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Team Supreme: A Huge, Poppin' Crew

Team Supreme
Team Supreme

Boredom and a Biggie sample were the impetus behind Team Supreme, a local DJ/producer collective composed of up and coming beatmakers from Los Angeles and other areas.

Now boasting 17 members, Team Supreme started out as a game when Preston James of Virtual Boy and Great Dane were bored at home one night. The roomies challenged each other to make a beat at a specified BPM using the Notorious BIG's vocal sample "my team supreme stay clean" from "Mo Money Mo Problems." They gave themselves an hour. When time was up, they emerged from their bedrooms and played each other what they had made.

See also: Team Supreme at La Cita, 7/10/12

Liking the results, the duo passed along the samples and rules to a group of producer friends. A dozen beats were created, and the resulting mixtape was posted to Soundcloud. The newly formed crew annointed itself Team Supreme and began making the game a weekly exercise, using different samples and BPMs as chosen by various teammates.

In the 66 weeks that have passed, Team Supreme has grown into a burgeoning cross country scene that now includes James and Great Dane along with a bunch of producers and Steve Nalepa, a musician and former professor who had many members of Team Supreme as students in his music technology class at Chapman University.

The team evolved out of the "BBQ beat invitationals" Nalepa had been hosting at his house. At these events, former students would get together to grill out, drink beer and share their latest tracks. At one such BBQ, friends from L.A.-based electronic music collective The Melt brought over few artist friends from New York. The two crews gelled, and the meeting/cookout helped spur Team Supreme's cross-country growth. "The [New York] kids are kind of like the east coast equivalent of what my students were doing here," Nalepa says, "just out of school and doing events and making music for free and making a name for themselves."

James, himself a former student, became the unofficial team manager, coordinating the group's Soundcloud page, sending out samples and patching all the beats together into each week's mix. "The project as a whole has grown so organically," James says. "It's definitely rooted in L.A.'s beat scene. That's how a lot of people found out about us and where we started hearing our music played."

Team Supreme's efforts also caught the attention of DJ Shadow. Says Nalepa: "He was like, 'I've been a fan since Volume 15,'" and we were like, "Holy shit." Shadow chose the rules for one week's exercise, having TeamSupreme work with samples from his track "Monosylabik." Another week, everyone on the Team had to rap over their beat. "That was terrifying" says Nalepa. "Yeah," says James with a laugh "we're not the best rappers in the game."

For another weekly assignment, TeamSupreme did an open submission and received beats from all over the world. As the group's profile rises, so do the opportunities. Offers are coming in for members to make music for various commercial, film and television projects. Penthouse Penthouse, the duo born out of TeamSupreme, has had music played on the BBC, and Djema Djemba and Mr. Carmack have both had releases on Mad Decent. But while the crew seems to be coming to a boiling point in terms of career ascension, they all still find the time to turn in their weekly beat assignments.

"It's been really exciting to see how it's grown from it's humble beginning in a living room," Nalepa says.

And while there is no official weekly vote for the Team's MVP title, a weekly winner is chosen through a non-scientific process of being awesome. "You always just kind of know who killed it," Nalepa says.

Team Supreme performs tonight at the Echo. It will be the first time they'll all be in a room together

Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, Katie Bain @bainofyrexstnce, and like us at LAWeeklyMusic.

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