Local deejay and producer Bang Messiah has been a fixture on the local hip-hop scene for quite awhile. To put things in a better perspective, he has credits that go all the way back into the early '90s when he worked with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony when they were still known as Bone Enterprises.
On a chilly Wednesday night, Bang Messiah posts up in the Coventry neighborhood outside of the Grog Shop and chronicles his history and ascension to becoming one of the city's most respected beatmakers.
"I basically made the ranks through deejaying," Messiah says. "I was making beats. I didn't have any equipment, but I was always collecting records. I became an avid digger and in 1995, I went from two crates to 30 crates. I got my first set of turntables with my real first job out of high school. I got my 1200s and started battling. As far as production, I used to roll with a beat crew in the '90s called Infared Beat Seekers. We were underground but we had a cool little following. We were way before our time. The shit that they're doing at Low End Theory now, we were doing back in '97, '98 and '99. From there, I went to recording school. I was never really about placing beats, I just liked making dope beats more than anything."
Bang Messiah's production draws influence from sources that touch multiple regions of the country from the East Coast to Midwest to the South and even the West Coast. He likens his aesthetic to a combination of break beats and loops and producer Metro Boomin.
"My influences vary, be it Larry Smith, who did Run DMC, to Pete Rock, to Marley Marl and Dr. Dre. There's lesser known guys like King of Chill, Paul C. and even Juicy J and DJ Paul from Three 6 Mafia are some of my favorite producers," he says. "So, I pretty much run the gamut. I don't subscribe to the Pete Rock, Large Professor, J Dilla, DJ Premier family tree exclusively. I'm not just big on West Coast guys and I'm not so big on down South guys. I take a little bit from everybody I think is dope. Another guy who's a big influence is Mr. Mixx, the DJ from 2 Live Crew. He basically invented the Miami bass sound. He was probably one of my favorites because his beats were so textured. He was sample based but he could also do fast and slow beats. So yeah, he's definitely one of my unsung influences. There's also Rick Rubin too and a guy who did the early engineering at Def Jam named Steve Ett. They're probably my major influences because they made nothing sound like the biggest shit in the world. I love them dudes."
There's another moniker that Bang Messiah goes by, MFKNRMX. The name isn't necessarily indicative of anything different, but more so a marketing decision.
"I wrote a bunch of names down and then went with Another Dope Remix, but that was way too fucking big, so I cut it down to Remix and then I played with the spelling," Messiah says. "I had it spelled one way and I wanted something bigger sounding. I'm a vulgar motherfucker if you know me. I wanted something big like Mantronix, so that's when I changed it to MFKNRMX. Then, I realized I can only get so far with that name and being a brand and trying to get into places. So then I branded myself as Bang Messiah. The thing with Bang Messiah was that I would hear people call other people 'beat gods,' and I'd be like 'I ain't no beat god, I'm better than them. I'm the motherfucking Bang Messiah, and it just stuck. People don't necessarily call me that, but it's what I'm building my brand under. If you know me, you call me Remix. The only difference is that Bang Messiah can get me into places that MFKNRMX can not. "
On Thursday, Bang Messiah will release his latest project, The Ghost of '89,
and celebrate with a party at Now That's Class. The premise of the project is to capture the feel of the era and limiting the elements to keep things authentic.
"'The Ghost of '89
is retro-futuristic," Messiah says. "I started making beats using elements that no one uses anymore and I only used those elements. I wanted to see if I could make a beat that sounded like it belonged on (Ice Cube's) Amerikkka's Most Wanted
. I made two or three of those and Chad was like, 'That's dope, we should do a whole project" and I agreed. So the whole point of me doing the project was to revisit that sound with today's polish. I wanted something that could stand out in 1989 or 2016. I used some of the same samples and drum patterns and if they weren't using them past the certain time, then I didn't use it. I tried to stay as close to that as possible but still gave myself some lead way to make things as modernized as possible. Basically I took my favorite car and put new rims on it, new paint job, updated the dashboard and everything else. It's the same car, it's just fly as fuck now."
Joining Bang Messiah at the release party will be JetSet216 from Moriarty, Vigatron TripleNine and DJ Ceven will be performing a scratch set. Admission is $5 and the first 25 people will receive a copy of The Ghost of '89
. Messiah doesn't have any projects planned, but he believes that whenever he chooses to do his next one, it will be different.
"I've noticed that generally my ear changes every six to nine months," Messiah says. "So I've got all this Ghost of '89
shit out of my system. I'm on that Rick Rubin sound now. I can make 20 of those beats and end up waking up and making some trap shit. I'm never quite sure. I don't want to say something like the Ghost of '85
is next or something. I just don't want to get too locked into anything too ahead of time. I do think that my next project will have less samples, a lot more drums and more digital sounding — more contemporary, if you will. "
When asked about his preference when it comes to production, he leans towards sampling but sees other methods as a challenge.
"I think I prefer sampling because I'm sample based, and it's a lot less work for me," he says. "I'm not classically trained so anytime I'm not using samples, I have to fall into something until it feels right. I already have a lot of music chopped and ready to go. So I just basically smoke something, turn my brain off, push buttons and go. Without the samples, it's a slightly different skill set and I prefer it as a challenge but not as a production style. Sampling is easy, I can get high, chop up a sample and make a beat from top to bottom in 10 to 15 minutes. Is it gonna be dope? i don't know, but I can do it."
Bang Messiah differs from his peers when it comes to embracing the new generation of hip-hop. Where many are dismissive and resistant to change, he welcomes the opportunity to teach and work with the up and coming artists.
"The way older dudes look at the young dudes now is the way our parents looked at the shit," Messiah says. "I think the older dudes need to understand that things evolve and change or at least understand why. I also feel the older dudes need to pass down knowledge without being judgemental because the younger dudes need to be imputed with the history and understanding that this didn't come out of nowhere."
He says that hip-hop needs to evolve.
"It's been 40 years and we're still clinging onto the same elements done the same way," he explains. "Those elements came out of necessity. People had an energy they needed to get out. They didn't have money for the tools they needed. Just a bunch of dirty project kids making some shit happen. Now the shit's been around the world a million times and was still clinging on to the same ways. The Ghost of 89
is about closing the gap between multiple schools of thought. It's not just about the old shit or the new shit, it's about being true to the essence and also pushing the culture forward. Fuck the status quo. You've got to break some eggs to make an omelet."
Bang Messiah, Jetset216, Vigatron, DJ Ceven, 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24, Now That's Class, 11213 Detroit Ave., 216-221-8576. Tickets: $5, nowthatsclass.net.