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Dumi Right From Zimbabwe Legit to Alternate Reality Dumi RIGHT's personal hip-hop story is quite remarkable. While residing in Zimbabwe, he wrote a letter to hip-hop promoter David Funkenklein. He invited Dumi and his brother to the US, they both got signed -as Zimbabwe Legit- to Hollywood Basic, and before you know they were releasing a record on Disney's hip-hop label, which also harboured Organized Konfusion and DJ Shadow. Fifteen years later, Dumi still runs his game. First as the duo O.U.O. (with his cousin Pep Love), then with the return of the Legit and now with Cadence as Alternate Reality. Just after midnight we caught this busy man and talked about vinyl, Asterix and Jemini the Gifted One!

When we spoke in 2005 you already talked about your project with Cadence...so the project had to be postponed? Why did it take a few years?

Actually back in 2005 we were just starting to get in the groove in terms of working on music with Cadence. We dropped the O.U.O album for which he did production and rhymed on. Around the same time Zimbabwe Legit's 'Brothers from the Mother' came out. So we rode with those two albums for a while. We also ended up working out deals for Japanese import versions of both albums so there was no rush to get to the next project. Cadence was working on a solo album and we began work on the ZL House of Stone album and so again we all had our hands full. We still worked together on both, I did a verse on the song 'Word Got Around' on his album, he did a verse and production for 'Take Back the Mic' on our album and so on. So we've been steady collaborating on stuff since then. Once we began recording songs for a whole collaborative album we just decided we'd make sure we put together enough solid material to come out once the dust settled from all these other endeavours. We came up with the name Alternate Reality and the rest is history as they say.

So tell us more about your latest Alternate Reality release?

The first project from AR or Alternate Reality is an 8-song, limited edition, hand-numbered vinyl EP called 'Legitimate Raw'. We took half of the name of each of the groups we are affiliated with Zimbabwe Legit and Raw Produce to come up with the title. It's definitely a great collection of some ill material highlighting lyricism, dope production and generally hip hop with substance. You have Cadence and I going back and forth and then we sprinkle in some guests including people like YZ, C Rayz Walz, Breez Evahflowin'. Cadence handles production duties, but then we also have some tracks produced by super beat craftsmen like Saint and Lord Lamont. But in short it's a limited edition vinyl EP, hand numbered featuring unreleased tracks and brand new remixes from Alternate Reality and then never before heard versions of other Dumi RIGHT and Cadence tracks.

When were the songs for this EP finished?

The songs were completed over various timeframes, some just in the last few months and some a lot earlier. What we did was in addition to some collaborative material we also have exclusive unreleased remixes of songs that each of us have done so like the remix of "No Can Do" that Cadence did with Prince Po or the remix of 'Wake Em Up' with Chubb Rock and Vast Aire.

Is there a full AR release coming soon? Tell us more about it.

Yeah, we have a full length Alternate Reality album waiting in the wings. It will highlight more of just Cadence and I holding things down and speaking on a variety of topics from politics to the struggles of trying to hold on as an independent artist.

Alternate Reality is based on 'alternate reality game'? Wrong, right? How do you see the meaning of the word?

I didn't even know there was an alternate reality game - hmm, hope that doesn't spell lawsuit - I'm claiming first use, I was born Alternate Reality, son. Interesting thing about the name, we came up with it because we were talking about how sometimes it felt we were in a different hip-hop realm where people actually appreciate lyrics and beats that are not recycled and MCs have something to say. There are definitely two 'hip-hops' and they are separate and not equal.

Could you compare Cadence with any other MC/producer you worked with in the past?

Actually I can't. Dude is one of the illest but he's also one of the most reliable cats I have ever worked with. If he says he's going to get you a beat, he's going to get you a beat. If he says he's going to send you some money, he's going to send you some money. I mean you could leave the dude the keys to your house and feel safe. (laughs) But seriously, he's real diligent and likes to get stuff done. There's nothing worse than, and we've all seen it in hip-hop, where someone says they are going to do X, Y and Z and 6 months later, still no dice. I think that's why we've done so much work, because we both have a similar work ethic and are not the type to waste people's time. That's part of the equation and an important one but at the end of the day the music also has to be dope and the stuff he does is definitely in that vein.

Name three of Cadence greatest skills as a musician and explain a bit...

Originality - I haven't heard a beat that he's done that sounds similar to something else that's out there and he stays away from commonplace loops and trends.

Clever wordplay - On this one song he says something like 'MC's have the gall (Gaul) like Asterix.' Besides being a left-field comic book reference, it took me 2 or 3 listens to catch that he said that. Ironically a lot of people will read that line and be like 'What?' Asterix was a comic book character from Gaul and they used to fight the Romans but whatever, I mean dude just comes up with the craziest, off the wall lyrics.

Diligence - Not much to say here except check the catalogue, dude has a long discography and has stayed doing it and relevant for years.
Hey, are you going to ask what my greatest skills are or is this the Cade Money show? (laughs). Did he send you these questions? (laughs)

(Laughs) ok, back to you. Could you compare making music nowadays with making music twenty years ago?

Well 20 years ago not everyone could do it because the barriers to entry were so much higher. Even though home recording equipment existed, it wasn't as common or simple as it is today and you'd sacrifice quality with a home recording setup versus recording at a major studio. Now with computer programs, software and all the changes in technology it has become so easy for anyone to make music and you often don't even need talent because they have pre-programmed things for days.

That's a great thing?

This is good and bad. It's great because you don't need a huge budget and backing to put together a high quality album. On the other hand it means anyone with a laptop and some software can put out a record and so the market is flooded. Sadly a lot of people with access to equipment just try to mimic the commercial hits on the radio rather than doing something original. But on the flip side the other great thing is it's easy to record music and work with people in distant locations. I mean Cadence is way out in Massachussetts -and here is a trade secret- but we were not necessarily in the studio together for everything we recorded. That would have been virtually impossible to do well and with decent quality 20 years ago. I've also recorded stuff like the song 'All Over the Map' that was on the ZL House of Stone album with MC's in other continents - Maggz and Majozi are in South Africa and Ziggy Lah is from Tanzania. That is made possible by the digital age and being able to send pro tools files back and forth on the internet with no loss in fidelity. I could go on for days but the same applies for distribution. 20 years ago everything relied on physical distribution of having CD's or records sent to the actual place they would be bought. With the introduction of digital downloads music can spread so much further across the globe and so it opens up a lot of doors, as well as ears and independent artists can do things without needing the support of a major label.

The guests are kinda impressive for this EP...tell us a little more about how and why you hooked up with them?

I've been in touch with YZ since before we did the 'House of Stone'. We had actually been in discussions with him about management way back when. Cadence, YZ, Mike G from the Jungle Brothers and ZL had a collective called the Great Mindz and so the song we did with him was sparked by that. Breez Evahflowin' is a great MC and he had been kind enough to bless us with a sick verse on 'House of Stone'. I knew I wanted to do another track with him. I had wanted to do a song with C Rayz Walz as well. It was funny, when you listen to what they want the intro and hook came out of a phone and email conversation that I had with Walz. I was telling him how we needed to 'hit them in the head' and 'give the people what they want'. Being a supercreative mind he took exactly that and turned it into one of the illest hooks ever. Then separately Cadence had done a track with Prince Po and I had done the track with Chubb Rock and Vast Aire and new we should include unreleased remixes because these were tracks that people needed to hear. With Chubb Rock and Vast Aire I wanted to put together a wild combination of emcees that no one would have ever thought of. Since they are both great MCs, I knew it would yield something beautiful. Vast Aire was amped when he heard Chubb Rock and Chubb Rock loved the track when it was completed. With that alone I knew I had accomplished the mission that I had set out to do.

Did you want both 'luminaries' and 'underground favourites' on it? Was it coincidence or did you decide to choose three of each category?

The number of people in each category was a coincidence but getting that cross section was no twist of fate. We wanted to make sure we had a solid list and those categories are exactly what we needed as a critical ingredient.

Were you a fan of Raw Produce?

Yeah I thought they made really pure hip-hop. It wasn't like stuff that followed any of the prevailing trends; it was just good straight up music.

You hooked up with Cadence through Peter Agoston. What's he doing lately?

The last time I worked with Peter was for a show in New York City as part of CMJ. He booked the Great Mindz (ZL, Cadence, YZ and Mike G and DJ Sammy B) to rock with Stetsasonic at the Knitting Factory. I actually know Peter Agoston from way back though; he was in high school and used to stop by the college radio station where I had a weekly hip hop show. I haven't been in touch with him lately though. But yeah he put me in touch with Cadence initially so props to him for that.

How's PH Music doing? You once mentioned that your 'long term goal is to change the paradigm in the music business and put this so called game on its head' ... Do you feel, years later, that you have accomplished already some or a lot of this goal?

I think pH MUSIC has been able to put out some solid music and it's great because I have it as a conduit to put out the type of music that we do. I think we've been able to do some really unique and interesting things, the game might not be on its head but I'm still here so many years later and people are still listening so something is working.

PH Music is based on chemistry. To which chemistry elements of the Mendeleev table would you compare yourself and to which element would you compare Cadence?

I think I'd be like Dysprosium, a naturally occurring element with a flair for generating energy, sparking a crowd and warming up a set. In large doses it is known to set a stage on fire. Cadence might be the fictional element makedopebeatsium. I chose pH because it measures the balance of alkalinity to acidity. So part of my goal is to bring balance through the work I do.

Are you doing the things you imagined yourself doing when you were a young artist, coming to the US, and gettin signed with Hollywood basic?

When we came to the US and signed with Hollywood Basic we had no idea what to expect. I think though we wanted to make dope music and have people checking for what we have to say. I think we've been able to achieve that much and at the end of the day, I think that's all you can ask for. If you've been able to touch people through your words and music, as a musician that's one of the most fulfilling things. The whips, chains and diamond pendants are just distractions.

You released a vinyl EP, did you want to go against the grain and dedicate it to the people who still have a record player?

Vinyl has always been a key component of hip-hop. The other thing is that hip-hop has always been about the people who are willing to discover and seek out rare gems. This is a dying breed and so we wanted to do something for the soul survivors that are still holding it down. Putting out a collectible record just made sense for so many reasons. We did it as limited edition, the songs are not yet available through any other means and each record is hand numbered and shipped directly by Cadence or myself. It's taking the business back to the basics, artists creating, producing and merchandising music directly to fans with no middle men. People can be confident that they are getting a solid and unadulterated and collectible album and are also helping artists dedicated to the art make it happen. We are making the hip-hop we all know and love together. It sounds utopian but it's all real. Make sure to get it before it's gone.

How much of a vinyl lover are you yourself?

I feel strongly about vinyl since I was exposed to hip-hop for the first time through records my late older brother used to bring home when he was a DJ. All the first hip-hop stuff I heard was on vinyl records and so it still holds a special allure. In college I had a college radio show and (dating myself) we used to spin records, not tapes and not CD's, at least at first. I mean CD's existed, I'm not that old, but all the labels would service vinyl - test pressings, white labels, promo singles - it was an incredible way to learn about and discover new music. I haven't DJ'd in a long while but I'm still a supporter. When we did our singles with O.U.O and the 'No Mercy' single featuring Skillz, we pressed up and gave away a couple hundred copies to DJ's.

Cadence is known as a record lover also, are you trading vinyl, albums, music, a lot? Who teaches who on new acts?

Yeah Cadence is as knowledgeable as anyone when it comes to classic hip-hop. We both put each other up on stuff. When I can't find a song I used to listen to I can usually hit him up and he has it - rare out-of-print stuff that you can't even find on the internet or for sale.

What are some of the latest rap releases you bought?

I'm really loving the Nas and Damien Marley '? 'Distant Relatives' record, my homie Hired Gun '? 'The People's Verses', I like the Roots '? 'How I Got Over', and a lot of other stuff. I've been in a bit of a zone working on new projects so I've been trying to keep my thoughts clear so that I can let the creativity flow independently. Those are the records I listened to this past week though.

Do you still buy a lot of stuff from the old days? Must-haves, classics, dollar bin treasures? What are some of your latest findings?

I have hundreds of CD's so I have a bunch of though not all the classics but best believe any time I can add to the collection I do. Unfortunately most of the used CD stores and record stores around the way have gone out of business. You've gotta own the Organized Konfusion 'Stress' Extra P remix single though, Jemini the Gifted One 'Brooklyn Kids', Diamond D, Lord Finesse and Diamond D 'Isht is Real', Ras Kass 'Soul on Ice' Diamond D remix, Nas 'One Love' remixes - those are just some of my favorite rare gems from back in the day. I doubt I'd find them in any record shop out here though - probably eBay on some online merchants.

Besides Alternate Reality what are some of the projects we can expect from you? O.u.o.? Zimbabwe Legit, solo projects?

Once we drop the Alternate Reality album soon I'll be finishing up a solo album titled 'The Life and Times of Dumi RIGHT'. That will be particularly interesting because I reached out to emcees all over Africa to get down on it. I have tracks with dope artists like Ziggy Lah from X Plastaz (Tanzania), Zeus (Botswana), Modenine (Nigeria), Outspoken (Zimbabwe), Kenny Majozi (South Africa), MOA (Ghana), Eye Witness (Senegal), Babaluku (Uganda) and more. It will be really unique not just because of the line-up but because of the varying perspectives and interpretations that it will offer. Hip-hop from the viewpoint of MC's from different parts of the globe. It has dope production from Saint who did 'Vicious Cycle' and 'Evil that Men' do on the previous 'House of Stone' album, a dude named Youngcee, and this incredible producer named Coptic who has done tracks for everyone from Buckshot and KRS, to G Dep, Diddy and more. I also recently worked with Nomadic Wax and an ill DJ Nio from Italy and put together a global hip hop mixtape featuring MCs from over 35 different countries. I am thinking about doing a second volume in the not too distant future.

How's your brother Akim doing?

Akim is doing real well. He has an eclectic performance repertoire that includes beatboxing, poppin, b-boying (breaking), global culture and dance and oh yeah, freestylin and rappin. We are making plans for some major shows in 2011. I think we need to bring the full weight of the Brothers from the Mother to stages around the country and even the world. Not enough people have seen what we can do and we need to make that a priority. So I'd say to any interested promoters anywhere in the world, give us a shout if you want an incredible hip hop show that goes beyond just two dudes rapping and walking around the stage cursing and holding their nettles. We are bringing multiple elements of hip hop together with dance, beatboxes, theatrical, beats and lyricism.

Shout-outs?

So many heads to shout but I'd basically say thanks to everyone that has helped with the projects that I've done from ZL to O.U.O to mixtapes. Big up Greg at World Hip Hop Market for always supporting, Ben and Magee at Nomadic Wax, Coptic, Saint, Lord Lamont, St MIC, Cadence, Pep, Akim and everyone else that has been involved. There's a lot more but at close to 1 a.m. my memory might have forgot some key people so big ups to all of you.

Thanks!

 

POSTED 10|01|2010
conducted by Cpf

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