I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rock Steady Crew member, DJ Skeme Richards, for The Diggers Union website. Skeme Richards hails from the city of Philadelphia, and has been involved in hip-hop for close to thirty years. An avid record collector, Skeme has spun at some of the best clubs around the world, including The Room (Japan), Club Asia (Japan), Echo (Los Angeles), Le Lido (Switzerland), Bohannon Soul Club (Germany), Sound Holicity (Korea) and LPR (NYC). He also runs a great website called Hot Peas & Butta that focuses on vintage music, classic blaxploitation and kung-fu films and toy action figures. I have been following his work for some time now, so it was only right that our first interview of 2013 started with him. Enjoy and be educated.
Hevehitta: Record collecting has been important to you since your youth. Do you remember the first record, or one of the first records, you purchased with your own money?
Skeme Richards: It’s really hard for me to remember what the first record I bought with my own money was because during that time I was into so many different things that I never made a conscience effort to embed it in my brain. Music was all around me but having an older cousin who used by buy records then pass them off to me was a major influence with what I bought. But one of the earliest pieces I remember buying Hip Hop wise was Kool Kyle The Starchild on the Enjoy Label, that was in 1981. Another record that I was really excited to buy was “Pac-Man Fever” on 45, looking back on it I don’t know why I was so excited about it.
H: You have quite the admiration for 7-inch (45s) records. What attracts you to them more than 12-inch records?
SR: I’m a fan of music on all physical formats, 12″ being the crown jewel of course, because as a Hip Hop DJ that’s what you wanted to rock doubles on and that’s the only way you were getting the songs. But over the last 10 or so years, as I matured musically, my focus has shifted from playing hip-hop into more of the funk and soul realm. Most of the great tunes that a funk and soul DJ would play were only be pressed on 7″ and in a smaller quantity which makes them harder to find, so as a DJ and collector I’m killing two birds with one stone and feeding both my obsessions.
H: When I saw the trailer for the film Crate Raiderz, you pulled out two copies of Incredible Bong Band “Apache” on 45. How important is that record to you?
SR: “Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band is important on any format, it’s the basis of what Hip Hop DJing and Bboy culture was birthed from and me being a member of the Rock Steady Crew that’s pretty much our anthem. Having doubles of the album should be in every DJ’s crate but as more of a 45 guy having doubles on 7″ fits more of my “image” of how I DJ these days.
H: Are there any particular record labels you check for when digging for records?
SR: There was a time in the late 80′s / 90′s when I was doing a lot of producing and making beats that I would look for certain artists and labels. I was really into buying jazz on the black & silver RCA label of the 60′s because it had a certain sound that was different than what Blue Note or CTI had. Back then there was no such thing as listening stations at stores, there were no “diggin’ stores” or “boutique shops” so everything was trial and error. I would buy records from labels that I had success with but would also experiment and buy something unknown artist wise. Now that I’m more of a funk and soul collector there could be anything on any label. Very few had tons of great releases so diggin’ for a particular label really means diggin’ for a particular artist now.
H: What countries host some of the best record shops?
SR: There are records everywhere, in every city and every country and I’ve found different things in places that I would have never expected them to be. But hands down the country that still holds the most records is Japan. Everything is there and if it’s not there and your looking for it they will find it. But I’ve also come up on great records in Switzerland and of course Rotterdam. I’ve built great relationships with dealers all around the world and they know my style and what would interests me, so they always find things locally that I’m looking forward or they put me up on things that I never knew existed.
H: How influential was Philadelphia’s DJ Groove, aka Fredy Blast, on your DJ career?
SR: Honestly, DJ Groove took me mentally, musically and philosophically to another level when it comes to DJing and producing. I had already been spinning 6 or 7 years before meeting him, and even though we lived right around the corner from each other, I knew his history and who he was. He was pretty much the [Afrika] Bambaataa of Philly who knew all of the breaks and beats and understood how to spin them properly. The first time I met him was around 1987 at his crib while he was having a recording session with his MC. He had a full fledged studio in his crib way back then which blew my mind, but we became cool because both of us were heavy into comic books, and he had the crazy collection of 60′s, 70′s and 80′s rare gems. From there I used to spend mad hours at his crib really watching him DJ and make beats, and over time his techniques eventually rubbed off on me which then combined with what I was already doing. But it was not only his skill and craft of DJing that influenced me, but it was also the many hours spent discussing kung-fu flix, old TV shows and nostalgic Philly that made me into who I am today.
H: In an interview with Flea Market Funk, you stated that Paul Nice’s Do You Pick Your Feet In Poughkeepsie? is one of your favorite DJ mixes. I live in the Poughkeepsie area, and also have admired Paul’s past and present work. What is it about Paul Nice that you appreciate as a DJ?
SR: Paul Nice is a genius! He’s cut from a different mold than most people that DJ or produce. Here’s a guy who also has the appreciation for 70′s cinema, kung-fu flix and TV Shows. When he was putting together mixtapes, they were always done in a cinematic way which told a story while most people just dropped sample after sample. Not only are his mixtapes great, but he has technical skills which are sharp and clean. Plus, he knows how to rock a party. He’s a complete well rounded DJ.
H: I see you have an extensive Shaw Brothers poster collection. I know there are many to choose from, but do you have a favorite Shaw Brothers film?
SR: Yeah there’s so many Shaw flicks that I could choose from and, as years have passed, my choice films have changed. If you would have asked me 15-20 years ago, then it would have been the standard films like 36th Chambers of Shaolin, 5 Deadly Venoms, etc. As I’ve gotten older and really paid more attention to the stories and time periods of these stores, I appreciate films that were made before the Venoms era – like The Rescue (1971) with Lo Lieh, The Lady Hermit (1971) with Cheng Pei Pei, The Chinese Boxer (1970) with Wang Yu and even the early David Chiang & Ti Lung films like Have Sword Will Travel (1969) or The Duel (1971). But still to this day, 5 Fingers of Death (1972) might be my favorite though.
H: Kung-Fu and hip-hop have gone hand-in-hand for years. What did you think of RZA’s recent film, The Man with the Iron Fists?
SR: I honestly have to say that I really enjoyed RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists, because I went in expecting it to be RZA’s interpretation of how he see’s Martial Arts films – just as I view a Tarantino film. Both of these guys are “geeks” when it comes to their genre films, so I appreciate and accept them exactly for that. He pulled his influences and best parts of Shaw Bros films and incorporated them into his “fantasy” piece that he’s probably been wanting to do since childhood. Some people didn’t really like it, but I look at going to the movies as a night out. Nothing more.
H: On part five of your Sound of Film mix series, you paid homage to Lalo Schifrin, composer of Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon. Where would you rate his work on that film among his other compositions?
SR: I would say it probably sits at #3 on my list of his cinematic works. To me Lalo will always be the man who scored Mission: Impossible, which might be my favorite alongside the Bullitt soundtrack. It’s rare that I listen to the Enter The Dragon soundtrack when I’m home, but there’s never a Sunday that doesn’t go by that I don’t listen to Bullitt.
H: I see you are also a big fan of blaxsploitation films. What films would you recommend to someone who is just getting interested in the genre?
SR: When it comes to blaxploitation for the new viewer to the genre, I always stick with the higher budget films like Black Caesar, Foxy Brown, Hell Up In Harlem, Superfly and Shaft. There was a lot of lower budget ones that were made that would only appeal to film heads that study the genre or those that remember seeing it back then, but really made no sense story wise and have horrible acting. Once you get past those you can branch out to all sorts of exploitation and B-Movies of the 70′s and 80′s that you’ll probably enjoy.
H: With 2013 now here, what can we expect from you and your Section 31 crew?
SR: I’m really excited for 2013, especially all the travels and tours coming up, I’m heading to Europe for a month an a half to do parties and events in February. Also our Hot Peas & Butta party celebrates its 5 year anniversary, so we’re doing a bunch of parties and events that surround everything that we’re into, from funk and soul 45s to kung-fu and blaxploiation films. Also, we will have a few gallery events showcasing posters and art from my personal collection. As for Section 31, Fredy Blast and myself are in the lab heavy working on production. We just did a bunch of music for Red Bull and we might even pick the m-i-c back up and rock a verse or two. Other than that, it’s business as usual with collecting and playing with toys and tracking down the best burgers and beer around the globe.
H: Thank you for your time, Skeme. Is there anything else you would like to add?
SR: I wanna thank you guys for even considering to do an interview with me. It’s always great when people ask a variety of questions outside of just DJing that I really enjoy. Shout out to everyone that continues to “dig deep” on all levels.
To book Skeme Richards for your next event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Skeme Richards on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hotpeasandbuta