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Issue 35: Emcee

Last autumn Emcee came out of nowhere with a hit track by an unknown production duo and an all too well-known frontman. Since the label has such a prominent owner, MC GQ, it’s not a surprise the release did reasonably well on his name alone. But what was unexpected about the release was the fact that the production credit on the record sleeve, Cybin, was a virtually unheard of name.

You might have expected GQ’s label to have a big name producer for its first release to ensure popularity, but that wouldn’t fit with the ethos of this new label. “It would have been too easy for me to ask Groove or Goldie to do a track. But I want to bring forth some new talent. To give someone else a chance,” GQ said.

Flash To: September 15, 2000 Scene: Fabric, London, UK. Line-up: Andy C, Bailey, Die & Dynamite, Bad Company, Hype, Electric Lane, DJ Haze, Cybin and MC GQ for Emcee Recordings night.

Fabric is always a packed and overheated affair chock full of drum & bass madness and the christening for Emcee Recordings was no exception.  Except for one odd moment… All of a sudden a little before midnight the usually dark side stage had lights on it. The DJ booth was empty except for GQ in his usual pose – leaning on the edge of the booth with a mic in his hand checking out the crowd.

Everyone sort of looked at him for some sort of explanation for the two guys standing on the other stage, then they swivelled around and watched as two men stood in front of a pile of equipment produced the first strains of some very deep and dark noises. “What’s going on?” whispered the confused crowd.

Then GQ explained… it was Cybin. The sound was so technical it almost seemed like techno to some. For a second it seemed completely out of place in a dance club like Fabric. Then all of a sudden it clicked and the crowd began undulating in wild spasms of joy to the infectious beats.

As the crowd gathered steam GQ stood back from the edge of the booth with his head slightly thrown back, holding the mic up to his mouth, another typical GQ stance, happily rhyming away over the beats he had helped bring to the world. It was a proud moment, the culmination of the first year in the life of Emcee Recordings. That night was the coming out party for the label and their first artist…

Emcee is run by GQ and Mark Turner, both of them put a lot of blood and soul into this endeavour and are just as much friends as business partners. “We really hit it off when we met,” GQ said. “Our relationship is tight… he is very intelligent and a hard worker.”

Mark and GQ met at one of Mark’s many parties. Mark’s connection to the music scene comes from a healthy dose of party promoting at London venues such as The End, Scala and, most recently, Fabric.

When GQ was ready to start Emcee he and Mark discussed it and decided to take the plunge into the shark-infested waters of running a music label. Both of them are involved 100% in making this label happen without asking for too many favours or taking the easy way out by putting out tried and true sounds. The label’s philosophy is to give new talent a chance and the hope is that by keeping the acts exclusive Emcee will be able to promote, manage and build artists to create an ‘Emcee sound’.

Mark explained the goal like this: “I want an Emcee genre. There’s a Ram sound and a Virus sound, I want people to know the Emcee sound. It is already happening. I was at Music House and someone was cutting an Emcee tune and this German guy goes, ‘Is that Emcee?’ And there is no way he could have heard it before.”

But success does not come easy, and GQ admits it’s been an uphill battle for distribution, respect and even with famous friends as DJs. “Even though I know all of the DJs, you can’t force them to play your tunes. Sometimes it makes you a bit, not angry, but disheartened, like ‘fucking hell,’ because certain tunes get played so much it just gets dry.”

Finding unknown talent that will make a mark in a scene as brand conscious as drum & bass is tricky at best. But Emcee is primarily interested in nurturing new acts, as they did with Cybin. Mark discovered Cybin almost by chance through a music technology course DJ Haze (a resident Fabric DJ and friend of Mark’s) taught.  The duo hail from Somerset and were diamonds in the rough when Mark gave GQ their demo for a listen. GQ and Mark took a gamble and signed Cybin, working closely with them until ‘Roller’ was finally perfected.

“When they did ‘Roller’ I went into the studio with them and they played me the tune,” GQ explained. I was like ‘Right, you need to do this, do that, add sound effects, speed it up…’ It was a nurturing process. The thing about it is that they only had certain bits and pieces of equipment and I thought if they were doing what they were doing out of four pieces of equipment, they are going to have a lot going on in the future!”

Cybin is the first of a string of unknown and exclusive names to grace the Emcee roster, the others are Frequency Fix, Chemical Frequency, and Mechanism. Only time will tell if the Emcee formula of nurturing unknown talent will work… and if the exclusivity clause in the artists’ contracts will give them enough exposure for success. Mark is hopeful: “Cybin sold 5,000 records and did a live show at Fabric and no one had ever heard of them, and now they are getting bookings all over the world.”

GQ and Mark have a few ideas up their sleeves for future projects. First off, Emcee has a few sister labels in the works. One of them is Just Noyze, focused on a soulful and danceable sound with a calmer vibe than Emcee releases. It has just one release so far, ‘Body Journey’ by Frequency Fix.  This track has the ultimate seal of d&b approval – Grooverider plays it. All the other labels are yet to be definitively defined, but the goal is to have formats for trip hop and hip hop.

“Hopefully all the artists will release on all the labels,” Mark said. “Cybin do hip hop too, and they’ve just made this tune called ‘Angel Eyes’ that’s really beautiful, kind of between Emcee and Just Noyze. We have so much music at the moment it’s hard to find a home for it all. We even thought of having another label between Emcee and Just Noyze, but it’s just too much!”

Second, they hope to release an MC album, with all the best drum & bass MCs doing original, live rhyming. For example, a track with Dynamite v. Die, or GQ v. Grooverider. “I ain’t going to say no names,” GQ said, “but I remember a couple of people laughing at us when we said we were going to do a label. Like it’s impossible to do. When I am feeling something I am going to do it no matter what. People say ‘GQ’s just gonna use his name, blah blah.’ But I just did what I thought was right, with Mark, and we are doing it.”

November will be test time for Emcee since they have two releases hitting the shops, The ‘Unique Source’ vol.1 EP with four new Cybin tracks, Emcee 006 by Cybin, and 007 by Mechanism.  Another club night at Fabric is scheduled for February 16, with Randall, Andy C, Hype, Cybin (live), Die and Dynamite, and, of course, MC GQ. GQ summed up the future for Emcee by saying this: “My goal is to have this label running. I would like to do some drum & bass things, some hip hop things, some trip hop things… I have music running through my veins…”

Emcee Recordings mixed by Cybin cover CD tracklisting

  1. Cybin – Thinkin About You
  2. Cybin – B-Sub
  3. Chemical Frequency – Death Trap
  4. Cybin – Roller
  5. Cybin – Roller (Ray Keith remix)
  6. Frequency Fix – Body Journey
  7. Cybin – Outbreak
  8. Cybin – Unhuman Spy
  9. Grafik – Future Bodies
  10. Cybin – Lawnmower
  11. Cybin – Choke
  12. Cybin – Interface
  13. Chemical Frequency – Raw
  14. Cybin – Speed Dial