Dave Rodriguez, the DJ behind Sampa the Great, one of Australia's rising hip-hop and R&B talents, admits that until a few years ago he didn't know too much about the genre.
But since checking in with the greats such as J. Dilla, Madlib, A Tribe Called Quest and Mos Def, Rodriguez - who works under the name Godriguez - quickly developed a skill set and partnered with the Zambian-born, Sydney-based Sampa to become one of the hottest properties in Australian music.
Sampa’s 2015 debut LP The Great Mixtape is a fascinating listen that involves quick fire rap and spoken word poetry that dissects gender politics, racism, and the price of fame. Rodriguez and his Dilla-like beats keep the album cooking.
Godriguez’s musical start came through classical training and years spent in jazz bands. Producing and production is a recent addition to his repertoire and he says that for much of his life he bore a purist “anti-computers” approach to music.
Things seemed to have changed. Read an interview we had with the producer and take a listen to his brand new mix Godriguez5.0.
Noisey: So you met Sampa at a jazz and hip-hop freestyle night?
Godriguez: Yeah, I was running a jazz hip-hop night at this club in Sydney called Foundry, and I just booked a band and MC, and one night she got up, and I said, “she’s pretty sick, what if I make the beats, and you make the music?” and she was like, “yep!”
Has working together been just as organic?
Yeah. I have a beat and then she comes in. She can totally improvise. Quite a few things, like that Hiatus Kaiyote EP remix, "Weapon of Choice" we did. I consciously didn’t play her the beats before. She just improvised.
So it was done in a single take?
Yeah, I lined up all six tracks and she just did it. Then we went through it once more so she could do some hype vocals, but that was it…she’s crazy! The beat will be there, and she’ll listen to the loop for about 10 or 20 minutes writing, then just do it!
Was that the case with The Great Mixtape?
Yeah and there were a couple of tracks that were totally improvised. It’s a really straight ahead process. And I always make sure the beats are structured and there’s a clear logical flow.
Is Sampa into jazz the way you are?
Not in the hardcore sense that I am, but she digs it. She loves a lot of great music. Music has always been such an important part of her culture. And the African groove and time concept is so fucking strong. She is just as advanced as a hectic jazz drummer that’s been playing for 20 years. Ironically my parents played no music at home, like, nothing…
From different worlds, eh?
My Dad had this shoebox of tapes and CDs and things he deemed important. He thought that every house had to have an Encyclopedia Britannica or Shakespeare plays, for example. In the same way he thought it was important to have Charlie Parker, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix records. They never listened to it, but they thought it was important to have. I remember when I was in high school, finding this box, and thinking, “what the fuck is this?”
You’ve made a heap of eclectic mixes. Tell me about your process.
I’ll just make a whole lot of shit and at the end of a six to eight week period, I’ll go through it and get the stuff I like and stick it together. It’s cool at the end of that period, seeing what kind of trip I was on. For Godriguez4.0 I was consciously trying to make the music bigger and more banging. I guess I was keen to explore that space because the other mixes are so ambient and chill. It was also at a time when I was making those sorts of beats for Sampa, so I guess that had an effect.
What’s next for you as a solo producer and as half of Sampa the Great?
I’ll just keep making music. I don’t really think about what I’m doing it for or what the aim is. Even with all this Sampa stuff, I never make a beat with her in mind. I just make beats and if she digs them, we use them. But I don’t really want to fuck with many other vocalists or MCs. Sampa’s one of the few singers I’d want on my music. I’m not saying my music is the best thing out there, I just don’t feel the need.