Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Adam Luk and Tony Einfeldt
D-City is a headstrong group conforming to no conventions, only to do as what they see fit. Their target has always been music and music alone. With their passion for music, as well as their strong bonds and drive, D-City is on the rise in the local music scene. Performing at clubs, jams and other events, D-City is set to release their second album, “The Remedy”. In New Westminister was where we met and we chilled out at their studio. D-City tells us about “The Remedy”, where their names are derived from and their music in general.
First and foremost, what took so long with “The Remedy”?
It’s been two years since “Sick Like That” – and we’ve learned a lot. Everything we fucked up on in the first album, as far as sound – or in life for that matter – that’s what we’ve been working on for the past two years. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs since then and we’ve just been taking our time getting things right. With the first album, the whole goal was to come out with a bang and showcase all our skills and come out hard. For this album, we didn’t even put a release date until a month and a half ago when it was actually ready to go. There was really no rush, and the longer you wait, I guess the more HYPE you have for it.
Can you tell us more about “The Remedy” and what it’s like?
Music wise, we took the same approach as the first album – I produced all of the songs except two joints which were produced by No Plan B. The title refers to ‘a fix’ or ‘a cure’ – but it’s really a metaphor for our progression. We also played off the wording of the first album, “Sick Like That”. We’re in a really good place right now – and 2 years ago we wouldn’t be able to say that.
Recently, Autotune has been a hot topic. What is your take on Autotune?
We’ve never really fucked with Autotune. I love T-Pain as much as the next dude but there’s a time and place for everything. Aside from Kanye or Lil Wayne, I really don’t think there’s a need for rappers to be using Autotune on a track just because it’s hot. Stick with what you do. I think the problem is when these dudes make their second album or comeback album, they’ll jump on whatever sound is hot at that moment. If Autotune is hot, their first single is Autotune. If Kid Cudi is the hot dude at the moment, the first single has to have a feature with Kid Cudi. There’s a lot of repetitiveness. Autotune is great for what it does and the sound, but there’s a time and place for everything. Too much of anything is bad.
What do you bring to the Vancouver hip hop culture?
We bring originality. I think when we started rapping, we were 15 and we even understood then what makes an artist and what doesn’t. We were obviously influenced by what was hot at the time, and back then G-Unit and Ja Rule were arguably the hottest shit around. Now, we’re mature enough where we can pick from our own lives. What we bring to the hip hop scene is us. We also do our own beats, web promo and design. We think outside the music and we’ve always done our own legwork. I’m not saying that we don’t need the help, but I think the best artists are the ones that are able to hold their own, before getting the record deal. Getting a record deal was never the goal for us; it was making music that people would give a shit about. Any artists that you would actually give a shit about are the ones people want to make their own and dedicate themselves to.
While we’re on this, when you first started rapping, were you in this game for the love of the music or for the ambition to make it big?
We’ve been into music since we were kids. We were cousins and as far as all the siblings in the family go, we share the strongest artistic connection. It took a while before we chose music as the thing to run with, but I’m sure if it were anything else, we would be just as successful. I think it might have been just the HYPE and the attention that we were getting back in high school or whatever, but once high school was over, we were just like, “We should keep doin’ this.” That’s kind of what kept us going with it.
Do you guys remember the moment that you guys first picked up the mic?
Yeah, we were 6 or 7. We’ve got photos to prove it. We’re Filipino so the whole karaoke thing is something we just do. The first rap album we actually got into was the Bone Thugs and Harmony (East 1999) album. We would put on Halloween masks and we would put on a show for the family. The first time that we actually recorded a song was on Christmas Eve 2001. We stayed up late and we were just chilling so we started recording ourselves for fun. We always worked with the minimal shit. Like, the $15 computer mic, and I think we were mixing tracks on Windows Movie Maker.
The thing is, that teaches you to make do with what you’ve got and make the best thing and then you’re hungry for more. The first album, it wasn’t even recorded on any timing program or anything like that. It was just a program where we were rapping over an instrumental and then we’d have to paste it over top of one track and listen to it by ear. It sounded like shit, but it taught us to record everything in one take – no punching in. We eventually stepped it up but learned the ropes the hard way and in the long run, it paid off.
What is the biggest priority in making a track?
We take the pressure off. I mean, with this album, we recorded maybe 40 songs in the last two years. The goal in the studio is to make whatever we’re feeling. When it comes to cutting songs that aren’t going to make the album, it’s what reflects those two years and what we want people to get from the album and what we want to show. When we first go into the studio, it just starts from an idea. I’ll work on a beat and S will have lyrics, reference verses, and we just kind of go from there. Our creative chemistry is crazy.
It’s just weird because I can never just sit down and write a verse. I’ll be at work and so focused and lyrics just hit me in the head. “Fuck man, I gotta write this shit down,” you know what I mean? It’s only a matter of time before I start writing everything down on random pieces of paper.
With me, everything I write is typed out because I’ve been the kid that’s been computer literate since I was born. Everything I do is on the computer. I’ll be making a beat while checking emails and typing my verse. S has two jobs working 60 hours a week – so our schedules are crazy. We just had to find a way to make it work. If we’re working with very little time, preparation is everything. By the time Friday comes, my voicemail is flooded with messages of all the verses that he’s got and his is flooded with beats. By the time we hit the studio, it’s go time and we don’t waste time. It’s just a solid working relationship.
Dope. Speaking of that, how do you choose your lyrics?
I think we just have a feel for it. I mean, with anything creative, you just do what it tells you. Lyrically, S is a beast, he’s always coming up with new verses and I actually find it hard to keep up.
I think it is dope because sometimes, I have to write 16’s and he can make a beat just listening to the lyrics. Usually, you hear a beat and write to it, but E can build a beat right from my lyrics.
Would you guys draw influences from other genres other than hip hop or rap?
Actually, right now, we’re working for the third album. We’re working with a live band. We recently linked up with Jigs and Alan, the two homies from No Plan B Music who are incredible talents, and our homie Aric who’s a guitarist. I mean, we’re sample based artists, so what we’re trying to do is to figure out how to put a live aspect into samples. I think it just totally opened our eyes and smacked us in the face like, “You really need to try this out.” We’ve had a few jam sessions and it was just magic. I think that’s what we’re going to be doing next.
It’s like a whole different energy. The shit we come up with now is totally different.
With samples, you can only do so much and you almost limit yourselves. If I can play a sample for someone and Jigs can just play it by ear, it saves me a lot of work and it’s a lot cleaner. All we have to do is make it dirty and raw – it’s a lot easier to do.
A lot of emcees say that the Vancouver hip hop scene is in its nursery. Can you guys bring it home?
With MySpace and the internet, I think within the past few years, a whole breed of new artists just came up, especially with how accessible everything is. Anyone can say they’re a rapper. When people ask me what I do and I say I’m a rapper, you don’t get the reaction you think you would get. But, I feel that you really have to show that you’re really about it. We’re not mainstream but we make sure that everything we do still looks and feels professional and official. You just have to separate the good shit from the bad shit, but that’s with anything artistic. I don’t think the Vancouver hip hop scene is in its nursery – I think if you look passed all the whack shit, there’s a lot of talent out here.
Who in the industry, either locally or internationally, do you want to collab with?
The Clipse. Yeah. When we really got serious about hip hop, that was when “Hell Hath No Fury” dropped and that was our anthem for a year straight. Not that we started dealing coke becau
se of that album, but it was just lyrically great. So yeah, if I could choose any artist, it would be The Clipse.
Would you choose beats before lyrics or lyrics before beats?
Beats before lyrics.
What can a deadly duo do in Vancouver?
With a duo, you know someone else has your back at all times. You don’t have to worry about having the wrong people in your crew, you know? We’re family and we have a small circle of people that we trust. They are pretty much the only people we let in. I think overall, Vancouver hip hop is in a good space right now. When I look around and I see a lot of the young dudes that are coming up along with us now, I see nothing but good things, so whether it’s a duo, group, or a single, the younger generation is incredible.
You keep talking about this bond between you two and how you guys are tight. Has there ever been a time where you two had a serious conflict?
Nah, we’re cool. I think we just respect each other way too much and we’re partners in this music shit. We tell each other straight up what’s whack and what’s dope so we trust each other.
If a line is whack, I tell him, “Yo! We need to change that shit. Right now!” (laughs) We don’t worry about it too much.
We’re chasing after the same dream so I’m not going to be shitting on him.
What is HYPE?
I think anytime something is new, there’s always gonna be some sort of energy around it. I think when that energy reaches its highest point, that’s HYPE. Anything after that is either complete satisfaction or failure.