DJ Prince Paul and producer Don Newkrik bring the streets of Brooklyn to the sounds of Brazil and form Brookzill; an innovative hip hop collaboration with Brazilian MC Rodrigo Brandão AKA Gorila Urbano and the legendary Ladybug Mecca. Together they are a group made up of hip-hop all-stars and their new LP Throw Back to the Future is popping. Highly reflective of the Golden era of hip hop, Brookzill features Afro-Caribbean grooves over top of, Jazz, Funk, and Soul.
“We took the samples from Brazilian music, and even though it is Afrocentric based, it has a vibe and rhythm that you can turn into hip hop.” – DJ Prince Paul
Brookzill tells Above Average Hip Hop how this fantastic collaborative group formed and let us in on their plans for the future. They also discussed how they arranged a host of Brazilian artists on their debut LP Throw Back to the Future, such as keyboardist Brian Jackson, MC’s Del The Funky Homosapien and Count Bass D, turntablists Kid Koala, and Mr. Len. An understanding of Portuguese rhymes is not required to get down with Brookzill, but you feel their message in the groove.
Don, can you give me some history behind you and DJ Prince Paul?
Don Newkirk: Paul and I met in the 9th grade when I was about 14. I gravitated to Paul because he had a shirt on that said, DJ Paul. So I said, man that is a regular shirt, and that is a regular name, whats up with that? Come to find out he was very dope! I was like, man don’t let the shirt fool you! We became friends instantly! Hip-hop brought us together and was a uniting factor! We have remained friends ever since. I’m fresh out of the Bronx and was at the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx. Paul was at the birth of hip hop in another part of town. We both ended up in Amityville, and DJing and MCing were the uniting factors.
You two were The Soul Brothers! What can you tell me about that?
DJ Prince Paul: When me a Newkirk met, I would go over to his house, and we would trade off skills because Newkirk was DJing and MCing back then. So I was like – YO we need to combine forces – your dope, I’m dope. Then I brought a friend named Mic Teelux who was an MC around our way. Then we had Newkrik’s brother Ray come in. We had a dope collective man! What made it cool was Newkirk, and his brother Ray were musicians, so we had drum machines and keyboards. We were way on the curb in the early 80s. That didn’t seem to last too long, but Newkrik and I stayed close. Then I joined Stestsasonic, and that was my vehicle to bring Newkirk back in. That is my boy for life! Whatever I was involved in, I’d bring him in. To this very day, I bring him in. Without sounding cheesy, we are like musical soulmates for real and very good friends. Like, brothers!
Now you guys are coming together with the band Brookzill, reminiscent of when the two of you originally started out with Def Jam.
DJ Prince Paul: My relationship with Def Jam and Russel Simmons started when I joined Stestsasonic. Now, Stestsasonic was through Tommy Boy, but Russel Simmons was my manager who was the CEO or president of Def Jam. With those workings, we got a record deal. Russel then started a new label called Russ Associated Labels (RAL) and began looking for new acts. Newkirk was singing and making his music and had a creative demo. So I took it and told him that I’d be back in six months with a deal with Russel Simmons.
That must have been like a dream come true?
Newkirk: Yeah! Kind of because I was just making music in the basement and I wasn’t thinking about a deal. It was in the days before warming up was the thing to do. It was like therapy for me. So I was in the basement just making music on my little four-track, and Paul heard it and was like, ‘dude this is like really good, you should let me get that’ — I was like, ‘OK!’ He was like – ‘Yeah I’m going to get you a deal’—and I was like, ‘alright!’ And he came back and did it! Then I cut the jerry curl off and went to go met Russel Simmons! I was not going to Def Jam in a jerry curl.
What was the inspiration for Brookzill?
Rodrigo Brandão: I would say an inspiration on my side started with a chance to work with one of the top producers in hip-hop history and that is Prince Paul. When he approached me and asked me if I wanted to do an album, I was like ‘of course I want to do an album!’ Back in Brazil, a lot of musicians make promises and just don’t come back. So I asked Paul, are you really serious about it? He’s like – I’m serious! So we stayed in touch to the point to where I came to New York with a whole lot of samples to start the creative process. That led to what you hear now!
So I heard that they gave you a Hip Hop test. Is that true?
Brandão: Well technically we gave the samples a hip hop test!
What does that entail?
Dj Prince Paul: We can’t reveal that! (laughing) The test is sacred. We took the samples from Brazilian music, and even though it is Afrocentric based, it has a vibe and rhythm that you can turn into hip hop. You can make anything hip hop, so we put it through the hip hop test! We have to wait to get it patented which is pending right now before we can tell you what it is! (laughing) So the samples passed the test, and we were ready to move forward. So we made like 11 or 12 songs in like one day.
Are there a lot of similarities between traditional Bronx hip-hop and some of the urban decay and violence that is going on in Brazil?
Brandão: Oh yeah man! When I think of “Throw Back to The Future,” it’s almost ironic for me, because I feel that very early essence of hip hop in what we do. It came out of the slums. What is going on in Brazil right now is that old, white, rich, money is finding a way to burndown the first woman to become president. She is the first worker’s party president, in a country where a lot of people can’t read, and a lot of people can’t eat.
If you can reduce the number of people starving, that is a big thing! I give props to them because of that! The rich people are totally against this type of thing. So basically, there is this no future sense that I’m sure that they understood this back in the Bronx. It is not sexy being poor. People feel less than the next person for being poor.
The hip-hop element that came from the slums changed the perception of self. Before you were like the last in line. Now you are the one with the experience and street credentials. Stuff that the rich kids can’t buy. That changed the whole perception of the ghetto kids, and that is quite a revolution if you ask me. So I guess I am not surprised that hard situations bring great music! Our theme is definitely from the heart, and it’s honest, and I’m sure that you can tell that it’s intense. The one thing I claim that is true is my emotion.
Another member of the band is Lady Bug Mecca of the Digable Planets who also shares some Brazilian ancestry. How did you guys come to work with her?
Brandão: Paul has worked with her before on the Dino 5 project, and he mentioned the project to her, and she wanted to be a part of it. Her connection became so strong and so spontaneous that she became a full member of the group.
Right! Tracy Triceratops and DJ Stegosaurus. That must have been an exciting experience!
DJ Prince Paul: Yeah it was a lot of fun! What is crazy is that I made that record at a rough time in my life because my mom had just passed. I had to channel my happy side to make that record. During that process, Mecca and I had made a really good bond. It was the first time I had worked with her. She’s about her business, and she comes in with her tool belt and hard hat on, and she works! I respect that. She comes to work, and she loves what she does, and she’s way super-duper talented. It’s easy to bring her in on any project. So Brookzill was ideal for the next thing for us to work on.
How did your first show go down a few nights ago?
DJ Prince Paul: It was great! It went well.
Newkirk: That show was fun! I was hella nervous because it was our first show and calm at the same time because we were in New York. From the minute it kicked off, we did this thing! We started the show in a ritualistic manner and paid tribute to the ancestors and the people that came out to see us. We just asked for a good show from the universe. I think that set the tone. When that first song kicked in “Macumca,” it just felt good right away. It seemed like the crowd was responding to us well. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
DJ Prince Paul: The beautiful thing about it was that it was our first show and it was a start! It gave us a good idea of where we can go. As our first show, it opened our eyes. It was just how the show felt! We are going to start blowing cats out!
Brookzill being infused with Jazz and Afro-Caribbean is reminiscent of the Golden Age of hip-hop. Would you say that is intentional?
Brandão: Not intentional at all man! That is the beautiful thing about this music for me. We are just vibing. We didn’t have any plans. There was no — let’s bring the funk here — there was nothing like that. It was just energy flowing! Afterward, we would listen to what we had, and we would be like – OK, so this feels like that – and after that, we realized the results. I would say that it is a force by itself.
There are a lot of collaborators on Throw Back to the Future including a keyboardist named Brian Jackson and a few MC’s, such as Del The Funky Homosapien and Count Bass D. What was it like working with them?
Brandão: All of those guys for me are people who I have listened to for some time now. It became natural because they were friends with Paul!
DJ Prince Paul: I’ve known Del since he came out in the early 90s when I was into the Gravediggaz. Count Bass D has been a longtime friend! I’ve always wanted to work with him in some capacity, and I’ve been a big fan. Kid Koala I’ve known forever and Mecca helped reunite us.
Brandão: Brian Jackson came into play because of Mecca. He had played with Diggable Planets at some point. When Mecca mentioned that she was good friends with him I was like – oh man, you got to introduce me to the man, because I have all his records. When Brian showed up, he was cracking jokes and was super cool. At some point, he asked me about Brookzill and when I explained, he immediately wanted to be on the record. For me, it was just great to kick it with him and just like that; he was a part of it! He invited me to his home, and we recorded there in his living room with the instruments, a computer, and a Miles Davis poster!
Does Brookzill have any tour dates set?
Newkirk: We want to do some touring. We have some potential stuff lined up but nothing solid as of yet. We are hoping the record gets around as much as possible. I think that the more that people hear the music, the more eager we will be to get on the road. It is a more live vibe. It is something that translates well to a live environment. We are trying to find the right vehicle and the right tour.
Is there anything that you guys want your fans to know?
DJ Prince Paul: Just a few things! We will be at venues near you at some point so keep your eyes peeled. The best way to do that is to go on our website Brookzill.com. We also have a Facebook which is Brookzill official. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram and stay up to date through our social media channels. We want people to come and be a part of Brookzill.