Halifax Hip-Hoppers Ghettosocks and DK teamed up to release one 2022’s best albums, “Listen to the Masters.” Masters is a smooth and succinct release tailor-made for fans of boom bap. DK’s jazzy production perfectly complement socks’ mellow voice and lush lyrics.
Listen to the Masters is produced entirely by DK and features appearances by O.C., Moka Only, Skyzoo, Rome Streetz, Kxng Wooz, Timbuktu, Ambition, Justo the MC, UFO Fev, Tachichi, pHoenix Pagliacci, LxVNDR, El Da Sensei, and CL Smooth.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Ghettosocks and DK about, working with rap legends, sexism in Hip-Hop, and their new album, Listen to the Masters.
TRHH: Explain the title of the album, Listen to the Masters.
Ghettosocks: It’s a multi-pronged meaning. Listen to the Masters as in “listen to those who came before” also like “listen to the final version of the record before it gets sent out into the world.” And then maybe staking a claim like, listen to the masters, we’ve got something to say at the same time.
DK: For me I kind of just pull inspiration from the vinyl that I have. It has “Jazz Masters” on it.
Ghettosocks: Is that Ahmad Jamal?
DK: Yeah, Ahmad Jamal. Exactly. I think it was Ahmad Jamal featuring other Jazz masters as well. I thought that was pretty cool. I kind of got inspiration from that. Hip-Hop seems to be a young person’s thing, but for whatever reason in Jazz if somebody is really good they’re super-embraced. In Hip-Hop, for whatever reason, even though you’ve been doing it a long time and you’re really good at it, it seems like there might be a stigma that doesn’t exist in other genres, if that makes any sense.
TRHH: It makes perfect sense. It’s the truth. I don’t know where it started or why it started, but I hate it.
DK: It makes no sense.
TRHH: None! It might be changing a little bit. I think people still respect Jay-Z and Eminem – those guys that are 50. I don’t know. Do younger people dig them?
Ghettosocks: I don’t know. I feel like the younger generation are more trying to hip you to the Kendrick’s and J. Cole’s, which in a sense are disciples of Jay and Nas and those cats.
TRHH: I mean even younger than that. Those guys have been around for ten years.
Ghettosocks: Yeah, true [laughs].
TRHH: It’s something that bothers me. There was a show that I went to right before the pandemic. It was All-Star Weekend in Chicago. It was Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, and Raekown & Ghostface. It was great show. I was pumped for it and I remember people saying, “Yeah, they’re doing something for the old people for All-Star Weekend.”
Ghettosocks: [LAUGHS]. On that note, just to interject, Rakim and Freddie Gibbs came here a couple of years ago to Halifax. The organizers put Freddie Gibbs on after Rakim. Rakim came and did his thing. This was shortly after Piñata came out. That was my entry point to Gibbs. Whispers of Bandana was floating around. That show was me wanting to see Rakim more than seeing Gibbs. Gibbs got on and couldn’t believe that he was going on after Rakim. He was like, “this is messed up.” There is something to be said for that. This is the climate.
TRHH: How did you guys get together and decide to do an album together?
DK: I moved to Halifax 8 or 9 years ago and socks was doing some shows locally. I just went and over time we kind of connected that way. In 2019 we did two tracks. We did “Reflections” which is the first track off Listen to the Masters and another one called “Coltranes of the Movement” which is on my last release Soul Expressions. We ended up using those two songs and pressing up a 7” inch. The chemistry was really good and we worked well together so essentially that just evolved into an album.
TRHH: The single “All In” features O.C. and Moka Only. What inspired the song?
Ghettosocks: DK quarterbacked the song. Him and Moka actually collaborated on the making of the beat, which is something that rarely happens with Moka Only. It happens so infrequently that after the record came out Moka hit me like, “Yo, dog, that’s my beat. Why is DK getting credit on this thing?” I was like, “Uh, hold on. I’ll call you back.” Called up DK, “Hey, why is Moka Only calling me saying you didn’t make this beat?” He said, “We worked on it together. We were bouncing it back and forth.” I was like, “Okay, cool. You guys gotta talk.” Moka calls back and says, “It’s all good. I just forgot that we worked on it together.” Rarely does that happen [laughs]. So, in the course of putting that together DK asked who I could hear on the song. O.C. came up, DK reached out to him and he was with it.
DK: That’s exactly what happened
Ghettosocks: It’s not terribly interesting.
DK: I guess the only thing interesting about it is it’s an interesting blend of artists. It all works but it’s not something that you would expect, if that makes sense.
TRHH: Not at all. Another song with two interesting guys is “The Masters” with CL Smooth and El Da Sensei. How cool was it to get CL Smooth to get on a song?
DK: It was amazing.
TRHH: That’s fuckin’ cool [laughs].
DK: It was pretty cool.
TRHH: How did it work?
DK: I made the beat. I was digging through some records and found a woodwind sample. I just made the beat in probably fifteen minutes. It came to me organically and I thought, “CL Smooth would destroy this.” I thought I should reach out to see if he’s still making music. I did, he liked it, and I got DJ Uncle Fester to add the scratches. I asked him to cut the “green jacket” line. We got that and sent it to CL. He liked it and got me the verse back right away.
Ghettosocks: After DK got CL on the joint he was like, “Who else can we get to flesh this out because it probably needs a third verse?” In terms of energy and stature I thought El would fit. I’d toured with El a bunch in the past and we’d made a bunch of songs before. He was right there and he was with it, tapped him in, and boom, made the song. Very exciting.
DK: Fun fact about that track, Large Professor was originally supposed to be on the track.
TRHH: Oh, what happened?
DK: Nothing. He said he was interested and I never heard back from him.
Ghettosocks: Shout out to Large Pro, still.
DK: Yeah, shout out to Large Pro.
TRHH: You mentioned scratching and I loved that the songs had scratching on the hooks. Do you decide on what to cut before or after the verses were written?
DK: Usually both, but for that particular track I found the line that I wanted to cut up and DJ Uncle Fester found the two other little parts to add to it just to make it complete – the “trendsetter” line and KRS sample. I generally have an idea or concept that I come in with that I want cut up and we build the track around that. It’s no hard and fast rule. It could be the other way around as well. I usually just work with a concept in mind. I find that it adds clarity and it’s easier for the artist to write from there.
TRHH: So, you usually start with the concept, not the emcee?
DK: Yeah, sometimes. We do both. For that particular track “The Masters” I basically had the concept and everything in mind.
Ghettosocks: I gotta give props to DK for that. That beat wouldn’t have been a go-to for me in terms of my personal style and taste. He made the beat, got Fester on it with the cuts, presented that to CL, and when CL jumped on DK was like, “Yo, I got this thing with CL Smooth. What do you think?” I was like, “Welp, it’s not my usual go-to, but I will rise to the occasion for such an occasion.” That’s what it was. Just trying to figure out how to match CL Smooth, his lyrical prowess speaks for itself. He paints with words. Trying to get on his level requires a lot of effort.
DK: We had an interesting discussion about that as well. A lot of artist try to imitate other artists instead of doing their own thing and doing it dope. You’re not going to match CL Smooth by trying to be CL Smooth. You just gotta do your own thing.
Ghettosocks: You gotta complement. That’s why I’m such a fan of Sadat X because his style is so unique. You’re hard pressed to compare anybody to Sadat. El Da Sensei is like that. CL Smooth, it’s hard to match these cats.
TRHH: “Be a Mango” was an interesting song with different perspectives. It’s relevant now. Why’d you decide to tackle patriarchy on this song?
Ghettosocks: When people ask about songs like this generally it comes from what matters to you. This subject didn’t matter to me much when I was younger. Now that I’m at this phase in my life, in terms of people and friends in my life that I care about, it’s becoming more of a real issue in terms of my sphere and my understanding of the world. That’s why I wanted to tackle that. It’s something that’s relevant like you said. It’s becoming more relevant now. It’s like the snake that eats its own tail – the ouroboros. What came first, the issue or the issues out there? I think that also I felt confident that I could tackle the subject in a way that didn’t seem fucking preachy or holier than thou and still make a banging track. It’s not like a gimmick. It’s an interesting fun fact, as DK would say, when he sent the beat he names the beats probably after the sample source material, so it was named “Be a Man.”
When I was listening to it I was vibing on the beat. One day I was scrolling through the list of beats and for a split second I saw “Be a Mango” and I was like, “What’s Be a Mango?” I just misread it, but then I started thinking about the concept of being a mango and what that would entail — the tough exterior, sweet inside. With Be a Man there was some sort of parallel there. There was some sort of intersectionality on that aesthetic or creative process. So, that was kind of how it went. I just have to shout out my homegirl Santiago out in Portland. Years ago, she shouted me out, back in 2009 when I was working on the record “Treat of the Day.” She was like, “I love the record, but you need more female representation on your shit. It’s just a bunch of dudes in a circle rapping.” At that point I was thinking, “Damn, that’s really how it is.” There’s a lot of testosterone on the shit. Hip-Hop in general there’s a lot of testosterone, but there’s a lot of creativity, talent, and artistic prowess to be celebrated that women contribute and are often overlooked. I think about when Sean Price, RIP, said, “I don’t like female emcees except for..” who did he say?
DK: Rah Digga.
TRHH: He said his wife likes Rah Digga.
Ghettosocks: That’s not fair. I’m a fan of Sean Price. I’m a fan of rappers who happen to be female. Roxanne Shante? I was a fan of Roxanne Shante.
TRHH: I’m with you. I agree. I’m a big WNBA fan. I love the NBA, too. I used to write and cover the Chicago Bulls. I didn’t watch the WNBA that much, but then I started covering their games and I was like, “Oh, shit, this is kind of cool.” A lot of my friends were like, “Why are you going to that shit?” It’s basketball. It’s just basketball to me, but they see it as less than because it’s women playing, they don’t dunk, and that kind of shit. It’s the same flavor with Hip-Hop. There have been dope female emcees from the 80s to now. I think it makes dudes feel a certain way to listen to a woman.
Ghettosocks: I don’t see what the issues is. I see what you’re saying that there isn’t the lineage, but why isn’t there the lineage?
TRHH: No, there is the lineage. I didn’t say that.
Ghettosocks: I was just taking it in terms of what you were saying about how dudes viewed the WNBA verses the NBA. They view it as less than because this, that, and the third. It’s a new league or whatever.
TRHH: No, it’s because they’re women [laughs]. That’s my opinion. People don’t like it because they are women, period. It’s the same sport. It’s basketball! It’s rapping!
Ghettosocks: That’s the reason why I had to tackle that. That’s an elegant point that you made in terms of at the end of the day, it’s basketball. At the end of the day, it’s rap. Why do people say, “Who is your favorite east coast rapper?” or “Who is your favorite west coast rapper?” and “Who is your favorite femcee?” That shits wack to me. Why can’t your favorite west coast rapper be a person who also identifies as female? I just think the sooner that we start to talk about this and address it, the sooner it can be accepted and we’re not talking about it.
DK: I like Lady of Rage more than Snoop Dogg.
DK: I think she’s a better rapper. Definitely.
TRHH: Oh, man. I’d have to think about that.
Ghettosocks: That’s provocative. That’s provocative, DK [laughs].
DK: I mean, Snoop’s voice is cool.
Ghettosocks: Lyrically? Let’s go!
TRHH: Yeah, she’s definitely better. But it depends on what you’re judging. She’s got one album, right?
TRHH: This guy has been doing it for 30 years. Body of work? No, she’s not better than Snoop. Just rapping? Yes, totally, she’s better. I get that.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with Listen to the Masters?
Ghettosocks: Hope to achieve? That sounds very lofty. Just put another brick in the wall, to be honest. Put another contribution up there, put the flag out there, and keep it pushin’. A lot of people have ground to a halt these days, stopped, fallen off, given up, moved on. We’re just out here still rappin’ at the end of the day. I think Preemo said it – underground, roaches, etc. We’re still out here. Doing our thing.
Purchase: Ghettosocks x DK – Listen to the Masters