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Checkmate lays down classic new hip hop, with old school samples

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WHO : Checkmate

WHERE : Garfinkel’s

WHEN : Sunday, Dec. 16

"I’m into pure hip hop. I usually sample from old school ’60s and ’70s jazz, and some Motown too. That’s what hip hop is, taking a four second sample or lifting a breakbeat and lifting the sample into your own," says hip hop artist Checkmate, whose bandmates DJ Flipout and "hypeman" Concise complete the band that also uses the name Checkmate.

Checkmate, who plays Fridays at midnight on CFOX, walks us through what is hip hop.

"Before DJs just used two turntables to sample, but now you can mix in so many different beats with the recording systems available. I think hip hop is a classic form of music, but now we’re going into a diverse stage. My kind of hip hop is new but kind’ve influenced by the old school with a lot of rapping, scratching and turntables."

Hip hop is a style of both music and dance that was developed by inner-city youths in large urban centres beginning in the ’80s.

For Checkmate, his hip hop music is a celebration of old and new music making where "scratching" is part of the art.

"Scratching takes a particular piece of music, and involves a lot of fader co-ordination, and takes a lot of practice. And with new technology and techniques it’s (becoming) more complex," he says.

The current world scratching champion is DJ Craze, an American who topped the list at this year’s beat mixing competition that takes place at a different location around the world each year.

Checkmate completes the bulk of his song writing at home.

"I make the beats, produce the beats, then write the lyrics, or match those lyrics – there’s no real formula to it. I’m a late night worker. I like to smoke a lot of weed and that’s one of my inspirations," says Checkmate.

"I’ll go into the studio and lay down music and record lyrics. I have a pre-production system and use Technique 1200s, recording in a small studio at home, and at Double Up. And then I re-record at Hippasonic in Vancouver," says Checkmate.

The studio is also used by the Rascalz, who played the Big Air Concert Dec. 11 at the Whistler Conference Centre as part of the Nokia Snowboard World Cup.

With their new album, Welcome to the Game , released Oct. 30, and another planned to debut next summer, there’s a rhythm to their success. Singles from Welcome to the Game include The Longshot b/x Devil vs. the Maker, These Days & Times (which also has a video), and Welcome to the Game.

Like the staccato of hip hop beats, it’s been a tad back and forth for record development.

"Initially there were a few industry shenanigans as we were supposed to come out with SongCorp and now we’re with Double Up independent records," says Checkmate. The new album is distributed by SPG in Montreal.

Checkmate, the individual artist, got his start with the band All About Us, and then went on to win the DJ Soundwar MC battle in 1995. He opened for musical acts De La Soul (Keep on Movin’), Kool Keith, and Parliament, touring on the "Northern Touch" tour crew that included Canadian artists the Rascalz, Choclair, and Kardinal Offishall and Thrust. Checkmate was guest MC on the Rascalz song Clockwork, on the Figure IV/Vik Recording album, and Incredible Ease’s All Praises Due.

Canadian-based until now, the band Checkmate will expand into markets south of the border this season.

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