There was no such thing as a West Coast hip-hop scene in the early '80s. But that's when the L.A. DJ group Uncle Jamm's Army ruled the land, led by The Egyptian Lover.
The dynamic mixer joined the electro crew after winning a DJ battle put together by Uncle Jamm's Army founder Rodger Clayton.
After filling 10,000 seats at the Los Angeles Sports arena, Uncle Jamm's Army and The Egyptian Lover turned to recorded music, releasing jams like, “Yes, Yes, Yes,” “Dial-A-Freak,” and the popular “Egypt, Egypt.” Of course, they'd eventually cede to folks like Ice-T and Dr. Dre, but Egyptian Lover remains a West Coast legend who's still making compelling music.
We caught up with him at Hollywood's Rusk Sound Studio as he was preparing his upcoming TR-808 driven album 1984. He told us interesting anecdotes from his long career, including one about an encounter with the Devil.
You were rapping, DJing and producing, all together, before guys like Dr. Dre came on the scene.
I didn't need anybody to write my raps, make my beats or anything else. I had my own record label and distribution company. Majors would come to me all of the time offering $250,000 deals and I would show them how much money I had on the books already and they would be surprised.
I was young when your track “My Beat Goes Boom” came out, and played it backwards, thus hearing the bit you had intentionally masked. I learned that day what a “ménage à trois” was.
I got the idea of recording vocals backwards from Prince and so I did that with the verse: “How about ménage à trois, ménage à trois, me and you?” It sounded cool in the song.
I used to play “Planet Rock” backwards along to the instrumental at parties. That would really freak people out. You know, one day I was at the studio and we [Uncle Jamm's Army] were working on “Yes, Yes, Yes.” A big time music industry producer came by the studio and he was digging the beat. I didn't know who he was at the time but Rodger and them knew and were making a big deal about it.
I told the engineer to flip the record and play it backwards for an effect and when he did, it sounded like “Six, Six, Six, Satan's Child.” Immediately Rodger jumped back when he heard it and accidentally hit the light switch. All of the lights went off with the exception of these red flood lights in the room. The engineer didn't know that Rodger accidentally hit the lights. All he heard was “Six, Six, Six, Satan's Child” and then everything went red. The big time producer ran out and wanted nothing to do with us.
Rodger was like, “Man, what are you trying to do?” I told him that I had no idea the record was going to sound like that. The engineer was freaked out until he learned that it was Rodger who accidentally bumped in to the light switch.
“Egypt, Egypt” is the song that most identify you with. How did it come about?
About a year and a half before I made that song, I went to a party with some friends and fell for a girl there who was sitting on a window sill and smoking a joint. Even though I didn't smoke weed, I wanted to just so I could get with her.
My friends got some at the party and we smoked some but…it turned out that the joint was dipped in sherm juice and I started to feel sick. We left and went back to my friend's house and just as I was leaving his place, there was someone standing at the door with sharp features and my first thought was that it was the Devil. He spoke to me and said, “Egyptian Lover, you're going to be a big star one day and your first hit song will be called 'Beast Beats.'”
Fast-forward a year and a half later, I had made a beat and sure enough it was called “Beast Beats,” because it was a beast on the drum machine. As I was leaving to the studio, my family asked where I was going and I told them that I was going to record my song “Beast Beats” and it was then my sister said, “Don't play with the Devil like that.”
I Immediately remembered the image that I saw a year and a half before and what he said to me. I went to the studio and tore up the “Beast Beats” song and remade it in to “Egypt, Egypt.” That record is actually a creation of four to five songs that I had pieced together. It was made as though I was DJ'ing those different songs all together in to one mix.
What do you think of that Devil encounter nowadays?
I didn't want to sell my soul to the Devil to be a big hit star, plain and simple. Thirty years later I am happy where I am at in life because I can still do concerts and still be able to walk around the mall without TMZ taking pictures. I've lived a great life right under the radar.
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