Public Enemy's 'Unfuckwitable' DJ Talks Spreading His Wings With Eat The Rat and Life with the PE Crew
CJ: M'Lord! Where are you now and what are you doing?
LA: Uh, I'm just here in my Lab in Atlanta, just trying to make sense of it all. It's all scattered so I'm organizing everything. Between that and sorting tour dates and practicing.
CJ: Most people don't realize that Lord is your real first name.
LA: Lord is my actual first name. Last name Aswod.
CJ: If my name was Lord, I'd wake up every morning feeling awfully good about myself.
LA: (laughs) I try. You know, when I get down I think about that. It's like oh shit, dude--you're named Lord. You can't be down!
CJ: Totally. Well let's get down to talking about what we're here to talk about. Eat The Rat. I have a copy of it. It's just fantastic. There's a lot of boring derivative stuff out there right now and this is not that. EDM & old school hip hop had a baby...
LA: Aw I'm glad you like it, man. I really appreciate it.
CJ: How long has this been in the works? It's your first solo project right?
LA: First official solo project, definitely. Yeah, it was made, it feels like in the blink of an eye, but it took a while to get there.
CJ: What took you so long to do something solo? You've been in the game for quite a long time...
LA: You know there's really no excuse. You get so used to performing and being on everyone else's stuff, everyone else's recordings that you tend to be like, oh shit, I didn't make a recording myself! I had a project for eons that I was working on called Paralysis by Analysis. All right? I had already, I talked it up, talked it down, interviews everything else in between. So one of the late-night tour bus rides I was talking to Chuck D like we do and he always enlightens me on certain topics and everything. We talk about stars and quasars like 4 in the morning on the way to Switzerland and shit...
CJ: Let's just take a moment to pause so my head can explode. OK. Continue...
LA: Ha! But I was like, "Yeah, man I got some working on it's all scratches, it's all turntable, and it's called Paralysis by Analysis." I'd been talking stuff up about this album for a while. Chuck is like, "you know you told me this before, right?" I was like, "Yeah, but I'm working on it." He told me simply, "Well don't let your 'analysis' become your 'paralysis'." It was basically like a knee to my jaw.
CJ: I bet!
LA: Chuck's like, "just record it and let it go. Put it out there. You've got many more to go, man. Just get some recordings out there." Things moved quickly after that.
CJ: So from that a-ha moment, Eat The Rat was born. Talk a little about that title.
LA: It can be multiple things to multiple people. It can be the system, it can be this dog-eat-dog YOLO society that we're living in right now where everyone is comfortable eating trash, if you will. It's the hip thing to do be down with trash or accept trash, or not help your fellow man, or make dumbed-down music for a dumbed-down generation to be more dumbed-down. Multiple meanings...
CJ: "DJ Lord and 2 Much Posse" is the project's full title--the band name, as it were. Who is in your Posse and what exactly about them is '2 Much?'
LA: (laughs) That's interesting that you would say that, that's crazy. We're too much, how about that? Okay. It's going to be myself. We got Sammy,
CJ: Too much! How did that particular crew come together? Was it by design?
LA: It was a long time coming. I'd worked with Obeah, and had always wanted to work with Threepeoh, a very dope producer from around Atlanta, for eons. Obeah is in The ContraVerse group and I've laid scratches for them. We hit it off from the top. We'd always talk about doing a project. The same thing with Threepeoh. Everything just lined up, man. Once I spoke to Chuck and we got everything sorted out about me actually recording this album I just reached out.
CJ: And what about the process? Everyone you've mentioned always has so much going on...
LA: Well Threepeoh already had beats on deck that I loved. I started building on ideas around those. Building a little bass and the beats that I got from him. We'd meet every other week and talk about concepts and everything. It just so happened while I was in Cali, in Ventura, recording the actual song Eat the Rat with Chuck and Sammy, Obeah was in town. Happened to be taking a road trip with this girl, you know, just passing through Cali. I think he saw a Twitter post or something saying I was in town and what's up Cali, like to do to reach out to my peeps. He's like, "Yo, I'm in Ventura!" I was like, "Chuck! Obeah's in Ventura!" And Chuck says, "Tell him to come over then--tell him to come through."
LA: So Obeah came over, "Yo what's up" and all. We start talking about it and of course Chuck being Chuck and Superman that he is, put everyone on the spot. He was like, come on man, lay something down. Let's get it done. We've got two milliseconds to get an album done. Let's do it."
CJ: That was my next question, how did you make time for it?
LA: Chuck D. Remember the part about don't let your analysis become your paralysis? You just got to record it. He told me, "Man, just record it dude. Because what you hear, people don't hear. You're your worst critic."
CJ: Coach Chuck.
LA: Yes sir!
CJ: Sounds like In a lot of ways he's like a coach. A life coach.
LA: Multiple ways. A life coach! Ever since I came out on the road, man, from the very, very beginning. Me on the road, on stage, screwing up left and right and him giving me encouragement...
CJ: You're a Georgia native, right? Were you musically inclined as a kid?
LA: Yeah, definitely. From my uncles, cousins, sisters, brother, everybody in my family. Waking up on Sunday mornings, mom cleaning the house to old Sam Cooke records, to my uncles in the basement playing Parliament Funkadelic.
CJ: Sounds about right.
LA: Be sneaking in the basement and wondering, "What's that smell? It smells like burning trees down here," not knowing...(laughs).
CJ: Ha! Outside of your family, who were your other heroes as a kid and who are your heroes now?
LA: Beyond my family...Chuck D is definitely one of my heroes from the top. DJs like Jazzy Jeff, Grand Master Flash, and Jam Master Jay--coming up in those times and getting that influence. Living in Savannah not having much of anything called hip-hop other than the trickle down stuff. My family's from Philadelphia. Going to our family reunions, that was my power-up. You go there and Philly was known for killer DJs back then. Plus my cousin Bernard was a DJ...
LA: It had a lot to do with Griff actually. Where do I start, man? Moved from Savannah, did everything I could do with Savannah, right?
LA: Moved up to Atlanta, got a job at Footlocker. Lived in a house with my partner RockMost and about eight other guys trying to make it as well. We had a studio and a collective called Black Hand Battalion. I was the DJ for it. RockMost was doing production for Griff at the time and I didn't even know it. So Rock starts telling me "Yeah man, Griff said he needs a new DJ because Terminator X is retiring soon and wants to know if you can handle it." And I'm thinking he was bullshitting me. In fact, I'm pissed. I'm working, I'm in DJ battles, I'm still doing martial arts to keep me sane and I just thought he was bullshitting me. We start getting into it. I'm telling him, "Nah fuck that, I'm going to make it, man. That's not funny, man." Public Enemy is like my dream, right? Slam the door. Off to work at Footlocker.
CJ: Don the stripes...
LA: (laughs) Come home, guess who is in the living room?
CJ: It ain't Tony Bennett!
LA: So. Long story short, short story shorter, I got my passport expedited. I met Chuck. I got this instant replay machine, like a sampler to learn. All within 3 weeks and I was headed off to Belgium with no rehearsal.
LA: NO rehearsal. Pushed my young ass on stage with S1W's telling me not to mess up. Saying, "Norman (Terminator X) did it like this," and "Norman did it like that." Needless to say I was messing up left and right. What do I know about being on stage at a festival in Belgium in front of 15,000 people? Nothing!
CJ: With Public Enemy.
LA: With Public Enemy. The last time I had had a taste of Public Enemy was me imitating Terminator X in talent shows in high school in Savannah! I'm getting star struck. I'm looking at Flavor. I'm watching Chuck run side to side on stage. People were yelling at the top of their lungs. Girls are flashing tits. I'm freaking out. I'm pressing the wrong buttons on this machine. "DJ Lord, hit me!" I'm supposed to press 7, I'm pressing 8. You know? Dude, it was horrible. I was ready to go home, honestly.
CJ: Man alive.
LA: Yeah. But the whole time Chuck and Flavor were giving me encouragement. Everyone else was giving me shit of course. Who is this guy? Da-da-da. You got to understand these guys grew up together. All these guys grew up on Long Island. And suddenly there's this DJ Lord guy in place of their homey.
CJ: Like a hazing period.
LA: Yeah, a little bit. Because they really didn't know me. I was hazed. I was hearing, "Why we doing this?" "Call in Norman!" "Why won't he return?" I'm in the middle of that. Basically, man, I was struggling after shows. Chuck's like, "We'll get 'em next time. Don't worry about it, we'll get 'em next time." I wasn't doing disastrous things. Minor errors that cause major errors in the show. You're supposed to do Can't Truss It and you're doing 911 is a Joke. That's get's major. They're such professionals that they shift gears to the song when I would, you know?
Basically I was my own downfall because I was so busy trying to be Terminator X. Now he's a major influence on my style, but things got a lot better when I started doing more me and less of Terminator. That was very important. Imagine trying to be somebody else on the road and you're losing yourself trying to be that somebody else.
CJ: And once you let that go, it clicked...
LA: After that, I got it. Chuck was like, "I'm not going back to the old way. You bring a breath of fresh air to the group. Welcome aboard."
CJ: That's the coach again, right?
LA: Yep. "You bring a young element to the group, you bring a breath of fresh air." That's all I needed to hear.
CJ: That's huge. We were talking about Griff. What's up with him by the way. Does he like anybody?
LA: Oh yeah! He likes me!
CJ: He's a little tense.
LA: (laughs) He likes me. He brought me in. I mean, Griff is Griff. But Griff is one of the nicest guys on the planet. But no-nonsense. He don't take no shit.
CJ: I just had to ask. So what's your favorite track to play live?
LA: Welcome to the Terrordome. For sure.
CJ: And what's your least favorite?
LA: I don't know if I have a least favorite. I never thought about that. All the Public Enemy songs hit me differently, but they're all necessary for me.
CJ: I saw you guys for the first time live a few years ago in D.C.-- when you rolled through the city on that flatbed truck doing a full-on show...
LA: That was awesome!
CJ: Well, you blew my mind because there you were with the bandana up, scratching on the back of that that truck just going crazy. Flavor hanging off the rails and so forth. That was the day I discovered just how powerful PE is live. Even now, so many years later, it's a hell of an experience.
LA: Yeah, man, it's a hell of an experience for me. I can imagine, I look out in the crowd and I see everyone going bananas. Forget it!
CJ: What's it like taking the PE show on the road? Such a big group of people with diverse interests and schedules. And somebody got to keep an eye on Flavor, right? Is it pretty crazy out on the road for you all?
LA: It gets really crazy. But you know, at the end of the day we're all brothers. When you go, you go on tour traveling to the edge of the planet, the only thing you have is each other. It's more of a brotherhood, man, than just a group. We may get into it at sound check, but by dinner time, that night, everyone is cool. Or by the next show everyone is cool. Maybe Flavor goes crazy or whatever, that's Flavor. Every family has one.
CJ: Every family has a Flav!
LA: That one...yeah man, Uncle J gets crazy, man!
CJ: You must get an insane amount of chicks.
LA: Oh, he's slowed down, he's cool now man. Flavor is Flav.
CJ: No! you! I mean you. DJ Lord...
LA: Oh me? No, I'm good guy. I'm cool, I can't get caught up in that stuff. We're in the TMZ age. I can't get caught up with no girls on the road. Wow. No.
CJ: It seems from various PE Twitter feeds, including yours, that a lot of bowling goes on when PE is on the road. What's up with the bowling?
LA: Oh my God, you saw that? That's awesome. Bowling. Ugh! I'm a fan but I'm not a fan. I think they put a magnet in the floor. Flavor is always winning. I can never get in the final. I'm like, "What the hell is going on here?" We find ways to pass the time on the road and bowling happens to be one. I was surprised when we first started doing it. Plus it gets more interesting when you start putting money down. You start playing for per diems and things like that. It gets a little more challenging.
CJ: All right, last quirky question. Your code word, 'unfuckwitable...?'
LA: Unfuckwitable! That would me. Unable to be fucked with.
CJ: There we go. What's next? Are you going to do any touring with 2 Much Posse?
LA: We're looking at tour dates right now with 2 Much Posse, trying to sort out a few festivals. There's a lot going on right now, just not fast enough. It's never fast enough. We've got some Public Enemy dates coming down the wire. We've got some 2 Much Posse dates coming down the wire. We've got some DJ Lord solo dates that are also always coming down the wire. It's just a matter of sorting the schedule and striking on different parts of the planet without it becoming pulling teeth. Stay tuned!
Photos courtesy of Lord Aswod