In the second half of our interview with hip-hop ambassador DJ House Shoes, he takes us inside of his label Street Corner Music, his producer series “The Gift” and gives his unfiltered feelings on the need for physical music.
WATCHLOUD: The actual record shop Street Corner Music in Detroit is the inspiration for your label, but how did start working there?
DJ House Shoes: 22 years ago last week was the anniversary of Gang Starr’s Hard To Earn album was the first time I ever went to Street Corner Music. I had never went there. I was initially asking for the CD because I didn’t think they’d have it on vinyl. But they said the CDs were sold out and they had one copy left of the import double vinyl and I was super geeked out. So I looked around at the spot and was like ‘Y’all need any help?’ and they said they didn’t have a budget for that but could pay me in store credit. So I got hired 22 years ago last week at SCM. They gave me a platform and a budget every week to order records from Fat Beats, BUDS Distro, etc. That’s why 20 years later when I was thinking of a name for a label I thought SCM was the first place where somebody believed in me to bring dope shit to the store. So it made sense.
Your producer highlight series The Gift helped give a lot of dope producers I dig get some needed light. What inspired it?
I’ve always had a fucking good ear for music. I challenge anybody. It’s like a divining rod where you can find the water. I just now where the shit is. I pick it out. ‘The Gift’ series was just going to be some digital shit, some free download shit to get cats who weren’t above water yet. To bump them up a few notches. But after the first couple I said we gotta do records, actual physical music. Something that you can tangibly hold in your hand. Real limited. Do like 300 copies of each like an art dealer. Fuck marketing, fuck publicity. I’m just gonna put it on the table, we give you a heads up when it’s coming and you buy the shit. It’s that simple. I got the best dope. I got the red tops and blue tops. ‘The Gift’ was building the foundation of the house. It was ten volumes of 10 motherfuckers the majority of the world had not heard of and they all had heat. It just builds the weight and integrity of the label. My goal for Street Corner music is that I want to put out shit so cold that after you buy a few records it’s no question. You just see that brand and you just buy the shit because you know it’s gonna be fuckin heat. And we’re getting there slowly buy surely.
What do you listen for when you pick a producer to spotlight?
The majority of these cats are friends of mine. Personal relationships. You know, if I think a cat has some shit I say send me EVERYTHING. Send me 300 beats. I go through 200 beats in 20 minutes. It’s nothing. The way these records came about was my immediate personal reaction. Because at the end of the day Street Corner music is a documentation of what House Shoes likes in music. I’m not telling you I’m putting out the best records in the world, I’m putting out my favorite shit and I have really good taste in music. First 3 or 4 seconds is emotion based. Whether it makes you want to destroy the room you’re in, it might have you crying, it might make you laugh. But it’s gotta illicit some immediate type of response. And that’s how the records get built. In 15 or 20 minutes I pick out the 30 best joints. Then we find the illest 35 minutes of music and then sequence it. Make the journey as enjoyable as possible. It’s like you’re building a map from the starting line to the finish line. How do you want the listener to travel through this record.
You put some real thought into the packaging for these. Who handles that?
Dert executes all of my shit. He’s the chairman of the visuals but he doesn’t have anything to do beyond executing exactly what I tell him. Like with the Blue Note series it was real character based. Numbers. Nameless Vol 1. Everything matches. The number of characters match, so we swapped that out. Freddy Hubbard’s name had damn near the same number of characters as Denmark Vessey’s so I wanted it to look legit and the Blue Note covers are ground zero for album artwork. So just quality in all aspects of it.
The “Flips” series was sick too. What inspired that?
On the Jay Dee Unreleased EP there was an interlude that was like a segment, we entitled it “Electric Piano Solo.” It was a piano solo off of some Latin record. I asked him what’s that for and he said it was just a dope little piece for cats to make a beat out of or something. Cats can take that and chop something out of it. Some inspiration. So I was like lets fuckin’ do what he wanted to be done with it. I like to have the kids involved so I took that and uploaded it to Soundcloud. It was like open entry, anybody can flip it, just send me a link to it and I created a playlist of all the entries. And the top two dopest ones we press up a limited 45, 200 or 300 copies and Tall Black Guy destroyed that shit. Some of those joints ended up on other records, ones that didn’t necessarily win. The flip sessions were dope because you got to see everybody’s perspective.
And the way that shit really fucked me up was on the Volume 2. I had posted this dirty synth joint. Some Prog Rock shit. And Chanes and Dert made a hammer out of it. But then this kid Juicy flipped the shit into a ray of sunshine. It was a perspective I would never had had from that source material and that’s what makes producers better. I’m about pushing the boundaries of everything and inspire everybody. I had to stop though because the last round I picked my favorite record “Joy Road” by The Lyman Woodard Organization off the Saturday Night Special album and it was just trash, yo. I said I’mma just keep this shit in the private circle with the big homies. The crazy thing that happened with that is my homie Amir from Kon and Amir secured the rights to that label’s catalogue a few years ago. So I got the idea to reissue “Joy Road,” the actual original song on a 45, which is a format that never existed for that song before. Then have Nottz flip it on the B-side. One of the few greats we have left. He fuckin destroyed that shit. I released my favorite song legitimately on a 7 inch and had Nottz do two versions on the other side. He’s a fuckin monster.
Why does the physicality of music still matter so much to you?
Because there is no in between, bro. You either have a record in your hand or you have nothing. Put a fuckin MP3 in your hand. You gotta tape, you open it up, take the shrink wrap off, you put it in your player and press play. You look at the artwork. Same thing with a record. You crack the seam on it, take the record out, put it on a turntable. You pick up a needle, put it on the record, press play and you sit down and listen to it. With an MP3 you just click a fuckin button. And I’m not the old grumpy man but I am. People really think that’s all I am. There is right and wrong. You can’t tell me that experience of listening to physical music is the same as clicking the button on a fuckin computer. The cheapest part on a $2000 macbook is the headphone jack. Even they don’t give a fuck about how your music sounds and they’ve built a fuckin industry off of it! If you wanna hear that shit right you gotta spend like $300 on a USB adapter to make it audiophile quality. But people in 2016 don’t care. Even the cat online screaming about music the hardest really don’t care. He just gotta hard drive with 6 backups. I got 9,000 records in my living room, bro. Just like you can go in your search engine and pull something up, I AM a search engine.
After the jump House Shoes talks about some of the current and future releases on Street Corner Music.