Martini: Spotlight on local pioneer Reed RussellWritten by Martini Rox | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the beginning there was Reed Russell … as far as Toledo’s Hip-Hop producers are concerned, this is true.
Russell is a founding member of the Legendary United Soul Brothers (The U.S.B.’s) a collective of talented men who started in the early 1980s with DJs, producers, MCs and dancers. Toledo’s Hip-Hop is the house they built with more than 50 members musically serving the community today. I would be remiss if I did not interview the producer who helped inspire it all, Reed Russell aka Reedius Maximus.
Remember Joint Mob? Roc Click? Mr. International? Lost N Turned Out? How about Dasit before his appearance as a Toledo MC on “The White Rapper Show?” If that’s before your time; do the “Hollow Boyz” ring a bell? He was the first producer to have a spoken word artist in regular radio rotation in Toledo. The artists that his production, mixing and mastering have influenced reads like a history book. If you wanted to produce, engineer or you just bought your first Mac and needed help, he was and still is the man to know. Some call him the “Dr. Dre of Toledo.” I have the pleasure of calling him friend.
Toledo was close to never knowing Russell’s talent in the form of Hip-Hop. At 16 he was an accomplished bass guitarist with a promising future in jazz. As fate would have it, a freak accident in woodshop resulted in the loss of the tip of a finger, making it impossible for him to play his bass properly. After two years of “artistic depression,” he heard the music of one of the most innovative Hip-Hop acts of all time, Mantronix. Interested in production, he purchased his first beat machine and the rest is history.
I asked him what he uses to create his sound.
“I used mainly the Sequential Studio 440 for all drum samples and preproduction sequencing before transferring it all to the computer. I still use it to this day, even after over 20 years!” he said. “My drums and samples sound ‘dirty’ due to the 12-bit sample rate and it gives them that grimy sound, sort of like the legendary EMU SP1200 that Pete Rock uses.
“As for keyboard sounds, I’ve used Roland JV-880’s JD-990s and vintage EMU pieces like the Morpheus. I like ‘strange-sounding’ boards like the Korg Wavestation EX that I still use, even though it’s 20 years old! The Yamaha Motif Rack XS is my main piece that I write with now, along with the Triton Rack.”
Russell is known to be secretive about his projects but he is armed and ready to let us hear his works, which have received major success through the power of the Internet. His music is featured on Neo–Soul and Hip-Hop stations geared toward the period in Hip-Hop that celebrated the sampling of blues and jazz. Russell’s album is tentatively called the “Chronicles of Reedius.” He is offering the album as a full body of work, not pieced out in the form of singles. His music is a mix of smooth Neo-Soul with a Hip-Hop edge featuring handpicked singers and MCs from Toledo and surrounding areas.
What lessons would he share with the new generation looking to make a musical impact?
“My advice for up-and-coming producers, especially independent musicians, is to stay true to what you like, not what the industry is into,” he said. “I feel it’s more important to be true than to sell out to make a buck. The temptation will be great to make ‘industry music’ because it’ll pay more right now, but if you hold your ground and do a greater body of work over time, you’ll be much more respected and fulfilled.
“Given time, I feel great music will resurface, and the so-called ‘underground’ producer that has been making quality music will be thrust into the limelight again. People will feel like you’re some kind of genius, when in reality, you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing all along!”
As we continue on …