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[rock the dub Interview]: Spec Boogie


Your boy is back on his grizzly. I heard that On My Grind tape and was kind of floored as to the skill of Spec Boogie. He's able to say what he wants how he wants without the use of too much dumbing down, which is a big plus these days. He can give it to you raw, as well as on some thinking man shit. He's a stellar MC, and a very humble guy. He is one of the founders of Loosie Music, an independent for the working man, as well as an emerging artist in his own right. khal got a chance to wax poetic with Spec, kicking game about how he started and what he's about. What's really in his mind? (Shoot me, I had to!)


khal: Aside from the On My Grind mixtape, many heads out there might not know too much about you, Spec. Can you give us a brief tour of how you came from a shorty growing up in Brooklyn to an MC who helped found Loosie Music, and is on the verge of putting how his own album?

Spec Boogie: Okay. Well, I was born in Los Angeles California, my mom was from out there and
my dad from Brooklyn so he moved us out here in ‘83. When we first moved out here we lived in a building that my grandmother owned and my older cousin Glen lived right upstairs from us. He’s around the same age as my brother who stayed in LA so I hung around him a lot and he was the neighborhood DJ, always coming through with wax, watching videos and dancing all that. He’s the one who got me into writing back in ‘88/’89. He saw how much I loved KRS-One’s “My Philosophy” and pushed me to rhyme -- but I didn’t think I was any good at it so I wasn’t really into it. I was more into drawing until Junior High in ‘93. Wu Tang had just come out, Midnight Marauders came out, 93 'Til, Redman was out, it was crazy. My friends and I decided to start a group and one of them named James really sat me down and taught me how to write bars and stuff. I went to a different high school than my friends and I didn’t know anyone so I stepped back for a while and watched the older cats at the lunch tables before I started up again. Around that time I started hitting up open mics around NY. That’s kind of where I started to find my voice. I named myself Spectrum the Oracle in high school cuz I was big into science fiction movies and Octavia Butler novels. When I went away to college in Philly my focus really became more humanistic. This was right after Diallo and I was learning about things like M.O.V.E. and I wanted to get my head out of the clouds musically, so to speak, so I shortened the name to Spec since that’s what most of my friends called me anyway. I added the Boogie when someone called me that in a bar one day and I liked it.

khal: How did you and your crew start
Loosie Music? What was the initial idea behind starting your own independent?

Spec Boogie: A loosie is a single cig you get from the bodega for a quarter when you can’t afford a pack, though I think they went up to 50 cents. I don’t know, I don’t smoke. We named the company Loosie because it’s something that’s known among working class people everywhere. It’s a name that as soon as you hear it you think of blue-collar workers, hustlers, survivors, pretty much broke mutherfuckers and that’s who Loosie speaks to, that’s who we are, how we came up. Loosie was started by Bennie Guinness and I because we wanted to make the music we want to hear. Personally, I don’t do well with dependency, having someone else -- in this case a record label -- to blame for your failures or take credit for your success just doesn’t sit well with me. Being independent means that your fuck ups as well as your victories are on your shoulders alone. I can’t say that we’ll never consider a major label situation but we’re smart enough to know that there is a time for all of that and now, even almost 5 years in, just isn’t the time for it. But we’re not going to sit on our hands and wait either.

khal: With Loosie, as well as in conjunction with other companies, you’ve put out singles (“
Grow”) as well as compilations. For cats who are trying to get down on that level, how did you build those relationships?

Spec Boogie: Just knowing the right people, being in the right place. We hooked up with
Staple through a guy named Sean Tucker who worked there at the time. He heard “Grow” through a mutual friend and approached us about putting it out. The only advice I can give through that experience is make sure you have something in common with companies you attach your name to for sponsorship or collabs. Whether it be in ideals, image, whatever, don’t try to link with someone whom you have nothing in common with just because it’s a hot company or a popular name. We’ve been lucky enough to work with companies like Staple and Digital Gravel who see what we’re doing and support what we’re trying to put out there.

khal: Word is that you have an album forthcoming called Introspective. Can you delve into what type of LP you will be bringing the people?

Spec Boogie: Introspective is an album that’s been about 5 years in the making, before we even started Loosie. It's a record that pretty much stays true to its name; it’s 12 songs that pretty much say, “Hi, I’m Spec Boogie”. It’s not all about me in a diary sense, because no one really wants to know all that, but rather songs about where I come from, what I’ve learned, things I’ve been through, things I like that. It really showcases my storytelling side that I don’t go into often on the mix tapes. I have no excuse for that since I primarily consider myself a storyteller.

khal: Now, onto the On My Grind project. What made you decide to rip those instrumentals?


Spec Boogie: Availability. Just the luck of the draw. If I was online that day and saw the Big Bang instrumentals or Blood Money instrumentals we might be here talking about that. I really didn't care who's beats they were, I just had the itch to write and a batch of fresh beats fell on my lap so to speak.

khal: That track “Best Friend” flipped the script on Pharrell’s original, taking a track about family lost to your exclusive sneaker love. What is your most cherished pair of kicks? How much have you plucked down on one pair of sneakers? And are there any pairs you are trying to get your hands on?

Spec Boogie: I don’t know if I have a favorite or most cherished pair. I’m more of a sneaker whore than anything. I’m definitely not a collector, I just buy what I like and I wear everything I buy. It’s mostly about design and color for me rather than brand or exclusivity (although that’s a plus). There are some that I wish I didn’t dog out as much as I did so I could still wear them, like the
Haze Dunks or the AF2 Escapes, which I don’t think are hard to get so I have to re-up on those. The most I ever spent on shoes was around two-something, which isn’t a lot for most serious sneaker heads. I’m not a full-on head like some of my friends and I flat out refuse to be caught sleeping outside some store for kicks so I miss out on a lot of really dope shit sometimes. Every time I see something fly and I run to go cop I’m late and I either can’t find my size or I can’t find them at all (like the Staple Pigeons or the Alife Pumps). I usually have around 80 or so pairs at a time because I get new ones and give old ones away or throw them out. I couldn’t imagine how many kicks I’d have if I’d held on to all of them.

khal: Speaking of song ideas, you have a wide range of topics, from that straight up gutter flow to some more bedroom-eyes type shit to the more underground, lyrical massacre type stuff. Do you consciously try and flip the script with each track? What about when you get down with your fellow MCs – do you come up with a topic/subject in the lab or do you come to the lab with something fleshed out?

Spec Boogie: The one thing I’ve always loved about Hip-Hop is it’s limitless potential. I came up
thinking you can pretty much rhyme about anything you want, so I might as well. I can’t imagine not making a song about sneakers just because I made a song about AIDS in Africa or not being able to rap about pussy and politics. Plus I’ve always been a fan of just writing so I’ll rap about whatever, it really doesn’t matter it’s not a conscious effort. As far as collaborations go, I prefer to come up with the song concept with whoever I’m on the track with though it doesn’t always happen that way. I don’t like to have anything fleshed out before hand unless I know the artist that well and the only artists I know that well are Von Pea and Elucid.

khal: When you moved out to Philly, how did you link up with ?uest and The Roots? Did you learn anything from those cats when you spent time with them?

Spec Boogie: I linked up with them through
Okayplayer-dot-com. I was on the street team when I moved down there for college and they hired me for an internship because I did graphic design as well. I don’t know why I hate to admit this, but the foundation of everything I do these days from design to business to music I learned during that time in Philly from Okayplayer and the people behind it. I got nothing out of school. It’s like when I went down there I found a mentor for everything I wanted to do. I was a teenager away from home for the first time and I was a sponge. It was the perfect place for me at that stage in my life.

khal: You’ve done shows with the Okayplayer heads, and shared the stage with cats like MF Doom, Melle Mel, and Little Brother, just to name a few. What was your best experience on stage and why?

Spec Boogie: My favorite ever is still my very first open mic performance at the Nuyorican Poets CafĂ© in ‘97. It was my first time performing in front of people I didn’t know (I rolled there for dolo) and I was scared to death. I thought I was gonna get booed or laughed out the building. There was a live band there as always: drums, bass and two guys sitting at a keyboard, one young, one older, who the host (Bobbito) kept talking about. I got up and did pretty okay, nothing special. You could probably tell that it was my first time but the crowd gave a lot of love so it was great for my first time already. I strike up a couple of conversations with people afterwards and someone is like “Do you know who the older gentleman on the keyboard is?” and I say no. And they say that’s Weldon Irvine and I’m like okay…so? When they explained who he was, I really didn’t know how to react. Like earlier when I said in ‘89 my cousin got me to rhyme and in ‘93 my boys did, “My Philosophy” and “Award Tour” are the definitive records of those times for me respectively. Those records made me want to be a rapper, period, and I didn’t know who they sampled much less that they sampled the same dude. So when I found out that the man responsible for two of the most important records in my life played keys for me my first time out was mind blowing. I don’t consider myself a strong believer in fate but some shit you just can’t ignore. He was a cool dude too, got to build with him a few time before he passed and he was one of the coolest people you could meet, always willing to teach and share his experiences. The younger dude was Mos Def but I didn’t know who he was at the time either. I don’t think any show is topping that one any time soon, maybe when I play the Garden.

khal: Where do you see your evolution as an artist and entertainer going in the next couple of years?

Spec Boogie: Who knows? What I do reflects where I am in life. I can’t say where my life will be in the next couple years so I can’t say where my art will be. God willing I’ll be doing what I’m doing now, just better and for more money.

khal: It seems that every couple of years, the game gets changed to the point where the MCs who were hot last year are fighting to be head the next. Do you think this situation helps or hurts the artist? Why or why not?

Spec Boogie: It helps in some ways and hurts in others. A lot of artists find themselves washing away in the tide because they came into notoriety riding a trend. When that trend fades, so does the artist, so they have to reinvent themselves, step their game up or fall off. I think that’s great, the only downside I see to it is the fact that what’s ‘hot’ nowadays has nothing to do with the quality of the music. It’s all image driven now. A hot song doesn’t have to be a good song, a hot artist doesn’t have to be talented, just marketable.

khal: Thanks for letting me pick your brain. Do you have any final shout outs or thoughts for the massive?

Spec Boogie: Yeah thanks for taking the time to put people on, plug plug plug, be on the look out for the Champion Hoods mixtape featuring Von Pea, Elucid and myself, my single & video “No Knock” is out right now, Introspective is coming this fall along with another single and video. Be on the look out for
Elucid and Von Pea’s solo projects in 2007. For any info you can visit Loosie, Loosie Music on MySpace or Spec Boogie on MySpace.
Shouts out to Spec Bizzy for the interview. Keep grindin', mang.

related links:
Lessondary Crew on MySpace
Aeki Tuesday Interview

BONUS! Check out the video for Spec's single, "No Knock", right now!:
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