Few DJs can claim to have been instrumental to the birth of a genre, but things narrow down even further when said genre is considered a cornerstone in the development of electronic music as we know it today. We’re talking hiphouse here, of which Chicago-born DJ Tyree Cooper is undeniably one of the founding fathers. A fan of both house music and hiphop back in the 80s, the young producer sought to combine elements from both genres into the genre that soon went on to become known as Hiphouse. It eventually lead to the release of the now legendary ‘Turn Up The Bass’ in 1989, a track that –along with Fast Eddie’s ‘Yo Yo Get Funky amongst others’ is widely considered to be an all-time (hip-)house classic.
After the hiphouse hype cooled off in the mid-nineties, Tyree switched to genuine house, further cementing his presence in the international scene. He founded his own record label called Supa Dupa Records in 2002, all the while securing a steady supply of fresh tracks on various labels, some of which feature co-ops with Born To Funk, Matt Flores and Marc Romboy. To this day, Tyree is one of the most sought-after house DJs around, and early February sees him touching down at the Cartel night in Amsterdam. So naturally, we just had to go for a chat…
Hi Tyree, thanks for your time to do this interview. Let’s start by taking a trip back to memory lane. You’ve been in the game for over 25 years and considered by many as one of the key players in the development of hiphouse back in the late 80s. Can you remember how you first got in touch with house music? Would you say there was a specific record that made you see the proverbial light?
The key factor that got me into this music game was my high school friend Hugo Hutchinson. He asked me to go this club with him called The Playground and he told me that Farley “Funkin” Keith (aka Farley Jackmaster Funk) will be there spinning, so I was like ‘aiight cool’. Once I entered the party, it was like my entire existence was being formed from that moment on.
One of your biggest tracks is the seminal hiphouse classic ‘Turn Up The Bass‘, which came out in 1989 on the legendary D.J. International imprint. Can you describe what happened when this record went on to top the charts? How did you cope with sudden success?
The pop success of “Turn Up The Bass” was phenomenal because it opened up the world for me. Before that I was only a Chicago street dj/producer who had only done tracks that was being played on the streets by other DJ’s like myself. It helped usher in a genre where MC’s could a bit more diverse in their craft. I appreciated everything that came with success, even the “Turn Up The Bass” compilation that was released in the Benelux territory in the late 80’s, because it let me know that I had a bigger place in this business than just some artist.
Back in the day, fusing hiphop to house was considered to be a very risky combination. Especially the hiphop scene didn’t seem to appreciate it at first. How did you experience this yourself? How did this affect you as an artist?
The only people in the Hip Hop community that was dissing Hip House was some of those New York cats, but everywhere else was giving us crazy love.
Can you reveal a bit of how you produced music back in the day? What gear did you use and how would you say modern day technology has affected you as a recording artist?
I’m not gonna tell you what gear I used back in the day, but what I will say that when we recorded music back in the day that’s exactly what we did. We used tape to record and FSK or SMPTE sync everything together. And yes, technology changed the game slightly because it made far too easy to produce a song, but on the other hand it has reduced the time one would spend in connecting all that gear.
You worked alongside various other big names, including Fast Eddie and Kool Rock Steady. Do you still keep in touch with your oldschool pals?
Unfortunately Kool Rock Steady left us in 1998, and I haven’t spoken to Fast Eddie in years.
Obviously, things have changed quite a bit since the old days of house music. In your own words, what keeps you motivated after being in the game for so long?
The thing that keeps me going for all these years is the music and the traveling, to play the music I love playing for all these years.
Obviously you hail from an era when vinyl was the only way to go as a DJ. Are you still a vinyl guy or have you embraced the features of digital DJing?
Yes I am a digital DJ and not ashamed to say it, because to carry them muthaphukas is heavy.
What’s your view on the state of house music these days? Any artists you we should watch in the near future?
That’s hard to say, because some of these dudes we won’t hear from after they had their little run so I can’t answer that one.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Yes. I am currently involved in a project with my good friend and event partner DJ Bobby Starrr. We have a project named Jack The Box with a soon to be release album on Mood Music here in Berlin. As of now have a single out entitled “Tyree Cooper and Bobby Starrr present Jack The Box EP. And also I have a new release coming out on January 15, 2013 on this label called Chicago Vinyl Records. The name of the EP is called “Da Soul Revival Classics Vol.1”
And what about an artist album? Is that something that’s on your wishlist for the (near) future?
Yes it is…
What other plans have you got lined up for this year?
I want to gig more and release more music, that’s the only thing I have lined up for the coming year.
You launched your own record label Supa Dupa Records in 2002. What can we expect from the label in 2013 and how would you like to see the label developing itself in the future?
With Supa Dupa Rec., I just wanna keep up the standard of presenting my audience with quality music each and every time they hear something from label, simple.
Which albums / tracks would you say define you as a person?
All music influences me in some way so I won’t pinpoint to one specific thing, but what I will say that house music definitely fuels my engine…
What music outside the electronic spectrum do you listen to? Any bands you would like to recommend?
I listen to Dusty’s and Stepper’s music in my spare time when I can’t hear electronic music anymore.
Any final words of wisdom to our readers? Anything goes!
Don’t quit your day job! It’s real over here, so I hope you’re really ready for the real world when you come fuckin’ with this music business (producing or djing). Educate yourself first, get creative, don’t copy anyone else, be yourself and love yourself in the process so you’re able to give that love back at the appropriate moment. Peace.
Tyree Cooper will be playing at Cartel at Studio 80, Amsterdam on February 2nd, 2013. For more information and tickets, please visit the event’s official Facebook page!