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Exile on Melrose: MPC maestro comes to Fat Beats

May 8, 2009 |  2:56 pm


Conduct a cursory YouTube search of  “Exile” + “MPC," and you’ll see the Echo Park-based producer/rapper wielding his Akai MPC sampler as a weapon -- delivering clavicle-snapping drum smashes in a way that transforms the machine from a producer’s best friend into a potent live instrument.

Coupled with his surprisingly adroit rhyme skills, Exile’s stage shows and DJ sets rank among the most entertaining in recent rap memory -- particularly when paired with his partner-in-crime, Warner Bros.-signed Blu.

Best known for producing 2006’s acclaimed collaboration with Blu, “Below the Heavens,” Exile emerged as a viable creative force in his own right on this year’s “Radio,” a found-art opus that found him re-configuring taped snippets of everything from old commercials to evangelical sermons to Alan Watts. Sewing them into the fabric of an instrumental hip-hop album in the vein of J Dilla or Madlib, “Radio,” firmly establishes the Garden Grove-raised producer as one of the West Coast’s leading lights.

With DJ Day in tow, Exile -- the beatmaker born Aleksandr Manfredi -- will perform in-store for "Radio" on Saturday night at Fat Beats. He will be doing his 2 MPC / 2 Turntable Set. There will be 10 cases of Colt 45. Good times will be had by all. He chatted with Pop & Hiss to preview the show.

How did you conceive the idea to tape random radio clips and turn them into an album?

I knew I didn’t want it to be just another hip-hop instrumental record. Shortly thereafter, I came up with the idea of sampling everything off the radio. When I landed upon that idea, things took off -- I realized I could use everything from static to random noises to everything AM and FM.

I began using static for my hi-hats, and found weird radio frequencies on AM radio like [imitating radio] er-wee. I realized that I could use volume switches as a cross-fader on my boombox, and that the vocal samples off the radio could be manipulated to communicate something that I believed to be true. I tried to either sample things I agreed with or re-form things I didn’t, in a way that represented humanity. The radio remains a powerful voice, from political shows to spirituality sermons to musicians being interviewed.

The good and the bad of consumerism, all of it’s there on the radio.

So was it a matter of just sitting by the radio and waiting around for hours at a time?

Yup, I’d just turn it on and press record when there was something that I felt I needed. Sometimes, I’d send it straight to the MPC, sometimes there’d be lots of just waiting and listening, then you’d finally hear something good and create something out of it.

Did the radio get you into hip-hop?

My first tape was actually LL Cool J’s “Radio.” My first impression of rap came at roller skating rinks and hearing the old electro-rap: Arabian Prince, Debbie Deb, Planet Rock. People out in their Adidas jumpsuits break dancing, then “Breakin’” came out, and I was hooked.

Was there a pretty viable hip-hop scene out in

Garden Grove at the time?

It was small, but we’d terrorize the neighborhood doing graffiti. I got more into it when I moved out here after high school, and continued to partake in my love of the graffiti arts. But we had our own trains and yards out there. I began selling my tapes out here when I was really young. Mostly shops along

Melrose. I’d make mix tapes with new cuts on the A-side and B-sides with Aloe Blacc rapping over my beats. So people would buy it for the other stuff, and get to hear us.

What made you decide to use the MPC as a live instrument? Were you musically trained?

My father taught music at a shop in

Garden Grove [In the 1960s, Exile’s father, Albert Trent Manfredi, released several currently sought-after 45s.]. Before that, I was living in my grandfather’s garage. He was a musician too and taught me the accordion.

I was always a natural drummer, and I just wanted to make my performances more fun. I wanted to turn the MPC into an instrument. My father wasn’t very supportive of the hip-hop thing. He wasn’t around in my life that much, but I knew he wasn’t feeling Ice-T. He didn’t like that I’d scratch up records. But I know that if he was still alive, he’d be supportive of what I was doing. It’s basically a percussive instrument, with notes in there that you can utilize. It’s about figuring out those notes and playing the drums simultaneously.

-- Jeff Weiss

Exile on Saturday at Fat Beats,

7600 Melrose Ave. Suite J, 2nd Floor, 7 p.m.


Photo credit: Marseille France