing up and I’ve been DJing there a lot recently as well.
Pittsburg is where my heart and soul is. I got love for St. Louis and living there was really interesting. I learned a lot there and got into a lot of southern rap out there. It was a cool time to be a DJ while I was in St. Louis, but my heart is really in Pittsburgh and I live in Brooklyn. I represent Pittsburgh the hardest.
Years in the Game: When I was in high school I played drums. I was in something like a band, but to call it a band would be giving it too much credit. Me and my two best friends liked to get together and make music. We would just hang out and jam together. There were a lot of underground rappers in Pittsburgh and we knew a lot of them. We started doing beats for some of them and played live with a group called The Deadly Scribes. Eventually we started recording what we were doing live and started making beats people could rhyme over. That was sort of what was going on at the end of high school.
I went off to college and got my first turntables. I started DJing seriously and got involved with the radio station. I was in there everyday making tapes of every rap record I could find. 90.3 KWUR in St. Louis had beautiful, gigantic stacks of 1000’s of old rap records. I was just overwhelmed by it. I started getting into hip hop in a really serious way. I came back to Pittsburgh after that first year of college for the summer. I got back with my rappin’ ass friends and started sampling and buying more records. I eventually bought an MPC and started sampling instead of using live instruments. I was producing a lot and I was learning with a kid named Burnso who was in the band. We would go digging a lot. Every time I went back to Pittsburgh it was like a big record fest and I was DJing a lot of house parties.
At this point I was buying records all the time and it would carry over to whenever I went back to St. Louis. I started college in ’99 and left St. Louis in the summer of 2005. Those first couple years got me really into under ground rap. I was listening to Cannibal Ox and RJD2, but also learning about other groups like Boot Camp Click and DITC. It’s funny because there was a time that I would have been ashamed that I only got into rap and started DJing in 1999, but that’s damn near ten years ago so I don’t feel so bad about it. As time went on I got more into people like E-40 and UGK and just kept expanding my horizons. Now I like all kinds of rap. But being in St. Louis definitely helped me expand my horizons. I still ride for Nelly and the St. Lunatics.
Before we get off the topic, I got to give a shout out to my homie DJ Trackstar. When I got to college he was one of the first dudes I started hanging out with and talking about rap. He used to loan me like 25 CD’s at a time to burn. He’s still in St. Louis making pretty big moves.
I also have to shout out F5 Records, Rue, and DJ Crucial. He’s a great DJ, incredible producer, and one of the nicest dudes on earth.
Best Digging City or Town: For me, I always enjoyed digging in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a really good record culture. There’s one place called Jerry’s that’s legendary. They have a huge store jam packed with records and it’s more than you can possibly deal with. Sometimes Jerry will sell random boxes of records for ten bucks. Having Jerry’s around has definitely helped the record culture of Pittsburgh. Anything you could want will probably show up there eventually, you just have to keep looking for it.
In St. Louis they had a record exchange which was an old library filled with records. A lot of singles were three dollars and when I first started buying disco and 80’s records I would head over there and just go to town. I’d spend five hours going through records and pull out 20 singles. The record exchange was great.
I also used to live across the street from a place called Vintage Vinyl. They always had pretty good records coming through. I’d sell all my promo records there and then go buy a $20 Fela Kuti record.
Photo Credit- Annie Zaleski/Riverfront Times
In Pittsburgh we also had several record exchanges that had pretty decent records. The thing about me and digging is that I don’t really get into finding particular records and spending tons of money on them. For me, digging is about the thrill of discovery. I would rather spend hours digging through three dollar records and find a bunch of records I’ve never seen before for cheap than go somewhere with a bunch of $50 records on the wall and buy the one record I’ve been looking for forever. I feel like I slack on researching the prices of records, but for me it’s about diving into a pile of records and taking home records that happened to come into my path and were in my price range. It’s never occurred to me to stop buying records. I buy records because I like to discover music. Discovering records on the internet is cool but it’s kind of designed for discovery. It’s hard to stumble upon something the same way you do when you go to a store and dig through a stack of random albums.
The roots of hip hop are making due with what you have on hand, not having unlimited resources, so I really like the limitations of vinyl. The limitations of vinyl are similar to the constraints that are built into using a sample. When you sample something, you don’t get to come up with a melody and play it. If you do, you have to find an isolated single sound and chop it up so you can make it into different notes. The art of making a mid-90’s rap beat is finding a loop. You have a set amount of records and it’s up to you to find the best part of the record. At the same time you have these constraints on you. If you put me in front of a keyboard, I don’t know what to do with all those options. It’s too much freedom for me. I like the constraints of samples. I don’t like having access to everything the way you do on the internet. Vinyl culture is all about doing what you can with what you have.
Most Prized Piece of Wax: The records I really prize are my secret weapons that I used when I was still using mostly vinyl. They’re mostly rap records that I have nostalgia about playing, like J-Kwon’s other single “Hood Hop”. That’s one of my favorite songs of all time and I have it on vinyl. That song is so well produced and constructed that people feel it even if they don’t know it. I went and saw Hollertronix in 2003 and I remember Diplo dropped “Hood Hop”. I was one of the only people that really knew it. That was still back when shit like that was a secret. You had to dig a little bit to find dope regional rap. Records like that are really near and dear to me.
I love my copy of Time Machine's "Block Troopin'" 12". It also has the songs "Rest Stop Sweetheart" and "A Million and One Things to Do" on it. Time Machine is really fucking good. They’re like Ugly Duckling except less friendly. They didn’t rap about anything particularly exciting, but their material was real cool and I felt it. They’re still around. They recently did a song with Maddie Horn and Dave Nada did a remix for them.
I also love "Rapper’s Ball" by E-40 featuring Too Short and K-Ci, which is the B-Side to "Things'll Never Change". That’s a record I played the shit out of for no apparent reason when I was in St. Louis. I’m not sure that anyone ever really appreciated it but me. I was five or six years late on it, but whatever man, I had to make up for lost time.
Favorite Album Cover/s: I always liked Trickbag by The Meters. It’s just a picture of someone’s ass in a pair of daisy dukes. The rumor in New Orleans was that it was a guy posing on the cover even though it looks like a girl’s ass.
Dollar Bin Miracle: Man, everything I own is a dollar bin miracle (laughs). I got the first Company Flow record for a dollar. It’s called Juvenile Technique. I think I found it in St. Louis. At some point it was a $100 record.
When I was in New Orleans I came up on some cool stuff for cheap. I found two copies of an Ernie K-Doe record for a dollar a piece. I found some really interesting stuff in New Orleans.
Total Records Owned: I’d say around 1,000. When I left St. Louis for New York, I rented a truck and threw as many records as I possibly could in there. Everything else I left behind. I had to decide what records I would still play a lot. I had to chop down on my stupid rap collection and a lot of records that made the cut are near and dear to me. I don’t buy as many as I used to and I don’t get as many promos as I used to.
Best Digging Story: I was digging at A-1 or somewhere like that and I found a copy of Bad for three bucks. After I bought it, I went home and started listening to my new records. When I went to pull out Bad, it wasn’t Bad…it was the Thriller picture disc instead. So now I have that, which is pretty awesome.
Another story happened while I went digging with Cut Chemist. Jurassic 5 was in town and I was going to interview him for something. The venue was down the street from my house which was really close to a good record store. He went over to the dollar bin and just started handing me record after records saying, “This has a break on it, that has a break on it, that one has a break on it.” I ended up with a stack of 30 records, all with breaks on them. Eventually I was like, “Aren’t you going to buy anything?” He said, “Nah, all I really buy now is indy rap from ’87.”
For more on Skinny Friedman, make sure to check out his MySpace as well as The Philadelphyinz MySpace.