In a democracy the most votes should win. But sometimes, on the internet, if you’re too good they could kick you out anyway. Despite being the people’s choice via comments on Discord, Spell was disqualified by battle host Kenny Beats for being too good.
The American record producer/song writer described one of the initial winning beats as “sloppy in a good way”, another judge said he would like to see Dom Kennedy on it. But because Kenny had to be fair to other entrants, he deemed Spell “double blocked” instead.
Kenny Beats has produced songs with Vince Staples, Rico Nasty and Freddie Gibbs among other big names. In March 2020, as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic, he started a Twitch stream where he hosts battles. It is a platform garnering thousands of daily viewers and providing a space for beat makers like Spell, still in Covid-19 Level 4, an outlet to find his community.
Whether we get to see Spell re-enter the forum as a contestant, or simply live in the Discord comments, ruled to accept his dubs there, Kenny Beats did leave us with the most important question of all:
But how are you British and you make music that sounds like 1998 in Compton? (Spell is from New Zealand)
SPELL: Pretty much, the hood that I grew up in was on the west side of town, HUNTLY WEST, and so all that we listened to and were exposed to was West Coast G Funk. Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs and Harmony were mega big. The bits and pieces that I was exposed to all came from kids older than us, going to mate’s houses and hearing what their older bros and sisters were listening to.
In 96′ I had three albums, Warren G’s Take a Look Over Your Shoulder (Warren G’s second album) and also Coolio, Gangsta’s Paradise. All the production on those two albums, that’s the sound that kind of stuck with me into my adulthood.
The third album that I had was Fugees (The Score) so there were exceptions.
That’s how I heard the east coast sound, that album. Chuck it all together and ye, you get DJ Spell, pretty much. I was also exposed to a lot of funk music from the 70s, all the shit that Dre and them were sampling, I was familiar with already, thank my dad for that. And then all the dancing shit in my teenage years, breaking and poppin, ye that’s another story lol.
S: Why do Kiwis make such good west coast music?
S: It’s because we all grew up listening to that shit. Tupac was like, fucking Jesus Christ at my school… But it’s more just brown kids that was in the hood in the 90s, we were exposed to west coast music lol
S: Shout outs to Kenny Beats.
S: Ye nah shout out to Kenny fuckin beats.
S: Who is Kenny Beats oi?
S: Kenny Beats is a producer from the internet. Someone on my Instagram was like, ‘You should enter the Kenny Beats beat battles’ and then I checked it out and, yeah I love the online beat battles. At the time there were no beat battles but now it’s lockdown there’s heaps. I started entering at the end of April when I found out about them, they were three or four weeks in and I’ve been doing them almost every week since then.
After making it seventh in the qualifying round out of around 500 entries worldwide, Spell was filtered to 10 by a public vote using the live stream services Twitch and Discord.
S: So you’re in Level 3 now in Melbourne?
S: Nah Level 4
S: But you’re lockdown hits differently, cause you can still go out and stuff eh..they were taking social distancing to an extreme level here like, supermarket ONLY.
S: How does going into official lockdown in Melbourne affect your life?
S: The next six weeks, my life doesn’t really change so I’ve pretty much just been focused. I’m set up to stream pretty good now and pretty much all my mahi.
Basically I don’t wanna ever have to leave the house ever again, and I can pretty much do it, I think. So far so good anyways.
S: What about your meals?
S: I go to Woolworths.
S: What is your work attire?
S: Work attire is whatever I wake up in.
S: How did you end up in Australia?
S: I went to Melbourne – I ended up here.
I had a mental situation and I wasn’t supposed to stop here, I was just on a stop over on the way to see my parents, actually just my mum. I needed to go and hang out with my mum for a bit and then I stopped here and I’m still here, pretty much.
S: How has beat making and DJing been since you been in Lockdown?
S: Music has been all goods. It took me like two years to really get comfortable here and then when I was feeling comfortable and cracking Melbourne, lockdown happened.
I was like fuck, now what. But it was kind of good because it forced me to stop worrying about being a DJ and do the thing that I’m passionate about and actually love which is my music.
This whole lockdown, since the end of March I’ve just been in music mode, properly though.
S: How does one play talkbox ?
S: It’s a very weird instrument to play. Ten years ago I bought a talkbox and realised how toy [Australian slang for lame] I was and that you actually needed to know how to play the piano to use one. So I learned how to play the piano for the next three years and I got to a point with my piano playing that I could use the talkbox.
It was a bit of a process. I’ve seen people buy talkboxes because I use a talkbox and then they get it and they’re like now what ? And I’m like, ‘Ye, now you have to learn to play the piano’.
S: How would you describe your sound?
S: My sound is, I don’t know g. I don’t know how to describe that, but you know what now, I’m at a place with my music where I’m pretty happy with it. I sound like me. Like people know when it’s my production now, they can hear it, and that’s where you wanna be as an artist. You dont wanna sound like other people – you want people to know you fucking made that shit when they hear it. Like a Primo beat, straight away, you know it’s Prem.
S: Does 30 feel like the new 20?
S: Fuck, I dont know, I havent been here for that long. I think about when I was 20, I was a fucking idiot.
S: Are you still an idiot?
S: Good question. When im 40 we’ll be having this same conversation, it’s a good thing, it means growth I think, lol idk.