“Baby, I’m releasing an album on Christmas day,” House Shoes laughed and gently rubbed his fiancee’s pregnant belly. “No stores are open on Christmas, baby. How genius is that?”
This will be the first Christmas Shoes celebrates with his new family. A certain tranquility has set in on Detroit’s favorite DJ since the day he heard he’d be a father. His son will be named James DeShaun when he arrives in March — James, as in James “J Dilla” Yancey, and DeShaun, as in DeShaun “Proof” Holton. There was never a name seriously considered were Shoes to have a girl other than to take from his fiancee’s name (Leo) or, perhaps, just Buttercup… because “why not,” he joked. Buttercup Buchanan.
Shoes’ downy calm when around his fiancee or when discussing his son is most feverishly juxtaposed with the Newport-smoking, hail-storm-cussing, grizzly exterior of a man brow-beaten by time and circumstance. Once inside Shoes’ ring of trust he’s a gentle giant, but it takes years of loyalty to be viewed in his eyes as a genuine article worth a damn. Before you enter that circle, it’s in his music — not the music he spins, but rather the music he creates — you can hear House Shoes for who he really is. Sometimes thoughtful, sometimes cold and calloused, always with a profound understanding for the pull of humor and struggle on life.
Here are a few choice picks from House Shoes — a man who can spend endless hours digging for the records that move him in the dance between joy and pain.
Kaos and Mystro — Outcast Vol. 1
“Some Detroit shit — like ’89, ’90 — that was the first Detroit shit I heard that was on something serious. I was a freshman [in high school,] and I remember we had gym first hour and we would go in the locker room at like 7:30, and I’d have my radio. I’d have my radio on the bus — I got kicked off the bus in sixth grade for playing 2 Live Crew — but I’d have my little radio in the locker room and this was the shit like the whole year. That’s all we played. Kaos and Mystro. That shit just let me know that we could do it — not me personally, but the city. Yeah. The city had some shit too.”
Nas — Illmatic
“Cliche, but fuck it.
“I remember I had just started DJing at Saint Andrews. I used to go to Eastern Michigan [University,] and I got kicked out — I’m not going to tell the story again, you can find it in numerous other interviews, just Google ‘matches.’ But my roommate Kory, he made it another semester then he got kicked out, but that was my boy and still is to this day, and we used to always put each other up on music. And I had got the Illmatic tape and drove up to Eastern. I had the classic Hip-Hop wagon of Detroit — the white Ford Escort station wagon — and it was like seven motherfuckers and about ten blunts. Fucking crazy. And I remember when ‘The World Is Yours’ came on, I turned off the car, I got out, and I just ran. It was like so much weight, I couldn’t handle the weight. I had to get out and run… That shit was crazy. It was just like a New York time capsule. You can’t really say shit about that album that hasn’t been said already, but that shit was definitely a landmark for me.”
“Next is a tie, so I guess I have six records…”
Fat Boys – Fat Boys and Run DMC – Run DMC
“Those were two tapes — they were tapes because I didn’t have albums yet. I bought tapes. And that’s the shit that like introduced me to Hip-Hop. I heard that shit and I was like ‘Fuck all this other shit. I’m fucking with this Hip-Hop shit.’ Fat Boys and Run DMC — that shit can be cliche too, but fuck it, it is what it is. I was 9, maybe 10 years old and it was just the shit. It didn’t really sound different, it was just the shit.
“Fat Boys was the shit because they didn’t need beats. You know, like fuck it. You don’t need money for that shit at all. Nothing. ‘We taking the whole budget. We ain’t paying nobody.’ And Run DMC is just a classic. Jam Master Jay, that’s the first time I ever really seen a DJ in the video, prominently. Fat Boys and Run DMC, that’s just a classic.”
“Now you can put a little asterisk; ‘Rubs belly.’ ‘Leo smiles.'”*
* At this point in the interview, House Shoes takes a moment to lean over to his fiancee. Rubs belly. Leo smiles.
Slum Village – Fantastic Vol. 1
“Again, on tape. The only way you could get this was on tape. Everything else is a bootleg — even the shit with the label on it, that’s bootleg too.
“I was working at Car City Records on the East side, on Harper. And I had been fucking with Jay [Dee] for a few years, and the Slum shit was always dope but it was never like no records you could get outside of what he would bring me to play in the club. But that shit was crazy. I was working at the record store and I think T3 brought up like thirty of them or something, and it was on consignment… No, Jay brought them up. And it was on consignment, so you take inventory and however many tapes you have there is what you sold — there weren’t no barcodes and shit. So I was just hooking motherfuckers up — out of town cats, trying to spread it around and shit. And these cats from Japan came to the store one day and I gave both of them one, and they worked at Manhattan Records, which at that time was one of the biggest record stores in the world. And that hand off, that started the ball rolling… ‘I Don’t Know’ Fantastic 12-inch, they put that out.
“So, Fantastic Vol. 1, that was dope. There wasn’t a lot of them tapes. I think there was 300, 400 of those tapes. All I have left is my case. Someone got my tape, but I got the case.”
Group Home — Livin’ Proof
“That’s in my Top 5 Hip-Hop albums of all time. The shit is so crazy — Lil Dap was dope, but Melachi was like the worst fucking rapper ever. But to me that batch of beats is Primo’s best beats ever. And it didn’t even matter that Melachi was wack as hell — he’d be saying those fucking verses, but the beats were so stupid. That showed me how production-driven it could be. Like it don’t even need to have cats that’s dope, you could still have a classic album if the beats is that serious.
“…Fuckin’ Melachi. Jesus.”
Honorable Mention: Lyman Woodard Organization — Saturday Night Special
“Because I didn’t want to do just Hip-Hop.
It’s a Detroit record and it’s grimy as fuck. It’s a live recording but it’s super grimy engineered. Like, audiophiles would not like that record at all. But yeah, it’s some jazz, funk, R’n’B shit. It’s on [Shoes’ album,] Loungin’. Haircut’s got it — Haircut’s got the fucking picture with the autograph. That record’s on some grimy soul shit — 1975, the year I was born. That shit was fucking filthy.”[audio:http://uproxx.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/11-elzhi-boomerang_slang.mp3%5D
Enjoy House Shoes’ production on Elzhi’s early attention getter, “Boomerang Slang.”
Download DJ House Shoes Presents: Loungin’ Volume One, Live At The Buddah Lounge from his podomatic.
Look for House Shoes‘ next release, The King James Version, out on Christmas day.