Skeme Richards once told me that he’s not afraid of a real job.
He’s not afraid of rolling up his sleeves and departing the DJ life that takes to him places like Germany, Switzerland, Amsterdam and Tokyo year round.
He wouldn’t be upset about not being able to shop in all the best record stores around the world.
And he wouldn’t shed a tear over losing his frequent flyer miles.
Because as much as he loves DJ’ing, he loves his creative freedom much more.
That’s why he doesn’t play records he doesn’t want to.
Skeme is only in this music shit as long as it’s on his own terms.
If you’ve ever been on hotpeasandbutta.com, you know how he does.
It’s a celebration of funk, old and new, from all over the world, with a healthy dose of cultural nostalgia, like the neighbourhood game that his site is named for.
We were thrilled to find out Skeme was a Cratery fan.
Because we also don’t give a shit what people think. We do this for us.
So it was logical that we connected to record an episode when he was in town (audio below).
I also had the chance to sit down and chop it up with Skeme about everything from Octopus breaks to the origin of the transformer scratch.
Hey Skeme, I got news for you. As long as you’re doing it, dj-ing will always be a real job.
On his beginnings as a DJ:
The first time I had actually seen two turntables and a mixer up close was in 1981 at the age of 11. I had just moved to the neighbourhood and I started hanging out with cats that I was going to school with who had older brothers with turntables. We would go to their house after school and I would watch them for a bit and then started trying it myself. This was in the early stages, it’s not like now where the turntable is more popular than a guitar. Although it was very slow and archaic, I thought they were fresh because they were mixing and rocking doubles of breaks. Christmas the following year came around and I got my first turntable and a mixer. I was already buying a few records at that time, stuff like Kool Kyle The Starchild, Treacherous 3 “Body Rock”, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 “Super Rappin No. 2” and other stuff. But the gold standard for me back then was OCTOPUS BREAKS. I started getting copies right around the ’82 mark and remember paying $2.99, which around that time was the standard price for a 12”. I would save my lunch money for a few weeks and then go out to buy records on Saturday afternoon from places like Gola Electronics, Funk-O-Mart and Sound of Market. Then I started buying the OG’s like Big Beat and Mardi Gras. I think the first real OG break I ever bought was Mardi Gras.
On Philly OG DJ Groove:
DJ Groove is my OG. He was like the Bambaataa of Philly. He was the dude I wanted to be like. Most people were rocking popular disco records that might have had a break in it, but he was rocking that other shit. He knew records like (Esther Williams’) Last Night changed it all and Jeanette ‘Lady’ Day (Come let me love you). For years, people used to refer to “Last night” (changed it all) as the “telephone break”, but DJ Groove, he had that shit, he knew what it was! That was instant respect. Groove was signed to Word Up records, which is owned by Dana Goodman (Brother to Lawrence Goodman of Pop-Art records fame). He was Will Smith’s second DJ. Him and Will had a group called the Hypnotic 3. Prince Will Rock was his name then, this pre-dates the happy go lucky comedy Fresh Prince era. DJ Groove actually had a lot to do with that first album but doesn’t get credited for it. And also did stuff for a few other people that he doesn’t get credit for either but we’ll save those stories for when we come to Canada and rock a party together. Aside from his DJ skills he was nasty with making beats. He had every drum machine when they were new and was one of the very first people in Philly to have the original Emu SP12 which he later gave to me in 1989.
On the real story of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince:
This dude named Lorenzo Penn had a company called Fresh Jazz productions, which Jeff flipped for his production company “A Touch of Jazz”. He managed a series of Philly rap duos: Jeff and Will, Cash Money and Marvelous, DJ Groove and Lord Supreme. Lord Supreme was actually Will’s original DJ. Supreme and Groove were rivals at first, but then Lord Supreme started rhyming and they became a group. Lorenzo had a formula for putting these duos together: that’s how Jeff and Will became a group. The story you (the writer of this piece) heard – “Jeff asked Will to fill in for his MC at a house party” – I’ve never known that to be the scenario and they were from two different neighbourhoods. But make no mistake, they were a deadly combination that was pretty much unbeatable. Will Smith was like the Kool Moe Dee of Philly back then, early Kool Moe Dee. He was that thorough MC who had the punch lines, the lyrics and delivery. People know him from the Fresh Prince shit but I know him from an earlier point in his career and still have cassette tapes with basement recordings of him rocking mic.
On digging vs. really digging:
I still dig but not like how I used to. Like really digging? Like where you’re scouring through an entire warehouse looking at stacks of 7” vinyl without sleeves? It’s a massive commitment that I rarely have time for these days. Especially with 45’s, I have to be in the right state of mind. I was recently in a store that had a half a million 45s and it was just overwhelming, especially knowing that I had limited time to go through them all. If it’s something local where I can go every other day then great, but trying to cut through it in one or two sittings is rough, it needs to be a week-long adventure. I’m just not sure I have that kind of patience anymore. After a week, you might find a few interesting things, but the odds of finding something super rare or crazy are much lower these days. LPs are a different story though, much easier to flick through me all and go off of covers and titles. I like shopping at stores like Demon Fuzz in Rotterdam. I’m there all the time and they know my taste in music so when I show up, they’ll have a stack of records put aside for me and they’ll pour me a cup of tea, I’ll relax and just hang out all day and shoot the shit, listen to records and even help other customers when they come in the store. I’m an unofficial employee that gets paid in records and in record knowledge which is priceless. Now even in a store like Demon Fuzz, you have to dig. It’s not like all the heat is on the walls. But it’s like more of a family and friends vibe. That’s how I prefer to shop these days.
On his biggest come up:
I found a copy of the Soul Expedition LP back in 2005. Pulled that in London. I got turned onto that through the owner of Cue Records in Philly. You’d see guys like Cosmo Baker, Rich Medina and a ton of other DJ’s hanging out there back then. The dude from Cue had a copy in his personal stash and he put me onto it. So when I saw it in London at a totally reasonable price I just grabbed it. That’s a record that definitely does not come up often and it made sense for me to grab it because of the strength of the pound / dollar exchange rate at the time. I was pretty happy about that one.
On the true origins of the transformer scratch:
It’s widely acknowledged that the transformer scratch originated in Philly. But it’s usually incorrectly credited to either Jazzy Jeff or Cash Money (I’ve got massive respect for both of them especially Cash who I talk to often so don’t trip). The dude who really started the transformer was a guy named DJ Spinbad (the original DJ Spinbad, not the later one from NY). There was a battle at (correct me if I’m wrong) the Wynne ballroom and Spinbad debuted the transformer that night. It was an all-city battle so every DJ who was anybody (including Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money) was there to see him do it. Jeff might have been the first to do it on wax. Cash might have been the first to do it so mewhere else. But really, it all comes back to Spinbad who doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he should. There’s a lot of history that get’s lost in the shuffle in Hip Hop, not only in Philly but New York as well. There’s been plenty of info that I’ve heard for years and then later would meet someone that was actually there, had the original flyer or actually met the person responsible for something. You also have to look at it like, everyone was young and things appeared different back then so you romanticize about what it was back then and as you get older your memory or stories change up. The best person to believe is either the person responsible for something or the person who doesn’t have anything to gain from distorting history.
On overpriced vinyl:
There’s a lot out there, but right now, I’d have to say Big Beat 45. It’s a $10 record. Somehow that record goes for $200 now. It’s ridiculous. But there’s always a sucker ready to buy it. Also One For The Treble by Davy DMX, that record has been recently been selling for around the $200 mark also. People are really backwards to spend that type of money on records like that and rap 45s in general. Stark Reality is $1500 now, somebody was asking $3000 for a Lialeh soundtrack not too long ago. I recently had a convo with Supreme La Rock on how crazy the prices are today for things and most of that shit is just sitting there with the seller hoping to catch an idiot on a buy it now. The thing is, all these shows like Storage Wars, American Pickers – they’ve fucked up the game. It’s created this culture where everyone thinks they have gold in their basement. But they don’t. Everyone wants to be a collector now, so everything’s being overpriced.
On shopping in Japan:
Name any record. If they don’t have it, they’ll bring it to you the next day. The record stores are all connected with each other. And they take pride in getting you what you want. In America, there’s a lot of dealers and stores that are on the selfish side of things. Most dealers or owners won’t refer you to other places or dealers if you’re looking for something. It’s a cultural thing. Japan is the best on so many levels.
On the origins and growth of Hot Peas and Butta:
It all started about 8 years ago, when I had an idea to start a Funk 45 night and brought the idea to Rich Medina and Cash Money separately. It eventually wound up being Cash Money and myself trying to bring something refreshing to the scene in Philly. The first night we threw the party it started snowing and in Philly rain or snow is a bad sign because people pretty much nix any plans of going out. But surprisingly it was a great night and even though is snowed we had some special guests that drove in for New York just for the party. Bobbito, DJ Eclipse, Marco Polo and Crazy Legs all braved the storm to rock with us, and that pretty much set the tone for where we wanted to go. The night kind of helped unite the digging community in Philly. Matter of fact, a lot of cats connected and got close at those early HP + B jams. The first guest we had was Ms. Shing-a-ling and then Mr. Supreme (Supreme La Rock) from Seattle shortly afterwards and it was always a treat when heads like Soulman would come through to hang out. Then we started doing the night in NY on a regular basis as well as specialty parties like Bullies & Brothels which was our tribute to old 42nd Street in Times Square, the Rock Star Games party for Red Dead Redemption, Tokyo Soul, the Black Dynamite premier party during the Tribeca Film Festival and of course the annual 8th Wonder James Brown tribute party. Since then we’ve done it in Pittsburg, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Minneapolis, Switzerland, Germany and Japan to name a few places. We’ve built up a great lineup of DJ’s that we work with in those areas that we trust to help bring quality our brand. Resident DJ, Scarce One and I just finished our 4-year anniversary party in Germany and now I’m getting ready for a month long trip to celebrate the 4-year anniversary in Japan in November/December. We’ve got some of the best DJ’s in the country doing the Hot Peas party. Daisuke Kuroda, Ryuhei The man, Afro Tee, Taizo and Yosuke Tominaga are all top notch DJ’s with incredible record collections. It’s great to go out there and have the best DJ’s come through and give the party the respect it deserves.
2. Goblin – Death Dies
3. Wilson Simonal – Mexerico da Candinha
4. Big Band Katowice – Sorcery
6. Because I am – If a child
7. Impala Syndrome – Love grows a flower
8. Na Na Na – Hemlata
9. Les Requins – Campus no. 8
10. Sweet Maya – Illusion
11. Il Baricentro – Afka
12. Johnny Pate – Totally Unexpected
14. Franco Micalizzi – Dimitry’s theme
15. Billy Green and the Love Machine – Midnight and you
16. West Wing – I’m gonna love you just a little more, babe
17. The Pretenders – I call it love
18. Albert Lynch – All Alone
19. Tatsuro Yamashita – Windy Lady
20. Convertion – All I want is you
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