I decided, over the weekend, to open a time capsule to my 20s: my boxes of cassette tapes, most of which I recorded/collected over the course of the 1990s. I hadn’t bothered to touch any of these in at least six, possibly ten years, since I boxed them up to move down from the Bay Area in 2006.
It was a little overwhelming but I’m glad I held onto all this even if the idea of trying to sort through all of it fills me with a tiny bit of regret. I did, immediately, try to hunt down what I was looking for: my very first mixtape, aka O’s Dub Vol 1, recorded on a Tascam 424 Portastudio, back in 1994.1 All praise due to DJ Ajax whose Jax Trax Vol 1 tape was my introduction to multitrack mixing and the main reason I went to hunt down that Tascam.
Sadly, I also realized that I should have followed Nas’s advice and avoided using my old cassette deck because that shit eats tape. But before I managed to mangle O’s Dub Vol 3 (who’s got some splicing tape for me?), I did pull off a few extra joints for you to peep.
The Roots: Live on KALX (1994)
Maybe I’ve told this story before but back in ’94, I had a show on KALX that began at noon on Sundays. The Sunday Morning Show was a long-standing hip-hop show at the station and on this morning, The Roots were supposed to shoot through – they had just played their first gig in San Francisco one or two nights before – but they were running late and so I accidentally inherited them on my show instead. I had been to that show at Bimbo’s the night before and it still ranks as one of my top 3 live shows ever. As you might imagine, I was hyped to have The Roots on as a guest, especially since Rahzel and Black Thought were kind enough to hit me with a freestyle, live on air, plus tape a drop for me.
One of the first things I tried to learn how to do with multitrack mixing was to create a “beat suite” remix of Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.” It’s on O’s Dub Vol. 1 above, if you scroll to around 4:17. All said, I thought it turned out pretty decent and that gave me confidence to try it again on a later mixtape by thematically remixing Common’s “I Used to Love Her.” I can’t remember if I had already heard DJ Spinbad’s insane-o remix of KRS-One’s “Hip-Hop vs. Rap” at that point but I have to imagine that was the inspiration.
I, however, am no Spinbad. The Nas remix worked ok because it was relatively simple but with the Common remix, I tried to up my game and instead, it came off rather sloppy and, in hindsight, far less ambitious than what I could have done with a 4-track. Whatever though.
The reason I even went looking for my tapes was because, on the spur of the moment the other day, I decided to try doing another beat-suite remix of the same song, but this time, using Reaper and a bunch of favorite funk 45s. Straight up: this doesn’t sound lined up properly at times. I have nil experience with producing so even something as using software to create a loop and tempo map it is all new for me. I might make another run at fixing the small problems here but as this is what launched me down memory lane to begin with, I figured I’d share it regardless of its current state of imperfection.
- I was trying to remember when I bought the thing and in the course of looking through my email archives, I remembered that it was DJ Vlad (yeah, that one) who suggested I look for the 424 specifically. I can’t recall how Vlad and I crossed paths back then but I do remember he was the first guy to hep me to the Idris Muhammed LP with “Loran’s Dance.” ↩