This week on Mixtape Mondays we’ve got a little something different. Earlier this year, our dude DJ Prince from the Duck Down Records family hit us up about a dancehall- and reggae-inspired hip-hop project he was working on called Test My Sound. This was before the whole trend of dancehall samples in hip-hop really took off, and Prince had an idea for a hip-hop release that subtly incorporated ideas and influences from dancehall more than it borrowed the sound, citing Mad Lion’s Da Real Ting and The Fugees’ The Score as influences.
In advance of the official project’s release, Prince has given us the Test My Sound mixtape as an introduction to his dancehall-inspired hip-hop sound—and his sound system, Mobile Kitchen Sound. Stream/download the mix below (or get a track-by-track version of the mix here), then check out an interview with Prince about Test My Sound, after the back cover/tracklist:
LargeUp: Tell us about the concept for your Test My Sound project, and what you wanted to accomplish…
DJ Prince: Test My Sound is a reggae-themed hip-hop project I created as exposure for my production, as well as some of my close friends and influences. As a DJ, I feel it’s our responsibility to expose as much new music as possible. New sounds with new styles, mixing different artists and genres together. As an MC, I would like to hear and see these new artists control the crowd with their lyrics and take more pride in their stage presence. As a producer, I would like to hear less 808s, and more rattling baselines. This project is telling everyone step their game up and bring the best you can. I’m chopping necks off with sounds.
LU: Did you go about making these tracks differently than usual, being that you had the specific reggae theme? I wouldn’t say there’s any reggae/dancehall beats, it’s more in the subtleties where I hear the influence…
DJP: I took a real chance production-wise in creating Test My Sound by limiting the sample use and forcing myself to play everything. I would start all my beats out with the bassline first, EQ it, make sure it’s rhythmic so you can feel it. Then I would look for obscure sounds that fit the mood, and usually follow up with a cheesy organ sound. My drums would always be the last and longest part to lay down. Somehow, the drums always mesh my beats together. The dancehall influence is heard in how I present myself on the track as an MC and ride the rhythms. I also dug real deep in 80’s digital reggae—that Casio keyboard era of beats. It’s very important to me to push myself sonically and not listen or compare my music to what’s “hot” right now, but to commit to create timeless music. Songs you can play 6, 8 years from now and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
LU: What is your background?
DJP: My father was born in Kingston, Jamaica. My mother was born in Columbia, South Carolina. I grew up eating oxtail and baked mac and cheese. We moved to Long Island when I was around 9, moved back to the city, then ultimately moved back spending most of middle and high school in Long Island. If you ever been inside my house, you can see how cultured my parents were especially my father. He always refers to this Marcus Garvey biography where my grandfather, Ivan Guy Aarons, was mentioned as being one of Marcus’s main influences before moving to London to attend university. I never really understood how important Marcus was for Jamaican’s as a people and a culture. And yes I’ve been to Jamaica. We still have family in Kingston as well as land in Montego Bay.
LU: You mentioned Mad Lion’s Da Real Ting and Missy’s Supa Dupa Fly as references. Interesting pair. How do you think your album is similar to those?
DJP: Both were the artists’ first real presentation to the world. Both brought such a different sound and element to hip-hop. Radio smash singles with Mad Lion’s “Shoot to Kill” and “Take It Easy,” or Missy with “The Rain” and “Sock it 2 Me.” Also, when I heard them for the first time, I kept them in constant rotation. That rarely happens with hip-hop albums nowadays. I tried my best to not have any “skip-through tracks” to be cohesive as possible. I stole Missy’s swag and drank some of Mad Lion’s herbal roots tonic.
LU: You’re up front rhyming on this project…have you thought of changing your name from “DJ Prince”? Or is that a nod to dancehall, where what us Americans call the MC is the DJ?
DJP: You pretty much hit it on the head. There’s a skit on the album pretty much explaining what you just said. It definitely can be looked at as a nod to the culture, but I never want to be looked at as just a rapper. It’s so much more. I am a curator expressing myself in music right now, and reggae has always been my foundation. Plus every Jamaican has a second name. Mine was Prince. It was simple so I just rolled with it. Not the singer, not Prince Paul—DJ Prince.