Hello Frost Gamble. We spoke to you in November last year when you released the « Veteran » EP with Tone Chop, and you’ve just followed that with the album « Respect Is Earned Not Given ». We also spoke with ZotheJerk in May about the « Black Beach » album you produced, and your EP « Rare Fabric » with Tragedy Khadafi came out in October. How would you describe the year you’ve just had and what were the highlights for you?
It’s been an amazing year, no doubt! Since the success of the Veteran EP doors keep opening, and new projects keep coming my way. Maybe the hardest part is knowing all the great songs I have in the pipeline, and waiting for their release dates!
Working with Horseshoe Gang, Tragedy Khadafi, Royce da 5’9″ and others has been amazing, but I take the most satisfaction from working with my team, Nostalgia Clic. For example, seeing Chop get his props as a lyricist after all these years, it’s extremely satisfying – and a big part of why I started releasing music to begin with.
We know it’s been a long road for you in hip hop, starting out in the 90’s as a b-boy, then a battle rapper and then a producer but always as an unsigned artist. The last 12 months sounds like a reward for perseverance, so what message would you give others trying to progress?
Indeed! I remember seeing a Marco Polo interview years ago where he said how much he respected DJ Premier for “his stubbornness” – that really spoke to me. I don’t care what the current trends are, half the time I don’t even know them, because musically I just stick to my script. I make the music I want to listen to, and I’m thankful anyone else wants to listen also.
But it was critical for me to change my way of thinking from “unsigned producer” to “independent artist/label” – those old school approaches just provide no value any more. Fortunately I’ve had a couple of great mentors along the way.
It was interesting to hear how b-boying introduced you to hip hop music originally. Tell us more about that.
Absolutely – the early 80s breakdance craze was what attracted me initially, and later I became more serious about learning the culture. There was a time when the windmills and backspins were in my wheelhouse, today a clumsy two-step will have to do !! But it was those early records by Flash and UTFO and Newcleus etc. that got me started – and by the time the late 80s rolled around, and the lyricism had evolved – I was hooked. The common theme was battling, competition – and “it ain’t where you were from, it’s where you were at”… that also really spoke to me.
22 Entertainment have signed you for all your projects. What do you particularly enjoy about your working relationship with them?
22 Entertainment gives me the platform to reach a global audience, without compromising on my artistic vision for the projects. Never have I been asked to “make a Black Eyed Peas beat”, for example, which was a common type of request in the past with other industry contacts. And, they do an amazing job of finding ways to monetize the music, when that is one of the more challenging aspects of the modern music economy. It’s a great situation.
We’ve seen a lot of reviews over the past year complimenting the quality of your productions. Do you feel this is a wider endorsement for producers who still use sampling techniques in an age where it is less common?
It could be. The bottom line to me is that sampling IS Hip Hop – it’s the direct offspring of turntablism. It’s as central to Hip Hop as the guitar is to Rock. People who see sampling as ‘old’ or ‘less creative’ or whatever – I don’t believe they know our culture very well, or how creative and original sampling techniques can be.
For example – we’re in the middle of the promotional cycle for Respect Is Earned, and almost all of the reviews have been very positive. (One publication called Respect is Earned “one of the best albums of 2017” – what an honor!) But there was also one where the reviewer said something like “the younger generation isn’t going to be into this old school sounding music, so I don’t think this project is very good”. What a backwards way of thinking! We’re supposed to lead the children, not be lead by them! In the same way, I wouldn’t see a person who degrades sampling as a credible voice within Hip Hop.
Looking to the future, you have many more projects coming. First of all, tell us about the concept behind « Nostalgia Clic », what are the plans for that and will you be looking to add more artists to it?
Nostalgia Clic is all about bringing my team together – Tone Chop (Binghamton NY), ZotheJerk (Detroit, MI) & White Rhino (Winnipeg, Canada). The name was their idea – we’d all be accused of being old school anyway, so why not embrace it? Even Rhino, who’s in his 20s, he listens to Big L all day like it’s 1996. We keep the focus on lyricism, hard bars and hard beats – and it doesn’t matter what trends the industry might be chasing. We’re not focused on growing the team yet, but that may happen in the future.
You also have a new album « I Missed My Bus » coming next year with some really impressive names involved. Tell us about that. What was the difference in approach given, unlike previous releases, this is not a direct collaboration?
Yes, thank you – right now, I have Skyzoo, Conway, Rah Digga, Ruste Juxx, KXNG Crooked, Ras Kass, Tragedy Khadafi, Sadat X, Planet Asia and Guilty Simpson confirmed – I’m really looking forward to that release. The process was a little different for each artist, depending on if I had any history with them or not, and how we were able to link. Definitely a different experience than working with Chop or Zo, and you have fewer opportunities to “go left” – you’ve gotta make a winner out of the track right from jump. This will be the follow-up to my self-released Handpicked (2014) which is what started this ride I’ve been on since. Fans of lyrical Hip Hop and hard beats will definitely enjoy this one.
We have also heard you have been working on new music with Royce da 5’9″ and Horseshoe Gang. Tell us about the nature of these projects and when can we expect to hear them.
Right, another benefit of working with 22 Entertainment is having access to their current and past artists.
I can’t speak too much about Royce’s project, only to say that you already know what to expect from him – he murders every beat he touches. It shouldn’t be too long until you start hearing something… in fact, a remix to Go Off (Kid Vishis / Royce) will be dropping soon (if not already by the time you read this)…
With Horseshoe Gang, it’s a « Frost Gamble Remix » project of songs from their last two albums, plus a brand new joint. It may be released as a vinyl exclusive – but regardless how it gets delivered, those guys are beasts on the mic and I’m really looking forward to sharing it. I tried to be creative in how I approached the remixes, drew from a variety of sample sources, different than what you’ve heard them on in the past… I expect that to be out by Q1 2018 at the latest.
The level of progression since we last spoke a year ago is substantial. How do you feel you will sustain that and even increase it further? Are there more projects we don’t know about?
Our daily operation is to “stack songs” – I could release 3 albums of new, finished material tomorrow. One of the toughest things is waiting… knowing you have great songs in the queue, but needing the right time to release them. There are other artists I plan to work with, when the time is right, and scheduling works… but I also want to stay thankful for what I have and maintain it, and not take the past couple of years progress for granted.
The benefit of being a producer is that your language is universal, so have you thought of working with artists from overseas, like here in France? If so, are there any you would like to produce and how should artists reach out to you?
Actually, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. About 80% of our iTunes and CD sales have come from Europe, and France must represent a significant portion of that. As my platform grows, I’ll be looking for more ways to connect like that, as we’re all part of the global Hip Hop community. It’s pretty easy to contact me on Twitter (@frostgamble), Facebook (Frost Gamble), Instagram (@frost.gamble) or my website (www.frostgamble.com). I just ask that we start with a conversation, not an unsolicited SoundCloud link with no context – the way people spam sometimes is crazy. To me, chemistry is one of the most important elements, we have to build first. Great music comes later.
Your artist name Frost Gamble is taken from the time you were a professional poker player. How did you get into that and do you still do this, or were the stakes too high???
It’s funny when I think back now, my lifestyle has changed so much. I used to never leave the house without a big knot of cash on me, in case a game happened… I would routinely win or lose 4 figure sums on a daily basis, variance is just part of how the game works. But then, I was single, no kids… and not much respect for money, got it fast and spent it fast. Today, I try to maximize every dollar – how can I put $1,000 on the poker table now when I can book a promotion for my next single with that? Or, buy a vintage chronograph? My mind is fully elsewhere.
Last time we spoke, Trump had just been elected. As an American living in Canada, what is the general view of the people in Canada to what is happening in the US, and how do you reflect on your native country now?
Most Canadians are just as confused/terrified/disgusted as the rest of the world. Sometimes I still look at his picture in shock, “can this be real”? Canada also has conservatives and liberals (and social democrats), but within a more shared understanding on the role of government – so the divide on issues isn’t as wide, regardless of how people feel about those issues personally. Canada also has a complicated history of racism, but acknowledges the impact on people today, and is trying to move forward. Plenty of work needs to be done, to be clear, but that is a very different environment than in the States. I’m happy to be here, especially right now.
Take the pulse Dr. Frost. How healthy is hip hop culture today?
Very well, I think! The culture is global, and complex, and all the core elements are being honored in different ways. For example, I recently took a family holiday across Italy, and the Graff we saw both on trains and the cities was amazing! Just as you and I are having this conversation from across the Atlantic. Being brought together by a shared appreciation for culture is a nice counter-balance to all the ugliness the world otherwise produces.
The rap music industry? I don’t know, I’m new here, but they tell me things are better than they’ve been in a while. I know there’s a LOT of great music out there, but you have to search for it – the corporations are not our truth.
Thank you for speaking with us at Hip Hop Breath. Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Yes, thank you! Hip Hop Breath’s coverage of our releases is truly appreciated, it’s not that easy to get your music out to the masses! Thanks to readers for checking this out, now go cop that Respect Is Earned Not Given CD at your local record store! Peace.