B+: Yeah, Mamao was part of it. Of course, that’s the beginning of the conversation between Madlib and Azymuth, which became the Jackson Conti record. And then the youngest of the drummers on our side was Derf Reklaw, who’s a really unique polymath, crazy, percussionist dude. On the Brazilian side, there was this dude called Comanche, who’s again, somebody who’d built his own kit and had a huge career. He played on a lot of the Verocai records.

It was just this amazing thing. But of course, from a DJ perspective as well, there were cats in Brazil that were fucking really amazing, who make beats and DJ. We put all that together. We ended up staying there for a month. It was really a life changing experience for everybody. We brought Otis from the airport and we got to the room and I was like, “Yeah, just be careful. Just don’t drink the fucking tap water in the rooms. Not that the tap water in Sao Paulo is bad or anything, but I just don’t want anyone to get sick and just apply the normal due diligence.” And then Otis fucking called me completely panicked from his room: “Yo, I just brushed my teeth. Did I do the wrong thing?” I was like, “No, bro, I think you’ll be fine.”

People had no idea about Brazil, man. It’s sorry to say that it’s not that different now, but in that period it was definitely more pronounced. I’m not North American. I’m Irish, but I feel bad for North Americans that seem to know more about fucking Europe than they do about the rest of this continent because South America’s a fucking extraordinary place, man, and in terms of the music too, it’s very, very important, the innovations that have happened south of the border. But people seem to have these craziest tropes, stereotypes of what it’s like down there. Everyone was terrified they were going to get AIDS. I mean, this crazy shit where you’re like, “Dude, where did all this come from?”

But by the end of the trip, of course… I mean, the whole point of the film, to be honest with you, in the end, as with a lot of the work that we’re engaged in or whatever, was to try and build some cultural bridge that people could make a bunch of connections there so that cats like Otis would get invited back to play, which he did many times… So that we would begin to think of Brazil as musical neighbors, and we could have a proper back and forth conversation. That film was really the beginning. And we were all of course like, “Oh fuck, Pharrell is going to be here in five minutes and he’s going to figure the whole shit out, and it’s going to have a huge impact on the culture at large.”

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And in fact, quite the opposite. I don’t think fucking Pharrell bought a single record on that trip, but it came later for them. They didn’t have the ears for it. They came to do that video with Snoop and they went to Rio. They did the Rio thing. They went to the beach. They saw a bunch of great looking girls and came home. Never really took it seriously, whereas we were there for a month and we went in. It was magical, dude. I’ll say this. This is a story I told before, but I’ll just tell it. The first week we were there, they were going to be guests at the Red Bull Music Academy and then on the Tuesday night, it was going to be Otis and Chemist in a club. And then the Sunday night, I believe, was going to be Babu and J. Rocc.

Cut Chemist and Madlib was at more of a mainstream club. I was nervous like, “Fuck, they booked them there? That’s crazy.” It was called Mood. When we pick up Otis from the fucking airport, I just told him, I said, “You know you’re DJing fucking Tuesday, bro.” Just say this was a Thursday. I said, “You know you’re DJing Tuesday?” [He said,] “Yeah, I know, I know.” [I asked,] “Where’s your records?” This is before he was fucking with CDJs. I was like, “Where’s the records?” He was like, “Man, I’m going to buy records.” I’m like, “Wow, this guy is fucking crazy.” Okay, all right. No problem. I’m thinking, “He’s going to be borrowing J Rocc’s shit. It’s going to be a fucking joke.” Fuck that, dude. By fucking Monday, that fool had three or four crates, and that fool had made a gang of beats and he had made a fucking DJ set.

Because he was buying everything. Like I said, he wasn’t just buying Brazilian shit. He was buying James Brown shit too, whatever. We go to the club and my heart, man, I swear to God, I was fucking terrified. Place was rammed and it didn’t look like our kind of crowd. It was more mainstream. It was a lot. I’d only been in Brazil two or three weeks at that point, and I was like, “Fuck. I hope this works out.” Sure as fuck, here comes Otis. First fucking track out the bag, man, a fucking Gal Costa song. There was Brazilian women starting to weep and shit. People started tripping at the notion that their hero, this mystical figure from the fucking hip-hop scene in the United States, come in front of them and play their parents’ records back to them was too much. People started freaking out. It was fucking nuts.

People have different responses to Otis, man. Because Otis likes to push the envelope. He’s very much a man about being free. That’s always been his thing. The music is in him. However it comes out is the way it’s supposed to be. But that night, man, wow. That’s the kind of DJ I want to be. I want to be the kind of DJ that just fucking opens people up to their own shit… Imagine opening up people to their own shit. It was like they knew the music, but they had never heard it before. It was like, “I know this, but I’ve never heard it.” Because you’ve never seen nobody from outside come put the mirror back on you. And that’s what he did. It was extraordinary.

This is the thing you got to know about Otis. I don’t know whether it’s because he’s from Oxnard, which in many respects, in terms of Los Angeles, you might as well say you’re from fucking Stockton or fucking Arizona or something… It’s just like, “Where?” Of course people know now, but in them days, it was like, “Huh,” or “What?” And then he came from a very, very [musical family]… His uncle’s John Faddis. His father’s an R&B singer, Otis Senior. In terms of the music, he had figured out his own way.

Now Cut and them… Cut’s a fucking beast. We’re talking top five diggers of their generation type of people. And I’m not taking anything away, but there is a more systematic, hive mentality thing around the way that Cut and Egon, for example—and you can see in Brasilintime J. Rocc and Otis laughing at them—but there was just shit that they didn’t know. They didn’t know about the soundtracks to the telenovelas, for example. If you’ve seen the DOOM record, there’s a couple of them samples or loops that come from telenovelas, Brazilian soap opera soundtracks. Somehow fucking Otis knew about that shit.

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The Rap-Up: Week of April 10, 2023