Interview with Lord Finesse | By Jason Fullerton
This is a man that 99% of the culture have the upmost respect for. Longevity, musical integrity, smooth complex rhymes, intelligent humorous metaphors, amazing production talent, impeccable DJ skills, freestyle/battle veteran, Finesse is all of these and more.
Born and raised in the native land of hip hop culture (The Bronx) Finesse had the perfect foundation to become a student of hip hop and that he did. From emcee to DJ battles, Finesse made enough name for himself to land a record deal with Wild Pitch who would go on to release his classic debut album with Mike Smooth Funky Technician (1990), most of which was produced by legendary DJ/producer DJ Premier. Finesse would then go on to release another two 5-star albums in the way of Return Of The Funky Man (1991) and 1996′s The Awakening.
“I’m an artist, if I can’t give you the best I could give you then I’m just not coming out. That’s just how I feel and that’s just how passionate I am about what I do.” – Lord Finesse
He has made several important behind the scene moves, put a lot of artists on the map, created some of the illest remixes known to man plus worked with numerous legends including KRS-ONE, Biggie, Large Professor Big L and Dr. Dre to name a few.
Lord Finesse recently took some time out to speak with us here at New Noise. The funky man recently passed through my city (Glasgow, UK) and we were invited along to watch him do his soundcheck and sit down and converse as the venue prepared to be blown away. Watching Finesse and DJ Boogie Blind (of The X-Ecutioners) perform all kinds of sick routines on the turntables he approached us at the back of the room embodying that 90′s vibe (timberland boots, black hoodie, matching skully with diamond chain) we sat at a table overlooking the venue which Finesse, with a mug of tea in his hand described as “Nice as a muthafucka…”
Check out the interview below.
Thank you for taking time out to chill with us. How has 2012 been for you considering it’s almost over?
No doubt. 2012 started off great. Hit a couple of bumps, it’s winding down real nice and I’m really excited for 2013. You know I got a lot of things I’m about to set off, I mean this tour right here, this is just me touching it lightly man compared to what we’re going to do for real and in a little while you know.
Sounds great Finesse. Growing up in the Bronx as you did back in the day you must have seen a lot of Hip-Hop’s founding members. What are some of your fondest memories from growing up in this environment?
I mean some of my fondest memories is when they used to come out in the parks and play the music across the street from where I lived or you know I would travel to different neighbourhoods to catch the jams. I knew from the gate this was something I really wanted to do as far as Hip-Hip is concerned, I definitely wanted to do this. It was more of a cultural thing, see people get it twisted they think it’s for the money, well that comes along with it but I’m quite sure when you heard certain Hip-Hop wether it was like Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr or KRS-ONE it touched you in a way like “Wow, this is what music is about!? This is what it’s gone be!?” So that touches you. You ain’t touched by no car or jewellery at that time, you touched definitely by the music.
I heard a story and just want to confirm if it’s true.
Did you turn the greatest DJ of all time, DJ Roc Raida onto the artform and did you actually bet him in a battle back in the day?
Well that was when I was in my DJ zone man. I wanted to try be nice on the wheels just as nice as I am on the microphone so I was entering battles and one of my first battles was in The Apollo. Every week I would battle a different DJ and Raida just happened to be one of them so I beat him on the initial come-out. But when we battled again… (Finesse pauses and laughs in graceful defeat.) He did something else man and that told me I don’t want to do this no more because I really didn’t have that time or focus like these dudes where putting in ’cause the routines, the beat juggling stuff!? I still don’t see half these dudes doing what Roc Raida did and that’s back in ’91/’92.
Just want to ask about the whole D.I.T.C. crew, can you give us a quick summary how you all came to meet, how the crew formed?
That’s the biggest question of them all in the interview. It was a strange gathering because you had Diamond & Show, that’s who I used to go out to the jams and check out spinning besides my man Mike Smooth. Show was a showman type DJ, Diamond was that abstract dude, he would come out and cut Fat Albert records or Mickey Mouse records but he would do it in a fly fashion and you would go “That shit sounds dope!” He would find the loop breaks and catch the shit. And you know I used to cut school and go over to his crib to make cassette tapes with my rhyming on them so when I finally got my deal I definitely wanted to work with Show & Diamond. Diamond was in a group at that time called Ultimate Force so I wanted to work with them. He was a James Brown fanatic and I had heard some of the stuff he did and had picked things like “I want that!” so we started working on an album. In my high school days I battled AG. He happened to be looking for a DJ at this time and I was dating a chick named Dayna who stayed across the street from where I lived, so she was like to AG “Yeah I’m going to find you a DJ” so I’m still doing my DJ things and I come up in the house and she’s like “Yeah here’s Rob he’s mad nice” and he said “That ain’t Rob! That’s Finesse!” He’s like “You DJ!?” and I say “Yeah but funny thing I’m working on an album right now so do you wanna be down on this album? Do you still rhyme?” and he says “Yeah!”. He was looking for a DJ so during the making of The Funky Technician Show was looking for a rapper and that’s kinda how that connection happened. Okay so now you got Fat Joe but he comes along later, we grew up with Fat Joe, you know neighbourhood hustler wanna turn rapper. So Diamond was doing these demos and promos which led to him getting a deal on Relativity. Now during my off time while I was doing my DJing thing I used to make mixtapes too, so during my course of making mixtapes we used too sell them in Harlem and I had my stores during which I bump into an individual by the name of Buckwild. So we become friends and when Mike Smooth wasn’t travelling with me on the road I would take Buckwild. So he’s travelling with me, I’m getting into production he sees me with the 1200 and the 950 and he’s like I wanna do that and he saved up his money and one day and was like “Yo, I bought me this 1200 Ness I’mma do beats!” and he just got into it like that and he got focus and became the Buckwild we all know today, you know extremely talented. So now one specific tour I go on is The Source tour and I take Buckwild with me. Now on this tour you got Biz Mark you got Shante, Cooly Live, The A-Team, RSO, you got all these weird eclectic rap groups and you have a group by the name of Organized Konfusion and O.C. just happened to be on the tour with them. So during this whole crazy tour we were bonding and having fun and Buck pulled me to the side one day and was like “Yo, when we finish this tour I’m gonna work with O.C. we gonna work on some songs, try get him a deal”. So now the last member, Big L, I’m doing an autograph signing in the same store I was selling mixtapes out of I met Buckwild in. So I’m doing the autograph signing and two dudes come in and L being the cool shy dude he sends his boy over to me and says “Yo man, my boy wanna rhyme for you.” and I’m like “Word, I’ll give him my manager’s number and if he’s any good i’ll work with him.” He walks over and tell him so the dude comes back “He said he wanna rhyme for you and if you don’t like him he won’t even fuck wit’ you no more, he’ll just leave you alone.”so I’m like “Well tell him to rhyme for me.” and when he was finished rhyming I was getting all his numbers! (Finesse cracks up with nostalgic laughter.) It’s was crazy because when people look at Big L and Diggin’ In The Crates it’s not a regular story. I know I’m missing somebody… Me, Show, AG, Buckwild, Diamond, Fat Joe, O.C., Big L right? Yeah.
Not regular but glad it happened not doubt. You’re scheduled to return from your 16 year hiatus from the microphone with your new LP The Underboss dropping on Slice-of-Spice. What are some of the main reasons for you making a new LP after such a long break?
It was having to get the love back to do it. You know during my hiatus I lost my grandmother, I lost Big L, the game started changing up to be something I ain’t really care for too much anymore and I knew I could still survive doing production and doing my DJ gigs so I don’t really have to do records no more. So it was good just to take a break from it you know because I put so much time in and I didn’t feel like I was getting to where I want to with that, not saying I wasn’t nice but when I do my music I do it from the heart, I do it for Funk and Soul, I do it for the lyrical aspect, so when the game became more commercialised I ain’t feel like I wanted to do that. I learned a lot of different new techniques on how I want to do beats and how I want them to sound and technology is limitless, the shit you can do with music is just extraordinary. A lot of people now is kinda running for the commercial world that they’re neglecting people who really love real music and real lyrics. There’s such an open lane for some real Hip-Hop but it has to be a grey area. I’ve got a nice incredible plan that I see can come off and I hope maybe I can evolve Underground Hip-Hop. I’m not trying to save Hip-Hop you know people “I’m trying to save Hip-Hop!” I’m not trying to do that I’m just trying to give the people what they’re missing out on, that funk that soul, the lyrics that make you bounce, the wittiness that make you go “I can’t believe he just said that!” We don’t get that no more. How many new albums you hear when you get to quote some real fly shit? Like when O.C. came out “You lack the minerals and vitamins, irons and the niacin…” (Finesse recites his companions lyrics with conviction.) you know, like who does that!? So I see a nice angle, the music is like The Awakening on a whole other planet. The samples are more chopped up. I’m always going to use samples, I’m never going to stop or sway away from samples. People say “I don’t use samples no more I play…” unless you Stevie Wonder you ain’t playing shit you know? (I could not help but laugh so Finesse paused momentarily.) But I still chop up samples the technology like I said it has some many new machines, I was on an MPC4000 until the last year or so and I started messing with Ableton and then you’ve got he Akai Renaissance which is the gateway between analog and digital where you can still take your 3000, 4000 beats and 2000XL beats, it still loads it all up but it makes it that much easier to transfer it to the computer. Wether you now use Reason, Logic or Pro Tools you can use this machine to make life a hell of a lot easier you know? With this new project man, expect the world from me. I’m an artist, if I can’t give you the best I could give you then I’m just not coming out. That’s just how I feel and that’s just how passionate I am about what I do. I don’t do it because “I can make a record and I’m Lord Finesse!” (he jokingly remarks) Na, I make it because I want to make a point and impress people, I want people to go “Yo! You heard that shit!? This is crazy!” (Finesse claps his hands and stomps his feet to convey his energy about The Underboss)
So just wrap things up because I can see some fans coming in now. Any last words?
Well like I say man, shouts to D.I.T.C. support all my D.I.T.C. members, just support real Hip-Hop in general man because when it’s not here no more… We’re already overran by a bunch of bullshit so support the groups that represent the real. Like I said Diggin’, Kendrick Lamar, Sean Price, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks ’cause that’s what’s keeping our generation alive you know?
Thanks for talking to us Finesse.
Not a problem.