Interview: Big Dope P

You would be forgiven for thinking that Big Dope P spends all of his time running Moveltraxx, such is his dedication to spreading the music made by the artists he loves. While it’s true that a new release from Da Movelt Posse is never far from your ears, it’s also undeniable that Dope P is a snarl-inducingly mean producer in his own right. After putting out records for the best part of a decade, he’s arguably reaching an unprecedented peak in popularity right now and, with the release of new EP Hit The Blokk, the ceiling is about to be shattered. The title track has been doing the rounds for a while now with its ecstatic anarchy and mind boggling energy. Indeed, a few lucky Truants have witnessed it destroy the dancefloor already. It’s joined on the EP by two new originals, one of which is a collaboration with Feadz, and three remixes from virtuoso artists at differing ends of the dance music spectrum (four if you cop the vinyl!). With so much going on at the moment for Dope P, it seemed only right that we got in touch. Not only did we learn about the new release on Nightwave’s Heka Trax label, but also about his rich history as a producer, how he got to where he is today and much more besides.

You’ve spoken in interviews before about what influences your music; a massive range of stuff from hip-hop, house, disco etc. I was wondering about how you first went from being a fan to a producer. Was there a specific moment you remember deciding that this is what you wanted to do, and how were those early days of making music? “I remember there was this musical instrument shop at the mall, near where I lived in Paris south suburbs. I spent so many Saturday afternoons there because they had an MPC with sound kits to test. I couldn’t save anything or load my own sounds but that’s how I taught myself how to use one. I was 13 years old at that time. I also used to go to a friend of mine’s place after school. Her big brother who owned some samplers and synths let me record some stuff. I started making hip-hop/break beats and he sent a few to rappers, that’s how it started for me. This guy became one of the guys I founded Moveltraxx with later when I was 17. I discovered dance music at 15 when I found out that the 70/80s funk and disco records I sampled were also used in house music. I preferred how they sounded when they were sampled by Paul Johnson, Basement Jaxx or Todd Edwards because it was more creative and I was fascinated by the way they made tracks without the obligatory need for someone to sing or rap on it all the time. So I started to make some hybrid house/hip-hop/freestyle tracks and also started to collect records and learn how to DJ. The sound I was looking for didn’t really exist at that time but the Chicago ghetto house movement was definitely close. Deeon, Slugo, a few Detroit cats like Mr. De and some Van Helden stuff too.”

From that time until now, I feel like you’ve really developed your own sound. Especially with the stuff you’ve done in the past year or so, it doesn’t sound like it could be anybody else. What are some of the characteristics of a Big Dope P track? “This thing about the fact I have my own sound is a feedback I often get and that’s probably what I’m the most proud about, especially in this copycat era. You can say my stuff is dope or say it’s shit, but at least it’s mine haha. I always find it hard to define my own music with words though so I don’t know; all I know is that it remains faithful to what I wanted to make when I was a kid.”

What’s your studio set up like at the moment? Are you still championing the MPC? “Yeah, the MPC is the heart of my set up because everything ends up there, even the vocals I record. All tracks are made and finished in the MPC. I’m moving a lot so all I need is an MPC and a laptop to do some edits. When I need synths or vocals or specific stuff I just go in different studios to record that.”

No doubt a lot of people find your music through remixes you’ve done. Big ones for Joseph Marinetti, Feadz, even Duck Sauce recently. Is your approach to those different than when working on originals? “I see remixes as collabs where I have to make an original track with another artist’s sounds. I love doing them and I try a lot of new stuff there. I’ve been super lucky to be invited by huge artists and labels to do some too.”

You live, or at least spend a lot of time, in London now, right? Was the move from Paris musically motivated at all? I know you’ve spoken quite negatively about the club scene there before. “I travel a lot through the music I’ve made and London has always been the only city in the world I wanted to move to. Also, I have a love/hate relationship with Paris and France that is not really related to music to be honest, more like the global atmosphere. Politics and stuff like that. I love the UK and I feel so good here. I’m also very often in Birmingham where my girlfriend teaches French and I love this city too. I go back to France at least once a month though. Of course, I also enjoy living in a city that has a real electronic music culture, where I can hear my shit on the radio and plus you guys have Nando’s haha. There is a lot of talent in France but the club scene/magazines/radio suck so much that it’s almost impossible to build anything solid with fresh and original ideas. There are a few people still trying to make that change though.”

I wanted to ask about Moveltraxx too. Your first release was in 2007 I think, which means you’ve been in operation for an age, especially with the number of labels that come and go nowadays. How has running a label changed in that time and what do you think are some of the factors that makes one successful? “Having a vision, being really passionate, doing it for the love is what it takes. Don’t create a label just to create a label, make sure you have something new to say and to showcase. Don’t be afraid to work a lot and don’t do it to get some recognition, that shit is lame as fuck. If you think you have something good to offer that can have a positive impact, let’s go. The thing that’s changed over the years is that the “underground” spirit’s kinda disappeared. So many people have nothing new to offer and just try to jump on the “sound of the moment”. The likes/views/plays race on social network fucked shit up too. Super lame ass stuff getting tons of plays and “artists” thinking they’re the next big thing, then totally get out of fashion in 6 months and disappear. We have kind of a “mainstream” music model in the scene now. Not everybody of course but this is right there, we can’t deny it. On the cool side, I think it’s much easier to put music out than it was before.”

I see Moveltraxx as a label that pioneers sounds from around the world, giving them some recognition before most people had heard of them. As an example, you guys were putting out Teklife tracks in 2010. Would you say that’s a big part of your mission? “When we started in 2007 we didn’t really have record label ambitions. It was just about putting out tracks we made on vinyl so that they’d exist. Then before going further, we wanted to promote the Chicago scene we loved at a time almost nobody else was giving them love. Old school guys like Waxmaster and new heads like Rashad. With today’s footwork explosion and labels doing represses of old school ghetto house tunes we’ve almost forgotten that, a few years ago, rap vocals on top of raw and fast 808 beats wasn’t hype at all. You would be surprised by the number of influential DJ’s that left shitty feedback on our releases and then emailed us 2 years later saying it’s dope and asking if they can get the promo. It’s the same for Jersey Club. We’ve released DJ Tameil, Sliink, Tiga, Jayhood stuff. Now everybody wants to sound like them. We’ve never really tried to be on something before others, it’s just the music we always loved. If people wanna wake up 5 years later it’s their problem. We’re doing this for the love anyway so we’ll be there with or without success.”

So “Hit The Blokk” comes out today, what can you tell us about the EP? It seems you’ve had some good feedback on it already. “I’m super excited about it, the feedback has been pretty amazing so far. I couldn’t be more happy. About the EP, it consists of 3 tracks, made in June, August and December 2014 and there are collabs/remixes from artists I love. Rustie, DJ Earl from Teklife and Ikonika. There will also be a special white coloured vinyl edition that will include a bonus remix from Brick Bandits’ Tim Dolla. It’s coming out on Heka Trax which is Nightwave’s record label.”

How did you first link up with Nightwave? “I remember getting a message from a friend of mine a while back with a link to her dope Boiler Room set because she’d played some tracks from me and the label. I think we met in Paris when she played at Social Club with Sophie and then she booked me in Glasgow and Edinburgh at her amazing club night “Nightrave” with Eclair Fifi & The Blessings from LuckyMe. Turns out not only is she one of my favourite DJs, but she’s also a beautiful human being and we became very good friends. There aren’t many people I love and respect that much in the game. Her and Feadz are like my big brother and big sister. After releasing on UTTU and Svetlana Industries she decided to launch her own record label. I made a remix for her track “Luxor” on the first release so I’ve pretty much been around since the start.”

I was wondering why you decided to put it out on this label rather than your own. “When I moved to London, Martelo invited me onto his show on NTS. I played “Hit Da Blokk” and “Momma On Da Flo” (the collab with Feadz) for the first time there, and a few days after I started getting messages from big labels wanting to release those. The problem is nobody wanted both of them, some just wanted to make a single with Momma and others just wanted Hit Da Blokk saying the two tracks together were two different vibes and that it would be hard to market. Some bullshit like that. It’s important to release stuff and share your music with people that really understand and appreciate what you do, which is the case with Maya. I totally trust her and I’m very honoured to release on her imprint as I’m a big fan of the previous Heka releases too. Her tracks “Scooter”, “Magic Carpet”, “Shut It Down w/ TT The Artist”, “Hit It w/ DJ Deeon” never leave my crates.”

How do you go about choosing who to ask for remixes? There’s always a good variety on your releases. “I remember sending “Hit Da Blokk” to Rustie and he really liked it. A few months later he said he wanted to remix it, what an honour! The remix he made is so good. This guy is amazing, super talented, very humble and cool. He reinvents himself and never does the same record two times whereas he could just be doing Glass Swords over and over again. He played some new new at his London show last week and looks like he’s about to change the game again soon. For “Momma On Da Flo” me and Feadz had this track that has a strong Chicago ghetto house feeling so I thought it would make sense to ask Earl for a footwork take on it. Teklife or No Life ya know. Ikonika is the only one who I didn’t really know personally. We’ve been receiving each other’s promos since 2010 but never met or anything. I was a big fan of her second album and when she did that last EP “Position” on Hyperdub man, I knew I wanted her to make a remix for Ibogance.”

What does the future hold for you and Moveltraxx? Are you working on anything at the moment? “Right now I’m cooking up some surprises around the “Hit Da Blokk” EP release. I’m also working on two new special records. Some very cool remixes for artists and labels I love coming soon including one for Basement Jaxx we did with Baltimore’s TT The Artist. I have this new monthly show in London on Radar Radio and I’m going to the US soon for a few gigs. With Moveltraxx, we’ve launched this new release series called Street Bangers Factory. We’re about to release Volume 3 and we also have new records coming from Mighty Mark, Dudley Slang and more.”

Big Dope P’s Hit Da Blokk EP is released 20th April on Heka Trax across all your favourite digital platforms. Keep your eyes peeled for the vinyl.

Matt Coombs
Matt Coombs

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