In the ‘90s, his jazzy, gravelly concoctions were at times threatening (Biggie’s “Gimme the Loot,”) while other songs were lighthearted (Lost Boyz’s “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz”). He crafted many of Bad Boy’s, a then fledgling label, most lauded hits including Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” and countless Biggie classics. Today, the in-demand DJ is working with his artist Whyteout as well as a James Brown remix project with the late icon’s son, guitarist Daryl Brown.
XXLMag.com talks at length with Mo Bee about his particular sound, his friendship with Biggie, working with Tupac and his business relationship with Diddy. — Jesus Trivino Alarcon
XXLMag.com: How did you develop your sound?
Easy Mo Bee: It started out with the music that was being played at my house. My father was always a man of many records, be it soul, jazz, gospel. The actual sound came from all that I absorbed when I was sitting there with my father playing all these 45s. I would describe it in the way of a 45. I’ve been collecting since I was eight-years-old. I used to save up my allowances to [get records]. If you do that you can’t get no candy (laughs). I didn’t even realize how the sound of those 45s was about to cultivate my sound. That’s all I knew, my pops dropping a needle to an old James Brown joint, Otis Redding, etc.
By the time I became a producer, dog, I already knew how I wanted my stuff to sound. As far as sampling goes you have the choice of music that you’re going to sample and then there’s the quality of your sound. Whatever type of beat I would make I just knew I wanted them to sound like that fat 45 round sound. For instance take an extreme from “Flava in Ya Ear” to “Going Back to Cali.” “Flava” is gravelly and gritty. Then “Cali” is tight, clean and crisp but it’s still round and fat. I was always concerned with the quality of the sound. In this age, with digital advancements, I’m still a fan of that analog sound. My whole thing is how can we achieve that digitally (laughs)?
What equipment are you working with now?
I bought one of those MPC5000s and I’m toying around with it but I’m not going to unveil that until I totally feel comfortable with it. For the most part, I’m still using the SP1200. I’m still a fan of the Akai Rackmount samplers, whether it is the 900, 950, 1000, etc.
After being managed by Russell Simmons’ Rush Producer Management team, how did you get down with Bad Boy?
[My manager] came to me and said, “Listen, Andre has an intern over at Uptown [who] has a new artist that he wants you to play tracks for.” Check this out, Mister Cee is from my building. We grew up together in Lafayette Gardens. I lived in 11C, he lived in 8C. Word up! Cee told me, “Yo, Boo check out this tape. This kid is bananas.” He played it at his house and I never heard anything else from this kid. I go to meet this intern who has an artist they wanted me to work with and the artist is the same kid that Cee played me—Biggie!
What was the first song you produced for Bad Boy?
The first thing Andre and Puffy wanted executed was a song for this soundtrack (Who’s the Man?). They picked this track that became “Party & Bullshit.” At the time they did the vocals but with no hook. Me, Biggie and Junior Mafia were just driving around and playing the song. I had bought this Last Poets Greatest Hits and they had this routine on there called, “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution.” At the end they say, “You know and I know niggas love to party and bullshit.” I just felt something. I came outside, jumped in the car and went to St. James to see if Biggie was on the Ave. I played it for him and said, “Yo, that could go in there.” Big never got excited about nothing. He looks left and right and says, “So hook it up, Mo.” As far as ideas are concerned he has some production in him. When we were in the studio, he told me to add the Doug E. Fresh line “Here we go, c’mon.”
Aside from DJ Premier, it seems like Biggie sounded best over your beats. What was it that you got from him as an MC and vice versa?
We challenged each other. Little did he know I was thinking this kid is nice! I need to give him my beats that I have in stash. He’s worth it. Big, at that time, he was a modern day Big Daddy Kane as far as wordplay is concerned. He was one of the most creative dudes I ever worked with. Our chemistry in the studio was incredible. I miss the dude. Sometimes I’ve worked with people after him and you have a little difficulty with them or you wish for more. In my mind I’m saying, Big wouldn’t have did that. If he was alive, the standard would be raised.
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