Tall Black Guy’s East Side Sonic Glory (Interview)
“Most artists aren’t really saying anything that is thought-provoking and therefore doesn’t have a lot of substance to it”
Terrel Wallace’s soul-inflected expeditions as Tall Black Guy has made him of one of the most intriguing producers of deep house and hip-hop to come forth within the past 3 years. His nimbly constructed marriage between machines and soul music has reconfigured artists like James Brown and Rainy Milo into perfect riding music. Gilles Peterson took notice of his style and profiled him on his Worldwide show and Wallace gained Robert Glasper’s approval after winning his remix contest. Last year his solo album, 8 Miles To Moenart was released on First Word Records and gave his Motor City cultural logic a long-playing forum. Prior to that album his various remixes, the Tempo Dreams compilation and the Hollyweird EP only revealed parts of his conceptual roots. 8 Miles got inside his memories of living on the east side of Detroit and what breathing the city’s post-industrial air was like for him and many other residents. Musically, he seemed to have absorbed the city’s dense dance music history along with post Slum Village hip-hop. The end result is one of last year’s most engaging pieces of arcane R&B. TBG most recently released a buoyant remix of Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo” but he still has lots to say about the journey to 8 Miles To Moenart.
You’ve lived in different places but what is it about that time on Moenart that inspired this album?
Moenart Street is very close to me because I grew up in that neighborhood in the mid eighties. Back at that time, Moenart was a nicer place to stay. The neighborhood was kept in a good condition and the neighbors were very loving to each other. But when I moved back in early 2011, I could see over the years how much the neighborhood had taken a big decline. So me witnessing this environment inspired me to create this project.
How would you describe your sound? Would you constrict it to one genre?
My sound has changed over the years. At the beginning, I was straight trying to make hip-hop beats and kind of putting myself into the “Hip Hop” box. But as I developed a ear for different types of music, I wanted to create music that touches everybody no matter what genre it is.
What do you use in your studio to make music?
Sony Acid 7.0, earphones, and a midi controller
Who are the musicians that have inspired you?
DJ Premier by far is the reason I even wanted to even make music. Some other musicians who have inspired me are: Madlib, Timberland, Neptunes, Lonnie Liston Smith, George Duke, and Herbie Hancock.
How did you end up producing “Love Me” for Teri Tobin?
Her manager reached to my team, and I had heard some work from her, that I thought was pretty cool and we made it happen.
What inspired you to use comedy skits from Martin in your music?
I used to watch Martin all the time when I was I was growing up. I have a very goofy sense of humour, and it was only right for me to somehow fit some of the funny scenes into my music.
What do you think brought about the conditions that contributed to “There’s No More Soul?”
I was inspired by what is currently going on in the music industry. Most artists aren’t really saying anything that is thought provoking and therefore doesn’t have a lot of substance to it. It’s like a lot of artists don’t have a conscience about what they are making, it’s more about how much money, sex, drugs, or whatever else they can sell to people who will buy it.
What’s the story behind “The Dark Streets?”
Even though the title is somewhat negative, by listening to the ending skit, the listener is hopefully able to see that there are people within the city that haven’t given up on Detroit.
How has moving abroad to Norwich contributed to your work?
I think me moving to the UK has helped me tremendously. Due to the fact that I have a better quality of life here.
Who do you want to work with next?
My dream collaboration would be Jill Scott.
Tall Black Guy will appear at the Southport Weekender The Big 50 in May.
Keep up with Tall Black Guy on Twitter @ Sir Tall Black Guy