Production Credit: Easy Mo Bee [’90s Edition]
Easy Mo Bee’s laugh is half ominous, half mischievous like that of a villain in an Austin Powers flick. The legendary beatsmith’s production could be defined as such as well.
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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You were one of the few producers to work with both Biggie and Pac.
Let this be known, I worked with Pac and Big together and separately. The song “Runnin from the po-lice, that’s right,” knocked down to “Runnin” which went on the Million Man March album (One Million Strong). The remix that you hear done by Eminem, people think it’s the original but it’s not. While I got the opportunity, let me clear the air. It was misconstrued that I was dissin Eminem. Nah, man. People talk and run they mouth. I don’t even think Em took it that way. Easy Mo Bee did the original to “Runnin” and Em did the remix.
Tell me the story behind “Warning!”
That’s a track that I already had done and I played it for Puff first. He just went crazy. “Warning!” was at the top of the list as far as hurry up and do them songs. I think Puffy heard a single. We were doing all these other songs that weren’t radio records. What made it more radio-friendly was the beat because bottom line when you get down to it, it’s Isaac Hayes “Walk on By.” You’re talking about the epitome of funk/soul/R&B. Right around that time they had “Walk on By” on Dead Presidents. I ain’t gonna lie; maybe the song on that movie may have had a little effect on me.
How about the Lost Boyz’s “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz”?
The Lost Boyz came along through A&R Butt Naked Tim Dawg. He brought them to me. He was telling me, “Yo, I got a new group.” I played him a bunch of tracks, he picked joints. “Bimaz” was originally played for Craig Mack but he didn’t want that joint. He passed on it.
I remember you telling me that you basically did “Flava in Ya Ear” in your drawers.
I bought a stack of records and I ain’t even wipe them off. I loved to do that if they’re not mint. I woke up, stumbled over the equipment, dying to play these records and I start playing around with these records. I made that beat in probably 15-20 minutes.
What’s the difference from the original track as opposed to the remix?
It’s a different mix. You can hear the difference. First of all the original was recorded at Hit Factory and the remix was recorded at Sound on Sound. I took the original disc, kept the beat the same and somehow the mix down made it sound different. The original is fatter and more round sounding. What distracts you from all that is all the MCs on it ripping the record. You’re really listening to them. I always did my drops against the vocals. I listen to the vocals and let the vocals tell me what to do.
Where does your situation with Bad Boy stand today?
I don’t have any kind of animosity towards [Puff]. I don’t have a problem talking about it. I wanted my money. I realized I was owed a certain amount of money and I wanted it. I wonder sometimes, if he’s mad at me. I saw him at the [Notorious] premiere on Broadway. There were so many people trying to get at him so he was moving fast and we didn’t get time to kick it. After all these years, I wonder if he’s upset with me. I always just wanted to say, “Dog, I’m just wanted to handle my business that’s all and just get mine.” Still to this day, I don’t have any animosity. If he calls me today and asks me to do something for Bad Boy, I’ll be right there. That’s the way I am.
You were responsible for helping launch the Bad Boy sound so what do you think has stopped Diddy from reaching out?
Let’s face it right now is a different time. I don’t know what his vision is that he has for the music that he’s putting out. That would dictate the type of producers and tracks he’d be in search of. Music has changed.
Easy Mo Bee’s Production Credits on XXL's 250 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs 1990-1999:
No.44, The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning,” No.118 Lost Boyz’s “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
Other Notable Production Credits:
Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear,” The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Party & Bullshit,” “Gimme the Loot,” “Machine Gun Funk,” “Ready to Die,” “Going Back to Cali,” “The What” f/ Method Man, Tupac “Temptations,” “If I Die 2Nite,” “Runnin” f/ The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes “Everything Remains Raw”