Interview: Dave Dub & Tape Mastah Steph on “Sade’s Forehead”
Bred in San Jose, California, and in the process of relocating, emcee Dave Dub is not a new name or face in the underground hip hop realm. I became familiar with his name and work through another California emcee, named Megabusive (side note: those two make music together under the alias The Fucking Mutants–hear somethin’).Â I think I got put onto him one or two years before his 2012 album, titled The Treatment, came out, but it was mostly due to word-of-mouth and hearing him spitting on other artist’s tracks (which is a fine way to get put onto someone fresh). Dave Dub has been in the music scene since the early 90’s, largely in hip hop, but he has also dabbled around in the punk scene during the early 90s. I advise that you check the discography here, for some of his works.
Fast-forward to 2012, when he released The Treatment, produced entirely by Tape Mastah Steph, on Stones Throw in 2012. Before I move any further, let me briefly talk about Tape. He was born in France and lived there up until he was about 7, when he moved to San Jose, California. There, he began his music career as a DJ in 1988, and it’s where he linked up with local emcee Dave Dub. In 2004, he moved to Dallas, Texas, and lived there all the way through until 2014, when he moved to France for a year. After said year of performing at shows, reconnecting with family, and cooking a lot of homemade food (if you ever followed him on Instagram, you saw all sorts of food deliciousness), he moved back to Texas a few days ago. Throughout his history, he has released a handful solo works and has also produced music for Dave Dub (of course), Matt Gamin, Myka 9, Haez One, Megabusive, Intalek, and many more. Shortly after The Treatment came out, Tape released a digital, 30-minute album companion mix that was featured on Stones Throw, called Courtesy Flush. If you want to get put onto some of his music, both solo and collaborative, I recommend you browsing his Bandcamp page, for starters.
Okay, back to where I left off (sorry for jumping around a little bit). After releasing The Treatment in 2012, and getting their names out to a broader audience (thanks to Stones Throw), the two eventually crafted up a brand new album. This brings us to Sade’s Forehead, released via Isolated Wax on August 16th, 2015. The 11-track album features split production from DJ/producer Tape Mastah Steph, but also Bay Area’s producer Barry Bones and a single beat by Alex 75.
There are 12 guest features and they are all on one song together. Yup, that’s right, there’s a 12-minute posse cut called “West Coast Pattern Hammer” that includes California lyricists: Equipto, Self Jupiter, NGA FSH, Gel Roc, Megabusive, White Mic, Rashinel, Matt Gamin, J The Sarge, Haez One, Jendor, and Deform. It’s a stand-out, for sure.
Instead of me talking about the album in full, I wanted to ask hip hop veterans Dave Dub and Tape Mastah Steph some questions about this release instead. You know, get it straight from their mouths. Below, you’ll find out a little more about them, how they met, creating Sade’s Forehead, insight behind some of the songs, and more, along with some random discussions about food, favorite comics, and Star Wars.
TIFFOLOGY: Since I’ve never interviewed you, can you tell me a little about yourself?
Dave Dub: Speaking for myself, I’m an observer of people and a sponge for philosophical thought. A music aficionado. All forms. Obsessed with God, my family, women, politics, religion and women.
How did you two meet and how has it been working together?
Dave: I met Sid [Tape] through mutual friends in the early nineties. We began a collaborative effort at that time, almost instantaneously. It’s been a vicious working relationship. So much good music.
Tape Mastah Steph: When I met Dave Dub, he was wearing a Pharcyde T-Shirt. We spoke Hip Hop, exchanged pager numbers, and started working shortly after.
Barry Bones produced about half of the tracks, too. You and Barry have worked together in the past, so was it a no-brainer to have him involved on this album?
Dave: Yeah, off top. I love what Barry Bones does. Phenomenal shit in the realm of production. One of the best.
Individually, what inspires you to keep creating and contributing to music?
Dave: It’s therapy for me. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. It’s an extension of myself. Literally. No ambition for fame. Cut from a different cloth entirely. I’m addicted to the shit.
Tape: Environment, mood, and everyday life, I guess. We just want to create quality Hip Hop and not the BS the industry feeds us. Non-conformity. No rules. And no one telling us how we should sound. The Sex Pistols had no rules. No copycats.
Why is this album called Sade’s Forehead?
Dave: Well, at first I thought that would be a sick name for a punk band years ago. But you see, I’m a big Sade fan. And her beautiful forehead reminds me of timelessness. Something I consider my compositions. Simple as that.
Tape: I have no idea, but she is super hot.
As soon as this album was done, who was the first person you played it to?
Dave: Myself and some inner circle comrades. I sent the link to friends and what not. Just to get a general response.
Tape: We sent it to everyone on the posse cut.
When you set out on making this album, did you know what you wanted to speak on and how you wanted it to sound? Or, was it done out of the spur of the moment?
Dave: It wasn’t real spur of the moment. I cultivated this album while homeless, in and out of jail, rehab and mental institutions. So pieces of it reflect where I was at in life at different points in time.
Tape: There was this little hotel room in San Jose that my dude Kalani booked me and Dave into for a week. We setup my recording travel gear on a small table. I grabbed a towel and placed it over two pillows to create a little mic booth. Plugged in my USB condenser mic, m-boxmini2, laptop and headphones. I’d play each beat on repeat while Dave brewed up some rhymes until he was ready to lay it down. During the recording process, all we could see was each other’s forehead. The songs I produced were recorded in the hotel. The other tracks Dave did with Barry Bones were added to create a sort of balance for the album
This is a follow-up album to The Treatment, released on Stones Throw in 2012. How do you think this differs from, or perhaps compares to, that album?
Dave: What people fail to understand is that The Treatment was a 20-year-old album. Literally. So the two LPs differ dramatically, as far as what was done in the nineties vs the modern day approach. But it’s just… I never follow trends. I bypass the intellect and go straight from the gut. The listener should be able to distinguish the more spiritual angles I hit on The Treatment vs the ego of concepts found on Sade’s Forehead.
Tape: I’m not sure if anything will ever compare to The Treatment. That album is from another place and time. We’re just out here making unorthodox non-conformed hip hop. The kind of hip hop that Ken Hamilton aka Spiderman (RIP) would play on “The Monday Beat Down show” at KFJC.
Seeing as how there was a 3 year gap between Sade’s Forehead and The Treatment, how long did it take to put this album together?
Dave: A couple of years, due to so many personal problems I was experiencing at the time. But I also collaborated with Haez One on our Broken Uglies album, as well as the Razor Breakhers album with Deform. I wasn’t inactive at all, really. Just releasing through Isolated Wax. Posse cuts etc…
“Bunny Hopping” is the first song that jumped out at me, upon listening to the songs in order. I listened to this over and over again before continuing to the next track. The beat reminds me of an old school mystery/crime movie, like something that’s played during a dark, secretive scenario (for some reason my mind goes to Spy vs Spy or the Pink Panther), and I love it. And Dave, you’re just beasting out on the song with a violent delivery and villainous lyrics that are jam-packed with dark, vivid imagery, a lot of metaphors, and storytelling about a savage soldier in the hip hop world. This song leaves the listener rewinding to dissect every word, and that’s dope. What can you tell me about the concept and writing the song?
Dave: I really dig “Bunny Hopping” too. It’s really on some rhyme engineering shit. And Barry Bones just murdered that beat. I really enjoy songwriting with hooks sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. That one in particular was definitely on a darker wavelength, but I find myself in those mentalities often. Sometimes I get hook happy on tracks, even though I’m not a big fan of choruses. But the hook sums up my existence in a way… dodging naysayers, I guess you can say.
All of the guest features exist on the posse track “West Coast Pattern Hammer”. You, Equipto, Self Jupiter, Nga Fsh, Gel Roc, Megabusive, White Mic, Rashinel, Matt Gamin, J The Sarge, Haez One, Jendor, and Deform all throw down raw, boastful raps on an almost 12-minute track. Give me some insight into creating this song, rapping alongside all of these people, and the idea behind it.
Dave: I really wanted to release a track that had vets from throughout Cali just going for self on a composition. I respect all the artists who took the time to contribute. The magnitude of that track, I think, is still yet to be felt. So many stylers. Rhymers I grew up idolizing and what not. A blessing that it came together, no doubt.
Tape: The posse cut, we reached out to as many heavyweights we knew to get down. I sent them the beat, as they all recorded their verses separately and sent me the accapellas later to mix.
Another track that I really like, is “Snakes and Serpents”. From the perspective of an underground, DIY artist, you paint a stark, harsh reality about being betrayed, dissed, and overlooked by the mainstream, but getting through that “paradise of pain”, as you call it, with your head high, confidence in your craft, and an arsenal of dope rhymes that will ultimately squash them to a bloody pulp. Love the lyricism, and it goes well with the synth-laced, hard-hitting boom bap beat. Can you elaborate on what you were specifically speaking on, on this song?
Dave: Snakes have always been embedded deep within my psyche. Good and Evil. Whatever. The duality of human beings. They’re beautiful and repulsive at the same time. Snakes that is. That song is just a warning shot in regards to an industry that operates off of homicide music. Food for thought.
Tape: The drums are extra fat on this beat. Thanks to the Ensoniq EPS.
Also, for the both of you, how does negative energy, such as what’s talked about in the song, affect you? Does it fuel your creative fire, or does it temporarily stifle your creativity until you’re ready to move forward?
Dave: It keeps me motivated to continue pushing boundaries. Rap is a contact sport. You’ve gotta be built for this madness or get eaten alive. Or bitten by a venomous serpent.
Tape: I think each beat Dave chooses sends him in different artistic directions. He’s the genius Hendrix guitar behind story telling, and I’m the drum and rhythm mood provider. If that makes any sense.
Barry Bones’ production on “The Love’s Gone” is extraaaaa funky! In this song, I hear you rapping about cheating women, money, drugs and other vices, and haters. What is the concept behind this song exactly–what are you referencing when you say that the love is gone?
Dave: Yeah, this track goes. I’ve been fucked in the game by so many chicken-hearted bitches, and lame homies, and self destructive tendencies, that I had to write a rhyme about the shit. It’s gotten to the point where love just doesn’t compute when it comes to certain shit. Love for others or self love. Whatever the fuck. No love! It kills.
I know it’s hard to choose favorites, but was there a song that was most fun, or perhaps most challenging, to create for you?
Dave: I liked “Fast food female fetish”. It reminded me of something the Beastie Boys might have done, or the Violent Femmes. That shit was fun.
Why did you make this a free/pay-what-you-want download, rather than having a specific price on it?
Dave: Because I want people to have access to it. Period. I do this shit for respect. Nothing more.
Before I let you go, can you describe Sade’s Forehead in a haiku poem?
Dave: Unfamiliar with the structure. I need to research haiku more thoroughly. I was reading about it in jail. My poetry is real instinctive. I try not to get to formal, because I’m afraid I’ll neuter my approach.
Finally, any last words?
Dave: Much respect to underground enthusiasts worldwide. And much love to Isolated Wax and Stones Throw. Thanks for all the support to our co conspirators worldwide!!! And thanks for the interview. I’ve been following your movement for awhile.
Tape: Yeah, buy our albums.
Tape Mastah Steph, based off of your Instagram food porn pictures, I know you like to cook–and daaaaaaaamn, does it look delicious! What are your top 3 favorite homemade meals?
Tape: Decked out Tacos with my Habanero sauce. Carbonara. Couscous. Caramelized Pork over sticky rice. Pizza, Pho. Oops, that’s more than 3. Unfair question.
Dave, I see that you’re into reading comic books. Who are some of your all-time favorite superheroes or supervillains? What are some comics that you’re currently reading, that you really like?
Dave: I grew up collecting comics. One of my favorites is Judge Dredd. Like the raw Judge Dredd shit. All the movies were weak as fuck. As a kid, I loved Wolverine and Batman. The Punisher too. Still do. Super Villains?? There was a series called Secret Wars. A Marvel series. The main character was called the Beyonder. He was a conflicted individual. A good guy and bad guy. He’s my favorite villain.
Tape, this is unrelated to the album, so I’m throwing this in as a random question. I saw you loosely complaining about Soundcloud the other day, in regards to Sony Music (and possibly other big labels) and Soundcloud’s money dispute. Soundcloud and Sony Music have been deleting big artists’ accounts from the platform, as well as those who have copyrighted material / unofficial sampling in them. I’ve seen a lot of remixes and mixes have been pulled down in the last week or so. Seeing as how one of your songs was flagged and removed, what are your thoughts on this, as a DJ/producer? Is this where you part ways with Soundcloud?
Tape: To be honest, the songs they removed were un-official remixes I put up for free. Those are the tracks on my Sc page that usually get the most plays vs my instrumentals. Ass backwards, if you ask me. I understand the lyrics and original production are copyrighted but as a DJ I do some live remixing during my sets. Why should they even trip? There are sponsored DJ competitions worldwide where remixing is a part of their sets. We provide a new style of sound to common tracks people know. It’s not like I’m selling the shit online for money. In my opinion, remixing is like free promo for me and the original artist. As if adding Artist and song titles aren’t obvious enough. I’ll post original sh*t from time to time.
Dave, I’m pretty sure that I heard a Darth Vader reference in “The Love’s Gone”, so is it safe to say you’re a fan? If so, what are your feelings on the new Star Wars movie coming out at the end of this year–are you excited or are you skeptical? Same question goes to you, Tape, because I saw those soundtrack records that you posted awhile back!
Dave: Really looking forward to the new film. Glad I’ll be around to see it. Lord Vader is one of my favorite characters ever. His whole get down is the shit. I could go on forever.
Tape: A few years back, I met Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) at a Dallas Comic convention and all I remember is during this star-struck moment, my hand swallowed up in his hand shake. Recently in France, I bought the Cantina Band on 45 and the trilogy on laser disc (French version) even though I don’t have a laser disc to play it. And the other day, my nephew sent me a photo text of three tickets he bought for us to see the new movie on opening day in Dallas. I’m definitely a Star wars nerd.