Interview with DJ Grumble

October 16, 2009 at 1:04 am (Uncategorized)

DJ Grumble

I was stoked to do this interview with  DJ Grumble.  He’s someone me and the kids I grew up with have been bumping for a long time now.  For those who’ve never heard of him, his style’s reminiscent of Large Professor’s Beats Vol. 1 & 2, sample art with a lot of emotion and perpetually dope, hard drums behind it.  He put out Freestyle Tools Vol. 1 in fall 2007 and has since released three more; the latest, Freestyle Tools Vol. 4, came out last summer.  I really think his stuff is some of the best underground hip hop going today.  It’s this kind of direction that’ll need to be pursued to get the form back on track; it’s definitely different than the underground stuff of the past, but  done in a very similar, updated spirit.

Start by downloading Freestyle Tools Vol. 4 for free and listening to it front-to-back. You won’t be dissapointed.

So what was your status before Freestyle Tools Vol. 1?  How did it all start?

I’ve been making beats for some time now, probably started when I was 13 or 14 back in 2001. I was making electronic beats before I got into hip hop. At first, I actually wanted to be a turntablist, after I saw a bunch of DMC videos and heard cats like the X-Ecutioners and DJ Qbert. My first turntable was a $20 technics beltdrive from a flea market. It had a classical record on the platter. I knew how to mess around and make songs on my computer, so I sampled that record that came with the turntable. The beat kinda sucked, but I haven’t stopped since. 

You had it on lock from the first one.  How’s your approach changed over the years?

The Freestyle Tools concept is basically an album that you can throw on for an MC and get them vibing hard. The beat has a lot to do with the images and patterns that an MC hears in his head. So mainly I just try to keep it fresh and throw in a wide variety of samples and styles to fit the MC’s needs. I field test a lot of the beats with MC’s I know to see which ones will consistently get them in the zone. The approach has been pretty much the same.

Freestyle Tools Vol. 3 is the first one where you start involving other producers.  It features DJ Sixshot on almost every track.  What was the nature of that collaboration?

Sixshot and I go way back to junior high. He was actually the dude I started making beats with. I think what evolved our styles was the fact that we were very harsh critics of each other. If I made a beat that was just decent, he would diss the crap out of it (and vice versa), which forced us to always come with top notch material. We also competed in beat battles in Boston together. We went by the team name GrimeLab, which I still rep today, though we don’t collab as much now since we go to school in different parts of the country. 

And then Freestyle Tools Vol. 4‘s got some more of him, as well as this dope new guy named Kid Vision and another dope producer who’s actually my hometown friend, J. Dub.  How’d you hook up with those guys?

Kid Vision goes to school with me at Cornell. I met him in the winter of ’08, he’s another talented producer who shares the same passion for sample-based hip hop. He lives a block from me so you’ll always catch me at his house vibing to beats. Vision also is connected to a lot of dope artists in the area so there’s always something exciting to work on with him.

I connected with J Dub via my YouTube page, which is how I get a lot of my music heard. I receive a lot of friend requests and messages on a daily basis so I don’t always check ’em all, but I clicked a few of Dub’s beats one time and was genuinely impressed, especially considering he’s still in high school.

  Your beats are definitely different in the work you’ve done with Ted Devi, Diamond Ricelli, and Radix.  How do you approach making something for a rapper?

For the most part, I let rappers just sift through my catalog and pick what they like. Making custom beats can be a hassle, especially when I have more than enough to choose from. But if Ted’s at the crib listening to beats, I’ll definitely play a different medley than I would for Diamond, just based on their past history of beat selection and what I personally want to hear them rap over. In general I tend to leave it up to the MC. 

You wanna set the record straight on The Staple?

Haha, well it’s actually something that happens alot in this game, but I didn’t show up in the production credits even though I produced three of the tracks on there. (Sixshot produced another three.) The artist that designed the cover/back credited Sixshot for all 6 of those. It’s all gravy though, ’cause they shouted us out on Jam’n 94.5 (the mainstream Boston hip hop station) and I got to hear Akrobatik, Mista Sinista, DJ JS-1, and Mr. Eon over me and my boy’s beats. 

How do you choose your samples?  What goes into that process?

Mostly instinct. I go to Salvation Army and Goodwill and just pick up records that catch my interest, either through the artwork or the liner notes (you can check and see if your favorite musicians are credited on the album.) I also sample from movie soundtracks, Nintendo games, whatever… but when I hear a good sample, it’s like my brain automatically knows what to do.

And how do you put your beats together?

This is the good part. I use a Mac program called PlayerPro which is actually a really old-school soundtracker program. It’s the kind that was used to make crappy electronic music and video game music in the late 80’s/early 90’s. You can’t even get it anymore, I think I’m the last surviving user, and certainly the only person that uses it to make beats. It’s nice though because it has quick & powerful sample manipulation functions and it can use VST plugins and instruments. Pretty much all I need. I can toss together a beat in 5 minutes with it. Along the same lines, there’s still producers out there that use the SP1200 (Pete Rock, Madlib) and MPC60 (Premo) which are incredibly outdated pieces of equipment by today’s standards. 

Last question, man: why do you make beats?  What does it do for you?

Making beats never gets old. I’m a true instrumental junkie. Nothing is better than making an ill beat and just vibing to it. I’m my own #1 fan, and I think it’s awesome that other people have become fans as well. I’ve gotten messages from dudes in Chile, Serbia, Egypt, Croatia, you name it – I’m just gonna keep giving people what they want and have fun doing it.
Thanks Grumbs!


  1. grumble said,

    Freestyle Tools 5 Coming Soon!!

  2. DJ Grumble Releases Freestyle Tools Vol. 5! « Forrest Armstrong aka Gasoline Monk said,

    […] beats… all of us in Boston are. You might remember heearing about Grumble a while back when I interviewed him… now he’s got out a 5th volume to the Freestyle Tools series, doper than ever. Download […]

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