Thanks to adidas Malaysia, we were given the opportunity to speak to three of the world’s most talented hip hop icons and influentials DJs last Friday.
DJs and turntablists in their own right, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest/Lucy Pearl), DJ Maseo (De La Soul), and DJ Shortkut (Beat Junkies/I.S.P/Triple Threat) tells us about the changing times in music, about what they really think of hip hop, and about their other secret passions in life.
Hi guys! How you feeling? When did you guys get in?
Maseo: “We got in just..the day before yesterday.”
Have you seen much of Kuala Lumpur yet? Because right now you’re already at the place to be – our landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers.
Ali: “I went to the mosque at Masjid Jamek yesterday. I’m fasting right now.”
So you guys are traveling a lot, right? What have you guys been listening to, what’s on your playlist?
Maseo: “For me, I’ve just been gearing myself up for this. Thinking about, and knowing that there would be freedom to play what we want to play. So I’ve just been getting a hold of music to cater to all y’all. I’m really excited about being here with Ali and Shortkut – this is like an extension of a dream. We’ve played together before but never as a trio. We’ve performed together especially in the Bay Area but never as a trio.”
Gone were the days where hip hop was constantly linked to, you know, “ghetto” and “gangsta”. How else do you think hip hop has changed over the past two decades?
Ali: “For me, and this is something that I noticed from DJing – I think what’s missing in the music now is love. You could watch the energy shift not just from the music or the sound of the music, but also the lyrics. It was a lot more love-driven back then. But now, the lyrics are now just about how ‘fresh’ or ‘dope’ an MC is. I don’t know what it’s attributed to but it’s just something I’ve noticed.”
Shortkut: “The record labels that put this stuff out, I mean, I feel like sometimes they need to be responsible for the content of these music that they’re putting out to the youth. It’s making someone who’s 10 years old listen to these lyrics. They’re growing up too fast, numsayin’?”
Maseo: “Hip hop these days, it’s highly pornographic and a lot of drug usage. Or exemplification of drug usage. It’ll make a transition eventually, I’m sure.”
That’s true. Music’s always changing! Speaking of which, with so many sub genres coming out every year, how would you as a DJ and an artiste stay relevant to the changing times of music?
Maseo: “I’ve always remained a student to this art form. I’ve always stayed in the position of learning. And behind learning, you learn what to do and what not to do.”
Shortkut: “Especially as a DJ, it’s sometimes a struggle to keep up with the times and stuff. As the years go by, I grow with the music. I try to learn and at the same time, I’m a student but also a teacher.”
Ali: “The best way I’ve been able to stay relevant is to stay true to myself and stay real. As long as you have integrity and sincerity and you’re passionate, that tends to reign supreme over everything else. I try to be open-minded and also make sure that I’m playing for people who are open-minded.”
Aside from being a world-renowned DJs and hip hop icons, what else are you guys passionate about?
Maseo: “My children. Absolutely. I’ve been a parent since the beginning! (laughs)”
Maseo: “When I go back home, I’m a serious parent. I’m a serious father, entrepreneur, and I take care of business. You know, as a disc jockey, our challenge is to make you dance. We’re the ultimate masters of the ceremony. It’s a good feeling, you know what I mean?”
Ali: “I’m passionate about education. I don’t have children so..you know..”
Maseo: “(laughs) But he’s grooming! He’s passionate about education!”
Yeah Ali’s getting there!
Ali: “Yeah! I’m passionate about education and unity. And you know, for speaking out against oppression. There’s a lot going on in the world so, because I don’t have children, I try use my music to channel that passion to people, bridge people, and bring people together.”
Shortkut: “I’m pretty much..I mean, I’m a father as well. I’m just thankful to make a career doing what I love and take that back home, you know?”
Alright. We’re almost done and I’m down to my last question so, complete the following sentence, “If I wasn’t a DJ, I would be..”
Maseo: “I would’ve probably gone to the military and the marines. Or be some big time general (laughs). And I’d most likely end up brainwashing or dictating some kids on how they should be in the marines – but I’m glad I didn’t make that choice (laughs).”
Shortkut: “I would probably be a cook. My family comes from a long line of cooks so I would’ve probably done that. Something like that. Yeah!”
Ali: “You know, I was on my way to being a lawyer. That was something I was striving towards. My mom didn’t have a lot of money so I was putting money aside to go to law school. But I got a recording contract and..”
And you’re doing well, Ali!
So legendary, so dope. It was truly inspiring to have met three of the world’s biggest names in hip hop. Thank you, Maseo, Ali, and Shortkut for keeping it real and for speaking to us. Honoured!
For more pictures from the event, click!
For more information on adidas Originals’ “Breathe and Stop” tour, here.