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Interview with P-Money

It was Sam Dutch from Grindin’ who put DJ and producer P Money onto Tim McCartney, the young director from Melbourne who directed and shot Diafrix’s Rest Assured video. Come time to shoot Money’s video Baddest with British dancehall musician Gappy Ranks; McCartney seemed like the perfect candidate for the job. It would end up becoming P Money’s first classic hip hop video, with girls dancing in cages,  fire-breathing amigos and Japanese police cars in the middle of the desert. It’s “sicka than bipolar,” as Gappy describes. Money says they gave Tim the budget and he “just went to town.” 

Having recently released an album with New York rap legend Buckshot called BackPack Travels, Wordplay caught up with P-Money to talk about their recording process, working with rappers Joey Bada$$ and CJ Fly, and his involvement in the next big feature film to come out of New Zealand.

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How would you describe your album with Buckshot?

In a nutshell, I’d call it just New York underground rap. To me it sounds like Buckshot‘s a rapper from a classic era and he carries that vibe and that feeling with him through all of his music. It was an opportunity for me to get back into that frame of mind when I was young, listening to Enta Da Stage with Black Moon and all those records that came out around that time. It was trying to craft something new and try and get that feeling across as well.

The review that got posted on Facebook by the Underground Vault said that your production on BackPack Travels sounded more New York than the work he’d done with 9th Wonder. How did you take that?

I guess I take it as a compliment. I think that’s how it was intended. I get how some may think it’s funny being able to create something that people would perceive to be a “New York sound” coming from a producer from New Zealand. But, it’s kind of logical when you really think about my tastes and experiences within hip hop and the generation that I’m from. You know, we’re still the guys that hold the torch for that sound when a lot of folks from New York have moved on, and there’s a whole new generation creating new sounds.

What was it like working with Buckshot, having been a fan of him since the early 90’s?

I’ll be completely honest. At first, I was a bit of a fan. I was uncomfortable and wasn’t sure how it was going to work. I was thinking, “Am I good enough to hang out with this guy? Can I measure up to his experience?” Looking at the people he’s worked with in the past – icons like the Beatminers, 9th Wonder, Q-Tip, you name it! Even Tupac.  It was definitely a little bit intimidating and in the back of my mind I said to myself I had to “put my best foot forward.”  The thing with Buckshot is he’s so chill and a real artist. He’s a creative type and he’s not concerned with any of that. He’s like, “Man, let’s make some music!” Simple as that. It was really disarming once he came to the studio and he got busy and started working.

For this project you guys got to work together?

We recorded all the vocals at my apartment that I had in Manhattan. Buckshot would come and visit me and I had the mic set up with a little basic studio made in the living room. It was straightforward, real raw, almost homemade like the albums we’d make back in Auckland! (Laughs) I was like, “Well this is how I do it, just come through.” And he works the same way now, he’s got his spot out in Brooklyn and he chose to come see me and it was wicked. We’d just hang out for a bit – you know, turn the mic on and get busy recording.

How much were you involved in the video process for Flute?

That video was shot when I’d already come home. I was back here in Auckland and I wasn’t able to make it back to do the shoot so it was done by a Piece By Guy. Guy did the work and it was really his idea. I think he nailed it as far as vibe goes, it really sets the scene for the album. I can’t thank him enough for the work he did and how he managed to make a really great looking video with pretty simple resources.

You would have been well aware that Joey Bada$$ and CJ Fly were going to be on that track. What was it like for you to work with really contemporary rappers from New York?

It was great! I was stoked when I first heard their verses. When Buck met with them he had done an interview for Complex Magazine I think; where they paired him and Joey up to just sit and chat about Brooklyn, hip hop and crossing a generational gap, so to speak. Those two hit it off. Joey’s a big fan of Buckshot so after the interview he just said, “I’m working on stuff, you should come to the studio,” and they went and did that session. Buckshot sent me the vocal and was like, “I met with Joey today, here’s the track” and it was sick. I didn’t know, it was a spontaneous thing that happened very quickly. I think it was important for the album. It’s a great thing to have younger, current generations on the album being that Buck is from the senior school of artists. For me, it ties it all together and makes it a really current sounding record.

How did you meet Gappy Ranks?

We actually got introduced over email at first because we were supposed to meet when he came to New Zealand for the Raggamuffin Festival, but we didn’t manage to cross paths due to scheduling. So my friend Sam Dutch had the idea and said, “You guys should work together. Gappy’s great, you’ve got some cool beats, I reckon that will be a good combination.” I hadn’t really thought about it too much until I sent him the beat — didn’t think about it until he sent me back what he did to it.

Baddest was the first thing that he recorded and when I got the vocal back I got really excited because I could hear straight away that there was some energy on the song. He really killed it so then I finished up the track, sent it to a few friends and all the reactions were really, really positive.

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And you recorded the final at the Red Bull Studios in Auckland?

We did the title track Baddest over the net and Gappy recorded it at his home studio. I did the rest at my place, then we got together and met up at Red Bull Studio. We had one day in there, and I had a bunch of beats to play. I would just put one on and Gappy would be like, “Yup! That’s the one! I’m feeling that!” and he’d sit there for a minute, come up with a couple lines and then just go into the booth and start recording it line by line. He didn’t even take time to write so much on paper, it was just off the top of the head, one line and then the next one, then the next one until we had the whole song done.

Normally, I would be skeptical of someone else doing that process but that was the way Gappy did it. He just nailed it and he’s so quick with ideas and always managed to maintain and keep track with the flow in his head, that when you play it back it sounds like one consistent thing even though it’s recorded piece by piece by piece. It’s interesting.

How do you feel about what Red Bull is doing for music down under?

I think they’re providing a great service, enabling the more motivated and talented artists to have  an experience in a professional studio environment which may have been previously inaccessible to them. So on that front I think they’re helping out in a big way and it seems to be a fairly open door once an artist makes a link with a Red Bull crew. And, they do a good job with connecting artists. I dropped in on Raiza Biza‘s session and the guys from Third3ye were there. Also the Times x Two kids pass through. It’s a cool little hub of particularly hip hop artists that are going through there at the moment.

I think it’s great and it’s actually what Frequency Media are trying to do up here at the First Ave studios which is where I’m working today. Of course, it’s a slightly different situation because it has the management company attached and record label offices. But it’s still trying to have a space so you aren’t always at home and sending things over the net because you can come and work in a proper studio.  All the contributors are in the same room, you’ve got the producers and the emcee involved on the song with musicians, singers or whatever, getting all together at the same time. It’s important and I think for a while there people weren’t really prioritising that aspect of the process. There’s a lot of value in just being together and collaborating in real time.

So the Baddest video production, are you happy with the way it turned out?

Definitely. Tim McCartney the director is only 23 or something but he’s great. He’s another one of Sam’s hook ups. I think he’d done something for Diafrix and I just put the word out and [Sam] sent me Tim’s work and I was like, “This dude could do it. Let’s give him a shot.”

Did you have a favorite part in the process of filming Baddest?

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the part that was magic was all the stuff outside with the Japanese police car that looks like it’s in the outback of the desert. That was the last day of shooting and we’d done all the stuff inside and then he said, “I think we should do something in the morning. Let’s go to this industrial area first thing.” I just agreed, even though I was tired and we’d already done a few late nights. But, it turned out to actually be my favorite scene in the end. We ended up using the images from that for the CD cover and things like that too.

I don’t know if I recall a music video you’ve done with the classic, like, girls and the whole deal. Was that a new experience for you?

Yeah we’d never done that, I haven’t got any videos that have like…I don’t even think we have any dancing at all let alone kind of model-type, hip hop chicks!

Twerking, don’t forget to say twerking!

I guess there is a little bit of that!  Natasha did some of that in silhouette. We had a great bunch of girls – only a couple of them were paid actually, and there was a lot of them that were volunteers. I’ve got to give a huge shout out to those volunteers, because they really got naked for it. It’s cool.

What else can people look out for from you?

We’re doing some really cool mercy stuff for BackPack Travels coming up. We’ve got a Jansport back pack and it’ s going to be monogrammed with our logo on it and people will be able to get that. I’m working on some other things, too. I’ve been helping some friends do the score and soundtrack for this New Zealand film called The Last Saint, a dark crime drama set in Auckland. It’s a really cool movie, I haven’t seen anything quite like it out of New Zealand before so I want people to go and see it. The lead is this guy named Beulah Koale, written and directed by Rene Naufahu who is also famous in New Zealand from playing Sam Aleni on Shortland Street.

Rene just hit me up on Facebook out of the blue and asked to have a meeting with me. I didn’t know what it was about, and then he gave me the whole run down of the film. He said, “Look, I’m doing this movie, completely independent, I’m funding it myself.  Everyone that’s worked on it has contributed their time for free; I just think it’s a really strong story about crime and the drug scene in Auckland. It’s a story that hasn’t been told. It’s about this kid Minka growing up with dead beat parents who have their own troubles. He’s a good kid but he’s in this crazy world and he’s just trying to exist and survive and help his Mum, but he’s stuck. It’s a crazy lifestyle and everyone around him is doing bad shit and he’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow. I think the story needs to be told. It comes out in theatres August 28, 2014.

By Aleyna Martinez

BackPack Travels – Buckshot & P-Money is out now and can be purchased from the Duck Down website here.

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