Nottingham born, London based Shortee Blitz is set to release his highly anticipated (and long overdue) self produced four track debut EP ‘…1st Step‘, this May on Sydney based record label Low Key Source. Over the years Shortee has been described as ‘the UK’s number one Hip Hop and club DJ’ and has been part of the landscape for over 27 years. He started life as a mix DJ for legendary radio duo Max & Dave on Kiss FM (the slot that ultimately he superseded in 1998), but has also part of the Deal Real alumni (a renowned Hip Hop specialist record shop, described as “London’s Hip Hop Mecca”), DJ’d exclusively for artists such as Jay-Z and Mariah Carey, as well as working for the Rawkus office in London and running campaigns for the albums of Pharoahe Monch, Big L, Reflection Eternal and Da Beatminerz, to name but a few. He featured as a presenter on ITV’s ‘Don’t Hate the Playaz‘ (a high-energy, hip-hop based comedy panel show) alongside Jordan “Rizzle” Stephens, Lady Leshurr, Maya Jama and more. He is a MOBO and Urban Music Award winner for ‘Best DJ’ and was also Ty Chijioke’s initial DJ, “he helped usher me into the business around 1994-95, we worked together from then and in ’98 an opportunity presented itself for us to produce a demo for Maseo (De La Soul) who was looking for artists to sign to his independent Bear Mountain label, I was firmly under his wing, we went everywhere together, we were Ty and Shortee”. Many will know him for playing the club circuit throughout the UK, US, Australia and Africa, as well as hitting the decks at major festivals such as Glastonbury and Hip-Hop Kemp. This is a highly accomplished individual who’s blood is in the very brickwork of Hip Hop culture in this country (and beyond), a legacy clearly solidified in rap.
We were very excited to meet the seasoned veteran but the first question we had to ask him in regards to this coveted release was ‘Why now? Why have we had to wait so long to see a feature length release from you‘…
“I have always made beats, I bought my MPC2000 in 1996, I went halfs with Ted (formely Big Ted) and bought an SP1200 and just did stuff for fun, I didn’t think I could release music myself as I didn’t think I had the know how. Working with a man like Ty, he definitely likes to empower his people but the standards were kept high, to be deadly honest with you, he would tell you if there were any issues with anything and that kind of stuff. When our situation with Bear Mountain crashed we were kind of bewildered as we thought that was the next thing that was going to happen, so we parted ways at this time, it wasn’t like we fell out or anything it was just the ‘next chapter'”.
It was at this time that Shortee started to get busy with DJ-ing around the globe but due to the immobility of music (compared to the ease and portability of music now) and travel commitments it wasn’t possible to continue working on previous projects, so sadly this meant many of the songs he had lined up got shelved. Then around 2010 he made a concerted effort and decided to attempt putting out some music again but hit some set backs so ended up leaving the music again for another few years, carried on with his DJ life. Before Ty passed away Shortee gave him some of the beats he had made for the ‘…1st Step’ project around 2019, beats which Ty had been writing to, but unfortunatley this feature would never come to fruition as he passed away in 2020, ‘because why wouldn’t I want him on my first ever time out into the music business’. The song Ty was going to feature on is yet to be vocalled and won’t be on the final tracklisting of the EP, it was originally going to be a tribute to DJ Swing, Dr Psycho and The Top Of The World Crew members that sadly passed away in 2000 after a tragic car accident, but will now be a tribute to all of the aforementioned including Ty when it eventually gets released.
“For me building music has always been a passion of mine, I love beats like crazy, anybody that knows me knows that I love the production aspect of it and I never really got to finish anything, but once it’s something you love doing, you will always find your way back to it.”Shortee on the previous attempts to release his own music
‘I wanted to match styles and personalities of artists that might not have worked together before for the EP‘, when questioned about this he answered..
“When I was working at Rawkus in the late 1990’s, they wanted to do a UK remix of Down for the Count and had requested a UK feature in the form of a Skinnyman or Roots Manuva to have alongside Talib Kweli but these guys were unavailable, so I suggested instead that we use Blak Twang and Ty, which did happen and they fit perfectly with Kweli (listen here), so that’s the reason why I approach my project that way because I don’t want things to sound out of place. Another time I went to New York to try and organise another collab session that was going to feature Homeboy Sandman, Baby Blue (when she was still performaing) and Talib Kweli” [Sadly this track is yet to be released~ukhh]. “I try and match styles so it makes sense and I realised from doing these sessions that someone from the UK can actually work with someone from the US, as this was not as common back then. Even the way that I approach the radio shows when I was doing it with Ted and now MK, we just play tunes next to each other, we don’t play UK sections, we just play good sh*t next to good sh*t and that’s how I try and mix and blend everything, we finesse it in a way that makes sense”.
Where does the name of the EP come from?
“Every journey starts with a … “, it was actually TriniGladiata that gave Shortee the idea for this title.
The four beats that comprise the EP were originally produced prior to the pandemic, Shortee had already played ‘Steel Sharpens Steel’ to Ty in late 2019, ‘it was just an idea at the time’, he wanted to give that beat to the ‘Kingdem‘ but it was too late and he missed the deadline. The music was burning a hole in his pocket but he wanted the beat to go to the right artist(s) ‘who would f*ck this sh*t up’, so eventually it found it’s way to the two heavywights Mys and Sus.
How would you describe the vibe of this album?
“The EP is soulful, honest boom bap, great Hip Hop. I kept this to myself for a long time, I want my place in history, so this EP was ready to come out. My musical inspirations start with people like Marley Marl, who was a precursor to the likes of Preemo and Pete Rock, others include Howie T, Just Blaze, Jake One, Bink! and Nottz etc. Make music that makes you feel things, that gives you some kind of reaction, i’d rather some sh*t that sounds disrespectful and make you wanna throw chairs or something”.
“I kind of like my beats that way, no-nonsense, funky, disrespectful b-line, hard drums, couple of scratches, keep it simple..“
With two tracks still to drop this EP certainly boasts a solid roster of guest artists, the pending third single ‘Beast’ will feature Blak Twang, Joel Ortiz, Jon Connor and Cory Gunz “when I made this, I wanted straight up bars, no hook, scenario type situation, just hard. When I made this there was a particular sound, I wanted to make something I wanted to hear and this was the result. I can’t rap, I have no business rapping so I am going to try and find people who can do the job better“. At UKHH we believe that you should make your own decision about this statement, you can actually hear Shortee rap on ‘I can’t hear you‘, taken from the Word Lab 2 compilation, here, have a listen and let us know what you think. The fourth and final single ‘Truth’ is a bonus track featuring Terri Walker, Oddisee and Rio Young, staggering the songs in this way definitely builds the momentum of such a project and we wait in anticipation for the complete works.
What about videos for the project?
“For Steel.. the video is coming soon but has been delayed, hopefully video for Excellence will come soon and the video for Beast is in the works as well, the legendary Art Jaz is putting something together”.
Do you keep in touch with Max & Dave?
“I am in touch with Dave regularly but haven’t seen Max for a long time since they did the reshuffle. Ted referred me to Max and Dave, it was great to be part of the show and I love those guys infinitely. Uber legendary, they were the ‘first wave’ in the 80’s. Also a random factoid is that Dave actually taught MK how to swim! Dave is back and forth from UK and Antigua, he still does radio to this day on Mi-Soul, he is an OG”.
How did you spend pandemic?
“DJing was my day job so that was a head f*ck when that stopped abruptly during pandemic, I was doing zoom parties and Twitch streams, Hip Hop and Dancehall helped me scratch those itches, we also lost Ty during that time and did some tributes, all of these things were a release during this time”.
Can we expect to see Shortee Blitz playing out in the Metaverse anytime soon?
“As long as my avatar represents me well, why not, this Hip Hop thing embraces technology, it always has done so why not. When pandemic started we did a lot of zoom parties, we wanted to hear the music and connect with a lot of people who couldn’t leave the house. I do a lot of Twitch streams weekly, I don’t think it’s that it’s much different to that apart from having the VR (Virtual Relaity) and actually seeing people in the Metaverse”.
This Shortee Blitz vehicle has taken a long time to become fully realised but as it proliferates with more big ideas and themes we wait with excitement for the final product. Hopefully the first of many releases to come from the journeyman who has a wealth of experience soaked up from the scene, definitely a piece of work to stand back from and be enamoured by it’s brilliance. The ‘…1st Step‘ EP will be out on May 27th on all digital channels, grab your copy here, there may also be a physical release so stay tuned.
For more news, tour dates and bookings check out his site here www.shorteeblitz.co.uk
Have you got a UK Hip Hop story that needs to be told? Then get in touch, we always want to hear more tales like this from the scene.
Words by Theo Specone