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BigBob Pattison
BigBob Pattison (Photo: Supplied)

Interview: Q&A

Culturally Rich: BigBob Pattison talks Elite Sound, the state of hip-hop & more

These days, releasing new music on a regular basis is as easy as having a cheap mic and some software, and obviously the will to do it.

But dropping new material on a steady basis while maintaining a consistent level of quality that ranks you in the upper echelon’s of Canadian music producers? Well, that’s another story.

Enter Wasaga Beach, Ontario-native BigBob Pattison.

Insomniac Magazine once wrote that a “week without a BigBob track doesn’t exist,” because his catalogue is just so incredibly massive.

BigBob’s raw talent and top tier work ethic have lead to him working with some of the most well-known artists in hip-hop, while sitting on a catalogue over 25 albums deep and counting.

This past December, BigBob added another massive release to his discography when he teamed up once again with Ruste Juxx for the 12-track album, Culturally Rich. It followed a previous Ruste Juxx album released by BigBob back in March 2017, The Ruste Juxx Collection.

Before that, he appeared on BigBob’s The Blessings Vol. 1 project in 2015, and also appeared on the 16-track 2018 follow-up The Blessings Vol. 2 alongside 49 other artists.

These projects were all released through BigBob’s Elite Sound International, which he formed with Brooklyn emcee and pioneer Grand Surgeon back in 2012.

“He’s been in hip-hop since the 70’s, a true pioneer,” BigBob said of Grand Surgeon in our recent interview. “I recognize that value and respect the foundation we built to create an original movement.”

Among other things, “ESI helps artists and their personal brands with management, placements, PR, marketing as well as coaching and production.”

Over the years, BigBob and ESI have worked with a vast group of well-known artists and hip-hop legends including KRS-One, Grand Puba and Sadat X of Brand Nubian, Planet Asia, Rock of Heltah Skeltah, Pacewon of Outsidaz, AG of DITC, Cutty Ranks, of Dead Prez, Ghostface Killah, General Steele, and many more.

Their latest official release is the “Ghost Gunz” single which features Craig G of the legendary Juice Crew and Toronto’s own Lee Ricks. BigBob also produced the new “Black Face” single by Inlighten Music Group artist Soulrac which hit Spotify on April 10.

Make sure you check out “Ghost Gunz,” as well as the recent interview we conducted with BigBob via email.

The Q&A touches on his start in the game, some of his most memorable projects, his thoughts on the state of hip-hop, working with Ruste Juxx, connecting with Grand Surgeon to create ESI, and more.

Q&A: BigBob Pattison

HipHopCanada: BigBob, welcome to HipHopCanada for a long overdue interview. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. How have you been keeping busy during COVID-19 isolation? Hopefully you and your family are all 100%.

BigBob Pattison: Thank you. Hope you are staying safe too. Life hasn’t changed much for my family and I. We live on our urban homestead, in our artist centric home. We have another musician currently quarantined with us. Other than that our days are basically the same. We all work from home.

HipHopCanada: Your list of production credits is incredibly impressive but I wanted to touch on your history a bit first. Your bio cites greats like DJ Premier and J Dilla (RIP) as some of your biggest inspirations. What is it about their particular styles or approach to production that you appreciate the most?

BBP: DJ Premier is simply the GOAT. And J Dilla created some very melodic soundscapes.

HipHopCanada: How old were you when you started producing and what tools were you using to start out?

BBP: I was 25 with a laptop, headphones and internet connection.

HipHopCanada: Do you remember the first beat you made and where it ended up?

BBP: I don’t remember the first 15 beats I created. It’s fair to say it’s in the trash. Now the fifteenth beat I created, that ended up on Hot 97 on DJ Kay Slay’s Drama Hour.

HipHopCanada: What are the main tools you use for making beats today?

BBP: A magician never reveals his secrets.

HipHopCanada: Have you ever considered picking up the mic yourself?

BBP: No. I barely talk in real life. I’m a quiet person.

HipHopCanada: How did you originally connect with Grand Surgeon? Can you speak on the early days of Elite Sound International and how things first got started?

BBP: I approached him via the internet through social media. Through that connection we decided to work together. From that point on, Grand Surgeon took me under his mentorship and we built together. He’s been in hip-hop since the 70’s, a true pioneer, so I recognize that value and respect the foundation we built to create an original movement.

HipHopCanada: Since then, you’ve also been part of over 25 albums including a massive double CD compilation, which makes for an absolutely insane resume. Which project would you say you’re most proud of being a part of?

BBP: The Blessings Vol. 2 and Culturally Rich (with Ruste Juxx) have been my favourite projects to date.

HipHopCanada: In the same lane of questioning, which songs that you’ve produced over the years would you consider your favourites?

BBP: It’s hard to pick a favourite so I’ll just consider the classics:

– The Blessings (The Blessings Vol. 1) featuring KRS-One, Cutty Ranks and Grand Surgeon (up to that point Cutty had never featured on a hip-hop track).
– Triple God Degree (The Blessings Vol. 1) featuring AG (of DITC), Tragedy Khadafi, Grand Surgeon and DJ Fastcut (from Italy)
– Fuck Em All (The Blessings Vol. 2) featuring Fame (MOP) Big Twins (Infamous Mobb) and Mic Handz
– The Truth (The Blessings Vol. 2) featuring Sadat X and Big Twins

HipHopCanada: What artists/producers is the ESI movement representing today and can you speak on the different services the company is offering? Best way to connect with ESI?

BBP: Our team at ESI is growing. I am the main producer for the label and also do label work as A&R, artist development and general management. There are other producers Dcypha (Australia), who also scratches and Supreme Da Almighty. Our in-house turntablists are DJ Fastcut (Italy), DJ Madhandz (UK) and LD-on-the-Cut (Sublime with Rome) who also does a majority of our sound engineering as well. We are signing a talented emcee from Virginia via NYC on the horizon.

Mic Handz has joined ESI as the head of our USA relations office. He is a renaissance man in hip-hop, being a dope artist and emcee (Def Squad), he acts, he sings, he is such a multifaceted artist and business person. We are honoured to have him lead the team in a different direction from just being a movement into now being a reputable brand in the hip-hop industry. We release our music (digital and physical) independently, with true organic reach to our fans, supporters and lovers of hip-hop. ESI is a multidimensional brand dedicated to creating and supporting a large catalog of music and the artists. ESI helps artists and their personal brands with management, placements, PR, marketing as well as coaching and production. Best to get in touch with us via Instagram, but just don’t spam our inbox with unsolicited messages.

HipHopCanada: One of your more recent releases is something we got a ton of great feedback for when we posted it on our website, the new collaborative album with New York rapper Ruste Juxx, Culturally Rich. How did that project come to be and what was the most memorable part about putting it together?

BBP: The blueprint for Culturally Rich was devised in a waterfront park on Lake Ontario with Ruste Juxx in the fall of 2018. Culturally Rich is a follow up to another rare project we previously worked on together released by ESI, The Ruste Juxx Collection. It was great to see our growth from that project and come together again and to create more hip-hop classics.

HipHopCanada: The Blessings Vol. 2 picked up where Vol. 1 left off with more incredible production and hard-hitting lyrics. Are you planning on a Vol. 3 or a follow up to The District Ties?

BBP: The Blessings Volume 3 is definitely in the works. The District Ties EP is not my typical soundscape, it was more of an artistic deviation for me.

HipHopCanada: I’m really feeling your latest release “Ghost Gunz.” Can you speak on how that collaboration came about and whether we can expect it to be part of a larger project with Craig G and Lee Ricks?

BBP: “Ghost Gunz” is a subject that intrigued me so I wanted a hip-hop narrative to the story and asked MC Craig G of the legendary Juice Crew to lend his perspective. I’ve been working with Toronto emcee Lee Ricks to help him build his catalog for the past year and thought his lyrical take on the subject would be dope too. “Ghost Gunz” is a singular project between the two emcees. I work to build meaningful connections and networks through all genres and generations in general.

HipHopCanada: I found a really powerful statement from Eric B. & Rakim that you guys had posted on Instagram about the “devolution of rap music.” Can you give me your thoughts on what was said in the tweet and your overall view of the rap scene in 2020 (Canadian or International)?

“You are now witnessing the devolution of rap music. The death of poetry and smoothness, they use this. The absence of a message. The inability to create meaningful change through words and verses, but the worse is, they don’t even know they hurt this artful purpose, it’s tragic.” – Eric B. & Rakim

BBP: I agree with some of the statement but the overall tone is powerful. The foundations of hip-hop was poetic vocal expression. The ability to use your skills to create movement through words. The caption to the tweet read “There is no HEART without ART. Make a revolution with your music.”

That was meant with the intention to get into the head and heart of the viewer to just live artfully and don’t be lazy in general. Don’t be lazy in thought, in speech or in action. I personally don’t think there is a devolution, there is just an over saturated market of crappy, un-artful artists in all genres of music, and at the end of the day those guys hurt themselves more by creating that legacy. Unfortunately, currently those are the artists influencing the mass media and pop culture. My overall view is that hip-hop is having an underground renaissance. Trap has become its own genre and culture now, steering into it’s own lane and distinctiveness.

HipHopCanada: Do you think we’re past a point where hip-hop as a whole could go back to being predominantly about the message and making positive change?

BBP: No. But I think we can bring hip-hop back to the middle and keep it there. It’s a fine practice to be in the middle. Focus on truth in expression and make it as high caliber as possible to be enjoyed timelessly.

HipHopCanada: What else do you have lined up for 2020 and beyond? Hopefully COVID-19 hasn’t derailed too many planned recording sessions.

BBP: Eight albums coming out in 2020. Most notable project on the horizon is with Solomon Childs (Theodore Unit | Wu-Tang affiliate). COVID-19 has derailed a few events, a few studio sessions and some flight cancellations but nothing we can’t do remotely. The hip-hop community is large and global so lots of work is already done remotely.

HipHopCanada: Assuming isolation is going to be significantly longer than what a lot of people might have originally expected, have you been thinking long term in terms of how to get work accomplished?

BBP: Nothing has changed in my life from isolation. My life has been fully devoted to my craft since 2018 full time. I still work 12 hours a day, six days a week.

HipHopCanada: Which Canadian producers are you checking for the most these days?

BBP: I have not checked on Canadian producers to be honest.

HipHopCanada: What about Canadian artists? Anyone in particular you’re excited about?

BBP: I have only worked with four Canadian artists to date. Lee Ricks, Toronto-based El Dollar, BullyZone from Ottawa and Fatty Jones from Edmonton. I have not checked on any one in particular.

HipHopCanada: Do you have any advice for aspiring Canadian producers?

BBP: Advice for aspiring Canadian producers is to think global and act local. Don’t be afraid to build, and don’t be afraid to dismantle either.

You can follow @BigBobPattison and on Instagram.

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