I’ll always credit Gang Starr’s Who’s Gonna Take The Weight with being the record that made my ears perk up and say “what ever that is, THAT’S what I wanna do with my life”.
— El RTNC
Nothing beats a little mystery, especially when it comes to launching a new music artist. Hip-hop has had it’s share of “slow reveals” over the years. Remember the “Who Is Cam’Ron” campaign in the Source magazine pre-Confessions of Fire? Or how about the “who is Joe Budden” debate back when his DJ Clue freestyles where starting to raise eyebrows. Keeping people guessing until the grand curtain draw can help build sufficient buzz to presell albums and shows, as well as score deals. Keep in mind though, it’s (much) harder to maintain that same level of artistic anonymity in the Internet age… Or is it?
The most recent mystery/conspiracy in hip-hop was the identity of the Coney Island rhyme spitter, Your Old Droog. His vocal tone had damn near everyone, even industry insiders, convinced it was Nas Esco himself releasing music under a new monicker. When the smoke cleared, that was proven to be untrue; however, that takes nothing away from Droog. His flow was so tight, it was held against Illmatic era Nas – pretty impressive shit.
Like most heads, I was immediately taken in by Droog for two reasons: his complex rhyme schemes and his captivating production, courtesy of El RTNC. Much like Droog himself, RTNC has a bit of mystery behind him. He gives little away about himself online, and has gone by many monickers over the years: Rich Boogie, R.Thentic, El RTNC & now El 108 RTNC. With the release of his latest beat tape Sam, which contains many Droog original, I thought I should reach out and learn more about the man behind the beats.
How did you get into producing?
The first record that I ever did was L Fudge’s Show Me Your Gratitude (Rawkus). That’s the first record I feel comfortable saying I produced. I knew how it “should” sound and even ended up giving back the check I was paid for it to go back into the studio to get it “right”… Now at this time, I was still pretty new to making records. In fact, it was my first year right out of high school. I’d have to really fast forward all the way up to my first works with Homeboy Sandman (Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent on Stones Throw) until I actually produced another record that I was confident in. Everything in-between was me learning how to make beats in my own way, instead of trying to sound like Premier or Jay Dee. More importantly, I was taking notes and figuring out how to actually produce a record.
What was the first beat you ever sold? What was the feeling like?
That would be L Fudge’s Show Me Your Gratitude, and then with him again on A Conversation With Hop. I honour Fudge to this day, because without him opening the door to me when he received his (Rawkus) deal, I don’t think I’d have made it in. I was too new to it all. I had no mentor to teach me the machines, or even how to buy records. I didn’t come from a very musical household, so I was really all on my own with my learning process. Plus, when I did meet people, I didn’t really reach out because I’ve always been shy and didn’t want anyone to even get a hint that I might be wack.
Stupidity in hindsight.
I was happy to get a check for what I was doing, but in the early days I was more concerned with getting good. My friend 88 keys talked about being around the greats like Q Tip & Large Professor early in his career – and I can’t lie, I feel so envious at times; however, the “thing” I do now is all a product of my experiences getting here.
How did you originally meet Droog?
A mutual friend of ours called me one day and asked me to listen to a rough he had done to see if I could send him some beats. I did, and droog didn’t really go for them. Instead of accepting rejection, I sent more. 2 full “beat tapes” actually (part of one is on the myrtnc.bandcamp.com store under the name Sam). From there he made the EP. I was at a point where I really didn’t want to do one or two records for people anymore, and I still kind of don’t (with some exception). Rather, I wanted to work on a whole body of work, or better yet, be in a band scenario. The latter came to fruition when DJ Skizz and I added our elements to U 47 (I was responsible for the drums) & You Know What Time It Is (I chopped up the loop there).
When everyone thought he was Nas at first, how hard was it for you to keep his identity secret?
The Nas thing still gets me, because to this day, I don’t hear Nas in Droog’s voice. It’s one thing to have a similar vocal tone, heck, that’s biology. But, for people to think it was Nas meant that an elevated standard was being met. Droog is a great artist. He’s creating lines and concepts while just bugging out. You can tell he’s someone that genuinely loves to create. As far as identity, I for one never did anything to keep his identity a secret. Droog’s identity was concealed simply because he didn’t care for being on social media. While many flocked to it, he wasn’t interested. He just wanted to make good songs.
You have such an original, underground sound. What/who are some of your inspirations?
Personally, I don’t think I have an underground sound at all. I think it’s more of a classic rock and jazz sound if anything. On top of that, I don’t think underground even exists anymore. The internet has leveled the playing field. Some months ago, when we released the Kinison project, I noticed we were on the DJ Semtex top 5 [ note: THANK YOU SEMTEX] with Drake & Migos. It’s a beautiful time, where young people are just free to create without some of the “rules” I grew up with. The only rule there ought to be is for the music to be awesome.
That said, I’ll always credit Gang Starr’s Who’s Gonna Take The Weight with being the record that made my ears perk up and say “what ever that is, THAT’S what I wanna do with my life”. Much later on, Slum Village’s “Beej N Dem” became my own “Dilla Changed My Life” moment. I could go on and on talking about him, but as I’m a sensitive one, I’ll just say that without his work (that touched me so much in his early career), I may have stopped making beats.
Tribe & De La are king, but so is Led Zeppelin, Vince Guaraldi, Stereolab, & The Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few. Q Tip, Pete Rock & Large Professor are high on theproducer list too.
What are you currently working on? Any dope tracks we should be on the lookout for?
As of late, I’ve started putting out my own beat projects on my bandcamp page (rtnc.bandcamp.com), because I realized that I was sitting on so many pieces of music. It made no sense to keep them hoarded. When I made them, I knew I wanted to share them – and I’m really happy to be able to do so now. I’ve also gotten the chance to be around some really great artists since the Droog project came out, and some records are definitely in the works but out of a “jinx fear”, I’ll just say to stay tuned. Oh, but you can look out for The Nicest EP by Your Old Droog coming up in a couple weeks.
Any last words for our readers?
“Follow Your Bliss & Don’t Be Afraid” – Joseph Campbell