Introducing: Def By Stereo

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Photo courtesy of Below System Records

Photo courtesy of Below System Records

Formerly known as The Frog Brothaz, Southern California production team Suplex and Harsh Ramirez are the Beat Bruisers. The duo reached out to emcees from both coasts to craft a new album called Def By Stereo.

Los Angeles emcee Pawz One and New York City’s Ruste Juxx were chosen to provide rhymes over the Beat Bruiser’s gritty landscapes. Released by Below System Records, Def By Stereo is produced entirely by the Beat Bruisers and features appearances by Spit Savage and Dro Pesci.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Pawz One and the Beat Bruisers about reaching out to east coast emcee Ruste Juxx, the ins and outs of west coast rap politics, and their new album, Def By Stereo.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, Def By Stereo.

Harsh Ramirez: Originally we went by “The Frog Brothaz”. The movie The Lost Boys is where we kind of got the concept. There was a part in the movie where they kill that vampire and he’s like, “Death by stereo!” That’s where I got the idea and it just clicked. We ended up changing the name because we found out there might be another Frog Brothaz so we went with Beat Bruisers, but we kept the title of the album Def By Stereo and it pretty much just all fell into place.

TRHH: How did Pawz One and Ruste Juxx get involved in the project?

Harsh Ramirez: Pawz hit me up to do a remix on one of our songs. He reached out to us so we hooked that up. It was only supposed to be a single and it turned into a whole album.

Pawz One: They had “Unphuckwitable” and it was a good song and I asked them if they would be open to doing a remix. After the remix they liked the outcome and the idea sprang up to add a couple more songs and turn it into an EP so we just started working on that.

TRHH: At what point was Ruste brought in?

Suplex: I was scrolling on the wonderful world of Facebook and saw Ruste say he was looking to collab. I hit him up and we ended up linking up. We were supposed to just do one track and it kind of snowballed into a whole project.

TRHH: What was the process like recording this album?

Suplex: We kind of just stacked up the beats. We had some songs that we thought at first were a go, but there were 2 or 3 songs that we had to re-do on the production side, which was good. Me, Pawz, and Harsh would sit down and listen to the songs and make sure everything was good. With the recording process we’d get into the studio, Pawz or Ruste would vibe out to the beat, write, and then we’d do our recording.

TRHH: You guys are from the west coast but your production has an east coast sound. How would you classify the Beat Bruiser sound?

Harsh Ramirez: I’m influenced a lot by the east coast. Since I was young I was really into graffiti. When I was in sixth grade my mom bought me a subway art book. It had all of the pieces on the train like Seen, Revok, Lady Pink, a bunch of old school heads. I was always influenced by the east coast as far as graffiti. I did that until I got caught up. Musically I grew up on the west coast and it was mostly gangsta rap – N.W.A., South Central Cartel, stuff like that. Me personally I was into graffiti. We’re in Cali so we have family and friends who bang and are into that. My cousin was in Florida and he brought over Wu-Tang and I’d never heard it before. It changed my whole outlook. That shit blew my mind. I was like, “Damn, what’s this?” I was so used to listening to that west coast sound. Ever since then it had a big influence. The beats and the lyrics were just different to me. I have a lot of respect for the east coast but at the same time I rep the west, this is where I’m from.

Suplex: I kind of have the same story as Harsh. I got started with the graffiti thing looking at the graf mags and the trains in New York. When I was young I grew up on The Chronic and all of the g-funk stuff out here. Then I listened to the east coast stuff and loved the beats and the lyrics. It’s funny because I would put in an Alkaholiks tape and the homies that were bumping the hardcore west coast gangsta rap would be like, “Aw, that’s east coast! That’s not west coast!” and I’d go, “Dude, these guys are from the west coast!” I think that underground flavor is what we like – the hard banging drums, the grimy samples, and that grimy sound that we have.

TRHH: What do you guys think about the resurgence in recent years of the west coast with people like Odd Future, Kendrick, and YG? It seems like the west coast has taken back over again.

Pawz One: I think honestly it’s a lot of the people within the same camp. They’re all associated and they’re all affiliated. It’s like nepotism. A lot of them are getting put on because of relationships. That’s why you only see a handful of west coast artists getting certain looks and being put on festivals and shit like that. That’s what I see. That’s what I know from being out here, in these studios, and in different places. In Cali there is a lot of politics. I can say firsthand, that’s what it is. I think what a lot of people in other regions don’t know about the west coast is it’s divided racially and with gangs. There are so many little sections and people won’t work with you if you’re from a certain part of L.A. or didn’t go to a certain high school. It’s very cliquish and the gang culture plays a big part of that.

Harsh Ramirez: I grew up in Rialto, San Bernardino. I’m from the Inland Empire. It’s two different counties. People don’t like people from L.A. and L.A. people don’t like people, that’s mostly the gang stuff. Even people that aren’t associated with gangs still take that mentality and it puts a lot of people in boxes. I’m not like that and Suplex ain’t like that. We’re all open-minded. There are a lot of people here who aren’t like that but there are also people who are very cliquish, stubborn, and stuck in their ways. I can’t speak for the east coast but I have friends out there and from talking to them it’s a lot different out there the way everybody chills and over here it’s segregated still.

Pawz One: As far as the music is concerned you got Dom Kennedy, this one, and that one and that’s great, but a lot of that is geared toward the commercial side. There is a real diverse underground. There is a lot of talented people out here and not to mention all the legends. You have Ras Kass out here who is still active, and a lot of other people out here who are still active but they aren’t getting the same attention and the same light. It’s good to see us winning. It’s like when your football team is winning. It’s good to know that they’re from the area and winning, that’s great. We’d also like other people to look into these other directions and see that there are other people out there that bring some diversity to the table. It’s just hard to convince people out west of that.

Harsh Ramirez: Yep.

Suplex: I’m a fan too. I just bought that Ras Kass/Apollo Brown album. I continue to buy projects. Some of the people that are fans out here, and it’s a very small community, also support that. It is tough out here because everybody is a rapper, everybody is a beat maker, and everybody is a producer. I think the people that still love Hip-Hop and that boom bap kind of nation are still showing love. It’s still tough out here because with the age of the computer anybody can have a multi-million dollar studio in their home with all the plug-ins, software, interfaces, and microphones. Back in the day it was a little tough to be an artist.

Harsh Ramirez: It’s like crabs in a barrel, man. Everybody is trying to climb on each other to get ahead. “You guys are cool, but you should listen to my homie!” It’s probably like that everywhere.

Suplex: With the Def By Stereo album we tried to keep that boom bap grimy flavor. With Pawz he kind of stepped out of his box a little bit than on other projects. Bringing Ruste in, and Harsh also rhymed, I think all three of them with our production just brought it. We had somewhat of an idea of the direction we wanted to go with the album but for the most part we just went for it.

Harsh Ramirez: In the moment. Whatever felt good at the time we just went with it. We’d just go back, listen to it and if anybody had any ideas or wanted to change something everybody was open. Everything went real smooth.

Suplex: Me and Pawz were laughing that we should have called this album “Audible” because we were just throwing audible’ s all the time on this album. I think I had all the songs mixed or mastered and either Pawz or Harsh said, “I’m not too sure about that track.” We were doing the director’s cut for LA 2 NY. We already had the beat, Spit already had his verse recorded, and it was mixed. We did the audible thing again and changed the beat. Me and Harsh literally made the beat that same night and it worked out. All of our egos are kind of out of the way where we can make those decisions as artists. Sometimes in Hip-Hop having more than one creative person in the room can cause people’s egos to get in the way of the creative aspect of the album. All of us in the room are mature enough to make those decisions.

TRHH: What are your workstations like?

Suplex: I use a Samsung phone to make all my beats [laughs].

Harsh Ramirez: I got a Casio keyboard and a Fisher Price tambourine and shit. Nah, I use Logic and Josh always brings his little drum machine. So we use the drum machine, Logic, Roland keyboards, pretty much whatever we got we can slap it together.

Suplex: We use Logic and use Pro Tools to mix and master. We have a couple of cheap keyboards that we use sometimes and we chop up samples and do beats on the beat machine. I have a buddy of mine that comes in and puts bass lines and guitars over the samples.

TRHH: The song “Now” has more of a serious theme than the rest of the album. What inspired that song?

Suplex: You kind of always have to have a slow jam on an album [laughs]. We just wanted to talk about how we grew up, the stuff that we had to go through dealing with fucked up ass parents, and growing from that. All of the fuckin’ bullshit we have to deal with the cops, put that in a song and relay that because there is a lot of people that have gone through the same scenario.

Harsh Ramirez: Especially with everything that’s going on right now we figured that song would fit perfect. So far it’s getting a lot of play. People are digging it so it was a good idea. I had the beat in the vault for years. I made that thing years ago. I showed it to Josh and said we should throw this on the album and it worked out perfect.

TRHH: What can fans expect to hear when they cop Def By Stereo?

Pawz One: I would say it’s raw, gritty shit that will remind them of that era when rappers could say whatever the fuck they wanted and it was no real filter. Dudes could say whatever the fuck was on their mind. That’s what it reminds me of.

Harsh Ramirez: And all of the new jack cats that know what the 90s felt like. That was our era. To me that was one of the best times for Hip-Hop – 90s, early 2000s. That’s what it sounds like to me beat wise.

Suplex: I think when they listen to the album if you’re into the hard drums, heavy bass lines, and samples they’re going to enjoy it. It’s just some grimy shit. It’s like a distorted timeline of bars starting from the intro all the way to the outro.

Pawz One: No skinny jeans!

Purchase: Beat Bruisers x Pawz One x Ruste Juxx – Def By Stereo

About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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