Forging an evolution of the “mashup” album format, producer Amerigo Gazaway’s “conceptual collaboration” projects imagine studio sessions between like artists of different genres and eras. With a process the LA Times’ Randall Roberts described as “drawing a different design within a similar framework,” the producer/DJ deconstructs and re-orchestrates samples from his respective subjects, bridging overlapping themes of the two musician’s classic catalogs. Equally influenced by his Brazilian roots and southern U.S. upbringing, the 28-year old Nashville native’s work was featured in Apple’s “What Will Your Verse Be” series of iPad commercials, called “brilliant” by music’s premier aficionado, Questlove, and earned praise from national/global outlets such as The Guardian, Huffington Post, The LA Times, Vulture, NPR, BBC, MTV, BET, REVOLTtv, EBONY, VIBE, XXL, THE SOURCE, OKAYPLAYER, Wax Poetic, Gizmodo, and HipHopDX, to name a few.
The son of renowned Jazz trumpeter, Gary “El Buho” Gazaway, Amerigo’s thematic documentary-like concept albums uses found interview sound-bites, live performances, and original multi-track stems to help narrate and craft his combined artists’ stories. Finding his first success with 2011’s Fela Kuti/De La Soul pairing Fela Soul, the project went on to land on several year-end “best of” lists including NPR, Soul Train, and OKAYPLAYER. Following the release in 2012 with Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to the Pharcyde, a concept that layered vocals of The Pharcyde over re-imagined productions sourced from the original Soul, Jazz, and Funk records ATCQ utilized to create their productions, Gazaway would later collaborate with The Pharcyde on their single “Still Got Love” and perform with the legendary group at SXSW.
Continuing the theme of his previous work in 2014, the producer united Brooklyn rapper Yasiin Bey (FKA Mos Def) and soul legend Marvin Gaye for a dream collaboration aptly titled Yasiin Gaye (side one and side two.) Building the album’s foundation from deconstructed samples of Gaye’s Motown classics, Amerigo re-purposes the instrumentation into new productions with the familiar fervor of the original work. Carefully weaving Bey’s tangled raps and Gaye’s soulful vocals over his new arrangements, Gazaway delivers a quality much closer to an authentic collaboration than a lukewarm “mashup” album. Drawing nearly 20,000 downloads in its first two days of release, the Master Modern Soul Match Maker (Juan Vidal- Vibe Magazine) earned a perfect “5 Star” review from BET, collaborated with New York Magazine cartoonist, Drew Dernavich, for the project’s side two cover art, and landed on Billboard’s Best Selling Singles Chart with the album’s third single, “You Are Undeniable.”
Honing his DJ skills through tours of Europe, Brazil, and the U.S., Gazaway’s dancefloor driving live set features classic breakbeats, original blends, remixes, edits, and mashups of multiple genres including Funk, Soul, Disco, Hip-Hop, Afrobeat, and everything in-between. With presentations and lectures logged at USC, MTSU, and Google HQ (NYC), the DJ/Producer continues to highlight the possibilities of sample based art and shows no signs of slowing down. (Source: amerigomusic.com)
What inspired you to create mash-ups? Do you have a favorite one?
I started making remixes because I wanted to hear what it would sound like to have artists actually rapping on my productions. That’s also the reason I started writing lyrics. When producing, sometimes having an acapella in the mix also helps me stay on track and keep the song structure organized. As far as my favorite mashups go, I’m a big fan of creative remix artists like Cookin’ Soul, Altered Tapes, and J. Period.
Is there an artist in the industry you have a lot of respect for?
Bun B the Trill OG. He is the the ultimate leader, teacher, ambassador and role model. He should really consider running for President in 2020 (with Killer Mike as his VP).
What has been your most memorable event? As a DJ?
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to tour and meet some of my favorite artists and idols over the years. I’ve shared stages with Jazzy Jeff, The Pharcyde, George Clinton, Souls of Mischief, and many more. I think my favorite moment was performing with The Pharcyde live at SXSW in 2013, which was a a dream come true.
Are you able to share any of your secret DJ tricks with our readers?
Protip: When someone requests a song, don’t tell them you are going to play it if you don’t plan on playing it. That will just result a drunker, angrier confrontation with said patron. Instead, tell them that you already played it, and if they wanna hear it again they are gonna have to wait in line with the other 18 people who requested songs prior to that.
What is one mistake you see a lot of new DJs make?
I see a lot of “trendependent” artists and DJ’s nowadays. In other words, people who aimlessly follow trends instead of creating a unique lane for themselves. Also, I see a lot of openers who play really loud high energy music, which causes ear fatigue and drowns out the party early on. Opening is a tricky task, and I really appreciate it when an opening DJ or artist can feel out the vibe of the room and help to create the appropriate atmosphere. People need a chance to warm up and get loose before they’re ready to throw down and get crazy.
Where do you think the music scene is headed in 2017?
As Yasiin Bey (and Marvin Gaye) would say, “Where are we going?”
I think we’re going to see a lot more creativity in music now that more and more artists are going independent. I also think we’ll see more politically message-driven music coming out this year considering the circumstances and the times we live in. We need artists speaking out now more than ever.
If you could travel back in time to the hottest music scene, which scene and year would it be?
I would travel back to the year I was born (1985) just to see what the music scene was like then. Hip-hop was still evolving and gaining popularity, and pop music was beginning to incorporate more drum machines and synthesizer sounds. Disco was dying out and song arrangements were becoming less complicated and more simplified/catchy . Plus “The Goonies” and “Back to The Future” came out that year.
What is one subgenre you think doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
I would have to say video game music. Some of the greatest compositions I’ve ever heard can been found in old school video games, especially classic JRPGs of that era like Secret of Mana and Terranigma. These games provided the soundtrack to my youth and sparked my interest in music production and composition early on. Great composers like Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu…they were incorporating everything from Jimi Hendrix guitar riffs to Celtic music and jazz in their arrangements. They have continued to influence the way I make music today.
What is one track that never gets old for you, no matter how many times you hear it?
Outkast – Aquemeni.
What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
Go to the record store. Look at the covers, read the liner notes, listen if they have a turntable station. You’ll be amazed at what you discover if you dig deep enough. There are some things you just can’t find on the internet. Take your time…digging is a lifelong journey. You’ll get better at it and refine your musical tastes over time. Remember, just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s good. And just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad. Don’t judge a record by its cover (or lack thereof).
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