Image via Da Beatminerz

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Common’s “Be (Intro)” is still a top 5 intro in Oumar Saleh‘s books.

When asked about how sampling has changed since Da Beatminerz first came up, DJ Evil Dee holds a stack of little-known 7” vinyls to the camera. “We only just bought these yesterday,” he grins as his older brother Mr Walt nods in agreement. Despite having produced canonical hardcore rap anthems since the early 90s, the duo still feel the need to keep digging. “We used to go record shopping with Pete Rock, Buckwild, and Lord Finesse,” Walt adds, equating the friendly competition between the East Coast’s finest producers to steel sharpening steel. “This is our lifeline, this is what we love, so we take this to heart.”

This is the duo who remixed Black Moon’s classic call-to-arms “I Got Cha Opin” by flipping a Barry White babymaker. With its instantly recognizable horns, Smif-N-Wessun’s signature “Bucktown,” was built around an obscure jazz record by an ex-Cream frontman. They even tapped into their Belizean roots by looping heavy drums from a Caribbean remake of The Godfather theme for the lead single to their first album in nearly two decades. “We’re samplers, so we listen to everything,” Dee says. “When you do what we’ve done for so long, it’s not hard to take inspiration from anywhere.”

Raised on late ‘70s Brooklyn block parties, the brothers Dewgarde both grew up with similar musical aspirations. Walt, who was already DJing during his spare time, worked at Queens’ Music Factory and got acquainted with regular patrons Phife, Jarobi, and Q-Tip (who would later immortalise Walt and the iconic record store on The Low End Theory’s “What?”). Dee, who was on his way to forming Black Moon, followed his older brother’s lead by also juggling turntablism and shifts at a couple of music shops. All the while, Da Beatminerz were beginning to take shape, honing their craft by toying with SP-1200s, creating the sonic equivalent of rumbling terra firma from serene soul and jazz.

When discussing Golden Era NYC rap, Enta Da Stage used to get overshadowed by the more celebrated debuts from Nas, Mobb Deep, and Wu-Tang. However, no other ‘90s album pioneered the gritty and raw sensibility of East Coast rap more than Black Moon’s breakthrough. Ranging from vigorous Preemo-like scratches and colossal snares to deep basslines and jazz samples, Walt and Dee’s production was every bit as game-changing as what the Bomb Squad did in the ‘80s. The seminal record also helped spur the genesis of the Boot Camp Clik — a constellation of Brownsville’s grimiest spitters featuring Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun (Tek and Steele), Originoo Gunn Clappaz (Louieville Sluggah, Top Dog, and Starang Wondah), and Heltah Skeltah (Jahmal “Rock” Bush and Sean “Ruck” Price).

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Alongside the newly joined Baby Paul – who Walt was already familiar with since his Music Factory days – they perfected their boom bap blueprint on Dah Shinin’, hit murky depths throughout O.G.C.’s Da Storm, and leaned towards horrorcore on Nocturnal.

It wouldn’t be long before artists outside of the Clik requested their skills. The two lent their talent to Ras Kass, Naughty by Nature, Mic Geronimo, Bahamadia, O.C., M.O.P., Busta Rhymes, and Black Star. They even added a subterranean flavor to D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” with a head-nodding remix that featured a sharp verse by Kool G Rap. All that exposure eventually got the attention of Rawkus Records, who enlisted them to cook up a cartoonish beat for a ravenous Eminem to eat up on the landmark compilation Soundbombing II.

By the time they dropped their own debut LP Brace 4 Impak in 2001 under Rawkus, Da Beatminerz had expanded their roster to include fellow producers Chocolate Ty and Rich Blak. Creative differences while recording the album led to Baby Paul’s departure before Brace 4 Impak’s release, and by the time ‘04 rolled around, the beat mining troupe reverted back to the two OG members and had already left Rawkus.

New music would be sporadic in the following years, but Walt and Dee proved they still had plenty of fuel left in the tank. They put out two more albums (Fully Loaded w/Statik in 2005 and 2007’s instrumental-laden Unmarked Music Vol. 1), and produced the entirety of Black Moon’s underrated 2019 comeback Rise of Da Moon. In recent years, they’ve been running their own radio station, scored episodes for VH1’s The Breaks, and gathered emcees from each of the Five Boroughs (Nas, Ghost, Remy Ma, Dave East, and Styles P) for a throwback posse cut on Netflix’s The Forty Year Old Version.

As the legendary duo prepared to release the ironically-titled Stifled Creativity, the time was right to chop it up with Bushwick’s finest. Last month, Walt and Dee reflected on their 30-plus years in the game, almost working with 2Pac, their frustrations with Rawkus, being comfortable with relative anonymity, and even had time to share a couple of Sean Price anecdotes.

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