The Times, They are a-Changing: an interview with 563,Ghost and Kashmere
Three artists, one interview, many pints of beer and our intrepid reporter spilling an entire vase of water over a lady’s coat. That’s basically what happened in a nutshell. It’s not often that you get three artists all still on the rise but already with a strong following and resounding support from the scene they have been helping to build for a long time. This is how I feel about producer/Itch FM presenter/ukhh.com contributor Ghost, DJ/Itch FM presenter/graphic designer/resident Mr Hip HopKnowledgeSupreme 563 and rapper/professional pimp Kashmere.
Each one has a growing repertoire and range and the potential to blow the UK scene wide-open. They all promise me that 2004 is going to be their year. And the three friends have definitely got me convinced. I caught up with 563, Ghost and Kashmere in a fine London public house to get some answers, some advice and some war stories out of them…
First up, introduce yourselves and tell me what you do and all that jazz…
563: I am, I be 563, a Hip Hop DJ, radio show host, mixtape DJ and that’s about it.
Kash: I go by the name of Kashmere, MC for Receptor Records, professional PIMP! You knaaamean!!!
Ghost: Ghost…. Producer, DJ, radio-whatever… producer basically, mainly.
What got you into Hip Hop?
Kash: Well, me, personally, I was watching a lot of porno back in the day and I needed to really get off it, cos I was losing a lot of fluid. My brother just threw on a couple of Hip Hop tapes and I thought, “Yeah, I can get with this.” The porn thing never went away but it’s all good. Nah, really, my brother’s just a B-Boy and that and he used to play me loads of tapes and that. I used to see him practise his moves in the front room and it just interested me.
When did you start rapping?
Kash: I started rapping when I was about 10. I heard the first Tribe album and that was the one that actually inspired me to actually pick up the pen and started writing. I never took it seriously till I was about fourteen-fifteen but I started rapping when I was about 10.
Ghost: What was the question again? When did we first get into Hip Hop? I don’t remember the precise moment I got into it. I just remember 87-88 time, people I knew were listening to it and it just struck me. I just got deep into it, I can’t say why. There was a lot of big personalities, your Chuck D’s, your KRS’s and your Rakim’s. It just struck me… from then really.
Kash: You could say it was pretty mad back then didn’t it? Things got big… A group would come out and it would be like BOOM! Huge!
“…Trust me… Milli Vanilli and that shit. Peter Andre was the king…”
How would you compare the scene that got you into Hip Hop and the scene now?
563: It’s not even comparable I don’t think…
Ghost: There was a lot of messages coming out of that time, and that doesn’t sell anymore so record companies don’t promote that kinda stuff. At the moment it’s all about the money.
563: It’s completely different. Money changed everything. If you sign to a major, they’re only interested in sales. I don’t think it was like that back in the day. At least it might have been like that but it wasn’t at the forefront. It was more about the music.
Kash: Different factions innit… back then, it was just Hip Hop. That was it.
563: That’s it. Now there’s so many different parts to the scene. So many different types of Hip Hop coming out, so many different individuals. You go to club nights, you get a different crowd every single night because they play a different type of Hip Hop. Back in the day, you only had one type of Hip Hop and that was just good music.
Would you say that this fragmentation is a good thing?
563: I kinda like the diversity of it. But I do think it lacks some sort of unity. It is so separate. It’s a hard one to call, because back in the day, what was good was good, there wasn’t this type of sound or that type of sound… it was just good.
Ghost: Now you get your underground heads who won’t go to commercial nights and your commercial heads who won’t go to underground nights. And it’s just like there’s no in-between. But there are good commercial tunes and there are good underground tunes and everyone can get down with it.
Kash: That’s the thing. Because people are so hardcore in their own way, they won’t give other things a chance. It’s so separate. One person over here who listens to a certain type of Hip Hop will totally frown at this person over here, instead of just thinking “Well, let’s just see what they’re saying reh-reh-reh.” They’re not trying to hear any new type of sound.
563: I still pick up a few major label bits here and there. I’m not under any sort of pretence that the underground is all good because I know that seventy-eighty percent of the releases are rubbish. The good stuff is worth it, it’s got integrity. But there’s some commercial stuff that comes out, like the new Ghostface stuff, which is actually quite good. It’s comparable to the underground…
Kash: That’s cos his style is based in the underground. He’s obviously in the elite…
“…A good DJ… literally and quite simply, playing good tunes. It’s about knowing what you’re doing…”
So, 563, to go back to that question, what got you into Hip Hop?
563: For me? I used to hang out with my cousin and he was a little older than me and he lived closer to London. So he had the access to the music and such. He used to play me a lot of tapes like Run DMC and LL-Cool J. I was a bit too young at the time to get into it but towards the late eighties, I started paying attention. Essentially, the album that really got me hooked was “3 Ft High and Rising” but from there I checked out Tribe, Jungle Brothers. From there, I became aware of the Juice Crew- Kane, G-Rap. So, from there, it’s snowballed. You check a record and you hear some person on that record and you like their verse or their production, I’m gonna source some stuff he’s done. It’s like that now. I don’t really buy anything else. (Laughs.)
So, we talked about when Kash started rapping, when you start DJ’ing and producing and what was your first set-up?
563: I never originally intended to be a DJ. It’s just something that happened by accident. I was spending all my wages or my pocket money on music. I had a big collection but I had made the mistake of buying just CDs cos I’d fallen for that scare-mongering tactic of everyone saying that vinyl was gonna die out, which clearly it didn’t. It got to 96-97, when the new independent boom really took off. I always wanted to get tunes that weren’t available on CD. So I started buying records and playing them round my mate’s house, who had decks and that. So I’d leave my records round there, slowly building up a collection. I was at university at the time. I got my loan through and I thought it would be an investment to get turntables and a mixer, just so I could play the stuff. It just escalated from there. I started practising and became a bit of a bedroom DJ.
What about you Ghost?
Ghost: I was really lucky, when I was about 17, my dad got lent an Atari 10-40 and a Roland W-30 sampling keyboard. I’d been buying music and Hip Hop since I was 15. I had about 20 breaks records maybe. My dad got this equipment and up till then it hadn’t really interested me until the equipment got there. I started messing about and quickly got in a group with a guy I was at 6th form with. And I kinda got into Djing at the same time, cos the DJ in our band sold me some Technics for ten pounds and a teenth of hash….
563: That’s a fucking bargain mate…
What was your first gig?
Ghost: My first proper gig was with Hijack. The group I was doing, back in Norwich, Products of the Entity, we supported Hijack in 1991. It was crazy. Yeah, it was mad, odd. Suddenly doing a gig with Hijack, who were big then.
Kash: I can’t remember my first gig. I can’t remember the year… it was in some open-air festival thing in our area. I was just spitting over old instrumentals. It was good cos I wasn’t expecting nothing but we got an alright response. Maybe 95-96? Man, I got all the bitches man, all the bitches.
563: My first set was in a local bar in the area, it was small but cool. It was a nightmare set cos after two tunes, out of the nowhere the headphones just fucked up on me. I mixed about 3-4 records without being able to cue em up, with my ear right down on the deck to hear em off the needle. Whilst a mate ran back to get another pair for me…
That’s friendship eh?
563: No choice man. I was just thinking this is gonna be messy.
“…having a love for what you do is the most important thing. I love listening to music, I love music…”
How did you go from producing and DJing and rapping to hooking up with Breakin Bread and Itch FM and, well, each other?
Ghost: Through Tuf Kut. Big shout out to Tuf Kut.
Ghost: Tuf Kut, that’s who I really hooked up with both of them through. I donj’t remember how or when.
563: I remember hooking up with Ghost. Basically, Tuf Kut was one third of Breakin Bread. I used to work in Mash on Oxford Street and we sponsored Breakin Bread back when it was at the Plug. Back, a year after it had started out. I’d go down on the guestlist. I remember seeing Kashmere there, he used to do the open mic thing. So I aware of who Kash was. I kinda got real friendly with Tuf Kut and we used to go out record shopping. He mentioned Ghost a couple of times and Itch, where Ghost had filled in for Disorda a couple of times… There was one time, we were going to Dedbeat, and we were sharing a chalet and it was me, Ghost, Tuf Kut and Suze.
Ghost: The whole thing with Breakin Bread for me, cos I’d known Tuf Kut for over 10 years, I played him some tunes and they’d heard my stuff and when I moved down to London in 2000, I became a Breakin Bread regular. As for me and Kash, we just like a lot of the same music…
Kash: Trust me… Milli Vanilli and that shit. Peter Andre was the king.
Will you be supporting him for “I’m A Celebrity Get me Out of Here”?
563: Well, I’ll be supporting Kerry McFadden. Cos I think she needs some support…
Ghost: I tell ya mate, I’m watching the washing up, mate, that’s what I’m doing. A lot more interesting. Can I just interrupt you to say that I’m shocked. They’re playing “93 Till Infinity” in the pub. I’m impressed.
Kash: I met up with Breakin Bread through Tuf Kut too. Me and mates we were just spitting and that, and we wanted to take it to the next level. So we started going round all the record stores and just talking to people. Who they could hook us up with and that. Finally came into the old Deal Real records and put up a little ad about MC’s looking for producers. And then a week later, Tuf Kut was one of the people that called, and he invited us down to Breakin Bread and the rest is history.
(At this point, Ghost and Kashmere start giggling about an in-joke involving tomatoes, and 563 and I patiently wait for them to stop or tell us what they’re laughing about.)
Describe the process that went into making “Ghost Stories”.
Ghost: Fuck me, how long have we got! Err, it was actually… Usmaan thought of the name “Ghost Stories”. I’d just like to mention actually, Usmaan has given up MC’ing, so big shout out to Usmaan. He’s trying to better himself through religion. So, yeah, this was 5 years ago when he said that. I’d been doing some tunes and playing them to people. Did something with Kash, finally and I knew Asaviour from college who knew Verb T and it was just organisation. It took a year from start to finish. I already had the tunes done. The tunes were actually a couple of years old. But it took a year from saying “yeah we’re gonna do it” to it being vocalled and finished.
“…clarity, diction, heart, communication with the crowd, understanding what it takes to get a crowd lively…”
How would you describe your styles and what are your influences.
Ghost: I dunno honestly. I just sit down and whatever comes to me… I spend a lot of time going over breaks. I wouldn’t say I have one style, I have many strings to my bow.
Kash: Ghost has got many styles, trust me. Many styles!
563: Ghost makes traditional Hip Hop. He’s clearly learnt his craft, spent a lot of years before releasing something. This isn’t a cuss but a lot of people bring out self-financed records and CDs without having spent time developing their craft, getting their skills honed. Ghost’s been working for years. He’s sample-driven, chopped up a lot. If I had to classify Ghost, it’s in the same vein as his clear influences, which are Pete Rock, Large Professor, Premo. He pays attention to good loops and breaks but is not reliant on the loops, chopping them up, and bad drums.
Ghost: I’m gonna employ you as my PR. I must add – thank you for that, it’s kind of you to say. I do have an experimental side to me. I grew up in the “golden era” of Hip Hop. That doesn’t mean to say… I don’t have another side. I don’t like when people say “You’re trying to sound like Pete Rock circa-1992”. I’m just trying to make good music, across the board. People will see the sound on the next EP has stepped up to another level.
563: That’s not to say that sounding like Pete Rock circa-1992 is a bad thing. Cos it’s good timeless music. If it’s good, it’s good! I saw some reviews where people said, “you can tell he’s clearly influenced by Pete Rock or Large Professor” and they’re trying to make it seem like it’s a bad thing. But it’s not. Good music is good music.
What’s the next Ghost release and what projects are you all working on?
Ghost: Well, the plan is to put out two more EP’s or an EP and a 12” in June or November, on Breakin Bread. And I’m looking to an LP next year. As well as the Invisible Men project, me and Kashmere dropping some science. Doing some stuff for Conspicuous’ LP, from the Colony. Umm, at the end of the day, I’m just looking to put out good music and it’s fucking hard. People aren’t exactly forthcoming with offers and I’ve got to a point where I know who I really want to work with. And I’m working with most of those people.
Which MC’s are gonna be on the next EP and the 12?
Ghost: Kashmere’s gonna be on it. “Let Em Know”, it’s an old tune, but it’s a banger. Updated for 2004. Verb T and Asaviour are gonna be on it again. And I think Yungun and Conspicuous are gonna be on it.
563: I plan on having a big year. I wanna get out there. Got some gigs in the pipeline. Wanna be playing out a lot. Any bookings, hit me at www.runtheline.com. I’m always up for playing gigs. In terms of releases, I’m currently working on a new mix. I haven’t dropped a mix for a while. I kinda built my name through mixes. But what with doing Itch regular and playing out, I’ve kinda sidelined my mixes. But I wanna put out a new mix. It’s called “What’s Real” but that’s all I’m saying for the moment cos I don’t want to give too much away. But I intend it to be quite big. That’ll be in the next couple of months. That’ll be the one that puts 563 back on the mixtape circuit. My last one was a year and a half ago. People still ask me for them but I got none left. Which is cool.
Kash: Yo, yo, this year, we got the Invisible Man EP Raw Style v.2 out now, Receptor Records. The next thing I got coming out is a thing on Low Life, a double EP with Verb T. Two EPs in one package and it’ll probably come out around March. I’ve got a couple of beats on my side and stuff by Brains something by Ghost and Harry Love has done some stuff for Verb. It’s gonna be ill. Then an extended version of Raw Styles 2, 12 tracks… then in summer, a Receptor compilation with the Receptor producers and MC’s. Straight raw stuff.
Quite a busy year for all of you…
Kash: For 2004, the Iguana Man’s motto is “Decapitate to set it straight.” For anyone who doesn’t know my style, watch the new shit. I’m taking heads clean off. Not leaving any blood… that’s how clean I’m taking heads off. Safe. It’s an advanced Dragonball move, trust me.
What makes a good rapper, good producer, good DJ?
563: A good DJ… literally and quite simply, playing good tunes. It’s about knowing what you’re doing. I’ve seen a lot of hideous DJs. I consider myself to be a good DJ, I know my records. You have to be able to know your records… gauge a crowd, know what they’ll be feeling and then know what to pull out of the bag to keep the crowd on that vibe. You keep people in the crowd happy without resorting to conflicting with your integrity as a DJ. Good DJs… if they like the music they’re playing and they’re passionate…
Well, I would say that about musicians in general. You are the first customer of what you make, so you should never make anything you yourself would never buy…
563: That’s totally it. Money isn’t everything… I’ve got a day job so I can enjoy what I do. It’s not just about records… skills too. Practise. Learn how to mix. I don’t wanna hear a DJ with the best records but can’t mix ’em together. Cuts are good, in moderation, double-up, juggle. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s all about the music and keeping people happy. There’s nothing worse than a DJ using loads of cuts instead of keeping the flow. Then you get five people standing over the decks drooling and the rest of the crowd by the bar.
Ghost: A good producer? Fuck, man. I could say something and people would disagree. I’m gonna sit on the fence.
563: Form an opinion boy!
Ghost: A lot of it is to do with hard work. I think that people who put in the work… actually, having a love for what you do is the most important thing. I love listening to music, I love music. So I love what I do. I can’t criticise people who love what they do and put in hard work. That’s all you really need. You could say about all the skills and all the rest of it but… simply, put in the hours and love it.
Kash: Umm. I say for me, clarity, diction, heart, communication with the crowd, understanding what it takes to get a crowd lively. If you look tired and bored on stage, a crowd is gonna get tired and bored with you. Understand your environment and you act accordingly. As far as spitting goes, clarity, diction, heart, flows and understanding music. Obviously you don’t just spit, in music there’s notes going up and down, cadence, understanding the dynamics of the beat you’re rapping over. Understand where to hit your flows. Breathing as well.
Ghost: Can I add something? Charisma. A lot of charisma.
563: Charisma can be the difference between a shit MC and shit hot MC.
“…I was watching a lot of porno back in the day and I needed to really get off it, cos I was losing a lot of fluid…”
Who are your favourite rappers and your favourite 12”s?
Kash: I could tell you about the rappers I’m into. People like Scaramanga, I used to be a lot into Kool Keith but he’s sounding like a tired old man these days. I like technical MC’s but ones who have souls, not these dead robot MCs. People like UN… I dunno, it’s a hard one to say. Favourite 12”s… that’s impossible to say. One of my favourite albums is “Funcrusher Plus” by Company Flow. I’m really feeling that shit man. An album and a half. Nas “Illmatic”, that genuinely hit me in the chest. “Dr Octagon…”
Ghost: I’ve got loads of favourite MC’s. like Kashmere… seriously.
Why work with him otherwise?
Ghost: Well, exactly. I rate Jehst highly as a lyricist, and Verbs and Asaviour. CL Smooth with Pete Rock was a bad MC. Chuck D was amazing back in the day. KRS-ONE, when he hits it, is amazing. I like Aceyalone… the guy is fucking bonkers man. He can come raw or come with real intelligence. OC is still for me, he kills me every time. Favourite records… go through my collection. Off the top of my head, OC’s “Word Life” is ridiculous… Diamond D “Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop”.
Kash: Pretty much loads of full LP’s from that early nineties period.
Ghost: Full LPs you can listen to all the way through. Nas “Illmatic” as well.
563: Percee P is hands down the greatest MC in the world. Lord Finesse has dope punchlines and a cool voice. Big L is a bit more of a concise Lord Finesse to me. I always liked Nas. Pharoah is sick. Organised Konfusion…
Who do you rate in the UK scene?
563: Kashmere obviously. Mystro is dope. And Yungun, there’s not many artists in this country that have that x-factor where they’re dope on record but ten times better live. Yungun is the future, I reckon. Yeah, I like lyrical MC’s but I like MC’s with a clarity and a good flow. Kurious George has always been one of my favourites too. Favourite records: like Ghost, I don’t have bad records in my collection. But Kurious George’s “Constipated Monkey”… “Breaking Atoms”, “Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop.” “Mecca and the Soul Brother” is fantastic.
Kash: Can I just add Tim Dog to my list? Tim Dog is the man!
Well, he worked with Apache Indian, that’s a sign of genius…
Kash: Exactly man… no one can get more ignorant than Tim Dog.
OK, I’m running out of Minidisc space now, so you’ve got one minute to shamlessly plug anything, do any shout outs… now GO!!
Kash: “Invisible Man Raw Styles v.2” out now. Look out for future projects. www.receptorrecords.com, hit that up, get the porno pics.
Ghost: Wanna shout out anyone just buying the music. Watch out for Ghost Productions over the next five years. We’re building bridges. So, that’s all I gotta say.
563: Big up Music for Heads, big up Receptor Records. www.runtheline.com, shout out to Tuf Kut, Mr Bongos and Breakin Bread crew. And the listeners of Itch, Itch management. Get my mix, which is coming soon. And you can book me for gigs at www.runtheline.com…
It’s an inspirational conversational we have, making me hopeful both as an artist and a writer. With heads this screwed on, the future’s looking real good right now. I really hope this is the year of Ghost, 563 and Kashmere and that they pave the way for the rest of the talent on the UK scene bubbling under the surface.
Thanks goes to: Rahim for his driving and staying awake skills and Guru Mike/Suze for the photos.
– Nikesh Shukla