It’s a great day whenever I get to chat it up with longtime Detroit stalwart DJ House Shoes. Although most folks know that Shoes is now located in Los Angeles, he’s still got the D on his back as the ambassador and general of Detroit hip-hop at all times. He’ll be performing in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 30th at Soul Repair as part of the kick off night for the new hip-hop monthly called Enjoy, so I caught up with him via phone earlier this week. As always, Shoes was ready to talk much shit but also update everyone on his growth since moving to the West Coast, comment on his online popularity, and hit us with some Dilla stories as well.
Let’s talk about the Do-Over. For those that don’t know, what is it? And how did you become a part of it?
House Shoes: I went to the Do-Over the day after I got to Los Angeles, it was the first Sunday in July. I’d never seen anything like that in my life. It’s a day party, and it goes on every Sunday from Memorial Day to Halloween and goes from like 2pm to 10 pm. Sangria all day. Mad good people, and there’s a little bit of water on it now, I’m not going to front. But that’s what happens when you allow regular people into a scene like that. Anyway, they’ll book the best of anybody that’s in town. If Rich [Medina] is in town or Spinna is in town or any of the Djs Djs basically. They come through and rock. They want the best music from the best DJs. Benji B, DJ Scratch, whoever. It’s a great great event. Jamie Strong, Aloe Blacc, and Chris Haycock do a good job of putting it on. They did one in Portland, they did one in Puerto Rico. They’re really just scratching the surface.
What are the keys to handling the Do-Over if a person goes?
If you go to a Do-Over, stick to sangria and pace yourself. I want to say the third week I spun, I took my friend who had never been before. We drank of course and went through a couple of carafes of sangria before I even DJ’d. Then I went up, spun for like and hour and a half. I get off the turntables, and I’m looking around like where is this cat. This mafucka was white as a ghost, shirt soaked to the bone. Drunk. And I totally played him to the left too. I was like, ‘uh, there’s an ice machine over there, go throw up behind that, drink some water, I’ma go talk to these people and be back in 30 minutes.’ (laughing). And he did all that, and was good! Then we ordered more sangria and drank for like three more hours. So pace yourself. The key is, once you hit that wall, shake it off, chill out, and then come back.
How in the hell did you get to be so popular on twitter?
Well, I would honestly say it’s just a branch… cause cats were fucking with MySpace hard in like ’03 ’04. I jumped on there and I put in a lot of work on MySpace yo. I was on, no joke, like 14 hours a day, bulletining, blogging, sending out music mixes, making myself available to anyone that reached out, whatever. When that shit kind of fell off. I got probably 25 to 30,000 fans from MySpace and a lot of that popularity transferred to twitter. About two or three years ago, ?uest hit me up and said I need to get on this twitter shit. I have a strong personality, you kind of have to have strong personality to be popular on twitter. I’m strong minded and brevity is the key, so that all fits in. Of course from the whole Charles Hamilton shit, I got about 1,500 fans off that. Detroit is respected… and they know I’m the general of that shit so they want to know what the general has to say.
Is it a little weird that, after being a world class caliber DJ for years, it takes something like twitter for more people to start paying attention to who you are?
That’s one way to look at it, but I was so hard headed about my Detroit shit for years. I never really DJ’d outside of Detroit until 2006. I never marketed myself in that regard. I wasn’t trying to go nowhere. I had a city to take care of. I had to make sure we were getting together and doing our shit. I’m not a religions cat by any means but it’s like I’m the shepherd of the flock. I’m just worrying about my flock. When J passed and Proof passed and I looked back, I realized that I’d put the city above myself. When I thought about bettering my position in a way that kind of gave the city a broader platform, it made sense that I needed to make a bigger push. If I’m just sitting behind four walls in Detroit, I can’t make that much of an impact. I came out to L.A. to getting it popping and that’s what’s happening.
Since moving to LA, where’s the craziest place you’ve had the opportunity to spin (globally, whatever) and what’s the best thing to happen to you career-wise since the move?
Just Europe… Europe period. Just seeing how pure the situation is based on what the listeners want to hear and knowing how worldwide the party really is. I was on tour with Illa J, Exile, and Aloe Blacc. Winter of ’06. We had a gig in Paris. Before anything really jumps off, the DJ throws on a Marv Won joint. Reciting the verse, reciting the hook, everything. In Paris. It’s a real struggle for a lot of these artists in Detroit. That was one eye opener. After the performances were finished, I spun for five hours yo, with one case of records and a CD wallet and they were posted all night. You’re not going to see that shit here in the States. It’s a night and day difference from what you’re going to see over in Europe.
Why do Europeans love Detroit music so much?
The easier answer is, we’re the best. We’ve been making the best music in the world for nearly 50 years. From Motown in the 50s, 60s, that deep Stevie Wonder and funk/soul of the 70s etc. Techno, whatever. We been running hip-hop in the world for almost 15 years. We make music completely unapologetically and we do our own shit. Detroit is a grimy city and music is an escape for all of us. When we’re in the lab, it’s an escape and we just kill it. Take me for an example, I make music for my-motherfucking-self. When I turn on the MPC and I get behind the boards, I have very very specific taste in music. The difference between me and these cats tweeting about their garbage ass mixtape or their wack ass beats is that if I make some shit and I’m not feeling it, I turn the MPC off. If you listen to real music, and can’t tell that your shit is wack, I don’t understand. Another thing is, all these casts making music, Apollo Brown, Marv Won, Korona, Black Milk, whoever. We don’t rally care about all that extra industry shit. I don’t care about getting placements on music. We don’t give a fuck. We don’t sell ourselves out for a check.
You and I talked about Danny Brown via phone almost 2 years ago as you were predicting that he’d come on strong, and now it’s happening. Why do you think folks are paying attention?
Cause he ain’t slowing down for nobody. Danny is a workhorse. He’s an artist that puts in the work and even if he’s not financially making it since he hasn’t released a project people have to pay for, he still grinds it out and he’s fucking fantastic. He’s a one of a kind artist. He fits right in the middle. The grimy cats appreciate it, and the poppy kids appreciate it. Everyone likes all of Danny Brown. He strikes some type of nerve in people. And his voice! It’s so different. It’s so fucking different. It’s either going to push you away or grab you. But he keeps putting out material and you can’t ignore it. This cat can rap his ass off. So I want to see a project from Danny brown that you have to pay for. I’m tired of arguing with cats about giving away free money.
Alright… Sweet for Ma Dukes and the whole Miguel Atwood-Ferguson production… I watched it, I saw you on stage, and I heard from Miguel afterword that he saw you with tears in your eyes at one point. I’m not sure if that’s true…
That’s definitely true. I was sitting stage right, I was able to fight it for the majority of the night. It’s crazy. A huge orchestra playing my mans shit. Dwele was sitting to my right and the whole time, we’re just looking at each other, not really saying anything. And for the most part, I had been fighting ‘em back. But when the strings started at the beginning of “Untitled” it was like someone turned the water faucet on. It was over. Everyone cried. That shit was crazy. Just knowing if Jay would have been able to see that shit. He never had a strong grasp on how his music affected other people. He would have been crying like a baby if he’d gotten a chance to see his music played by a 50-60 piece orchestra. You got Primo, Doctor Dre, Pete Rock, that shit ain’t happening for them. But it’s another testament of how J was the best.
Your son, James DeShawn Buchanan, is named after Dilla and Proof. What made you want to do that, and do James and DeShawn’s mother’s know that you’re keeping their son’s legacies alive through yours?
It was… (pauses) that’s what it had to be. That’s what it had to be. It was no question. My girl, she had no problem with it. There’s no other way to be able to pay respect to my first born and possibly only child beside naming him after Dilla and Proof. That’s all there is to it. Ma Dukes and Pepper [Proof's mom] both know about that.
What are you top 3 Dilla songs of all time?
Oooh, ouch. This is a disclaimer and this is something that changes from day to day depending on mood and what’s going on in my life but right now, my top 3 are “Untitled” off Fantastic Vol. 2, “Take Notice” off Rough Draft…and uhmmm, I’ma be selfish and say one of the joints I did for him on the MCA album. There are a lot of tracks people haven’t heard yet. I did a joint for him that was supposed to be the intro for the album. The first time I’d ever played a full beat tape for Jay was probably late ’99, early 2000. The very last beat that was on the tape, he’s like, ‘I want that’ and I got the check from Universal for days later. He cashed me out. It was a sample based track, and he played the track over on a Moog synthesizer. It’s dope that Jay remade one of my joints. He murdered it. He liked it because it didn’t sound like him. He said he always hated when people would send him beats that sounded like him. He never wanted that. I don’t think joint I did for him ever got a title.
Top 3 Proof songs of all time?
“Searching” with 5ELA. I’d say “Broken” with Journalist and Mu on there. That’s a House Shoes beat probably from 98-99. And I’d have to say, “Forgive Me.” It’s kind of hard to listen to. Or maybe The Good Die Young off the second D12 album.
You’re coming to Seattle for the first time? Who from the music scene…hip-hop or otherwise are you a fan of?
Definitely I’ve been fucking with Jake One for damn near 15 years, it’s been great to see him rise up and make some real strong moves in the game… getting down with the G-Unit thing when that really mattered and Red Bull Big Tunes now which is incredible. On the old school tip, Mix-a-Lot, Kid Sensation and those cats. I’m not really to hip about seattle, so I’m looking forward to learning when I get up there.
Jake One once told me that one of the scariest nights he’s ever had in his life was crashing at your crib.
He slept on the floor and I think [my cat] Smokey assaulted him. You gotta understand, Smokey has assaulted a lot of these rap cats out here. My cat doesn’t play. [Shoes then puts the phone up to Smokey and, right on cue, Smokey meows into the phone].
What can folks who have never seen you spin before, expect on Thursday night?
Some real, I dont’ give a fuck type shit. I don’t care…like, you got a lot of these Djs talking about reading the room, and figuring out what people want to here. Man, I don’t give a damn what you all want to hear. You booked me on the stregnth that I play music that I love and I must be doing something right cause the parties are popping. I rocked three parties in the Bay this weekend and that shit was bananas. So when I get on the turntables, I drink, I talk my shit and I’m not going to be typical at all. You’re going to hear Dilla, Guilty, Danny Brown, 14kt, Marv Won, and hell, you might hear the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati. Whatever feels right is what I’ll play.
House Shoes spins on Thursday, Sept. 30 at Sole Repair in Seattle. $5 no guest list. No bullshit.