Nick Speed, 14KT, and Waajeed on the Legacy of Detroit’s Electronic Music
The three artists underscore the yin and yang of techno and hip hop
Techno music was invented in Detroit (and its suburbs) in the early 1980s by Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May. Known collectively as the Belleville Three, the triumvirate combined technology, innovation, creativity, and a predilection for German electronic band Kraftwerk to cultivate a genre of music that has truly changed the world. This past weekend, Detroit held its 16th annual Movement Electronic Music Festival, which celebrates the global phenomenon birthed in the city.
Since 2000, Movement has celebrated the organic roots of electronic music with a lineup that champions the genre’s pioneers and modern torchbearers, honoring Detroit for its innovation and creativity. This year’s bill featured an illustrious mix of artists, including Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, Will Sessions, Shigeto, and a rare collaborative performance from Juan Atkins and Mortiz von Oswald as Borderland. There was also an epic 3-D performance by Kraftwerk, a nod to the iconic band’s role in inspiring the music Movement celebrates.
Mass Appeal caught up with Nick Speed, 14KT, and Waajeed, three Detroit area artists who have been influenced by Detroit electronic music (techno and ghettotech).
Artist, producer, DJ. Nick has produced for Danny Brown, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, and more. His debut album was the first hip hop record released through Underground Resistance.
On his first time hearing techno and fusing techno and hip hop on Speed Of Sound (as told to Layne Weiss).
The first time I remember hearing techno was on a local Detroit TV show called The New Dance Show on TV68. I really didn’t know who was making all these great songs, but I loved the fun party vibe that they were able to capture on TV. If you watch any clips of the show, everyone in the room was dancing! I also remember hearing techno on the hip hop and R&B stations in Detroit almost daily on the DJ mixshows. I eventually sampled Model 500 ( Juan Atkins ) “Night Drive” on Danny Brown’s Hot Soup album on a song called “Whatupdoe.” My idea was to showcase the Detroit sound that I grew up hearing. That sound was not being incorporated very much in Detroit hip hop yet. I slowed down a techno drum break to a rap tempo and it became one of my most successful singles. Eventually, met Juan and Underground Resistance and they liked what I did with the track so much, they invited me to join the team and I started releasing vinyl records through UR and Headlined Movement on the main stage with Model 500 in 2010!
Since “Whatupdoe,” I learned a lot about techno through my mentor “Mad” Mike Banks. He began teaching me some music theory through techno and how to stay independent and release my own instrumentals. My first record was Speed Of Sound released on UR and it did great! I think people were surprised that UR dropped a hip hop instrumental project. Hip hop is a gumbo of all genres, and I incorporated futuristic techno ‘acid’ sounds, as well as 1950’s blues with hardcore hip hop beats, and even some tracks I used in beat battles. As a music historian, I love to reach back in time and find interesting sounds. And as a futurist, I love to create something that can be appreciated for years to come! Techno, I believe, is made with the future in mind, and that’s why the music is timeless. The electronic instruments are like nothing that you l ever heard and possibly could never be duplicated again! Techno elements have been incorporated in hip hop since the early days when Dr. Dre was label mates with Juan in the ’80s, and Timbaland and Missy sampled “Clear” on “Lose Control.” I think a lot of popular music is techno-based, as well as a lot of hip hop productions. There was rapping incorporated in some techno songs, and a lot of techno music incorporated in hip hop. Techno is a branch of what Kraftwerk, James Brown, Motown, and George Clinton made, and so is hip hop.
Artist/producer/DJ from Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was a member of Athletic Mic League and Jaded Inc with Mayer Hawthorne. His album Elelator is an homage to the impact that Detroit electronic music (techno and ghettotech) has had on him personally and professionally.
On his introduction to techno music.
The first time I heard Detroit techno music was on a local Detroit show called The New Dance Show back in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It was on Channel 62. My sister Kendrah and I would watch it in the early evening after we got home from school, around dinner time. It was hosted by RJ Watkins, and Jesse The Body was always doing the dope mixes. He would play records from Luke, Kraftwerk, A Number of Names, Poison Clan, DJ Magic Mike, A Guy Called Gerald, Sole Tech, Cybotron, and Unknown DJ “Basstronics.”
In the mid ’90s, I started hearing more records they called “Booty Music/Ghettotech” on mix tapes my friends would make for dance routines, pep rallies, and to “Jit” too.
DJ Assault’s “Ass N Titties” was always on there.
Mr. De “Disco Guitar” and Sole Tech’s “Sole Waves (Original Mix)” were constants on tapes.
I also remember one of my boys putting me up on a Detroit radio disc jockey named “The Electrifying Mojo,” who had a show called the Midnight Funk Association. It was a live radio tape recording of a show he did at WCBN 88.3 in Ann Arbor, a local college radio station around where I grew up.
Waajeed aka Jeedo-Producer
DJ, photographer, videographer, illustrator. Founder of Dirt Tech Reck; creator of Bling47; DJ for Slum Village; founder of Tiny Hearts; member of Platinum Pied Pipers with Saadiq; member of Electric Street Orchestra with DJ Skurge, Theo Parrish, DJ Dez Andres, and Underground Resistance co-founder and techno pioneer “Mad” Mike Banks. Waajeed fuses his love of techno and hip hop to create music that blurs genre lines and labels.
On Kraftwerk’s influence.
Kraftwerk was based in Dusseldorf, Germany, which is another city that’s very much like Detroit. Like Manchester, England, It’s an industrial city. It’s based on working-class people, and I think Kraftwerk’s influence was, I mean, you wouldn’t have techno without Kraftwerk. But the major difference is that Juan Atkins put the funk inside of Kraftwerk. He put the funk inside of the idea. He made it danceable. I’m probably the biggest Kraftwerk fan ever, as well as Juan Atkins. The major difference is the funk. You know, I started off as a DJ, prior to even making music. And I collected records. And my love for that industrial kinda sound is as relevant as my love for hip hop. So, in my mind, they’re the same. There was never any genre separation.