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DJ Mathematics - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

The Universal Language Of Mathematics


Mathematics is the universal language. It is the study of the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols. It can cross barriers of language, color, religion, ethnicity, race, and more. Mathematics (also known as Allah Mathematics) is also one of the most talented and up and coming DJ/producers in the Wu-Tang camp. He first began doing production work for some of the Wu-Tang solo albums.

“Wu Banga 101” from Ghostface Killah’s “Supreme Clientele” was an instant classic. Mathematics helped bring back the Wu sound. On “Iron Flag” by Wu-Tang Clan, he produced the incredible “Rules” that literally rocked the whole album. Many people do not know that Mathematics has been in the hip-hop game for a long time. Since the 80’s, he has been DJ-ing block parties. He hooked up with his cousin Gza and eventually with Rza.

Even though Rza taught him a great deal about production, Mathematics soon began to create his own signature sound. High Times Records and his own label, Quewisha Records, just released his debut album “Love, Hell Or Right (Da Come Up)”.

Some critics hail the LP as the best recent Wu-tang related album in a long time. Others say that he is bringing the Wu-tang sound back. Both statements are true. Not only is he a major force in Wu-Tang but he is in charge of all the music on the TV show “Wanda At Large”. Mathematics is just getting started.

With a humble attitude mixed in with a hunger, Mathematics continues to create amazing music. On a rainy evening in October, I had an in-depth conversation with Mathematics about Wu-Tang Clan, the record industry, family, and much more. As a science, mathematics is the language of numbers. It is a universal language that can cross language barriers, racial barriers, geographical barriers, and more. As a DJ and producer, Mathematics is using the universal language of music to communicate.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Mathematics: What’s up, Todd? Just working, man. I’m working on a new project and trying to promote the one out right now. Today is my daughter’s birthday. It’s her first birthday. This year is one.

MVRemix: Your new album is called ‘Love, Hell, Or Right (Da Come Up)’. Tell us about it?

Mathematics: The meaning behind the title is this. If you see the cover, you see me sitting in front of the projects. That’s my old building. I come from Southside Queens. I was sitting right there and the two kids are looking at me. The whole thing has a science behind it all. No matter what you do, if you want to be a role model or not, people are always looking at you or up to you regardless and it doesn’t matter what you are doing. There are so many people who are caught up. In all reality, where we live at now is hell. There are many people who are caught up in this hell and they love the hell that they go through. Instead of coming out right, they would rather do wrong because it is easier to do wrong than to do right. The album is basically that to sum it up. That is what it is: love, hell or right. You have different aspects on it. You have jewels where people try to drop knowledge here and there. Music is also entertainment so, I kept it at that note too. I introduce a lot of cats from around my way, Southside Queens, into the picture. I have my Wu brothers helping me out too.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Love, Hell, Or Right’?

Mathematics: Nah, not really. To me, it is important to put an album together from beginning to end. The whole thing has to have a certain type of theme or a certain type of feel. I didn’t try to make a joint for radio or anything. I tried to make a great album.

MVRemix: How and why did you get involved with High Times Records?

Mathematics: That was Devon Horowitz. Dev is cool people. He was doing his thing at the same time I was doing my thing. We just came together. High Times Records and Quewisha Records too, which is my label. We did it through Caroline.

MVRemix: Was there marijuana everywhere? Is everyone at the label stoned all the time?

Mathematics: Yeah, I love to smoke! You know what I mean?

MVRemix: What is your favorite way to smoke? Bongs? Blunts? Joints? If blunts, what kind of cigar paper?

Mathematics: I smoke it in an onion leaf. It’s all natural. It burns slower than a Dutch too and it tastes pretty good too. I go to the store and just buy an onion. Just buy an onion. It’s a little trick to rolling it that you have to really learn. It’s not easy. Once you start rolling them, it becomes easy. Now, I roll them like a Dutch Master.

MVRemix: How is High Times Records different from other labels?

Mathematics: Basically, it’s my label too, Quewisha Recordings. So, I have control. That’s the whole key. I own my music and what I’m doing. That’s an important factor. A lot of people ain’t gonna give you your own. They ain’t gonna let you have creative control and do what you want to do. To me, I got to do what I wanted to do. If I had control creating it, I have to own it. I can’t sell myself short. Nobody else is willing to let you be you.

MVRemix: As an producer, who were some of your major influences?

Mathematics: Main influences would be old timers like Issac Hayes, David Porter, Norman Whitfield and cats like that. Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder. Those are my main influences right there. As far as hip-hop goes, of course you have Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, Rza, Erick Sermon. Anybody who makes good music, I am a fan of them.

MVRemix: How did you get the name Mathematics? What does it mean?

Mathematics: Everything is on a mathematical plane of existence. It is the universal language. Math is something that everybody understands. Wherever you go in the world, 1 plus 2 always equals 3. That’s just me. It’s simple and basic but a lot of people make it complicated. Math is a necessity and I am a necessity to this music.

MVRemix: When doing a song, do you give the emcee the beat first and they write from there or do they have the theme and lyrics first and you build the beat or choose a beat according to them?

Mathematics: I make beats all the time. I have my own studio. I bring my beats in. Being in the Wu-Tang, I know certain cats. Everybody doesn’t sound good on a certain beat so I match voices with my beats. With the individuals I deal with, I know that a certain emcee would sound good on the specific track so let me give him that one. I’ll come up with a beat and say to them ‘I want this one to be like this’.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite sampler or drum machine?

Mathematics: Yeah, the ASR-10. That’s my baby. It’s hip-hop. the sound of it is hip-hop. It’s not as clean. I have other equipment of course. I use the Triton. I use the MP. I don’t need to use it for the same reason or the same sound that everybody else uses it for. I basically think the ASR-10 is my baby because you can function with it while you are making a beat. It has many good advantages. It has good envelopes and the chopping is real good.

MVRemix: What advice would you give to someone who just getting started in production?

Mathematics: I would tell them to do them. Be yourself. Don’t listen to nobody else. Do what you feel. However you feel, do it. That’s the best advice I could give.

MVRemix: How would you describe growing up in Queens?

Mathematics: Ah. Man! I grew up in Southside Queens with the grimy cats. Growing up, I couldn’t get a job because of where I was from. I’m telling you the truth. If you put Southside Queens and your address on your application, you were not getting a job. Southside had grimy cats. Cats from Hollis would get jobs on the avenue and stuff. They got jobs easier. People thought that if you came from Southside Queens, you didn’t have a good home. I did have a good home. I couldn’t get a job! We had to do other things. I had an older brother who helped me out. He was into other things and other worlds. He got me my first pair of turntables. It was my alternative route.

MVRemix: You originally hooked up with Gza/Genius? How did you do that?

Mathematics: My older brother, Infinite, knew Gza. I knew Rza already. I didn’t know Gza at the time but I knew his family. They lived right around the corner from me. As a matter of fact, I knew the cat who sang on Gza’s ‘Cold World’. I knew him and he’s an older brother who I used to look up to. Back in the day, Gza was messing with Cold Chillin and he needed a DJ. Infinite plugged me in with him. After that, we meshed and everything was lovely. Then, I found out Rza was shooting a video under the name Prince Rakim for ‘We Love You Rakim’. Gza was like ‘Yo! My cousin is shooting video out in Queens. Go through there.’ So, Infinite and I went there and we were surprised that Rakim was Rza. I knew Rza from the 80’s.

MVRemix: How would you say the production style of Mathematics is different from Rza?

Mathematics: It’s me. I put myself into it. He showed me the ropes and everything. He definitely helped me out. He taught me the ASR-10. I actually saw him make ‘Ice Cream’ on the ACR-10. As soon as I saw that, I thought to myself ‘Yo! I got to learn this!’. I asked him about the machine and he showed me a little about it. He showed me how to operate it just a little bit but then I learned it. You have to learn it on your own. He showed me the guidelines. I lost the book as soon as I got it! I left it on a plane! I had to figure everything out myself.

MVRemix: I was talking to a producer / emcee named J-Zone and I asked him about advice for producers and he said ‘Throw the book away’.

Mathematics: That’s some good advice! The worst you can do is make a beat and erase it. If you made it once, you can do it again. You make something that could save your life, f*ck it up but then, you try again and it may turn out better.

MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Mathematics: Man, I would like to collaborate with anyone who is willing to work with me. I just like to make music. That’s my thing right there. Besides my Wu brothers, some of my favorite emcees are Nas, Mobb Deep. There are a lot of cats out there. Rakim and MC Lyte. I would love to work with Rakim.

MVRemix: Out of all of the Wu-Tang members, which one is the easiest to work with?

Mathematics: That’s a hard question. It’s hard to say. I work real good with Gza, Ghostface, Meth. I couldn’t even tell you or just pick one.

MVRemix: Out of all of the Wu-Tang members, which one takes the longest to do a song or finish his verses?

Mathematics: On the new album, for each song, I knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted on the beat. I just gave them the beats and the direction. They put it together. I make beats. I know how to make songs now. If I can’t do it now, shame on me. I also do the music for the TV show ‘Wanda At Large’ and at the time, I was doing the album. The only thing that gave me problems was that on certain days, I had separate myself from Wanda’s show. For my album, I had to be more serious. Wanda’s show is more comedy. I had to be in a more happy mode. For me, music is extremely emotional and I have to get into a certain mode to make a certain beat.

MVRemix: How did you get hooked up doing the music for ‘Wanda At Large’, the show that features Wanda Sykes?

Mathematics: Wanda Sykes and Lance Crouther, who plays Pootie Tang, are good friends of mine. I met them in passing, performing down in L.A. They are fans of Wu-Tang and we were fans of their comedy. You know why I really love them? I love them because a lot of people promise that they will work with you. They say ‘We’re gonna do this! We’re gonna do that!’ while they they talk out of their *ss. Me, I’ll work with anybody. If you wanna work, then work. Them? They called me and had plans for me. I was with it from the start.

MVRemix: What’s going on with Cappadonna and The Wu-Tang Clan? Are they still cool?

Mathematics: Cap is my man. Anything going on with him, you have to ask him. I don’t know his situation. I hear different things. I did ‘Oh Donna’ on his ‘Pillage’ album.

MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism that you encountered?

Mathematics: I don’t really experience racism really. Most people don’t put racism in front of your face like that. It’s the type of individual I am. I speak when spoken to. I’m knowledgeable. I always look at my circumference and the people around me. There are certain places within myself that I don’t even go to. For what reason? I show respect so I demand respect. Me personally? I don’t deal with it. If it came in my face, I will handle it. If the time comes, I could deal with it if it needs to be dealt with. Things don’t always have to get physical but if it goes there, so be it.

MVRemix: Where were you on September 11th, 2001? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected or will affect hip-hop?

Mathematics: It affected hip-hop big time because things haven’t been the same since then. I just came off of a flight the night before. It was me, Rza, Ghost and a few of us on the flight. I was knocked out in the morning and my sister called me. She was really checking to see if I was home. She told me what happened and I thought she was playing. She told me to turn the TV on and I asked her ‘What channel?’. She told me ‘Any channel!’. I turned on the TV and said ‘Oh sh*t!’. That was real. I was lucky that I didn’t know anybody that was in the building at the time. I definitely feel for those who were lost and who lost people in those buildings. It seems like the people I did know who worked in the buildings, were not in the building that day. I know a few people.

MVRemix: What do you think hip-hop needs these days?

Mathematics: Hip-hop is lacking freedom. It needs the freedom where the artists can do whatever they want to do. Most record labels are looking for the safe way and not the good way. They want to make the same type of records that sell and make the artist sound like someone else. The record does not sell because the artist has become a replica. Then, they don’t understand when they get dropped.

MVRemix: I interviewed The Last Emperor and he told me that Rawkus wanted to hire a personal trainer so that he could have good abs.

Mathematics: They want you to do that. I’m not into pulling my shirt off and sh*t. When I workout, I workout for myself. I don’t criticize anybody who wants to take their shirt off. If they want to do that, it’s on them.

MVRemix: What is your all time favorite collaboration so far? What is the one you are most proud of?

Mathematics: I don’t think I did it yet. It’s hard to say. Not to be vein or anything, but I’m a fan of myself. I am also real hard on myself. I like ‘Rules’ but ‘Wu Banga 101’ from Ghostface Killah’s ‘Supreme Clientele’ is one of my favorites.

MVRemix: Would you agree that Wu-Tang were pioneers in using vocal samples?

Mathematics: Of course! Sometimes the originators or creators are overlooked. The first person who does it rarely is remembered. You always remember who did it last but not the first. For me, I always do me and try to change it up. That’s why I did ‘Juscant Luv’. I wanted to have fun with it.

MVRemix: If you could remake any classic hip-hop song. What song would it be? How would you approach the remake?

Mathematics: There are a few joints I would like to do. I never really thought about it like that. I could show what I can do myself personally but it is hard to improve on someone’s classic.

MVRemix: What LP or CD has been in your turntable or your player recently?

Mathematics: My album. I listen to the old school joints. I’ve been listening to Rza’s ‘Birth Of A Prince’ album. Other than that, I like old school hip-hop. ‘God’s Son’ by Nas is great. That whole album is right. Mobb Deep too. I’m a fan of Queens music.

MVRemix: What does the Wu-Tang Clan think of Ol Dirty Bastard signing to Roc-A-Fella?

Mathematics: Me personally, I can see why. It’s a label. Now he’s on Roc. It’s all good. That’s how I feel.

MVRemix: All of your production work that most people know of has been affiliated with Wu-Tang. Who else have you produced for?

Mathematics: Nobody yet. I’m getting ready to do that. I’m going on this tour with Method Man.

MVRemix: You have been DJ-ing since the 80’s. How has it changed?

Mathematics: It’s changed a lot. Everybody nowadays, they don’t glorify the DJ like they used to. You have a lot of cats who just play records or talk. You couldn’t do that back in the day. I used to do jams in the park. If you came out and weren’t ready, somebody would take your tables or you were gonna get a foot in your *ss. That was just the reality of it. You better be showing some skills. Times definitely changed. Things are different now.

MVRemix: Word association time. I’m going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. If I said ‘Flavor Flav’, you may say ‘Crack’ or ‘Clock’. Okay?

Mathematics: Yeah, crack! (laughs).

MVRemix: Rza.

Mathematics: Ahead of his time.

MVRemix: Eminem.

Mathematics: Nice.

MVRemix: Jay-Z.

Mathematics: Slick.

MVRemix: Nas.

Mathematics: Incredible.

MVRemix: Ol Dirty Bastard.

Mathematics: Crazy.

MVRemix: Phife Dawg.

Mathematics: Good flow.

MVRemix: Common.

Mathematics: Question mark…. But I like Common.

MVRemix: Boot Camp Clik.

Mathematics: Grimey and rugged.

MVRemix: Gil-Scott Heron.

Mathematics: Ill.

MVRemix: Curtis Mayfield.

Mathematics: Incredible.

MVRemix: George Bush.

Mathematics: F*ck him! T.JONES: "What are some major misconceptions that you think people have of you?

Mathematics: Me? I’m not sure because I don’t know what people really think of me. The only misconception I can really think of is that people think that I am from Staten Island.

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show or your set?

Mathematics: When everything is correct. Everything is directed by me. All of the music and the screaming and fun are all directed by me. They are all looking at me.

MVRemix: How have your live shows or set evolved?

Mathematics: The order has changed. Nothing major.

MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake you made in your career?

Mathematics: I haven’t. I’m being honest. I learn and I watch. I watch and I learn.

MVRemix: What would you say is the worst hip-hop fad?

Mathematics: Somebody said it already. The high top fade or those damn poke dots. (laughs). I never liked the poke dots. I had a high top fade though.

MVRemix: What advice would you give a producer or a DJ going into the music industry?

Mathematics: Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. Make sure you concentrate on the business end of things. This is a business. There is more to this than just entertainment. Respect your craft first.

MVRemix: Would you say that the value of the DJ and producer has changed throughout the years?

Mathematics: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Right now, the DJ is the strong point once again. They really control what is being played on the radio, in the club, and stuff like that. The DJ has always been the silent cat. He is silent but his voice is strong and it is heard.

MVRemix: How has being a father affected your career and your creativity?

Mathematics: It makes me work harder. Having children makes you work harder. I no longer do it just for myself. Back in the day, it was just fun. I didn’t think that I could make the type of money doing it. Back then, my name was Scream. People were like ‘Is that the n*gga Scream Cut master? That n*gga nice!’ Now, I have something to work for. I have college funds!

MVRemix: What do you want on your epitaph (your gravestone)?

Mathematics: I don’t plan on dying no time soon.

MVRemix: What is your next album going to be like?

Mathematics: Yeah, I cannot let the cat out of the bag. I have to keep it real with you. I’ll put it like this, if you liked ‘Love, Hell Or Right’, you will love my new one.

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