LOOC Magazine (China) – Kevin Casey Interview

Last year Kevin Casey gave Et Musique Pour Tous the exclusive release on his New York-centric mixtape Live From New York, and what a privilege it was. I don’t want to say much because this entry is all about the interview but we saw K.C. create this mixtape from scratch out of his studio in NYC and to see it getting love out in the far east is a beautiful thing. Check out the interview and Live From New York. Here are some words from the man himself, enjoy.

Hello everyone…I had the chance last month to chat with the people from LOOC, China’s #1 Hip Hop magazine, for their January 2010 issue. We discussed Live From New York, hip hop past to present, and plans for the future. You can read the full interview in English below the pictures.

I want to thank my partners at Et Musique Pour Tous for their continuous support, and for being the first to report on this project.

Kevin Casey

L: LOOC Magazine K: Kevin Casey

L: First of all congratulations on putting together such a great tape.
K: Thank you very much.

L: On top of everything I wanna know, Live From New York 94-2k1, where does this concept or idea come from? You chose this specific time period, what is the reason?
K: The overall concept was something I had in my head for years before beginning the creative process. It was the music I grew up with, and the music that I knew the most about. With such a large number of classic records to chose from, the material was there, so it was up to me to put it together the right way. As far as the years represented, I chose 2001 as the cutoff before I began the tape. I felt that 2000 and 2001 had a lot of albums that still represented the feel of the 90’s. (Reunion, We Are The Streets, The Blueprint, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, Supreme Clientele, to name a few) The inclusion of these years is one thing I think separates LFNY from typical 90’s hip hop mixes. The period was originally 1995-2001, until I threw on Method Man “Release Yo’ Delf,” which was the only song released in ’94.

L: Comparing the music of that period with today’s New York Hip-Hop, what is the biggest change?
K: I would have to say the biggest change today is more contrived material. Declined sales got the label executives overly involved in projects, pushing artists in whatever direction they believe will sell records, and in the meantime compromising the artistic vision of the albums. Forcing the issue in any way is hard to hide when you are dealing with rap music, one of the rawest musical art-forms there are. Naturally, the art-form suffered, especially in New York where hardcore hip hop was king. People had to make money, so changes were inevitable.

L: The south has been hot these years. The New York Hip-Hop scene seems to be weakened. What do you think is the reason?
K: I think the New York scene has been perceived as weakened due to the reasons I named in the last question. Meanwhile the southern artists were embracing the commercial trends in hip hop, and capitalizing off them. The rise of the south led to a period where New Yorkers spent too much of their time discussing the state of hip hop, instead of contributing to it. The internet and ease of recording led to an influx of uninspired new artists, which left the scene over saturated and still, unimproved. In my opinion, the downward trend that we experienced has turned around. A lot of veterans of the game have stepped up and injected life back into the scene. The best thing we can do to maintain this positive energy is to focus less on video blogging and beefing, and more on the one thing that matters … the music.

L: 46 songs made the tape. During that time, there was so much good music. Was it hard for you to choose, with all those songs out there?
K: The first step in creating LFNY was the research, which consisted of going through thousands of songs and setting aside the ones I could picture making the cut. When I was done I had a folder of roughly 250 records, from over 40 artists. Initially my goal was to get as many of those artists on there as I could, and even to have the cover read “40 MCs / 1 City.” As I started to work on the mixtape, I decided that maintaining a consistent feel and flow was going to be my priority, even if that meant leaving out certain artists or songs. Once that decision was made, it wasn’t hard to choose, I just went with what worked best for the tape.

L: I notice that there isn’t any songs from Illmatic on this tape. Some people seem to be disappointed.
K: Illmatic is a classic hip hop album, and one of my favorites. All tracks are worthy of a spot on the mixtape, but unfortunately I did not find the right fit for them. Discussion regarding left out tracks, especially Nas tracks, was something I had anticipated way before releasing LFNY. I addressed the issue on my blog actually. Ultimately, I only went with the songs that worked well in the given sequence, and did not force anything. Honestly, I think I would have to make at least five volumes of Live From New York to dispell all arguments for left out tracks.

L: The transitions between songs are smooth in this tape. How much time did you put into it?
K: I wanted to make something that could be played from beginning to end with no interruptions. I put in as much time as needed to make each transition work the right way. Some came fairly easy, and some took days to complete. Anything in my power to make the tape a smoother listen, I would do; editing, mixing, production, chopping, time compression/expansion, pitch shifting, ect… sometimes all in one transition. Most of my time went into things the average listener will not pick up on.

L: You are a producer. You’ve worked so hard on the tape. So why don’t you include some of your own work, like a remix to showcase your talent and production?
K: I included some original production on the first half of the intro, where I put together a cover of Ante Up using all orchestra instruments. Besides that, I wanted to showcase the songs as they were, with no blends or remixes. I’m a big fan of not only the artists from this era, but the producers as well. I wanted to stay focused on my vision for LFNY as a compilation to promote and support classic hip hop. I know I will have my opportunities to prove myself as a producer.

L: So are there any future projects in work? Is it gonna be Live from New York pt 2 or some of your beats, original stuff?
K: I’m not sure if people will ever see a LFNY2, its too early to decide at this point. I personally hope that my tape may have inspired some similar projects from other producers/DJs. For the time being, I will be dedicating myself to growing as a musician and producer, and working hard to make my own contributions musically. I am currently working on a few projects involving my production, but would rather not speak on the specifics of things until they are ready to be heard.

L: Raekwon the chef shouted you out in the tape. Are you going to work with him later? How did you hook up with each other?
K: I met the Chef in the studio while he was working on Only Built for Cuban Linx 2. Rae is a very easy dude to get along with, and one of the most genuine guys I’ve met in the industry thus far. With the title track being his record, I was blessed to be around him at the right time and get him to introduce the tape. It tied it together nicely. When Rae comes off tour I will certainly be playing music for him in the studio, and can only hope for the best. Regardless of whether I get a record with him, Rae will always be an artist that I admire and support.

L: You wrote on your twitter page recently, saying “There’s always a next level. reach for it”. So our final question is, what’s the next level for Kevin Casey?
K: With the industry as competitive as it is, you always have to be striving to take your craft to the next level. I’m not sure how to define exactly what the next level is for me, but I do know that when I get there, I will start reaching for the level after that. It doesn’t end. Before we finish, I just wanted to point out that a major goal of mine regarding the mixtape was to reach an international audience. Thank you for being a part of making that happen.