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Since 2013’s “8 Miles To Moenart” Tall Black Guy has cemented his position as a standard bearer for the current Hip Hop and Beats scene. Born in Detroit and now residing in the UK, Wallace’s signature style of incredibly clever sample flips and deft production chops has won fans across the globe including Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Jazzy Jeff and House Shoes.
Since his debut release in 2011 (a daring and addictive flip of Fela Kuti), TBG has become revered for his unique take on soulful Hip Hop production. The swing of the drums, the textures of the instrumentation as well as a fearlessness in taking on the classics (his Soundcloud page includes flips and chops of tracks from James Brown, De La Soul and Michael Jackson) have marked him out from the crowd. One of the best kept secrets in the scene, his singular talent is now beginning to get the recognition it deserves. In the last 12 months he has remixed Little Dragon and been invited to take part in Jazzy Jeff’s Playlist Retreat alongside the likes of Eric Lau, James Poyser, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Questlove and countless others.
For his new album “Let’s Take A Trip” Wallace had a simple inspiration: “This album is all about taking a journey. As simple as that. Be it physical, emotional or spiritual. It’s asking and answering personal questions from myself within some of the tracks and also touching on social issues i.e. racism, inequality and privilege…that have been at the forefront of my mind over last three years.” Sonically there is also a shift: “Jazz has definitely been more of an influence in this project, as I have been really inspired by so many up and coming musicians who I’ve been blessed to connect with”. Some of these musicians, including Kenny Keys, Miles Bonny, Diggs Duke and Dee Jackson feature on the project as well as regular collaborators Ozay Moore and Mario Sweet and fellow Playlist alumni Daniel Crawford and Masego. But this is one man’s vision, and for Tall Black Guy this trip is just the beginning….
What are your earliest memories of music?
Listening to Luther Vandros over my Mama’s house and Jazz records with my Pops.
What led you into production?
Listening to Gang Star and all of the 90’s hip hop.
Who were your influences when you started out as a producer?
DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Timbaland, Neptunes and Madlib.
What equipment did you first use compared to what you are using now?
I’m still using the same equipment! Sony Acid 7.0 on my laptop and a midi controller.
When did you realise you could make music as a career?
Still learning that one, still working on that career thing.
You are originally from Detroit but have spent a lot of time in both the US and the UK which do you prefer?
US for my family and close friends, but the UK for everything else.
Do you notice many differences between these countries in terms of listeners and audiences to your music?
In Europe they seem more open musically to hear different genres.
You have become a regular at the Jazzy Jeff Playlist retreat with some legendary artists and musicians. For those that don’t know about the retreat can you explain what it’s all about and who attends?
DJ Day gave some music to Jazzy Jeff and after sharing those tracks from up and coming artists to his friends, he decided to put together a retreat for older heads in the music business and younger cats to vibe and build together and just be among like minded individuals. I was definitely blessed to be a part of both playlist retreats.
How do you personally find the experience and what do you take away from each one you have attended?
It was awesome! I am still inspired by this last one, and have been working with some of the other artists involved.
Did you approach making the new album any differently to your debut “8 Miles To Moenart”?
I was in a much better headspace after moving from Detroit, but the challenges of relocating to a new country was still a challenge for me.
You have an eclectic list of collaborators on the album what did they each bring to “Let’s Take A Trip”?
They are all musicians and artists that I respect and admire, hopefully I will be able to continue working with them in the future.
What’s your favourite track off the album and why?
Probably the “Come With Me And Fly” because I sang for the first time on one of my beats, and it became the foundation for the track.
What do you want the listener to take away from the album?
I want the listeners to enjoy their trip!
For those that might not know who Tall Black Guy is what 5 tracks would you first tell them to listen to?
James Brown – “Suites 1 & 2”
De La Soul – “Stakes Is High” (Tall Black Guy Remix)
“The Motor Is Running” from “8 Miles To Moenart”
“There’s No More Soul” from 8 Miles To Moenart”
Yusef Rumperfield – “I Like You”
What do you most like making originals or flips of other artist’s tracks?
What one artist would you most like to hear over Tall Black Guy’s production?
What advice would you give to up and coming producers?
Don’t quit and keep practicing times 10,000
What does the future hold for Tall Black Guy?
God willing to be able to keep learning new instruments and collaborate with more like minded people.
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Working with no sleep
Interview by Duggs.