While searching through one my many social network pages I came across one of the more interesting people I've talked to recently. I now am proud to introduce the Brooklyn born and bread Dj Black Panther, music producer and visionary. He hails from the boro of your favorite rapper's favorite rapper; the home of the emcee. His passion started at age 16 as a singer, and he his now an adult producing classics! This gentleman has written produced and deejayed during his career spanning across 12 years. Black Panther has a view of music similar to that of Neo's view of the Matrix. He strives to constantly produce new sounds and can be quoted as saying,
" I don’t even want to sound like myself on too many tracks."
With that type of sentiment we should see an ever changing and evolving musical artist. Which will always be much anticipated.
Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how long have you been in the game?
My name is Michael Eric Hill, but I’m better known as Dj Black Panther. I have been involved in hip hop in many capacities and I feel I have been in the game all my life. I have been officially since 97 when I started Deejaying and doing mixtapes. Before that I was dancing in music videos and doing a little acting so even before 97.
Many producers can play instruments and write songs as well. Can you play a musical instrument, if so what instrument, and do you also write songs?
I wouldn’t say I can play instruments but I have an ear for music and its structure. I can sit down and create melodies, hooks, bridges, Main and lay all parts of a piece of music. And I’m not talking in P. Diddy fashion, whereas he instructs others to play the instruments as he sees, having others bring out his vision. I can sit in front of a keyboard and make something out of nothing, and when I play it for people and tell them I don’t play they think I’m lying. But I have been fooling around and learning the keys in a more traditional fashion so it’s coming. I do write songs, I use to do it a lot more when I thought of pursuing a Career as a singer but I have recently been starting to write again, and have been known to put my "two cents" into a record I’m recording as far as lyrics.
At what age did you first realize you wanted to be a producer?
Well I think ever since I was 16, I wanted to sing, and I was singing in the church choir and I never thought about singing and not producing the material so I would have to say I was 16 when it came to thought.
Many people may have heard a Black Panther track and not realized it. Who all have you worked with and on what songs?
I hear that a lot, it reminds me of Pete Rock. He made so many classic records and so much material and people don’t realize it was him who produces the tracks. I’m not saying I’m on Pete’s Level yet but I’m putting my work in and let the listener’s decided. I have worked with Murs on his Varsity Blues Ep on a song called “The Deepest Blue” I have done a song with Jean Grae called “The Darkest Night Ever!!” I have produced a song for C Rayz Walz called “Camouflage” from his Ravipops Def Jux Debut. I have recently produced a track for Kwote Scriptures Feat. Mr. Cheeks(Lost Boyz) called “You can’t Change the World” I have produced a song for Maya Azucena’s album, a song called “Get It Together” the video is currently in rotation on VH1 Soul and BET J. And I have produce a song for the new Kurious Jorge album as well as a song I did with Umi from The Dead Prez Camp featuring Fred Hampton Jr. for the Black Panther Party.
How would you describe your production style?
I would describe my production style as an incorporation of Hip Hop, Rock, Soul, and R & B told through the eyes of one man’s revolution on sound and purpose. It is designed to be personal and meant to be shared. I’m very drum influenced and it is my favorite part to create in a track, that is where a lot of the passion and soul lies for me. If I would pick just one word to describe my music I would have to say it would be “Meaningful”
Who are or were some of the producers that inspired you and your style?
I would have to say the RZA is a great influence on me as far as soulful music, and great creativity. I have to mention Dr. Dre; he’s a great influence on me. His vision and the way he created a movement and feel with his music, he created cinema with his production and that is something I strive for. I would also mention Pete Rock for his constant musicianship and he’s body of work and Kanye West and Timbaland for there constant Reinvention of the wheel (Their Sound). And last but not least I’m inspired by the that young boy who wanted so bad to be a part of the music and culture, and didn’t know he had it in him to make music that moved him let alone others, me.
Many people are saying that Hip-Hop is dead or on life support. What is your opinion about the current status of the game?
I think Hip Hop as we knew it is dead. And I feel it is going through a phase of growth and new discovery. The park jams of yester year are gone. As well as doing this only for the love. It has become big business, and we as artist have to realize that. We still must have the passion purpose and meaning in our music but we also have to be aware of the Industry and how it is evolving. The whole concept of “I want to be signed” is becoming a way of the past as well as Major Labels. And artist have power and more control over their product and image and the way they deliver music, videos, and information to the listener’s. I feel the old standards of Hip Hop are dead but we must adapt to what music is becoming, as well as pay homage and adhere to the foundation it was built on, for change is the death of the past.
Do you believe that New York's Totalitarian control over Hip-Hop has finally been broken? If so would you say it is for better or worse?
I feel, so what if it has. I’m New York, Brooklyn born and raised and I think it died the moment we started asking if it died. The whole concept of “New York” rap dying is a concept thought up not by the Hip Hop culture but the Executives running these labels. We act as if the south, west coast or Midwest are different planets and are so amazed that they can rap there. Rap is like child growing into a man, it expands and reaches out into different areas and regions. It grows as its audience grows and matures. If I had one thing to say it would be that New York Rap will never die because even as these other regions and countries develop their artist and gain popularity it is New York where this was born. Their success is a shining example of what was built here and we should embrace the future as well as the founding fathers who made this all possible.
What do you use primarily to make your tracks, and how you feel about beat making programs such as Fruity Loops and Garage Band?
What I use to make tracks is my MPC 2000Xl, Reason, Sonar, Melodyne and Sampletank and I’m good. I don’t have a problem with producers using Fruity Loops, Garage Band or any of the other programs. I feel it’s what you bring to the table and how you use the programs that matter the most. I’ve seen some producers I know use a shitty ass program and made some incredible music and some producers using the latest and greatest and made shit so it’s up to the person using it and there creativity.
Many producers have often turned into Hip-Hop artists or record label execs. Is this something in your future?
Well I don’t see myself turning into a recording artist; I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of person. But as for turning into a label Executive I do have a digital label that I put out my last project “My Eternal Winter” on. It’s called Manekineko Pro (duction) and we are developing a few project that we are very excited about and are bringing to the light. We a re-working with Respect Tha God from the Perverted Monks on his solo debut as well as Agent Smith a west coast Emcee on his Debut as well and in the Beginning stages of a new Black Panther record as well.
How hard is it coming up with new sounds, harmonies, and melodic compositions? Do you find yourself ever sounding like someone else?
I don’t think it’s hard to come up with new sounds, harmonies, and melodic compositions, but I do think it takes time to do so. Sometimes, to speak for myself, it can take a few minutes to a few days or more. I feel we are to hung up on "fast food" music and celebrate making something fast instead of making a piece of music good enough to stand the test of time. If you go to any party to this day you will still hear classic joints “The Bridge Is Over,” “Shook Ones,” and so on and so on. That’s because good music will stand that test of time and live through generations. I never find myself sounding like any other producer cause I constantly try to challenge myself and my boundaries. I don’t even want to sound like myself on too many tracks. I can’t stand to feel stagnant and I’m my own worse critic.
Who are some artists that you want to hear on on your tracks R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop, or Rock?
I would love to record with Mos Def. I’ve been fan of his ever since I copped the first single “Universal Magnetic”, and with his range I think we could come up with some great music. T.I., I have been a real fan of his of late and I really like how he has developed as an artist and I love the new tone his music has taken. Kanye, even though he is a great producer in his own right I would love to work with him. In the R& B world I would like to work with Keri Hilson I love her voice, Alicia Keys without question one of the most talented singers of our time and I’m sure she will go down in the history books. And Estelle I really love her last record and the way she incorporates Hip Hop in her music with a clear R & B edge is great. Pop music I think any producer would love to work with Justin Timberlake. He is such a gifted artist and is so versatile and he always comes with great records. I would have to also say Adam Levine from Maroon 5. That’s one of my guilty pleasures right there I love that group and I think there music is timeless. This is a new group but The Script, I would love to work with them. They have a song out right now, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” that I really like. In rock I would have to think about that one; no one really stands out to me that I would see myself working with.
Kanye West said on the album "College Dropout," that he was "making five beats a day for three summers." How often you are in the lab and how many tracks do you turn out each day?
I love that Kanye line because it’s so true; you have to lock yourself up sometimes and create and create to get some of your best material. I do at times make three beats a day or more but with me it’s about quality. Even though I do make a lot of tracks I keep going back to them re-work them, and try to bring them out more and more instead of just having hundereds of okay tracks I'd rather have 50 strong songs. But I’m in the lab everyday whether it’s to work on new music, or revamping the older tracks or just finding new ways of using my equipment.
What would you say are the most important skills that a producer should have?
I would have to say the most important skill is to have as a producer is to have an ear for the progression and structure of music. It is the basis of all music no matter what the genre or style. You have to know how to create a full and complete song from melody, to refrains, bridges, and beyond. To understand why certain songs work and how they don’t is essential when your working in the studio with an artist, and your helping them make the best work they need to be able to lean on your ear for input.
Who are your top five emcees and of all time dead or alive?
My top five list would go something like this:
In no particular order
- B.I. G.
- Jay Z
For those reading this that have heard of you and those that haven't but may have heard a track and are interested in production; how would they get in touch with you?