Interviewed by Darin Gloe
If you are looking for someone to that helped write history, look no further than Chris Lowe. From his groundbreaking production for Stezo in the 80′s and being a behind the scenes producer for Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records Chris Lowe has showed true longevity in hip-hop. After dropping the highly slept on album “Black Life” is 2004 Chris Lowe is back to silence all his critics with “Black Life II”. The album is a true solo album, which is rare in this day and age. From the rhymes to the beats Chris did it all with an album any hip-hop head would be proud to have in his/her collection. I sat down with Chris to talk about the new album, reminisce on the golden era, and speak about the future. From CT to Chi-Town.
HHS: Nice to see you back, what’s been going on?
Chris Lowe: I’m trying to get my company off the ground so I can continue to put out records.
You have been around since the 80′s and you are actually quite the veteran of the game, but for those that don’t know. Do a little introduction.
Chris Lowe is the behind the scenes producer from Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records home of EPMD, Nice and Smooth, Stezo, Just-Ice. I was DJing for Stezo and produced his album. I also made a lot of beats behind the scenes for a lot of people and it’s really nice to be back and say what up to some of my old friends.
You hail from Connecticut but now live in Chicago, what would you say is the main difference between East Coast and Midwest hip-hop is?
The enthusiasm. On the East Coast we had a hip-hop first so the enthusiasm is gone. It’s now looked at like a job and everybody is concentrating on making money off of it. Out here in Chicago the enthusiasm for the art reminds me of how New York was in the 80′s when hip-hop was new and exciting.
It’s been nearly 3 years since “Black Life” dropped, what would you say is the major difference in the game right now from when that album dropped?
It’s pretty much the same really. I had a prediction in 2001 that hip-hop was heading to the state that we are in right now. I predicted this and I knew it was coming. When 2004 came and I was putting out “Black Life”, I knew because of the way the industry was it was going to be a struggle for it to get the recognition it deserved. Now that “Black Life II” is out I’m hoping that someone will take notice and we can catch a break. Hip-Hop isn’t dead, it’s just the fact that companies are not focused on real hip-hop anymore.
The new album “Black Life II” (The Next Thing Smokin) is out on Nature Sounds. How did the relationship with Nature Sounds come about?
I met Devin Horowitz through a friend of mine named Peter. They actually had a part in putting out “Black Life”. Devin seemed to really believe in me and wanted to give me another shot. I told him I wanted to put out another album under different circumstances so I am thankful that he gave me another shot. “Black Life” didn’t do anything….
I disagree with that, maybe commercially “Black Life” didn’t sell units, but there are lot of people out there that know of the album and how good of album it was.
Thank you man, this is the kind of stuff I didn’t really know because I’m out of the loop.
“Black Life” was chalked with guest appearances but “Black Life II” is all you, why no guests this time around?
There were a lot of naysayer’s about the last album, talking about how I couldn’t survive without collaborating with someone. I wanted to proof my skills on this album. I left it up to me on this one and I think I had to proof myself to the public. There were some guests that I wanted, but I wanted to show people that I’m serious so I did this one all myself.
You and Large Professor seem to have similar styles with beats and rhymes, are you related in anyway or just a coincidence?
Naw, we aren’t related (Laughs). Me and Paulie (Large Professor) used to call each other and really talk over the phone and talk about ideas. We were beat buddies where we would find shit and play records over the phone. We aren’t related but we’re great friends, I haven’t spoken to him in quite sometime but I miss Paulie because we came up together in this game.
Since you are a producer and an emcee, which do you prefer and why?
I have love for both equally. I got through fazes. Sometimes I feel like just doing beats and then other times I’m on some writing shit. It’s always started with my beats and you know I was a DJ first.
What is your main piece of equipment when making beats?
Right now I don’t really have a preference. I’ll use anything; the basic schematic is the same for all these samplers out here. I’ll get to anything and do what I have to do.
On the “It’s My Thing” skit on the album you state EPMD is your favorite rap group of all time, why EPMD?
I watched them do it from the beginning. I knew them before they started making records. I watch Parrish sit out there and plan out a hit. I was with him when he came up with “It’s My Thing”. I always admired them because it was the first time in career that I watched it all happen besides with Stezo.
In the early 90′s major labels were signing hip-hop left and right. Why do you think the majors have all but shunned those who built what they now have turned in to a multi-million dollar business?
The audience became younger. The younger audience spends a lot of money. The companies tend to focus on those that spend a lot of money and right now the younger people are the ones spending the money. It’s always been like that though it’s just a different time right now.
After listening to “Black Life II” it seems like this album is strictly for the heads that get it. You aren’t trying to pawn us off on a gimmick or some new innovative production style, it’s just straight hip-hop. Do you feel that artists have lost their motivation for creativity because the audience has become so dumbed down?
Exactly. You can only appeal to people that identify with you. Of course you leave the door open for the younger audience to expand their minds. If I can’t enjoy my music than I don’t feel anybody can enjoy it. I’m always going to give myself a chance to be exposed to new markets because when you do real music and music from your heart, you never know who is going to like it. I’m not going to limit myself to one market but I do target fans that like the music that I like.
What are you hoping to accomplish by putting out an album like this?
I just want to give people an alternative and something else to listen to. I’m not trying to sell 5 million copies; I’m just trying to give young people something different to listen to.
Don’t sleep on the “Black Life II” album. Look for the pick (hair pick), I’ve got shirts with the pick on it and go pick up the album.
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