P-Money is New Zealand’s most renowned Producer/DJ. His incredible talents in the studio and behind the decks have made him not only a household name in NZ but an artist to watch internationally.
Earning his stripes via the DJ Battle/ Turntablist scene in the early 2000’s (3 x NZ Champion and 3rd place at the DMC World Champs ’01) he then moved on to producing mega-hits for New Zealand rap stars (Scribe “Not Many”, “Stand Up”, “Stop The Music” & Deceptikonz “Stop, Drop n Roll”), collaborating with international heavyweights (Akon “Keep On Calling”, Skillz, Sauce Money, Roc Raida, Bobby Creek and Joell Ortiz) and releasing his own platinum and double platinum albums (‘Big Things’ and ‘Magic City’).
With a solid track record behind him P-Money still never fails to surprise and surpass expectations as evidenced by the release of his runaway NZ #1 hit single “Everything” featuring Vince Harder which scored heavy rotation on UK radio waves and underground club play around the world. On the eve of the release of his new album entitled “Everything” Grindin’ caught up with P to look back on his career and discuss the new direction his production is taking.
Coming from New Zealand how do you think it has shaped you as an artist?
NZ is a small place and the town where I grew up, Papakura, is especially small. There was no established ‘scene’ or group of people into hip-hop where I was. So that meant I had to learn how to DJ and make beats on my own. Working out what equipment to get and how to use it took time but I worked it all out eventually. I would watch groups on TV and read all the rap magazines to learn about the music. Once I got older and into the clubs I could link with the other dedicated hip-hop heads and we started to build a scene for our generation.
What was your first connection with music?
The only music I was exposed to as a kid was what was on the radio or TV. I remember hearing music like Queen “Another One Bites The Dust” and Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” on the radio when I was a really small child and I would always like the break parts (with just bass and drums) but not the rest of the song. Thats very hip-hop, not that I knew it at the time! But the first artist that I really got obsessed with was Michael Jackson. Then not long after the ‘Thriller’ phenomenon had made its impact, along came Run DMC with “Walk This Way”. I was fascinated with that video, they looked so cool to me, especially Jam Master Jay with his turntables. That kinda kicked off my passion for hip-hop.
Once you caught the musical bug did you always set out to be involved in it and how did your journey begin?
I never really thought about doing music as a kid. Cos I didn’t know any instruments. But when I was 12 a friend showed me his sisters turntable and did a little baby scratch on it. I was like “whoa! thats cool! let me try”. Once I tried that I was obsessed with learning to scratch. It took many years until I had the proper equipment but the love for it started there.
You were first heard about through your successes as a turntablist where you travelled the world representing New Zealand at countless DJ competitions describe the experience and what you gained from it?
In my late teens/early 20’s I was really focused on being the best Battle DJ/Turntablist in New Zealand if not the World. I practiced every spare moment of the day with the discipline of a monk. I would tire myself out behind those turntables. I took a couple losses in my first two battles but kept at it and then started to win consecutively. 3 times National champ! I learnt a whole lot about performance and the value of rehearsal and practice through those years. It also provided me with the opportunity to travel the world. I was able to visit Hawaii, L.A., NYC, London, Germany and Australia to battle and showcase my skills. My highest achievement was scoring 3rd place at the 2001 DMC World Championship. Once you achieve something like that you become part of a very esteemed international fraternity of DJ’s. It’s an honor to have experienced that.
Was it a natural progression to go from the DJ battle circuit into producing music or did it happen unexpectedly?
During those years of battle practice I was always messing about with production and learning to make beats. It was all part of the same thing for me. In my head a good hip-hop Dj did it all; scratching, mixing, beats, mixtapes, radio.. the works. So I was on that path, learning all those aspects trying to be the best at everything. It was around 2000 when I first started to record real songs that the bug for production started to take over from my passion for battling. Thats pretty much why I stopped in 2001. I wanted to spend all my time making original music.
Your debut album “Big Things” is a classic in New Zealand Hip Hop and features many artists who went on to become established in the scene. Describe the making the album and how did you manage to bring together all of the artists for the project?
At that time I was doing the legendary “Trueschool Hip-Hop” radio show in Auckland every week. We would have MC’s come up to the station and hang out or rhyme on air every week. So I got to meet all the young talent in the city and hear them rhyme. We all were like an extended crew at that time. There was a lot of support and a real community vibe. So I had this idea to take all my best beats and get all these guys to rhyme on the album. I had the profile from Battling plus Radio and a little bit of TV, so I could do this album of all my own production and feature all the new talent. It was a really popular album and helped push me and some of those MC’s further into the spotlight.
“Scribe 2001” is one of the standout tracks from the album how did you get to know about Scribe and what made him someone you wanted to work with?
I met Scribe in like ’99. Me and DJ Sir-vere took a trip down to the South Island, which was actually a huge deal for me at the time. Id never been south of Wellington. A fellow Dj friend down there named Ali brought us down for 2 gigs. One in Christchurch and one in Dunedin. Scribe was their local MC and he hosted both nights. I paid little attention to him the first night, to be honest I wasn’t feeling local rappers very much at the time. So I never thought I would find such an amazing talent in Christchurch. But the second night in Dunedin I caught his live set, he did a few rhymes and I was very impressed. He had the combination of voice, flow and presence on the mic that I hadn’t seen from anyone in NZ. He was a real standout even then. He even had his own little bunch of south island fans way back then. It wasn’t long after that we had exchanged numbers and made plans to record together.
Scribe’s “The Crusader” album on which you produced the majority of the tracks was also released on your label Dirty Records. With the success it had can you describe the ride that release took you on and how do you feel when you look back on that stage of your career did you really feel it was going have such an impact the way it did?
Recording and releasing The Crusader is a defining moment in my career. It’s fair to say that experience changed my life. I had worked with a platinum artist before (Che-Fu) in New Zealand (I was his DJ) so that experience provided me with some insight into what it’s like to hit the big time. The shows, the business, the fame etc. But still what happened with Scribe in NZ was pretty much unprecedented. He rocketed to number one and held that position for 12 weeks (a national record). The album came out and hit number one immediately. We sold a ton of records 5 x Platinum. And then we were able to do the unthinkable, we crossed the ditch and established Scribe, a Samoan rapper from Christchurch, as a certified pop-star in Australia! Even at the time people from the ozzie label (Mushroom) were telling us what the limitations were, that we wouldn’t get on radio, that rap songs from NZ, about NZ, wont work in Oz. But Scribe steam rolled through Australia and we did sold out shows, tours, Big Day Out festival like 3 times, achieved platinum status for the album and charted top 10 with the Stop The Music single. Even to this day “Not Many” is the anthem. I play that in every DJ set I do, and its a 7 year old record!
We certainly believed in the album when we were making it. I felt it was gonna make a tremendous impact, but still I couldn’t have fathomed just how much of a lasting impact it would have on local pop culture, to our business at Dirty Records and to my life in general. That record gave us all the official stamp; P-Money, Scribe and Dirty Records.
On your second solo album “Magic City” you again worked with NZ artists along with some heavyweights in the game such as Akon, Skillz, Sauce Money and more. Did you notice a difference in the approach the local and international artists took to writing to your music?
Yeah definitely. The US artists work quickly. They do their thing on the spot. No one took beats away for weeks to write rhymes and come back to me. With each artist we met up, played some beats, they pick what they like and then write their stuff in the studio. Then we put it down. I like that immediate approach. Its way more time effective and you capture the vibe then and there. Every NZ artist I have ever worked with will take the music away and write their stuff over a few days. Then we get in and record. I think thats just the kiwi way, laid back.
During your career you have stayed in both London and New York for extended periods of time what were you experiences living in each city and what do you think you gained in your time spent there that has contributed to your musical sensibilities?
New York was a big influence on me. Thats the home of Hip-Hop. Once you get plugged in over there you can learn so much so fast. Because there is a wealth of knowledge shared amongst so many people in such a geographically small city. Its no wonder their are so many great artists that come from there. Its just the environment for it. You cant help but be inspired and challenged tremendously. That city makes you step your game up. Majorly.
London I like too, because there is once again that dense population and a large musical community, but its culturally more similar to NZ or Australia. So things make sense there and they understand us Kiwi’s a lot more. I don’t have to explain where in the world New Zealand is to the average Londoner!
Now back with the “Everything” album you have taken a different step musically why the change in direction and what was the thought process behind this project?
Well, the song ‘Everything’ is almost 2 years old now and when I was making the beat for that it was just a moment of boredom really. I was tired of doing the same old mid-tempo Hip-Hop beats. there wasn’t much new Hip-Hop out that was inspiring me and so I was starting play some dance music, 70’s disco, funk and 80’s tunes in my DJ sets. All of that combined in the studio and started speeding up the tempo on a few of my tracks. It was immediately more fun to work outside the box and try some new rhythms etc. Once I put out that single and it did well, I was motivated to do some more things in a similar vein.
Being someone who has been making and releasing music for close to 10 years how do you see the state of the record industry and what do you do to keep up with the constant changes?
I like to stay up on new technology. And as I get older I also think its important to have younger dudes in your crew so you can see what trends are emerging. Like how people access music and what their habits are.
Right now, recorded music is essentially free and its more of a moral debate as to whether your purchase music or not. This puts record labels and retail outlets in a position where they may as well shut down their operations or move into different areas. We started a management company a couple years ago for that exact reason. Music is as healthy as ever though and the live gigs and DJ gigs are going great.
Your label/management company Dirty Records features an array of artists what does it take for you to consider someone to be added to your roster?
Talent. Thats number one. After that I have to feel like we can add something to what the artist is doing or help them develop into the artist they want to be.
In your opinion what’s the most perfect beat ever made and why?
Haha, “Looking For The Perfect Beat”. Nah. I dont really know, its hard to pick one. “Lookin At The Front Door” by Main Source is one. I could name like 5 Public Enemy records, Rebel Without A Pause, Terrordome, Shut Em Down Remix. Dont get me started on Premier or Dr. Dre for that matter. There are so many beats dude. “Not Many” is the perfect beat hahaha
What’s been the best piece of advice ever given to you?
Keep your publishing rights. That advice bought me a house.
What’s up next for P-Money?
More DJing and more music. I really don’t know what else I would do. Maybe run a radio station? Or create some software…whatever it is would always be music related.
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Working hard, true dedication to your craft.