Following The DJ: Nick Wiz



I read a tweet today from a hip-hop music producer I follow named J-Zone that said “Cool shit about being a crazy late bloomer with so many things is being hyped about shit everyone around you gave up on already.”
This quote stood out to me because I can relate to it. I too feel the same way about discovering music that I love well after its release date. There are so many records that have come out over the years that I’ve slept on or never even knew existed.

When so much music gets released every week, how can you possibly stay on top of everything anyway? When I fall in love with music that hits me, I can listen to it on repeat for months, sometimes years. I’m still listening to Nas’s “Illmatic” debut.

This brings me to Nick Wiz, an underground hip-hop producer born in NYC and raised in Teaneck, NJ, whose appeal lends itself to fans of raw, uncut, jazz-laced, bass driven, mid-tempo, 90’s hip-hop. If you dig the sounds of DJ Premier or Buckwild, you can definitely get down with Nick Wiz.


Nick Wiz first made an impact on the 90’s hip-hop scene with his beat contributions to Ecko Unlimited’s “Underground Airplay” cassette series, which are now highly collectible. He is also considered to be an integral part of the early Lyricist Lounge movement. His most notable work can be found on the Cella Dwellas 1996 debut album “Realms n’ Reality” on Loud Records.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I first heard a Nick Wiz beat on the Rawkus Records mixtape Soundbombing 1 back in 1998, on one of my personal favorites, Shabaam Sahdeeq’s “Arabian Nights”. His unique choice in samples, low-end filters, hard hitting SP-1200 drums and dense bass lines can also be heard on records by Mad Skillz, Chubb Rock, Chino XL and Rakim.


celladwellas soundbombing

Recently I discovered two full-length albums of nothing but Nick Wiz instrumentals from that same era and I couldn’t be more hyped.

The first one was actually released in 1997 on a compilation series called “Hydra Beats Vol. 12” while the other one was just released a couple of weeks ago, simply called “Unreleased 90’s Hip Hop Instrumentals.”

Through my constant journey as a DJ, searching for that 90’s sound I’ve come to love, it’s always a challenge finding a certain flavor that I can listen to on repeat for lengths of time. It might be dated but it takes me to a place that satisfies my ears and soul.

Some highlight tracks from the two albums include “Mind Crusher”, “Starlite”, “Four Elements”, “Hermano”, “Hey Man”, “Xylophone” and “Ride Out”. Check out these dope tracks yourself and help support underground hip-hop by purchasing Nick Wiz’s music on Bandcamp.


BANDCAMP Nick Wiz Unreleased 90’s Hip Hop Instrumentals
YOUTUBE Mind Crusher

WORDS by LAYTON W. // CREATIVE by IQUAN W. (another Ike & Laytonic collaboration 2013+)

Following the DJ: Madlib & Freddie Gibbs


[one_third]There’s a great story told by the legendary Nile Rodgers, American musician & producer, known for producing hits for artists like Duran Duran, Diana Ross, David Bowie and Madonna, as well as being a founding member of disco/funk band Chic – where he talks about handing a copy of Chic’s very first single to a DJ who was spinning at Studio 54 in NYC. The DJ liked it so much after one listen that he immediately played it for the people on the dance floor and that’s essentially how Chic started their success. Watch
whoshotya-nyc-5PHOTO PROPS: WHO SHOT YA?

[/one_third] [one_third]This post is dedicated to the DJ, the music curator to the masses, the original source. Back in the day, if you wanted your song to get heard, you had to give a copy to your local DJ and hope they’d play it, or you could pay a lot of money to the radio station and guarantee rotation (this still goes on today.) When looking for new music I tend to stick to record labels, online blogs and other trusted sources that I like. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s album, Piñata, I found through LA-based record label Stones Throw and online news blog, a website dedicated to promoting three of my favorite artists: J Dilla, Madlib and MF PROPS: RAPPCATS.COM[/one_third] [one_third_last] Madlib has described himself as a DJ first, producer second and MC last. If you’re wondering how this record relates to following a DJ, Madlib is the DJ and he is the reason why I got hip to this music in the first place. Read more about Madlib here
electronicbeats-madlib-1 PHOTO PROPS: ELECTRONIC BEATS MAG



The Freddie Gibbs and Madlib collab started in late 2011 with the release of their debut EP Thuggin’. along with Madlib’s own record label, Madlib Invazion via Stones Throw, teamed up for the release of all three EP’s as well as the group’s full-length LP, Piñata, which was released earlier this year – an artist release schedule spanning the course of three years.

As a record collector, following a record release like this is one of the most rewarding experiences for a music fan. Back in 2011 when I first purchased the Thuggin’ EP, I knew it was going to be an immediate classic in the eyes of music aficionados and hip-hop heads.

I kept my eyes and ears open for more info and news about what would come next from the group. As each year passed and a new EP was released, clocking in at just over 15 minutes front to back, I experienced a sense of anticipation and appreciation for the music.

November 18, 2011 – Los Angeles based DJ & producer, Madlib, along with Gary, Indiana based rapper, Freddie Gibbs, announce their first collaborative EP entitled Thuggin’, live at the Madlib Medicine Show in San Francisco. All five hundred vinyl copies of the EP were sold out that evening.


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November 21, 2011 – Thuggin’
This album sparked a sense of awe and appreciation from the hip-hop community. There is something really profound about Freddie Gibbs’s dark delivery over Madlib’s excellent use of soul sampling and worldly genres. Like a lot of Madlib’s music from recent years, the choice of drums and percussion used to create back beat is something cinematic and crate digger worthy. The content presented here is reminiscent of early west coast gangster rap.

September 24, 2013 – Deeper
Deeper was the last of the EP’s and would eventually become the lead single for the group’s full-length album. Lyrically there had not been a song reflecting the realities of incarceration and outside drama since Nas’s 1994 release, “One Love.”


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June 26, 2012 – Shame
Seven months after the release of Thuggin’ came the Shame EP. This only proved the duo’s chemistry to be stronger and left myself and critics wanting more. Jon Hadusek of Consequence of Sound graded the EP with a “C-“ stating: “To call Shame an EP is misleading, it’s only two tracks – ‘Shame’ and ‘Terrorist’ – with instrumental and acapella versions, as well as some tacked on ‘bonus beats.’ These songs are strong, however, and make the prospect of a proper debut album from Gibbs that much more exciting. If he wants a legacy, he needs to release a full-length.”

March 18, 2014 – Piñata LP
(originally titled Cocaine Piñata)

The long awaited debut full-length album, Piñata, that music fans and hip-hop heads had been eagerly anticipating for over three years was finally released. All the hype and expectation had been full-filled. After immediate release, large music blogs like Pitchfork and Spin were already nominating it to be Rap Album of the Year. I had already made my prediction back in December of 2013 when I tweeted this and got a response from Now Again Records founder and former Stones Throw label manager, Eothen “Egon” Alapatt. Check it!


May 28, 2014 – Piñata Beats
(Freddie Gibbs Instrumentals)

The latest release, Piñata Beats, is the full-length instrumental version of the album. Essential to most DJ’s is the instrumental version of the song. This version is crucial to your mix. Whether you’re a DJ making live remixes or a radio disc jockey playing an instrumental version of a hit song in the background, the instrumentals are key elements to any serious DJ’s style.
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Together the duo’s chemistry is undeniable. Lyrically Freddie Gibbs could be compared to greats like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. based on their ability to tell stories from an array of perspectives. From cutting up dope, hustling, and expressing the realities of street life to expressing pain, heartbreak and close friend fall-outs, the stories embedded in each track and how well they flow with the beats makes Piñata an instant classic. This album shone a light on what is missing in hip-hop music today.

In My Shoes ft. Layton Weedeman



[one_half]thepurchase[/one_half] [one_half_last]Lately, I’ve been more focused on hip-hop than ever before, because it’s such a huge part of my musicality and creative output. In just a few months, I taught myself to beat match all of my records and learned how to blend each song into one another, making smooth transitions during my mixes. I booked my first gig at Pianos NYC in the L.E.S. back in February of this year, and needed to make sure my wears were crisp. I bought the Nike Air Trainer 1 sneakers at a shoe store on Broadway after only looking for about a minute, and immediately knew they were the right shoe for me.

Everywhere I went I wore these sneakers. It didn’t matter what I was doing or where I was going. These were the only shoes I wanted to wear.  Even in wet and cold weather, I wore those sneakers like they were the only pair of shoes I had. I also got a lot of compliments about these sneakers from my peers and people I met.[/one_half_last]






[one_third]About a year and a half ago, in March of 2012, I  just returned home to New York from an extensive south-by-south-west (SXSW) tour through the east coast of the United States with my band and music comrades, Courtesy Tier. The minute we got back, we immediately started working on new music.


My band mate and longtime friend had been touring and writing as Dan Abraham for a few years at this point and it inspired me to start seriously exploring my own creativity as an artist. I always admired his voice and songwriting capabilities ever since we met back in 2001. Now hearing him create a sound that was truly his own, experimenting with guitar sounds, creating vocal effects, sampling, using drum machines, ambience, and synthesizers; it all really moved me.
[/one_third] [two_third_last]Omer-Leibowitz-inmyshoes[/two_third_last]



[one_half]baby-layton-inmyshoes[/one_half] [one_half_last] I’ve always been a hip-hop head since I was a kid, back when my older cousin gave me my first cassette tapes of LL Cool J, Run DMC, and The Beastie Boys. When I was eight years old, my Mom let me get double lines buzzed in the side of my head and I would watch MC Hammer on MTV and teach myself how to dance the “The Running Man”, which I’d consistently bust out at every wedding and school dance for years to come. And throughout the years, I would constantly be changing my foot attire for different looks and styles, including sneakers and dress shoes depending on my mood or what I was into at the time. I’ve also had two types of hair cuts throughout my life as well, depending on what type of music I was into, whether it be rock, hip-hop, funk, jazz, R&B, long hair, short hair, beard or clean shaven, I’ve always lived in the music that captivated me.
It was after returning home from tour and listening to Dan Abraham that I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do…DJ. So, I ordered a beginners turntable and mixer from Amazon and started collecting vinyl. My vision as a DJ was to focus on hip-hop production from the 1990’s and highlight my favorite joints from my childhood, most particularly the jazzy tones of A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, J Dilla, and The Roots.[/one_half_last]




Both feet control two metal pedals on a drumset, a kick drum pedal and a hi-hat pedal, and both pedals have a greasy chain attached to them that your shoes will rub against while you play. I play a lot. So much that the front of the sneakers started to get black and greasy. Once I started seeing these dope sneakers get dirty, it made me realize I need to own a second pair! Either way, I didn’t care, and just kept wearing them and doing my thing.




[one_half]The night at the Pianos gig, I linked up with Artoholik founder, Iquan Worthington, who had been hanging out at the bar with some friends. After playing about 3 or 4 tracks of stuff he liked, he stopped what he was doing and came up to the DJ booth to talk to me. It was an instant bond based on music and selections.layton-iquan-inmyshoes[/one_half] [one_half_last]painos-inmyshoes[/one_half_last]





From there, Iquan helped design my logo and launch my Laytonic brand, all while wearing the Air Trainer 1’s. I booked more events, played more shows, wrote more music, developed my sound as a producer, started a new project called Man Made West, and got recruited to play drums and record with singer/songwriter Jessi Robertson.




[one_half]Fast forward to October 2013 for CMJ Music Marathon in NY, I’m back on stage with Courtesy Tier rocking out and performing in my sneakers, getting even more dirty and grease smudged. But it didn’t stop me from doing my thing. Soon after, I traveled to Newark, NJ to Center Stage Cuts on Broad Street to DJ the Artoholiks Munny Social.
It was around this time, when holes started developing in the bottom of the soles and it prevented me from keeping dry socks while walking in rainy days. Now I need a new shoe and I’m contemplating purchasing the same ones or starting 2014 with a fresh look? Until then…[/one_half] [one_half_last]munnysocial[/one_half_last]