ON THE NILE - THE EGYPTIAN LOVER INTERVIEW
This is another one of those cats that I became aware of through looking at his record and seeing the word scratch. In those days (the early 80s) that , and the label that the song was recorded on was really the only criteria I needed to kick out 3.99 for a record. Of course this hit and miss method filled my crates with a lot of garbage , but I lucked up the day that I copped the maxi single containing Egypt Egypt / What Is A Dj If He Can't Scratch?/ My Beat Goes Boom / The Ultimate Scratch. I'd never heard of Freak Beat Records , but with 2 scratching songs on one 12” single there had to be at least one gem on there.It turned out that every song on the single was a hit! Of course Egypt, Egypt is considered a classic today , but the Egyptian Lover went on to record a few full length lps , as well as singles like Girls , The Lover and You're So Fine. He also started his own label and recorded other West Coast legends.
JayQuan: What is your musical background , and who are your influences?
Egyptian Lover: I started as a D.j., and I made mix tapes. This was back in ’79 or ’80. I started putting my raps on the tapes and selling them at school. Sugar Hill Gang was huge back then, and everybody wanted more of that kind of music. My influences back then were the Sugar Hill Gang, Super Rhymes (Jimmy Spicer), Prince and Kraftwerk- especially the Computer World album with Numbers. Then I heard Planet Rock , and I was like this is Kraftwerk with more bass.
JQ: What part of L.A. are you from?
EL: South Central….
JQ: Who was the original Uncle Jamm’s Army and how did it come together?
EL: Well Uncle Jamm’s Army was already a dance production company when I got with them. I started my own dance production company to compete with them and it didn’t work out too good , so I joined them. The parties got bigger and bigger. At one point the parties drew crowds of 1000 people , then we moved to sports arenas with 10,000.
JQ: I remember the the World Class Wreckin’ Cru , Unknown Dj and all of those guys , were you playing the same circuit of venues as those guys?
El: Oh yeah , we were all dance production groups , we all gave parties and promoted on the same radio stations. Uncle Jamm’s was number one, then you had Lonzo with World Class Wreckin’ Cru – they had the club called Eve After Dark. The L.A. Dream Team had their Dj crew. Uncle Jamm's was the biggest by far though. Lonzo and Roger (of Uncle Jamm's Army) started doin' parties together, then they went their own way. When I started doin’ parties with Roger, Lonzo had to get someone to compete, so he got Dr.Dre’.
JQ: The World Class Wreckin’ Cru and all the early West Coast groups that made records had images very different from N.W.A. Was N.W.A. an exaggeration or was L.A. really like that?
EL: It was definitely really like that. N.W.A was talking about what went on in the day time, with the gangsters and drug dealers. World Class Wreckin Cru’, myself and other groups were talking about the party scene which happened at night. That’s kind of what ended the whole dance era , and the Uncle Jamm parties was the gangsters coming and shooting and fighting. But N.W.A. was talking about what was really going on in L.A. though….
JQ: So people in South Central could relate…
EL: Yeah. I would never make a record glamorizing it , because its nothing to glamorize , but it was definitely happening.
JQ: Was Egypt your first record?
EL: No, I did Breakin’ & Entering with the Radio Crew with Ice T & them. That was my first record ever. There were 5 songs that I played 808 on, and Ice T rapped over.
JQ: So the movie Breakin’ was based on that documentary right?
JQ: What label was that soundtrack on?
EL: It was never officially released on a label. There were only 25 copies pressed up. After that studio experience I went back to Uncle Jamm’s Army & said “hey we gotta cut a record , this is how you do it….” Then we went in the studio and did Yes, Yes, Yes. If you notice Yes Yes Yes sounds just like Breakin & Entering , its just no vocals. Then we put Dial A Freak on the A side , and it got lots of air play.
JQ: Ok , I didn’t know that Dial A Freak came before the Egypt maxi – single. I always wondered how you were cutting that “baby” part (on What Is A DJ) when it was on Dial A Freak, but Dial A Freak came first. Now it makes sense.
EL: Dial A Freak was about 6 months before Egypt Egypt.
JQ: Did you get better distribution after Egypt?
EL: Yes. It took about a year for Egypt Egypt to catch on. When people started hearing it , and it got popular the stores started to order more of Dial A Freak because they were both on the Freak Beat label. I had already recorded Egypt Egypt , but Dial A Freak was getting big on KDAY , so I held Egypt Egypt for a few months.
JQ: Was the Freak Beat label actually yours , or a joint venture between you and someone else?
EL: It was a joint venture between me & Uncle Jamm’s Army.
JQ: Who did the distribution?
EL: Macola Records.
JQ: Did you know that you were selling records outside of L.A.?
EL: No , I didn’t know they were selling in L.A. !! I made the records only to play at our dances, because the dances had gotten so big!! Like I said earlier we were doing sports arenas with 10,000 people. Uncle Jamm & I made them just for the dances. One day I got a call from Las Vegas to do a show. They said how much do you charge? I said to Dj? They said no to do your song. I said 35 is cool, gimme 35. They said ok we will send 1750 before , and 1750 after you do the show. I said its no need to send 17 dollars , I can just get it all after the show.
I meant 35.00, but they thought I was saying $3,500!! Then later I got a call to go to Miami to do a show. I had no idea that Macola was shipping to all these different places. Luke (Luther Cambell) was the one who actually was the promoter that booked me in Miami, this was before he was making records . I bought a Roland 808 while I was out there. He saw me programming it, and that’s how he got into the music business. 6 months later I hired an accountant to go to Macola and see how much we had sold. He started cutting us all these big checks , and that’s how I found out that we were selling in a lot of places.
JQ: People didn’t really do real remixes of songs back then. Why did you remix My Beat Goes Boom?
EL: I needed a longer version to play at the parties and mix stuff with, and I also put it on a 12” by itself which made it louder. Even though it was on the flip side of Egypt Egypt, the whole purpose of a 12” single is to get the song you’re promoting louder for the clubs. (The fewer songs on a vinyl record , the louder the songs).
JQ: I definitely notice the Prince influence in your music. I noticed your catalog numbers started with DMSR which is short for Dance Music Sex Romance (an anthem from the 1999 lp). You also ran some of your suggestive lyrics backwards like Prince.
EL: I was a big Prince fan. I was the only D.j. in L.A. mixing Prince in my set. Even Prince became a fan because I was mixing his songs on the radio.
JQ: So Prince knows of you?
EL: Oh hell yeah!!! The whole Uncle Jamm’s Army was a household name. We promoted on all the radio stations, and everybody knew the name. Everyone giving the jams became part of the music business in some way because of what we were doing.
JQ: I noticed that you started recording on Egyptian Empire records. Was that your label as well.
EL: Yes, I had to go solo due to disputes with Uncle Jamm’s Army. I still had distribution through Macola.
JQ: When you performed live, did you scratch & rap at the same time, or did somebody D.j. for you?
EL: I had transitioned from a D.j. to an artist, so there was no scratching on stage. That’s why the album versions of the songs didn’t have scratching. We recorded them just like we performed them. We had keyboards on stage, so wherever there was supposed to be scratching there would be keyboard stabs.
JQ: Did you see a disrespect from New York rappers when they came to L.A.?
EL: At the beginning we didn’t , because as Uncle Jamm’s Army we were actually booking these acts like Kurtis Blow , Run DMC and Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. In fact they were like our opening act. They would do their show, then we would come on and D.j. for the rest of the night……Later on when we went to New York ,all these New Yorkers were sayin’ fuck the West Coast – and we never understood where that was coming from 'til this day.
JQ: How did you feel about Cybotron, Hashim, Twilight 22, Pretty Tony etc etc?
EL: I loved it, because that’s what I played during my set. Anything up tempo. I remember when Electric Kingdom came out people thought that it was me. That’s when I knew that I had to hurry and put Egypt Egypt out.
JQ: Besides the Roland 808 what equipment were you using.
EL: Anything that was new really. We have a big Guitar Center out here , in fact its one of the first ones , and I would go in every week and ask what was new. If they said the Roland Jupiter 8, I would say I’ll take one, then we would go into the studio with it. So I had the Jupiter 8 , Juno 60 , SH 101 , Yamaha DX7 , Matrix 12 , Linn Drum , Emulator , Emulator II.
JQ: Who was playing the keyboards?
EL: I was, along with my brother who also played sax. I would hum what I wanted, and he would play it. For Egypt Egypt we hired a guy named Stuart , and he played what I hummed. My engineer Hank Donig also played , so we had my style along with some other styles as well.
JQ: I saw some stuff by Rodney O & Joe Cooley on Egyptian Empire. How did that come about?
EL: Well Rodney O came to one of the Uncle Jamm’s army dances after I had put out my record. He gave me a 45 of a single with his group called the Caution Crew. He wanted me to play it , but I told him that he should have come earlier , because the song had a slow tempo , but everything I was playing at the time was up tempo. There was this one guy on the song that sounded like Melle Mel with the rahhhh. I said who is this rapping?
He told me that it was him (I found out later that it wasn’t him). I told him that I wanted to do something with him. My brother quit on me and I needed a keyboard player. He said that he played keyboards, and I asked him did he want to go on tour. He dropped out of school, and went on tour with us. He didn’t play keyboards that good, but we taught him all the parts. When we finished the tour I had some tracks with no vocals, and he heard them & asked could he rap on them. He also messed around with the equipment that I had, and he made Everlasting Bass and all that on my equipment.
JQ: What are you up to today?
EL: I have a cd out called Platinum Pyramids , and Im Djing again and doing concerts. Im doin’ a lot in Europe because they are heavy into Electro. They call it Electro or Electro Funk , but I just call it old school rap.
JQ: Who is Jamie Jupitor?
EL: That’s a long story, but he was a friend of mine who was gonna make a record with me. I wrote the song, did the music, and told him to say his parts but he had to go to the military. I did all his vocal parts with harmonized voices and vocoders. I brought some girls in to scream on the track also. I sent it to him, and when he came out he said he was ready to record. I was on tour and couldn’t do anything so we never finished. He just did Computer Power and that was it.
JQ:What do you think about today’s rap?
EL: Its getting back to the party stuff as far as the subject matter, especially in the South. It’s a lot different now, I came up as a dancer but I go to these parties and the guys are too gangster to dance, they just stand around!!! The scene I came up in was fun. We went to the party, danced, got the girls and that was the end of the story. Today you gotta look hard, and act hard. You gotta stand by your 24 inch spinning rims. It s a whole different scene now. Im comfortable with the scene where they play Electro music, dance and have fun. That’s the kind of concerts I do.
JQ: What do you think of people blaming the West Coast for the violence in subject matter in rap?
EL : I disagree. The reason N.W.A was able to do what they did was because nothing was happening on the East Coast. It goes back and forth like that. First New York had it, then it went to the West , now the South is doing their thing.
JQ: Was that West Coast Pop Lock record (the one that Tupac based California love on) a big record on the West Coast?
EL: It was an underground rap record that probably didn’t sell too many. The guy who put it out was called Duffie. He was always somewhere trying to promote that record!! It never really did anything , but he was at every party and roller rink trying to promote it. When Tupac did his record he finally got his payday. I was glad to hear that.
JQ: Did y’all really listen to a lot of Zapp, Parliament , Ohio Players etc at house parties out there , or is that just something they put in the movies?
EL: That’s all we listened to! Before rap that was all we had was that funk! Ohio Players , Confunkshun , Zapp , Bill Summers & Summers Heat - hell yeah!!
JQ: How did you get the name Egyptian Lover?
EL: That goes back way before the Djing or records or anything. We used to wear these black jackets , and everyone put there lil gangster name on the back. People would put Poppin' Dave, Sir Broadway or whatever. I put Egyptian Lover on mine, and it was a combination of Rudolph Valentino and King Tut. King Tut was a young king of his own empire , and Rudolph Valentino made all the women love him.