At this point, Kevin Marques Moo’s stage name needs no origin story. The producer, DJ, Grammy-nominated mixer and mastering engineer known as Daddy Kev has been the guiding hand behind L.A.’s “beat scene” — the loose electronic-music collective centered around internationally recognized weekly club night Low End Theory (LET) — for a decade. He earns his paternal moniker daily.
“After having children and playing the role that I play with Low End Theory and the beat scene, I feel like I’ve grown into the name,” the 41-year-old says at the Cosmic Zoo, his Atwater Village recording studio.
A small space in the same building houses the office for Alpha Pup Records, the independent label and digital distribution house Kev founded in 2004. If LET is the beat scene’s natural habitat, Alpha Pup is its documentarian, recording the music bred at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights every Wednesday night and exposing it to the world. Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Gaslamp Killer, Nosaj Thing — LET and Alpha Pup (and the labels it distributes, such as FlyLo’s Brainfeeder) have produced the most progressive, genre-defying L.A. artists of the past decade.
“I’ll posit a question back to folks who want to compare us to any collective: ‘Who’s your Flying Lotus?’ That’s the A tier. We can even move down to the B tier,” Kev says. ”The difference is that these guys are musically iconic. They have their own thing. The aesthetic is pure and original. Until there’s an answer to that, until another Flying Lotus emerges, our relevance stays exactly where [it] is.”
A DJ since his early teens, Kev emerged as a fixture in the L.A. music scene in the late ’90s. After earning a B.A. in philosophy from UC San Diego, he founded rap/drum ’n’ bass label Celestial Recordings, as well as Konkrete Jungle, a drum ’n’ bass weekly featuring residents like edIT (Glitch Mob) and Myka 9 (Freestyle Fellowship).
Both ventures folded, but the latter was the structural blueprint for LET, which Kev co-founded in 2006. While the club night is nearing its 10-year anniversary, and now throws a sold-out summer festival at the Shrine, it remains untainted. The accolades and famous attendees and performers (Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu) never detract from sub-fracturing sets by resident DJs Kev, Gaslamp, Nobody and D-Styles, along with burgeoning local artists such as Toy Light and Astronautica. LET is a self-sustaining machine, perennially incubating the innovative.
“As much genuine emotion [as] we put into it — that’s impossible to ignore. It will attract like-minded individuals,” Kev explains. “That’s the premise that we’ve been operating on since the beginning.”
When not prepping for LET or running Alpha Pup, Kev is mixing and/or mastering dozens of records for artists in multiple genres. He’s been the sonic guru behind several seminal, genre-shifting L.A. records. Last year, for instance, he mastered The Epic, the 172-minute opus from saxophonist turned jazz resurrector Kamasi Washington.
Then Kev discusses sound, you realize both the depth of his knowledge and his near-ascetic commitment to learning more. “I believe that there is an objective truth that exists with quality audio, an objective truth that exists outside of my mind or the artist’s mind. That’s what I’m trying to be in touch with,” he says.
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Most recently, Kev’s quest for objective aural truth resulted in a Grammy nomination for his mixing on Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me.” Though the song didn’t win, Kev is optimistic about what the nomination means for the beat scene’s future.
“The door is a little more open now. For us to break through on that level — hopefully there’s more of that to come.”