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DJ Rupture Loads "Powder"

Mix master weaves dancehall, dub and Moroccan strings

November 11, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Mix master DJ Rupture -- known for his three-turntable mix tapes that crisscross New York hip-hop, Kingston dancehall, London garage and Algerian rai -- has taken his sounds to a new level with Special Gunpowder, an all-original album in the works for two years.

Three years ago, the Brooklyn DJ burst onto the scene by way of his homemade tape Gold Teeth Thief, which mixed Missy Elliott with Nas, late experimental composer Luciano Berio with Bounty Killer, and Moroccan instrumentals with the Wu-Tang Clan and Shabba Ranks, demonstrating links between American music and sounds from places untouched by SoundScan. The brash, fluid mix of disparate sounds is rooted in Rupture's belief that music is not limited by style or locale -- relocating to Barcelona, he founded his label Soot Records in 1999 as "a strike against geography."

Last year he took his surprisingly danceable groove, honed through successive tapes and remixes, on a 100-date tour of twenty countries. But after defining himself as a DJ, Rupture wanted to branch out and assembled a host of guest musicians and vocalists for Gunpowder.

"The mix tapes are fun and exciting," says Rupture, born Jace Clayton. "But I kind of like curveballs, keeping people surprised. The music should always move forward. And I got to put together my dream cast, people whose work I really respect."

They include Arnaud Michniak of French experimental rock band Programme, and dancehall legends Junior Cat and Sister Nancy, who had gone into semi-retirement after her Eighties hit "Bam Bam." "Some friends in New York actually knew her," Rupture gushes, "so I was like, 'Hook me up!' The night before [her session], I didn't even know what she was going to sing about."

The entire album was recorded in Rupture's Barcelona apartment, where he embraced any hard-to-avoid ambient sounds. "In the last song, 'Mole in the Ground,'" he says, "you can actually hear a motorcycle in the background." The only frustration was speed. "I tried to carve out a unique world for each song, and I tend to build my beats very, very slowly," he confesses. "With 'Can't Stop,' it took me three weeks to come up with the beat. It got to the point where I was thinking, 'This is absurd! I need to get this album out.'"

Although still inspired by Brooklyn, Rupture finds his new city more conducive to collaboration. "There are lots of talented musicians here, a cool community," he says. "It's funny -- in New York there are great people, but everyone's rushed and needs to work a lot for rent. Here people are broke, but somehow they always have time to get together."

Rupture has also been playing gigs with Nettle -- his more abstract electronic side project with Moroccan instrumentalists -- recently wrapping up a U.K. tour alongside monumental Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane. "People call them the Rolling Stones of Morocco," he boasts. Although he's been approached by artists as diverse as DJ Spooky and Robert Plant, Rupture is determined to return to the studio in December to record a Nettle record -- and hit the turntables for his next hip-hop tape. Both will be released this spring, followed by a trek through the States.

"You've gotta keep those mixes coming," says Rupture, whose latest obsession is crunk. "Keep going back to that Seventies hip-hop approach, throwing in whatever has a funky beat aimed at the butt."

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