Interview: Kidd Called Quest

Regular visitors to our site will already be acquainted with the work of this Rochester, NY beat-smith. A purist with a preference for the MPC and Maschine Kidd Called Quest has production credits on releases stretching back over a decade. These include his two producer LP’s Put Your Headphones On (which featured such WRG notables as Vic Spencer, ETO, Termanology, Trife Diesel, Skyzoo and Blaq Poet). He’s also maintained a strong working relationship with Big Shug including producing the majority of his 2012 album I.M. 4-Eva (alongside DJ Premier and Fizzy Womack).

However in recent years Kidd Called Quest has lent his soulful boom-bap sounds to prop up some of the most conscious yet street savvy spitters in his hometown. This includes his duo with Azariah called Young Black And Gifted as well as constant work with Jae Hussle and Curtis Coke (formerly known as Curt Laisi). Unsurprisingly he also has many irons in the fire that will no double manifest in the coming months. We took this opportunity to ask the man some questions (below).


What’s your latest project that we should peep?

My new best tape BXRocstrumentals. It’s been a year since G Fisher and I dropped our project BXROC. I figured right now would be a good time to release a instrumental version of that album.

I have also been pushing songs from The Second Coming (Young Black And Gifted’s latest LP) and still promote that album heavily too.

I have been learning a lot of new ways to keep the music circulating and presenting to new listeners and gaining new followers. But outside of what I got going on I’ve also been helping Curtis Coke get his things in order for his upcoming project Vocal Movie that’s going to be dropping soon. Lastly I can’t forget my other recent instrumental project Reflectstrumentals that’s available now on all streaming platforms.

In your promo pictures I notice you are holding an MPC, what gear are you currently using and what’s your favorite piece of equipment?

Yea I’m a MPC head and that machine was my first serious piece of equipment. I’ve been using the MPC since 2002 when my bro Devine showed me how to use the original MPC2000 when I was 15. That joint changed my life. It’s always going to be my favorite piece of equipment, but lately I’ve been rocking with the Maschine. I think I’m just addicted to it’s workflow. I have been using Maschine since 2010. In a way that changed my production life as well. I go back and forth between both machines. Hopefully soon I can come up on a MPCX.

Before Rochester started getting national exposure in the last few years, what was the local scene like for boom bap?  Was there a big audience for the 90’s sound or do people mostly stay on the new trends?

The scene was dope! We had some dope venues that were down for doing hip hop shows. The #1 spot would have been Dubland Underground that was the spot for hip hop heads in Rochester. Every artist from the 585 that’s making noise now touched the stage there. The second main spot would have been the Bug Jar that always had a show going down too. Once Dubland Underground shut down, it left us with a bunch of venues that really have something against hip hop and turned down artists from doing shows. It seems like now the only spots that do hip hop are far outside the inner city of Rochester. Just like any other city Rochester also had our trap/new trend audience that was mainly the younger crowd and the boom bap audience was a slightly older crowd. Even before the national exposure the dudes from here that are well known now have been doing their thing and grinding.

If I come to Rochester, what spots do I need to check out?  Is there spots that the hiphop / boom bap supporters group up at?

If we would have met back in 2007-2013 I would have told you Dubland Underground to possibly catch a hip hop crowd on a Tuesday or Thursday when they were constantly doing shows. Or even a few years back I would have told you to go check out the ButaPub which shut down. To my knowledge that was the last spot I knew that was always doing shows and was becoming like a new Dubland Underground it kind of revived the local hip hop scene. If you do happen to come now I would definitely tell you to check out Record Archive,Bop Shop or House Of Guitars. You might run into a producer from here or an artist. I would also tell you to hit DJ Chris G he’ll definitely put you on to some new artists from the area to look out for.

Considering you work whole projects with Azariah and Jae Hussle (as well as work with Curtis Coke and some other artists), do you make beats in mind for a particular project or do you just create and worry about project placement later? 

It all depends if I’m doing a project with an artist. I try to keep the whole production process fresh and cook up beats strictly for the artist. There have been times I had beats already made and the artist really wanted to rock out to those beats. When we did the Jae Hussle album (Reflections A Story In My Lifetime Vol 1) every beat on that album was cooked up for him except 2 of em. When Azariah and I did The Second Coming every beat on there was cooked up just to fit him perfectly. Sometimes when I do a project I will go dig at a record shop and a bunch of records that have samples to fit the feel of the project we are trying to aim at.

Speaking of your frequent collaborators Azariah and Jae Hussle, how did you initially link together?

Azariah and I linked up back in 2006, after I met our guy Euphony at a hip hop show. He actually connected me and Azariah together and we’ve been rocking together ever since. It was through Azariah I met Jae Hussle back in 2010. He came with Azariah to a studio session I had with Azariah Lil E(Eto) and Curtis Coke for my first project (Put Your Headphones On) back when Curtis Coke was going by Li. At first I was selling beats to Hussle he was just starting out. As time went on we would connect every now and then. He quickly started to get nicer with his pen game. Eventually in 2018 I said I’m just going to start rocking with him. That’s how we ended up doing the Reflection project.

As a hip-hop fan, have you had connections with some of the legends as a producer or in the midst of doing your music that stands out to you? (i.e. a big moment to you).

I had the opportunity to work with a few legends in the game. My first album placement was on Big Shug Of Gang Starr Foundation‘s album (Otherside Of The Game) back in 2008. That helped get my name noticed and that also helped me get a few other placements.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning on doing another compilation soon. I reached out to a few people. My man G Fisher got a joint with Kool G Rap produced by me. He should be dropping that soon along with his new album.

I can’t wait for the world to hear that joint! I’m also planning on doing an instrumental series. I actually am working on an instrumental project with my brother DJ Sight. Once I get everything situated I start planning a new Young Black and Gifted project. I just want to continue to make music and keep busy.

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