"The vibe and the essence that I'm trying to capture is the feeling I got when I heard some really dope shit back in the day," says Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician, an MC, musician, producer, label-owner and half of rap duo Five Deez. He then rattles off Pete Rock, Premier, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and the Beatnuts as examples. "Everybody back then was making shit because of the way they felt when they were inspired, before they even started making music."

Looking back to move forward is part of Fat Jon's strategy in creating records reflective of a new hip-hop classicism, an adherence to older production styles-chopped samples and warm bass tones-discarded by the mainstream rap industry. His music, however, is far from retro. Sizable chunks of his Mush Records instrumental EP 'Dyslexic' hinge upon heavy guitar licks and unorthodox time sequences. Likewise, on 'The Rock Rehab' a tune from the Five Deez' 'Secret Agent Number 005' EP, Fat Jon strips the beat down to its bare essentials, leaving only a beat box and a drum machine a la Mantronix.

"I'm a musician before I'm a rapper," Fat Jon explains. Indeed, you can hear his flute playing on "Instruments of the Trade (The Word)" from the recent Mission Control Presents: Prehistoric Sounds compilation, and at the close of the Five Deez single 'B.E.A.T'.

Fat Jon's musical proficiency can be partly attributed to his membership in the Wanna Battle clique, a multi-city hip-hop collective based in his Cincinnati hometown that includes Mood, DJ Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli, Lone Catalysts and Rubix, along with Five Deez partner, MC/producer Pase Rock. Fat Jon says, "It's kind of dismal being from where we are. There's not a lot of opportunities, so we would just inspire each other-write songs, make beats, hang out and try to keep elevating."

The cover of Prehistoric Sounds finds the collective standing in the snow in front of a castle, a visual representation of the wintry, austere records for which many of its members are known. But 2001 holds some surprises, as Fat Jon gears to drop several eclectic recordings on his Dimensia label, including 'Humanoid Erotica', as well as another instrumental EP, Stasis, on Mush Records.

The sounds on these records range from "fast hip-hop" to jungle and house. No matter where Fat Jon's expansive palette takes him, he says, "Every time I step to the studio, the beat machine or whatever, I got hip-hop on the brain. Even when I make house music, I got hip-hop on the brain. That's where I come from."


Mush Records