The 18th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro), comes from DJ A-Trak, a champion turntablist who now works with Kanye West. I cornered A-Trak at the 2006 Pitchfork Festival to ask him about his favorite hip-hop record.
Labcabincalifornia (Delicious Vinyl, 1995)
I love Bizarre Ride (II the Pharcyde) but Labcabin was really my joint. They grew a lot on that album and they got darker. That progression makes me think of De La going from 3 Feet High to De La is Dead. Some people still love the first album. Just me working with Kanye … I saw that with Late Registration where a lot of people love College Dropout for its innocence, but I really like the second album for just being more grown-up and deeper and a little more complex. And Labcabin was one of those albums I listened to to death because, I mean, that came out in ’96 (’95 actually) … I started DJing a year earlier.
For many reasons I really love that record. Just on some straight hip-hop shit – just beats and rhymes, everything was on point. And that’s one of the records where I first heard Jay Dee (J Dilla) and Jay Dee is my favorite producer. That was one of the albums I first heard his production and I was floored by everything.
You know when you’re talking about a good record … where on some aspects you can really break it down to many elements. And on other aspects you can say it was just dope period. There’s some records you could be like, it’s got good beats and good cuts. But by the end of day it might not be your favorite joint. Other albums you like it but it might not necessarily satisfy every one of your urges. That record (Labcabincalifornia), I feel as a DJ, I love all the scratches. It’s not even on some technical shit. It’s just really tasteful, everything just sounded good.
Runnin’ is probably my favorite song ever.
What drew you into that song?
It’s just everything … I think something you can say about Pharcyde, you can’t really pinpoint it down to one mood. It’s a song that’s really open and kind of candid but without being over the top, without being oversensitive to the point where it feels awkward in the hip-hop context. It still bangs as a hip-hop beat. I love the cuts in it. It’s got kind of an eerie vibe to it with the sample. It’s not too jazzy … it’s a jazz sample that sounds a little eerie and just right. The lyrics are awesome. One thing with Runnin’ as a producer that always bugged me out with that song … is the drum programming. It’s crazy to me. The drum pattern always sounds just right, but you can never predict where it’s going to fall. I think it’s at least like an eight-bar pattern. You know on a lot of songs you just know the drum programming, you can sing out the drum patterns. To this day, I can’t remember, where the next kick is gonna land. But it always sounds like it’s supposed to be.
I love Bizarre Ride … it’s one of the records I got into hip-hop through. But Labcabin, it aged really well. It left an impression on me. Just from the depth of it. I like stuff that’s a little darker, too.
It’s funny because I don’t even listen to it all the time. But I know I can go back to it and get into it.
The Pharcyde | Runnin’ The Pharcyde | Runnin’ (Jay Dee remix)(vinyl rip from Drop 12-inch)