Hempatitis (25th Anniversary Edition)
In the pre-internet days, magazines, radio shows, and import record stores were the most valuable places to find out about new music. Rocking Horse Records in Brisbane was the first such store that sold copies of Hempatitis (on cassette tape) which was released in 1995, produced and pieced together by Jigzaw Geoff and DJ Fib.
First-time listeners were immediately transported to a soundscape from another dimension that was unlike any other. Masterfully manipulated samples, seamlessly complemented by deft cuts and precision drops. Hundreds of dusty drum breaks and samples combined to create a wall of melodic funk.
To put things into perspective and highlight the significance of this release, it was the mid 90s and instrumental hip hop was only just beginning to find its voice. DJ Shadow’s Entroducing and Prince Paul’s Psychoanalysis were still a year away from being released and DJ based production and scratching as an art form were just starting to build momentum and find an audience.
To better understand the Hempatitis release you need to go back to the late 1980s when Jigzaw and Fib first met. Both have a history that goes back to the beginning of hip hop culture in Australia. Jigzaw is a pioneering 80s graffiti writer, and hosted (with Biz) Brisbane’s first hip hop show in 1988 – Just 2 Def on 4ZZZ community radio. DJ Fib was also an early co-host of 4ZZZ’s Phat Tape Show with long-standing host DJ Katch. Fib also comes from a trail-blazing 80s Brisbane hip hop crew called Kings Getting Busy (KGB) which included 4 DJs and two graffiti writers.
Musically, Hempatitis takes inspiration from many sources. As a producer, Jigzaw’s major influences of the time were tape-edit cut and paste mixes from the likes of Double Dee and Steinski’s Lessons 1-3, Coldcut, Mantronik, and Chep Nunez. Other noteworthy inspirations came from dancefloor records like ‘Give Me Tonight’ by Shannon (1984) and Freeze’s ‘I.O.U.’ (1982) electro boogie anthem that was produced by the legendary Arthur Baker and mixed by John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez.
For Fib, as a DJ, his major influences came from fellow crew members and longtime friend DJ Angus. Philadelphia based DJs were also a huge influence including DJ Too Tuff, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and DJ Cash Money. You can also hear other influences like EPMD’s DJ Scratch, Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, DR DRE, and countless others.
Through a shared passion of music and hip hop, Jigzaw and Fib started work on Hempatitis in the early 1990s. The album was largely pieced together at Jigzaw’s home studio. These arrangements were then tracked at the Milton School of Audio Engineering (SAE) and K-Rasta Studios. Then additional turntable cuts and drops we added. Fellow engineer & producer Khesrow Rasta, long time friend and inspiration, was also an integral part of co-engineering elements of the album.
A major prerequisite of analog music production back then was having a DIY approach combined with fearlessness and ingenuity. For example, the track ‘What Can You Bring Me?’ showcases a sheer technical achievement. This track features over 100 individual samples, loops, and turntable drop-ins that are combined and triggered with an Akai S900 sampler, SR16 sequencer, Roland 808 drum machine, Technics SL1200, and a Roland MSQ700 for its SMPTE timecode. No digital editing was available back then so this was an enormous undertaking, to say the least.
In 1996 Jigzaw became a founding member of the legendary Brisbane band the Resin Dogs. The Hempatitis track ‘Grinnin’ while ya spinnin’ would later be reworked and re-recorded as ‘Grinnin’ (we got wot u need), featuring an early appearance from respected Brisbane MC – Lazy Grey and became a staple of the Resin Dogs live repertoire. “Grinnin’, in various forms, has been played and performed to easily over a million people.
Hempatitis is a truly groundbreaking achievement. A kaleidoscope of jazz, funk, blues, and soul exactingly pieced together, rhythmically manipulated, and interpreted through the language of hip hop. 25 years on, this anniversary release continues to be just as fresh, exciting, and relevant as the day it was first released. Like the record says, “Blunted Stylus got what you need!”.
Words by DJ Complex
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