Interview: Lord Finesse
A lot can happen in seven years, and it’s crazy to think it’s been that long since Lord Finesse last embraced our European shores. Coming as part of his “Here I Come” European tour and joined by fellow hip hop veteran DJ Boogie Blind
A lot can happen in seven years, and it’s crazy to think it’s been that long since Lord Finesse last embraced our European shores. Coming as part of his “Here I Come” European tour and joined by fellow hip hop veteran DJ Boogie Blind (of The X-Ecutioners), the pair brought a show in Bristol (UK) to remind everyone exactly why they were (scratch that – are) so relevant.
The show was vibing in all the right places and the crowd was treated to some of Lord Finesse’s early 90’s classics, impeccably reproduced, especially considering the twenty-plus years that have passed since. We catched up with the ‘Funky Man’ before his gig.
As founding member of the D.I.T.C. crew with a rumoured sophomore D.I.T.C. release in the pipeline, we thought there would be no better time than the present to catch up with Lord Finesse, chew the fat, discuss the old days and ultimately see what the future holds for hip hop’s ‘underboss’.
Photo: Cindy Baar for The Find
Your first official record appearance was on Raheem’s I’m The King, on Jazzy Jay’s Cold Chillin’ In The Studio back in 1989. What was the whole experience like as a young debutant?
We were in the studio playing around, it wasn’t really a first appearance to be nervous about. I guess I was just bugging out on the record. Raheem was more developed than me at the time and Diamond D was doing the record, it was all in cahoots, so we went in there and knocked out the demo.
It must have been a special time to be growing up in an era when hip hop was at its finest. What’s your most valuable memory of growing up in that era?
Just the atmosphere. The atmosphere that the music and vibe were creating, that’s my fondest memory. The moment when you see someone starting to carry speakers… You know when you see someone move one speaker and someone moves another speaker, it’s like ‘Whoa they’re gonna jam tonight. Oh it’s on tonight!’ You knew it was about to jump off. That’s definitely one of my main memories of growing up in the Bronx.
O.C. confirmed a sophomore D.I.T.C. album back in April, but what’s the status of that project right now?
Well, it’s still being tossed around, still being thought about. To me it has to be an all-round outcome. I’m not in this just to do more music. I mean, I could do music tomorrow. But it has to have a cause and effect for me, a real purpose. Right now I’m focusing on The Underboss thing on Slice-Of-Spice. I won’t say I won’t do a D.I.T.C. album, it just has to have an all-around impact for me. Just releasing music for the hell of it would be a fake project to me. I mean, you’ll get the fans to buy it, but they also want to see it, they want to feel the movement; it has to be real. That’s what people want. They want something they can move with, something they can see live all over the world. Hip hop heads want to see and hear something they can interact with. There’s so much to it. I don’t really just want to do it just for the sake of doing it.
What would you say each emcee/producer in D.I.T.C. brings to the table individually? How does each personal element reflect in the crew as a whole from your perspective?
Diamond D is abstract. I call Diamond abstract because he’ll take something just totally bizarre and rhyme on it and make it hip, make it funky, make it dope. Showbiz is a chop master ’cause he’ll take something and chop it up to the point when it sounds nothing like the original record. I first started producing after watching Show. I used to sit and watch him on the SP-1200 and it amazed me how he chopped up samples and drums. I was observing and I caught on kinda quick. I mean, quicker than I thought I’d catch on.
Fat Joe is the ultimate hustler. If he sees an opportunity, if he’s gonna rap, he doesn’t care what he’s got to do to get to the top. Call him the opportunist. O.C. is like the narrator, the author. He paints those real pictures. Lyrical paintings that are so beautiful, so immaculate. Big L, all-around terror, a battle rapper’s nightmare. He always wanted to do deep dark stuff. That’s where you’ve got Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous and “All Black.” Real gangster appetite. I call A.G. the philosopher a.k.a. The Secret. Because that dude was already dope, but now it’s like he’s been reborn. He’s somewhere else right now. Buckwild, another great producer. He also takes mad opportunities; Buck is on all types of artists working with him.
Lord Finesse and Boogie Blind with ‘Cold Chillin’ In The Studio’ at Big City Records | Photo: Cindy Baar
Looking back at your history with Big L, what memories do still mean a lot to you?
Big L was just the constant ultimate joker. Always keeping me on my toes, but just funny, man. I’d just sit and hang out with him and we’d laugh about everything and him just saying funny stuff. He was naturally funny, it wasn’t like he was trying to be funny, he just was a natural joker. Same for Biggie, another funny dude! I think some of the best emcees are funny, because they’ve always got stories to tell. They come from urban neighbourhoods, so we can all relate to the same things.
In the recent documentary Last Shop Standing, a number of independent shop owners cited the arrival of the CD as the end of independent stores. With the recent closure of Big City Records and previously Fat Beats, how do you see the future for crate diggers and record stores?
I don’t just blame it on CDs, I blame it on the internet. The internet was the downfall of it because there was no regulation with how music was being used. People were just taking music and putting it online, recording very valuable records and putting it up online for everybody to get it for free. That definitely had a big impact on some of my favorite record stores such as Big City Records. After a while people were getting MP3s and when you’ve got more product than demand, stores become overwhelmed because they can’t move the product. Most people aren’t willing to spend $100 to $200 a record these days. So yeah, I’ve seen a downfall happen first hand. I’m still a vinyl digger. I also like to record off the actual record. I can get more out of the sounds of a record than from a mushed up digital file.
Lord Finesse at the last day of Big City Records (New York) | Photo: Cindy Baar
What’s your favorite place to dig for records?
Japan is the ultimate paradise for records. ‘Cause you’ve got to understand that they send diggers, collectors and archivers through the United States all year to go and bring records to Japan. So you see everything on the wall, you see everything in the crates… You even find the rarest records you’ve probably been looking for for about 10 years. I ain’t been to Brazil yet, but I’ve heard Brazil is crazy too.
For the last 16 years you have been producing rather than emceeing. Is the current state of hip hop why you’re coming back?
Yes and no. I’m coming back because I see an angle, I see an edge, I see a lane that no one’s taking advantage of. Everyone’s doing music and throwing it out, but I’m trying to really put a movement behind it. People are doing a lot of music catering to younger kids. If you are over 30 years old you shouldn’t be making your music for young kids, that really doesn’t resonate with me. I think a lot of older fans want to hear music with substance and albums in a great format: a heavily thought-through project, including skits and all that.
I think that’s really missing right now and I’ve got a plan to put a movement behind what I’m doing. I’ve been in deep thoughts about this for about two years now. I just want to make sure I do it right. I don’t want to come out just because I’m “Lord Finesse” and because I can come out. I’m not doing it just for the sake of making money. I’m doing it because I’ve had a chance to reflect and I love what I’ve been doing behind the scenes recently. I just want to push that to another level.
The last day of Big City Records (NYC) with Lord Finesse, Edan, DJ Spinna, Chairman Mao, DJ Amir & Jared (of BCR). Photo: Cindy Baar