Interview with Kenny Dope
Mathias Haegglund caught up with Kenny Dope to discuss his upcoming release on Azuli.
Three-time Grammy nominated Kenny Dope, one of the most prolific artists of the modern music age, has been entertaining and astounding the masses alike with his fusion of house, hip-hop, Latin, jazz, soul, and broken beats. Known as a living encyclopedia of beats, Kenny Dope is a purveyor of sonic masterpieces.
Born in 1970, Kenny Dope grew up in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and by the early eighties he was absorbing the hip hop beats that were being played at the local street parties. In 1990 after an introduction by Todd Terry, Kenny and DJ “Little Louie” Vega immediately hit it off and began a creative partnership appropriately dubbed Masters At Work. As the MAW sound became more pervasive in clubs, they became more sought after by artists and labels, eventually remixing and producing artists such as R. Kelly, Janet Jackson, Daft Punk, Barbara Tucker, India, Luther Vandross, BeBe Winans, George Benson and many, many more.
For the last few years though his efforts have been on solo projects. One of which is his new compilation for Azuli. ‘Choice’ is a collection of Kenny’s all time favourite’s tracks.
You had an interesting upbringing musically and as a teenager you got a job working behind the counter at WNR Music Centre. What sort of music were you exposed to?
There was rock, dance music, freestyle, soul and hip hop. I ended up becoming a buyer, so I was bringing in music for all of these different types of people.
And from your time as a full time MAW member, how did you feel about being labelled the beat freak while Louie supplied percussion?
I did a lot of those records, but people like to categorise us.
Was it this misconception that added to you producing on your own?
When Masters at Work do stuff together it's magical. But separately I'm able to venture out a little more because it's just me and I'm not second-guessing anything. I also get recognized in a different way." He thinks before adding "To be honest, after Nuyorican Soul I wanted to break off and do something on my own, but I felt I couldn't' break off because it was just at that level. It would have been selfish to break off and do something on my own. So we kept it going for a couple more years and then after that we broke off a little. That happened in 1999, 2000. We still do things together, but right now we're featuring ourselves separately and people are starting to realize who Kenny Dope is, and what he's done for the business and dance music.
Doing this classics album meant trawling through all your records, how many do you actually own?
Around thirty-five thousand records. I used to insist that I get taken straight from the airport to the best record shops in town. I've got stuff from all over the place Turkey, Greece, Germany……. It was crazy - You go out for a couple of days and get stuff and seal it all up and they end up in storage. I've got ten or fifteen friends who are hardcore collectors. Everybody always has different collections and you always get turned onto stuff. The period I love is from 1968 to 1976, 1977. That's my time period.
This is a period (where disco reigned supreme) that is reflected in this compilation isn’t it?
Azuli were expecting a house compilation, but I didn't want to do a house compilation. Anybody can mix out of a house break, but I wanted to create a story and that's what this is. I take breaks, loop them up, introduce edits and just have fun. That's the thing that's missing in dance music production now people aren't having fun.
So did you have fun making this compilation?
I’ve done quite a few compilations now and I wanted to focus on records you don’t normally hear. I’m thirty-six this year, and I’m constantly trying to educate the younger crowd. I’ve tried to capture an era. I wanted to have the compilation sound a certain way for the mixing to sound the way it used to sound when I started DJing. I’m sitting on fifty or sixty mix tapes that I made for myself to listen to. I could do these compilations forever.
What image of yourself did you hope to portray with this release?
I'm not just into hip hop or beats or house, I'm into music. Everybody gets caught up in this fucking categorizing shit, but at the end of the day you've got good shit and bad shit. You've got music you can feel and music you want to throw away. I'm into going a step further than just the beat. I think there are a lot of people noticing what I'm about in the last two years. It's taken all this time.
And finally talking of images how do you feel about people thinking you’re a little on the wrong side of interview friendly?
It's kind of my fault because I never talked with people. If I was DJing, I'd go in fifteen minutes before, do what I had to do and leave. I wouldn't socialize, so everyone had this perception of me as a knucklehead. But through these compilations I can speak my thoughts.
And in true Kenny fashion he does just that!