LE BAIN: There are big expectations for your upcoming album on Theo Parrish’s label, Sound Signature...
GE-OLOGY: Well, I'm grateful to hear that there seems to be big excitement around the record. I've been hearing that quite a bit along my travels, but I don't think I've allowed it to actually settle in. Honestly, I'm not really into hyping things up...I prefer to just do the work, get it ready and out to the people for them to enjoy. Still, I'm thankful I've gotten such a positive and powerful response from the select few who listened to some of the demos privately, as well as those who got a taste of it on radio, or experienced it in clubs or festivals played either by Theo, Marcellus Pittman, Kai Alcé, Jay Daniel, myself or a few others. I hope the releases bring a similar response and further enjoyment.
Theo Parrish plays the new GE-OLOGY track on NTS Radio
When can we expect it?
Soon hopefully. The 12-inch has been out since late October, the digital version since late November... so I'm hoping the album will be available by the time Spring comes back around, if not sooner. Let's see.
What can you say about it?
I'm not sure that there's much I wish to say about the music at the moment, as I want the listener to have their own experience when they hear it. But for those that haven't heard any of it thus far, what I can say is that you're going to experience another side of me musically. It may feel new and different for those who may be expecting a particular type of sound or genre...but those already familiar with the diversity of my roots, history and interests should know that my range of expression reaches far and wide. I just want to create quality art, consistently, in all that I do.
GE-OLOGY: Triple OG Mix, an all vinyl dedication to the legendary Frankie Knuckles
It seems both you and Theo share the same love for a wide range of music, from jazz to disco to electronic music...
This is true...but to me it's not surprising. I'm 2 years older than Theo, and 3 years older than my brother Ron Trent. We're all a part of the same era, all share a deep love of various styles of music, and the lineage from which those forms historically derived and developed. The music experience of being black in urban America and growing up in the seventies was very enriching. Even in our own individualized circumstances, we share some very similar experiences in our respective households and neighborhoods. This was a time period when most of our families had records, so we grew up surrounded by vinyl of various styles of music, and those records got played a lot at home - where we received our earliest education. So there are experiences and memories connected to certain songs that I play, which evoke a range of emotions because these songs have meaning. And as I grew older and started hearing the music change going into the eighties and beyond, my range of interest continued to expand and expand, and still does today.
Are there any other connections than music that you and Theo share?
We're both December Capricorns for one. We're both artists that attended performing arts high schools in our respective cities, then went on to study at art colleges afterwards, receiving our Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees (his from KCAI, Kansas City Art Institute, mine from SVA, School of Visual Art in NYC). We both also love cars, good food, and well-designed sound systems - a very under-appreciated art form. And quite obviously, we both love playing our vinyl and have vast collections of music on wax.
GE-OLOGY digs Rush Hour
In what circumstances did you two meet?
We first met back in 2006 in Chicago on the Triple 5 Soul "Soul Sessions" DJ Tour, and have been friends ever since. The line-up included Benji B, myself, Theo Parrish, Waajeed, Rich Medina, and DJ Spinna on a couple of dates as well. Earlier that same year, our music also ended up on the same record as part of the PUMA "5X12" vinyl box-set series. And over the years we bonded further, crossing paths through our travels and bookings. So there are a number of cities around the world we've had the opportunity to catch up, break bread, have deep discussions and some good laughs, too. That's fam!
You were born in Baltimore but raised in NYC during the 80’s. What kind of memories do you keep from that period of time in New York streets?
I was still in my teens, but that period of time was my favorite in terms of living in New York City. It's what I often refer to as "the days of the real NY": mad character and attitude. It was rough and raw, and possessed a very unique unapologetic energy the city was once full of, that's not as prevalent these days. Ed Koch was the mayor at the time, and you either loved him or hated him. But he saved the city, helped it bounce back from the brink of bankruptcy it almost faced in the late seventies and a major crash on Wall Street in the eighties. Even then, there was undeniable wealth all around, but plenty of poverty as well. Still, it was a much cheaper place to live at the time, almost unimaginable if you compare rent and property values in NYC today. And because it was so cheap, the city was full of artists and creative types everywhere. There were still a few trains in service with top to bottom burners (graffiti murals) on them, and people used subway tokens or hopped the turnstile, definitely no Metro Cards. We're talking pre-internet, pre-cellphone days. The days you could party all night until the next morning, and no enforcement of cabaret licenses. The days you would hear good music pretty much any place you went.
Hungry For Your Love (GE-OLOGY extended edit)
Life in New York seemed more exciting, at least from an artist point of view...
Back during that time no one wanted to live in Brooklyn. Even many areas around Manhattan weren't that desirable. The crime and murder rate across the city was much higher, and prostitution, drug addiction and homelessness where visible almost anywhere. The forty deuce (42nd Street Time Square) was dangerous back then too, certainly nothing like Disneyland! But that was NYC, a city full of 8 million people. An although NYC may not have been as glammed out and glossy as it appears now, the city had a personality like no other - it couldn't be compared to any place else. There was no competition, and often people from other cities hated it for that reason. But NYC was the Mecca, and without question, birthed the blueprint for many of the things the world now takes for granted and emulates.
You've been producing music for more than 20 years, mostly Hip Hop and soul during the 90’s and 2000’s (Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, De La Soul), but also taking part in Hip Hop as a visual artist (you designed the classic ‘Body Rock’ cover for Mos Def)...
Yeah... 22 years professionally (both my music and visual art careers started in 1993), but date back even further if we consider the young age that I was when I actually first started everything. And yes, I did produce a lot of Hip Hop and soulful vocal stuff during that time period, but my first 2 releases on vinyl were actually house music/dance music 12-inches. Not many people know that.
Brooklyn (Original Unreleased full Version) by Mos Def (Produced by GE-OLOGY)
How would you describe your connection to Hip Hop culture?
I'm a B-Boy for life. Most of today's audience that listens to rap music don't know anything about real Hip Hop culture, or the history of the music unfortunately. Rap music today is pop music, but there was nothing mainstream about the music or the culture when I was growing up. In stark contrast, I grew up at a time when Hip Hop was first starting. It was raw and exciting, honest and creative. Over the years, I've watched it develop and influence all of these different things that didn't exist before. Our style of dress was considered "Hip Hop" long before there were actual stores and shops that sold "Hip Hop" gear... before there were so-called "Hip Hop" brands. We mixed and matched different things to create our style and rocked things in a particular way that made it fly. And one important thing you have to remember, back in those days, you had to have your own original style. You couldn't bite someone else's shit, nor did you want to. But if you did, you could definitely get a beat down for it...and I'm not speaking figuratively.
How did you take part in it?
Obviously I'm a DJ, but I used to write rhymes and even had a couple of MC battles when I was young. But I definitely don't consider myself an emcee... My passion is making music. I also used to breakdance too, and used to be kinda' nice with the hand spin (laughs). Seriously. But those days are long past now. I prefer to continue spinnin' records instead. And if you're familiar with the various art I've done over the years, I'm sure it's not difficult to see my interest in graffiti being that I'm a painter and visual artist. Although I have hand skills, I never referred to myself as a graff' artist because I wasn't bombing trains...but I have done walls and tags of course.
B-Boys will B-Boys by Blackstar (Mos Def & Talib Kweli) Produced by GE-OLOGY
What about today's Hip Hop?
It's part of my fabric as are many other things and interests I was exposed to at a young age. It's an important part of my history and I was able to contribute and give back to the culture through many of my accomplishments along the way. But I'm also very complex, and have much deeper interests and influences that extent far beyond. I'm not interested in listening to any of the "commercialized Hip Pop" stuff on radio today. Music is spiritual for me, so the things I listen to and enjoy have to feed my soul or spark my intellect in some way. Doesn't matter in terms of genre classification, it's more about the energy. If it's quality, I can find appreciation in just about anything.
What’s your definition of a good beat?
My answer to this question is relative, it really depends on the music. But maybe the most simplistic and direct answer would be what I just mentioned, it has to be quality. If it's honest, funky, has depth, shows artistry, creativity, love, care, respect and some level of mastery of the craft...and on top of all of that, moves me in some capacity (physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally), then that's something special.