If one had to read a book that would teach them how to be a perfect producer there probably wouldn’t be any great producers in the world. But if someone gave a course on the history of Hip Hop and the students actually had to research and look for artifacts like vinyl 12 inches or 45’s with the little spindle in the middle to hold the record onto the record player or even searching for all the things that created the essence of Hip Hop you would probably say that people like Kanye West, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, J Dilla, 9th Wonder, and Q-Tip are all cut from the latter cloth.
When we think of Southern producers, New Orleans, more importantly, we think of Mannie Fresh. From the early days with Cash Money the Hot Boys and The Big Tymers, Mannie has produced a slew of hits and along the way he’s left his mark as one of the best DJ’s to ever stand behind two turntables. Hip Hop Vibe got the chance to kick it with probably one of the greatest, most underrated producers on the planet. A man who keeps it simple without being complex but a man who can take you on a journey through the essence and the history of Hip Hop because of his unbiased opinion about the craft and his love for the art.
What follows are some fruitful insights into the mind of a Hip Hop fan first and a DJ/Producer second. If you didn’t understand his work in the beginning of his career I’m sure you do now. Ladies and Gentleman we’ve got Mannie Fresh in the house tonight and he’s got something he’d like to say. All you have to do is…listen.
Read the entire interview below:
I want to take you back to your humble beginnings. What was like growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana before you even knew that you were going to do music for a living? It’s crazy that you say that because I always knew that I was gonna be involved in music. I didn’t know certain things but I just knew I was always gonna do music. My dad was a DJ dude and I was surrounded by DJ’s and music all the time. I always knew I would do music. I just didn’t know how or when but I knew that some kind of way I was going to do music.
When did you actually make your first beat? I was around 12 or 13.
What kind of equipment were you working with back then? I had a Boss DR 55. I think that was a name of it. It was little drum machine.
I know you’ve worked with a lot of big names in the industry and you had a lot of hit records with various artists. Was there any one artist that was difficult to work with and if so, why? You know what is real crazy that you ask that, because it’s never really the artist. It’s always the entourage. You have cats that are always saying something and they’re within the entourage. So I’ve never really had a problem with an artist but it’s always been some outside source trying to tell somebody what they should do. I might’ve said something like there is no such thing as a hit. I don’t know how to make hit records. I know how to make music and hopefully it will become a hit, but I don’t go in the studio and try to make a hit record, I just go in and do music. I still have people that come at me like, dude I need a hit and I tell him I can’t promise you a hit. And then you have other people in the entourage like damn I don’t even know why you working with, dude. Nobody can promise you a hit. We just do the best that we can. We work to the best of our ability.
Was that the same type of situation you had dealing with the entourage when you had the little spat with Young Jeezy? Yes, that’s exactly what it was. I can be like I know this is going to get played on the radio, but when you have another cat that’s in his ear saying that’s kind of corny bro or that’s not really gangsta, then you get problems. For me, this whole music thing is not about keeping it gangsta. It’s about making Universal music. We forgot what Hip-Hop was. We had different genres and Hip Hop used to mean something. It taught you something. I think a lot of people forgot that. I’m not saying that there’s nothing wrong with saying what you say if you a gangsta rapper. Be good at what you do. Hip Hop is an educational tool. It wasn’t just like oh, now we just gonna shake our ass.
Is there any artist that you haven’t worked with that you that you really want to work with and if so, why? Man that’s crazy because most of the people that I really admire are not here anymore. I can’t say that there is nobody who inspires me like that right now or that somebody’s not gonna come along and inspire me but for me it’s about the whole process of how songs are made. Right now I’m really not feeling it. It’s like there is no thought process to it.
Well, who are some of those people that are not here anymore that used to give you a good feeling? Well, let me rephrase that. Let me say that those people are not recording anymore, you know a lot of people are like just because Wayne is hot I gotta do what he’s doing and I don’t believe that.
You are a bona fide DJ I know that that’s what your heart is naturally a soul is and that what you come from. If you can name one spot that you love to go to and DJ what would that one spot be? Man I can’t name just one spot because I love so many. And this is not a prejudiced statement but it’s just the time to say it, white kids have embraced hip-hop like it means so much to them. They know the history of it. They know the records from present to past. Most of the parties that I do, there’s usually a gang of white kids and I look out in the crowd and I say to myself this will be a real crazy party tonight and all these kids know the songs and they know all the lyrics. They know the old school and they love it and they know the history. They know who the DJ is that made certain songs. They know about the artwork and that’s crazy to me. You know I think that as a culture we don’t take it seriously enough, and this is our thing that we invented. I mean back in the days you went out and bought an album just because you knew Def Jam was doing good music. so you knew what you were getting before you bought it. You knew Profile put out the records. You knew just from the label that put out the record that 9 times out of 10 that that was going to be the jam. In most cases you couldn’t even listen to the record before you bought it. You just knew that that label was going to put out good music.
You said you fell back in love with Hip Hop at the 2010 Fools Gold Party. When did you actually lose the love for Hip Hop and what about that event rekindled the flame for you? To a certain degree, we all have our little hang ups and I could just see the diversity at the Fools Gold Party and that was my first time DJing at a spot that was different. Most of my DJ gigs up until that time and most of the clubs that booked me for shows was mostly urban. It was like every group of people that you can imagine was there. It was Hispanics there with White folks. The people that came out for that were nuts for me like from Drake to whoever else. They were like this is your first time DJing in New York and from the first record that I dropped it was like people just went nuts. As a DJ I’m thinking about what’s my playlist. How do I keep these people’s attention? Then to have a crowd that’s like, we just embrace Hip Hop and we rock with you. You can’t ask for more than that.
I remember the RZA from Wu-Tang Clan said about 15 years ago that sooner or later with we are gonna have a whole bunch of white rappers and a bunch of black record label owners, do you feel like that’s what it’s like with all the diversity in Hip Hop now? I think that the smart people who know what they doing just figured out the fact that we don’t need record companies anymore. We don’t need the record companies because it’s a digital age. Also on top of that you gotta remember that there are always two sides and faces to this thing. In all reality, a white rapper would probably get a better deal because chances are he probably grew up with a better business sense, you know he might act like you know him from the hood or he had it hard growing up in some cases, but in most cases, he’s probably coming in with a better business mind then most of us because we weren’t educated. He’ll get himself an attorney up front. He’ll be like I’m gonna make sure that my contract is right. I’ll cross my T’s and dot my I’s. Think about this, this is a question to you.
Are there any records from this era right now that you could think about 10 years from now and you’re gonna say to yourself, “yo that’s my jam?” If you are at a wedding reception 10 years from now do you think that they are gonna play anything from this era and people are gonna really be like that’s my jam? If you play something right now that’s one year old they may try to shoot the DJ. (Laughs).
I know you’ve said that in reference to Dr. Dre’s Detox project that you have to wait for masterpiece and that’s what he’s trying to make. Do you feel like you have made a masterpiece in your career and if not, are you trying to make a masterpiece? Well, let me just say this; my process and his process are two different things. From being in the company of Dre and talking to him I see what he’s looking for and what he’s looking for is not really me. Like some things to me were masterpieces and a lot of times your masterpiece may not be what everybody else feels is a masterpiece. To me some of the greatest shit that I’ve ever done was something that I felt in my heart.
If you had to pick three joints that you’ve made and you thought those 3 joints were masterpieces, what would the 3 songs be? I would say Ha was one and that also introduced the world to my style of producing. People had never heard those types of breaks before and if the song is high and people are feeling what you’re doing then you know you’ve changed the face of music in some way because what you’re doing is hot. It actually took people from different coasts to listen to it like five times before they even got it, and then they were like wow, this is something different. They were all over the place and they were like this dude is doing some crazy shit. To me that was a masterpiece because it forced you to think. It was one of those songs where you were like three days ago I didn’t like it but now I like it but when I first heard it, I didn’t get it because it was some completely different shit. The next one I would say would be “Still Fly” because I was speaking from the perspective of the whole culture. Now if you’re the type of artist that does something just for sheer coonery then that’s what you do. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but that’s not what I do because it means so much more to me and when you listen to that hook It means something and white folks embraced that hook as well. I’ve always try to pay homage to my Hip Hop roots. I grew up on a lot of those old songs like that Schoolly D sample at the end of “Still Fly.” We listened to all that stuff from New York and Philly. We grew up on all that stuff. If you take bounce music, that’s like the birth of Hip Hop, because it’s two turntables with break beats and an MC. It’s call and response and that’s what Hip Hop started with and that’s the essence of Hip Hop. If all you have is raw talent then your timing gotta be right, your beats gotta be tight, your breaks gotta be tight and I explain this all the time. People say that bounce is 808 and I let people know that if you really look at it, a lot of that came from a lot of New York records. The essence of it is that those were all The Showboys records and it was called Drag Rap and all those dudes were outta New York on Profile Records.
I know you been working with Juve, Drake, Kanye, Dre etc. Are there any plans for anymore big names that you plan on working with or are there any other artists that you’re trying to break? My little homie Dee-1 from New Orleans and I just finished something with Mos Def and it was crazy because he went in on it and I wasn’t expecting him to really jump on it like that and Mos Def lives in New Orleans now.
What’s the name of joint that you and Mos Def worked on together? “Let’s Get It.”
If you had to leave the planet Earth tomorrow and you had to leave one thing behind that would show the world that you’ve been here and that you’ve left a legacy of music behind you. What would that one thing be? Wow, that’s a deep question man. I won’t say it’s my most prized possession but most of the songs that I’ve done in my era were done on my SP 1200 and I saved them all on my little floppy disks, so I would leave all of my old songs that I’ve done the with my SP 1200 and my floppy disks. I can tell you why would say that because back then we was so limited with what we had. As far as memory as far as sounds and we made better songs `because we have all of the things that we have now. Back then you had three sounds and you thought to yourself, how do I make 3 sounds into a song? I mean the great Pete Rock rocked with the SP 1200. I think it had about 12 seconds work the sample time, and we made better music.
What is your most memorable moment in music ever? I’ve had about three moments like that. One of them was when we were at the Source Awards and Grandmaster Flash actually spoke to me. He called me by name and I was like wow Flash knows who I am. I grew up on this dude. I’m a fan I was like I’m jocked over dude at this moment. And the second one was Jam Master Jay. We were at the Tunnel in New York City and Jam Master Jay came over to me and kicked it with me and I was like this is Jam Master Jay! Most recently what happen with Dr. Dre and I was crazy. I’ve been a fan of his forever. You know with Hip Hop we’re not supposed to be cool with each other we’re not supposed to acknowledge certain things but for me all of those people were very fundamental in shaping me and making me what I am today, and when they know you, you already know that you have arrived and you are part of this. When I saw Flash, I wanted to sing all their songs. I even wanted to sing the B sides. I wanted to be like “yo I know every one of your songs.”
Now that you said that do you think that being of a fan of the music makes you a better artist and do you think that some of these newer artists need to become fans first? You just hit it right on the nose man. This is part of the job. You have to do your history. We’re not asking you to acknowledge anybody, but you have to know that this is Hip Hop and this is like Martin Luther King’s story. There were pioneers before us that marched for this and they did this. I know now it’s a billion-dollar business. You should at least know these guys and acknowledge them. These guys did this thing for nothing or either they were promised something and they didn’t get it. Now, you have cats that don’t know nothin’ about it. You just got a little catchy song right now but do your homework. Know something about it. Know something about the craft.
I promised you that I wasn’t going to hit you with any Cash Money questions because I know a lot of journalists always hit you with that. But, I do have to ask you one thing, how did you feel and did it raise any kind of emotions in you when you heard that B.G. got 14 years? That’s still like my little brother and especially when you see them a couple times and you like get it right you know but as a man you can only say that and they do what they want to do but real talk, I was like damn. I don’t want to say career ending, but that’s a long time after somebody who was so talented and has so much to offer. I guess you don’t see something until it’s gone. It’s a blessing to do something that you love to do for work. I love this and I get paid for this so I can’t take this for granted and he wound up getting into something you know that made his life change in a split second. Everything that you do has repercussions and he is still like my little brother. I spoke to his mother but I haven’t spoken to him yet.
This is the portion of the interview where I do a section called Shout Outs and basically I’ll ask you a group of questions and you just give me the first thing that comes to your mind.
What your favorite food? Sushi.
What’s your favorite drink alcoholic or nonalcoholic? Pineapple juice.
Favorite sports team? I’m not into sports.
What’s your favorite movie? Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
What’s your favorite place to visit? I don’t know. I don’t really think I have a favorite place to visit. I guess for me it’s going back home to New Orleans and kicking it with my Dad because he has so much wisdom.
What’s your favorite car? 1970 Chevelle.
What’s your favorite fashion brand? I’m a Wal-Mart and Target dude. Target and Wal-Mart they keep it simple.
What’s your favorite song of all time? “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
The artist or the person that made you want to become an artist? My Dad hands down
Give us some last words Mannie Fresh, and let the fans of Hip Hop Vibe know how they can reach out and touch you. I just want to say thank you to the fans for embracing me and all the people you know on Twitter and people that interview me like you guys that keep showing me love and to the people asking me when I’m coming out. The fans that let me know that they are waiting on me, that’s real love. I just wanna shout out to the people that believe in me.
I’m @MannieFresh on Twitter and that’s about it. I appreciate ya!