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Interview: Joe Buhdha

16 December 14 interview: Shariff Ibrahim
photos: Nick Clague

Producer, promoter, label boss, rapper, DJ, lecturer, Joe Buhdha has held down just about every job in hip-hop, bar leather trackies inventor. As Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’s first release hits stereos, he told us about how it all started, and why he’s got no plans to let up anytime soon…


How did you get into music, and hip hop especially?

My sister. She was well into stuff like Sugarhill Gang and Kurtis Blow, and my dad had a massive collection of reggae records. My mum was into country and western - which is a bit weird, but a lot of Jamaican people are into that. Black people in Nottingham in the seventies and eighties weren’t really going to clubs in the city centre because of racism, so we did our own parties. There was a sound system on Burford Road, V-Rocket, and a lot of DJs like DJ Master Scratch hung in the same area, so you heard lots of music. At secondary school, me and some friends started a rap group called MCs Logic [with CRS’ Big Trev] and we got signed to a record label through house DJ Graham Park and started touring with people like Queen Latifah, De La Soul and Dream Warriors.

Didn’t you get an offer from Run DMC’s label, Profile?
We had a massive house remix of one of our songs and Graham Park, who used to play at the Hacienda where they went crazy for it, played it to a guy from the label. Because we were young, naive, and still signed to Square Dance, they offered us about $30,000, which for us was a massive amount of money - and being on the same label as Run DMC and Special Ed would have been a dream come true - but Square Dance turned it down cos it wasn’t enough money.

When did you start producing, rather than rapping?
One day the group’s DJ and producer couldn’t make it to a studio session so I started sampling old beats and produced a few tracks. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just told the engineer, “Use this bit, use that bit” and started developing a taste for it. We put out Mr 45’s song Radford (You Get Me) and that was it.

 

How did you go from that to working with the likes of Chali 2na, Supernatural and Kool G Rap?
Once we’d done the stuff with Mr 45, I started working with Mick Fresh, a promoter. Kool G Rap was through a guy I knew, I’ve got tracks with Joell Ortiz that have never been released, stuff with Ian Brown, John Legend too. Murderer Style with Rodney P got me a lot of contacts, that’s how I got to work with Estelle and Klashnekoff. Mick helped bring in American artists like Masta Ace, Jurassic 5 and Supernat.

Most hip hop heads will be familiar with you for the Klashnekoff LP Tussle with the Beast. How was working together? I heard it got a little tense…
Klashnekoff is one of the nicest dudes in the world. He’s got such a good heart. At the time, he was new to the game and surrounded by people who had no idea, and we were trying to tell him what to do professionally. It created problems. He lived in my house for about six months and it was like living with a family member. You’re going to have times when you don’t get on with your brother or sister, but we’ve got so much love and respect for each other that we can iron it out. We’re doing a new project now.

You had a massive hand in Harleighblu’s emergence. How does it feel to see her doing so well?
She came to the studio and we got her writing some great songs to some great music and created a whole sound. I got her a deal [with Tru Thoughts] and it progressed from that. I’m really proud, it’s a record that will be selling in twenty years' time.

What’s the ethos behind Can’t Stop Won’t Stop? Do you see it more as a record label or a promotion company?
I just love music, so whether I’m teaching at Confetti or in my studio, DJing or doing a mix for a radio show like ours on Local Motive, I’m passionate about it. CSWS is pulling different things we’ve done together, trying to compete with the likes of Tru Thoughts and Stones Throw. We can have some good artists on our label, and it’s coming out of Nottingham. I met [co-Can’t Stop Won’t Stopper] Parisa when she was doing Acoustickle and working around the city. I wanted to get back into doing events and was looking for a younger partner to bring a different audience. She’s excellent at what she does, I’ve got utmost respect for her.

The UK Takeover shows a few years ago were really special. What are your memories of those?
Me, Mistajam and another partner Ed were DJing at hip hop shows around the country, and it just seemed to be white males in the audience. It had become exclusive rather than inclusive. After the first UK Takeover, we put on grime artists, changed the audience a bit, and got flak for it. Everyone gave us hell for booking Lethal B or Kano, but it worked - it gave us a nice diverse crowd and the vibe was better. People who’d come to see Kano got to see Taskforce, and vice versa. People coming to see Taskforce were jumping up and down to Pow and losing their minds.

Any plans to bring them back then?
Wretch 32, Professor Green and Maverick Sabre have tweeted for us to bring back Takeover. I’d love to get those guys on. I tried to get Taskforce back together but Farma was having none of it, “No, I’m a granddad, I’m not doing it.” Maybe he’ll have a change of heart...

A lot of Nottingham folk will be itching for the R.A.F project to come out. How did you get such a rap supergroup together?
Juga-Naut and I sat down and thought of a way to promote a lot of Nottingham rappers. Apart from Out Da Ville, there’s never really been a group of rappers, so we called Cappo, Vandal Savage, and Scorz. We’ve laid about twenty tracks and have it sitting, waiting for the right time, when the scene redevelops. With Focus, Boom Bap, and UK Road Rap, there’s an audience again. I don’t like to boast, but some of the tracks are flipping incredible, props to Juga-Naut for some serious beats. People are going to like it. Rakim asked to be on it too.

What else should we be looking out for from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop?
We’ve got a project with the G.O.A Choir and a reggae project we’re going to be doing - Lady V from V-Rocket Sound System is helping us source artists. She brought David Rodigan to my house, and Elephant Man too. I’ve hung out with Sean Paul, Buju Banton, and met them all through Lady V. We’ve got some big shows in the pipeline. I don’t want to say too much, but we Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.

Terri Walker’s EP, Untitled to Entitled, is out now on Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. 

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