J.R. and PH7 are two producers from Cologne, Germany. They have had numerous album releases featuring todays top Hip Hop Underground artists such as Sean Price, Planet Asia, Phonte, Median, Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, Edo G, Skyzoo, Supastition, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Oddisee, Freeway, Ras Kass, Saigon, Hezekiah and many more. Their new album “The Good Life” is in stores now.
What first got you into Hip Hop music?
I got into Hip Hop through my big brother. He listened to some German underground rap in early 90s and that kind of got me into it, although my brother moved on musically. Then when I got my first turntable, after killing my parents one it was no turning back for me.
How did the 2 of you connect and when did you first start making music together?
Back then I worked for a small record label and we put out a record where PH7 produced a track. That’s how I first got into touch with him. A little later he moved to Cologne and then we started hanging out, became friends and eventually started to make music together. That was around 2006 I think.
What equipment did you start out with and what are you now using in the lab?
For me nothing much has changed since back then, I guess I’m stuck (laughs). It’s all MPC and Logic. However, I gotta say Pete is the far better producer and more musical than me. I’m more of a beatmaker, chopping up samples.
Describe growing up in Cologne what was the Hip Hop scene like back then?
I actually grew up in a town called Krefeld, about 45 minutes from Cologne. Back then we’d always get on the train to buy the newest records at Groove Attack and Saturn in Cologne. Back around 99 there was a huge Hip Hop trend in Germany. A lot of dope artists became popular and the whole culture blew up. It all calmed down in there early 2000s but I was infected and it stuck with me. However, I gotta say I believe Cologne has one of the dopest music scenes in Germany. There are many great artists, shows and parties where good music is played. I moved two Copenhagen, Denmark around 2 years ago and I really miss the scene in Cologne.
Was it hard making a name for yourselves given that you weren’t from a major city like Berlin and Munich?
Funny you ask because I think we are still under the radar of a lot of people in Germany. I guess it’s always hardest to make it at home. But we are doing fine, our music is worldwide, we get to travel the globe a little bit and we are having fun, meeting loads of interesting and talented people. It might have been a little easier if we were from Berlin maybe, but honestly most of the things we do is international, so whatever.
For those unfamiliar can you describe the German Hip Hop scene to us?
I think the German Hip Hop scene is in a good place at the moment. There are many talented artists with many various styles who are also successful. There used to be a time a few years back when you couldn’t really get heard if you weren’t Mr. Tough Guy but now I think people are very open for new stuff and overall everything is quite balanced. There is also a growing scene of beatmakers making quite some noise, also especially in Cologne where we are from. Funny thing is, for no particular reason we don’t really have too much to do with all these people but it’s all good.
What was your first big break?
Did we have that yet? (laughs) I actually don’t really know. For me personally it was just having the first piece of wax of our music in my hands. Pete has done work with quite so big German artists though and also had a Gold record in Poland.
The list of your collaborations is like a who’s who of US Hip Hop how do you go about approaching an artist to work on a track with you?
Most of the time we know the artists personally, have met them on tour or we know somebody who has somewhat a connection. The Hip Hop world is smaller than you think. Since we have been doing this for a while I’d say we are pretty well connected. However, you still have to come with hot beats. Especially, if you are like us and don’t have a budget.
Is there one artist you are still trying to work with?
Oh man, there are so many. I’d love to see us do a joint with Pharoahe Monch.
Are you open to working with artists outside of the States if so is there anyone that interests you?
We are open to work with artists from anywhere. Pete recently did a record with Aphroe, one of Germany’s best emcees in my opinion.
What track from your catalogue are you most proud of and why?
Oh wow. Tough one to say. Tracks come and go with me. Right now my favourite joint is “Humid Nights” with Kid Daytona. I just love the sample and he fits perfectly to the joint I think. We also shot a nice video in NYC with him for that. that will drop soon. I think this one will stand the test of time. Besides this, I still like “Fast Lane Speedin” with Amir (Oddisee) a lot and it’s always special since this was the first track ever recorded for a JR&PH7 record.
You release your music through Soulspazm. how much of a help is it being signed to a US label?
Well, I do think it is a help since they can help us a lot when it comes to many things, especially in the US. Obviously a lot of our listeners come from there and thats where a lot of key media etc is. But most importantly for us is that with Soulspazm and Foundation Media, they know excatly what we are doing and where we want to go with our music. We became good friends through all this and ultimately whats better than doing business with friends?
“The Good Life” is the new album was there a different approach in making this compared to your previous releases?
Mmm not really. We just wanted to try to have some of our favourite emcees to rock over some of our favourite beats and make good matches. Additionally, we tried to work with some interesting up and comers.
What is your favourite track off “The Good Life” and why?
I think it’s a match between “Humid Nights” and “Who Want What”. Pete went nuts on “Who Want What”. The funny thing is that, initially we actually each independently from each other made a track out of the beginning of the sampled track. Then one day Pete is like yo I went back to this joint and he showed me this beat and I wa sfucking blown away. I think Freeway, Sai and Ras Kass did it justice.
Who inspires you musically?
Honestly, the most inspiration I get is from the artists I sample LOL.
What is one beat you wished you made?
Ah man there are too many to name. One beat I love is Oddisee’s “Different Now”, that is crazy.
What’s the best piece of advice ever given to you?
Probably “Back up your HD today” lol. Other than that I love this quote by Winston Churchill, it applies perfectly to music and all the bs you encounter in this: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without loosing your enthusiasm”.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Sleeping on our label’s tiny office floor with 4 guys for a week in NYC without a proper bathroom.
What does the future hold for JR & PH7?
Well, we’ll see what happens afte rthis project, hopefully some doors open up. We are currently working on a project with Chuuwee, so I guess that will be next up.
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Grindin’ to me basically means making the best out of your possibilities. We are still grindin for every record we put out and nothing really comes easy. We do as much as we can ourselves to maintain creative control. All this is a grind if you basically have no real budget and are still holding down a full time job or finishing your university degree as us two are doing.