FAT JON/5 DEEZ INTERVIEW BY HUWSTON
Five Deez, ‘the crew with four black dudes.’ Turning Cincinnati to Kinkynasti. Trailblazing for no-coast hip hop and sweeping the world off its feet along the way. The four piece who reset the clock with 2001’s ‘Kool Motor’ have just released their third album ‘Kinkynasti’ on the world’s biggest little indie label, !K7. If you’re thinking that the info is already incorrect then you’re somewhere near understanding Five Deez. An American rap group on a German based label that usually flaunts techno and DJ mix series? Third album? Such is the universal appeal of Five Deez; as producer and MC Fat Jon tells me ‘believe it or not we sell a tonne of records in the States’ – a trait not usually associated with acts that get obscure Japan only releases (the phantom second album ‘Slow Children Playing’) and has its head beat conductor residing in Berlin. Five Deez’s climb to being a mainstay on the radar of underground hip hop was fairly swift with producer Fat Jon cutting his teeth on releases for Mush as Fat Jon The Ample Soul Physician and Maurice Galactica on Counterflow in the late nineties. The sound is comparable to smoothed out RnB meets busy beats that leave your head swirling.
‘I like experimenting with something that’s different,’ says Jon. ‘When we get a bunch of cats in the studio we have the potential to make something tremendous. I listen to the stuff I make and I try to make it better.’
For someone so prolific whose efforts are often the fruits of collaboration, Fat Jon seems immediately stimulated when discussing guest appearances, improvisation and studio jamming. His tone rises as he begins to delve in to the essence of his musical creation.
‘It’s definitely refreshing working with cats like Pole (whose new album boasts the rhymes of Fat Jon, the first time any of his albums have featured a voice),’ says Jon, though he’s quick to relate back to his band and the processes of recording an album with one member living a million miles from the other three. ‘It’s a lot of traveling but we have conference calls and send each other stuff and make it work.’
The translation from the accomplished studio sound to a live show is a work in progress and Fat Jon relates back to one of my first questions. ‘We’re better received elsewhere…’ he says in regards to what happens ‘in da club’ stateside. I push him a little further, as I am convinced the boom-bap found of tracks like ‘Four Black Dudes’ and ‘Funky’ is sure to promote a little crotch grabbing.
‘Oh we can grab our nuts with the best of them!’ Jon and I both burst out laughing and the mood of the interview relaxes even further. It’s about here where I realize that it’s too late in the day in Australia and too early in the morning for either of us to get intellectual and what follows is a meandering conversing of opinions, similar to that of a loose flow or as the band’s press release likens it, a Hip Hop stream of consciousness. ‘We want to create, like, “an evening with the Deez.” We want to utilize multiple keys and turn the show in to something people are feeling.’
I assume he’s not using the vernacular and is describing a living, breathing experience; the epitome of synesthesia in a nightclub, if you will.
If all of this talk of a full bodied experience has you reminiscing of Yani Live At The Acropolis, you needent fear, Fat Jon assures me Five Deez is Hip Hop. ‘Hip Hop is our foundation. It’s like, I’m Cincinnati even though I live in Berlin. We never said we were ‘underground’ or anything like that, we just make the music that we’re proud of.’
I ask him about the groups choice to team up with !K7 and whether or not it was a profile decision or a business decision. In today’s mass consumerism based society brand alignment can be a dangerous thing as it often alienates core fans and, at a stretch, can totally displace artists and admirers alike.
‘Individuals can only go so far. I could be a proud guy and get all of this shit done myself but we didn’t sacrifice this shit for no reason. It’s about how many people the label can get to,’ he says without sounding defensive. It’s a refreshing attitude as most artists are hell-bent on ‘keeping it real’ ended up bitter, broke and twisted. It’s an all too familiar story where musicians, quite rightly protective of their art, set up a label and try and broker licensing and distribution deals for their work, in the meantime, trying to do live shows to make ends meet, and the commitments of friends and family combined often make chasing information and invoices a trying task.
So is there a formula to it all? Do ‘Fat’ producers make good business people? Who runs the show?
‘We’ve known each other forever. We fight like hell but when it comes down to work mode we all just click and get down to business. It took us a while to get it happening but its fluid now.’
So for ‘four black dudes’ whose output is always prolific and the company they share (5 Deez is a member of the Wanna Battle crew whose members include Hi Tek, Talib Kweli and the Lone Catalysts) is top shelf, it seems the next step towards world domination is imminent. Jon and I discuss stardom and rap about coming to Australia and all of the little bits that never make it in to a feature article and as I’m winding down, he’s coming to.
‘We’d definitely like to get out there,’ he says and I’m astonished to find out that he’s the man to talk to about live shows. ‘Yeah I do all that too,’ he states, slightly less amused but definitely not sour.
DJing (at Berlin’s ‘Watergate’), producing, rapping, touring, booking, making guest appearances and press and promotion are all consuming for Fat Jon. Whilst I would like to delve more in to the personalities of Pase Rock, Kyle David and Sonic I think that’s another whole interview. We wrap up by talking about who one of the world’s hottest talents is touting (‘check MF Doom and Telefon Tel Aviv’) and I leave the interview ten times more awake than when I started. With Hip Hop being such a bastion in popular culture it’s important to salute the people going about their business the right way. Sure ‘Kinkynasti’ won’t rub everyone the right way but there’s enough depth, variety and a good showcase of diverse skills that would see it get a good spin from any serious music lover. Investigate the Deez’s music with an open mind and remember that any productions blessed by Saint Jon of Fat are sure to be quality joints to roll to.
Five Deez’s ‘Kinkynasti’ is out now on !K7 thru Creative Vibes.