If you ain't heard "I'm A Hippie" this year then you ain't been out. Born in Canada, now living in Camden. Spek made a name for himself back in the day with The Dream Warriors and later on with US3. Now out on his own right he's doing it his own way. Starting with a hip-hop base - adding a touch of rock, funk and soul to the mix and his own unique rapping style. The album "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" is loosely based on the cult TV show "The Wonder Years" and following soon is a collaboration with Spooks. Read on:
Q: "Its hip-hop but not as we know" is probably the best description for it. Would you agree?
A: I think there's a hip hop backdrop to what I do just because I grew up on hip-hop from about the age of 14. When I got to about 17 or 18 I joined the Dream Warriors and I was travelling around the world. When I started travelling and learning more about music - just being a little more open minded about things - I started to discover Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel. I kind of discovered Simon and Garfunkel through the movies. Through "The Graduate" and through episodes of "The Wonder Years" and stuff. There was a lot of old 60s stuff I was only just discovering after joining the Dream Warriors.
Then when I was leaving the Dream Warriors it was kind of like I wanted to incorporate all these new influences that I had and make my music reflective of what is was that I loved. But I wanted to approach the album from a singer songwriter perspective rather than just a rapper rapping over. I sat there with a guitar and produced the bulk of the album with Brian (fellow band member).
Q: Its not got the braggadocios hip-hop attitude though has it?
A: I think that's where the naivety in the album kind of lurks. Another issue for me as I was writing the album is I come from hip hop and the golden era of hip-hop is the area between 1988 and 1992. De La Soul did their first album, A Tribe Called Quest did their 1st and 2nd albums. There were these amazing hip-hop albums coming out at the time and there was also the NWA's and the Ice Cubes.
At the moment we don't have each side of the spectrum. The more laid back groups aren't anyway near as successful as the acts talking about smacking bitches up or whatever. I think there is room for the Eminem's as long as there is room for the De La Soul's as well.
The whole hip-hop scene has become a little pigeon-holed and I wanted to make and album that was pop and was accessible but at the same time have something that was cool. Because nowadays when people say pop we mean boy bands or girls bands and it just has this real negative connotations - look back a few years ago and pop music was Nirvana!!!
Q: Each track really does seem like a little story?
A: The whole album itself in many ways is very autobiographical. Movies like "The Graduate" and TV shows like "The Wonder Years" were a huge influence on me. Just because I think those movies and TV shows are coming of age stories about growing up and discovering the world - and in many ways I guess that's what the album is about. Its about me coming into my own and discovering all these things that have been around for years and years and years but you have no idea about.
Q: As well as being a fantastic pop album there's the little subtle sounds and effects that just elevate it above a simple pop song. Is that something you've always tried to incorporate into your music?
A: I ain't bitchin about hip-hop but so much of it today is formulated. The whole Dr Dre sound is just so easily - I mean you can listen to a Dre record and appreciate it for the way its produced - but everybody is just sounding the same!!! I am Asian and there are little tinges of asian singers and asian instruments, but its done in a subtle way so its not like here's the new Asian Underground or whatever.
Q: Where did the idea for "I'm A Hippie" come from?
A: It happened by accident really. "I'm A Hippie" was one of the last songs on the album and we'd done about 4 versions of it. It started out as a very guitary track, then tried a really psychedelic version that sounded almost Travis like. It was quite melancholy actually. In the end we were left with 8 versions of it - it was almost like a song without a home - we didn't know which one to pick.
So we gave it to the Utah Saints and said remix it - they had free rain to do whatever they wanted - and then we'd put it out on a white label. They did 3 versions, one with "Love Boat" and all of a sudden the "Primal Scream" version hit the mark with virtually every radio station imaginable.
"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" is out 17th September