5 Awesome Facts from Mannie Fresh’s NPR Mic Check
You know a song is great when, years later, you can still remember where you were the first time you heard it. It doesn't happen too often and it takes a truly special song special like "All Falls Down" or "International Players Anthem", but when it does, it is one of the best, truly unforgettable feelings ever. Mannie Fresh has not one, but two songs on that list ("Go DJ" and "This Is The Carter"). His name might not ring out like RZA or Kanye, but Mannie is just as successful (and slick) behind the boards.
So, when NPR brought him to D.C for the first ever Microphone Check Live, I had to be there...and I was. Hearing Fresh talk about the game and play bounce beat remixes of Earth Wind & Fire (to go with an unreleased Mos Def collab he previewed) is the kind of stuff rap nerds dream about. I had so much fun, but also learned a ton. Keep checking Mic Check for an rebroadcast, but in the meantime, I want to give y'all a highlight of what you missed.
Here are five mindblowing facts from Mannie Fresh's Microphone Check interview.
1.) Lil Wayne had a plan for Tha Carter series from the get go...
I don't know why, but this kind of blew my mind. Even before stepping into the booth once, Wayne knew that his legacy would be defined by Tha Carter. I never would have thought that Wayne had a ten year plan. If I've learned anything in my brief stint in music, it's that nothing is ever set in stone or locked in unless it's actually happened. There is so much grey area and uncertainty, it's hard to plan a week in advance, let along a decade. The fact that Weezy had a plan and then actually executed it blows my mind. It wasn't some small vision either, as a five album series is no easy task, and I have even more respect for Weezy after finding out it was his plan all along.
2.) There is way more to Juvinile's 400 Degreez than you might have thought...
When I think of great rappers, Juvenile doesn't exactly come to mind first. Don't get me wrong, I love "Back That Ass Up" as much as the next guy, but he's not Tupac. I mean, would you think that, of all the stuff he's made, Mannie would call 400 Degreez as close to the "quintessential Mannie Fresh project" as he has ever gotten? That really surprised me. I never would have thought his magnum opus would be this album. This is a guy who has a few albums of his own and been behind most of Cash Money's biggest hits; and let's not forget what he did with T.I. Of all that, a Juvenile album is what he hangs his hat on? I was surprised, but after hearing more, it makes sense. First, what made it special was that Juvenile had the whole album written and memorized long before he met Mannie. In fact, when they first met, Juvenile rapped some of those songs for Mannie on the spot. But wait there's more! The last thing Mannie said about the album that stood out to me was that when recording, he made the beats on the spot, meaning that as Juvenile was rapping, Mannie and the crew were playing their instruments live. That NEVER happens anymore. Who knew there was so much to an album who's lead single was called "Back That Ass Up"?!
3.) Mannie Fresh thinks that, these days, every song sounds the same...
As much as I loved hearing Mannie speak, I have to say, I was surprised how critical and cynical he was about the hip-hop landscape today. To be fair, this question was answered through the eyes of DJ Mannie Fresh. In that case, when you are playing popular songs in club, it makes total sense you might think all songs sound the same. However, hip-hop is far more than just what's on the radio or being played in DJ sets and I was surprised that Mannie didn't make that distinction. Actually, throughout the night he was pretty hard on today's generation of hip-hop. I get that there are issues, but, respectfully of course, I disagree that everything sounds the same, you just have to know where to look; I would think Mannie knew that (and I'm sure he does) but when he says there is nobody new he would want to work with, doesn't it seem like he's being too harsh? Either way, I think it speaks volumes to what the mainstream is like when a DJ is saying he won't play that stuff because each song is almost identical. Food for thought.
4.) Mannie can turn anything into a bounce beat...
I love bounce beats. When I'm working out or ready to party, nothing get's me more ready than a great Mannie fresh bounce track; his discography is littered with them. Still, I never considered them overly complicated or dynamic. Boy was I wrong. The highlight of the night came at the end, when unplanned, Mannie spent a good 15 minutes just playing beats off his iPad. These beat's included cracking remixes of Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, Hall and Oats, and the Showtime At The Apollo theme song, and even a country song. Yes, Mannie turned a country song into a banger that would knock Garth Brook's cowboy hat right off his head. It was incredible to me the way he was able to take anything, even classical music, and turn it into a distinctly Mannie beat. It really spoke to his attitude as a whole, Mannie really likes to push boundaries, experiment, and bridge two sounds that may be completely different and to me that is the mark of a true artist. After hearing, first hand, his approach is like (and of course the results) I appreciate what Mannie does on a whole different level; the man is an artist no matter how many songs with "ass" in the name he has produced.
5.) NPR is amazing...
I'm not sure exactly how, but NPR has became an epicenter of hip-hop. I can't think of another media outlet who tackles as many subjects as they do and are able to do each one so well and music is no exception. With First Listens, Tiny Desk Concerts, and of course Microphone Check, NPR is committed to bringing us the best music out there and the best part is they don't discriminate against hip-hop. Getting to go to the DC NPR office and see how they operate first hand was worth it Mannie Fresh aside. As a budding journalist, I often listen and learn from what they do so I can get better. I am always thinking about how marginalized and overlooked hip-hop is--people hear what's on the radio and dismiss us--and it takes some serious courage for NPR to stay committed to giving hip-hop as much attention as any other genre. If you love hip-hop at all, you have to give it up to NPR for showing people there is more to our genre and culture than twerking and gold chains.
These are only five of the fifteen-billion things I learned last night. The conversation ranged from Lil Wayne's Mother in the studio to the effects of Hurricane Katrina, so if you think you learned it all from my write-up, I'm honored, but you're wrong. You really gotta hear it for yourself. Keeping checking Microphone Check's page, as the interview is going to be the next installment of the series.
UPDATE: You can now check out some video from the interview here, and listen to Mannie's DJ set below. Enjoy...
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net and RefinedHype. His favortie album is "College Dropout", but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @Lgarrison88.]
Written by Lucas G. on 05/21/14
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