It’s not always about how fast you can run, sometimes it’s staying the distance that matters.
Twenty years ago, a young Belgian music fan armed with two turntables and a growing passion for hip-hop set off on a path that countless others around the world were also treading. He sought to contribute to a growing culture at a time when most people still thought of it as a fad that would pass.
Ask anyone about the hip-hop hotspots in Europe and Brussels is unlikely to figure in a first round of answers. Yet, it’s from the heart of the sleepy European capital that Lefto built his career as a DJ, radio host and ambassador for both his country and hip-hop, the culture he fell in love with as a kid.
Starting behind the counter at Music Mania, the old continent’s answer to Fat Beats during the 90s gold rush of hip-hop, he landed at Studio Brussels, the leading Flemish alternative station, where he has hosted a weekly show since 1999. Involving himself in both the local and international scene, he soon became one of the go-to DJs on the old continent for touring American artists, sharing stages with everyone from Madlib to Mr. Complex. In 2003, he shared his records with Jay Dee while on tour after the producer’s box got lost in transit; he’s lurking in the interview Jay gave in Eindhoven.
As the 2000s progressed, his interest shifted towards both the roots of hip-hop – the music that the genre was built upon – and its future. He was invited to host his own stage at the yearly Dour Festival, one of Europe’s biggest, where he continues to book line-ups that astutely showcase the different facets of the music from live bands to laptop-wielding bedroom producers. It’s not for nothing that established labels like R&S and DJ institutions like Gilles Peterson rely on his ears to stay up to date.
Today, Lefto stands alongside a handful of other dedicated souls who have carved a name for themselves as selectors and supporters of music first and foremost: people like Ben UFO, J Rocc and Kutmah. This October he celebrates 20 years of DJing, no mean feat considering how much the industry has changed in those two decades. To celebrate the occasion I asked him to share ten records that have shaped his career. Read on for insights into Lefto’s formative years and the various detours he took to get to where he is today.
Soundcrash are bringing Lefto to London’s Shapes on Saturday October 3 to celebrate two decades of DJing, and you can buy tickets here. FACT are offering one reader a chance to win two VIP tickets to the event and (here’s the kicker) one record from Lefto’s immense collection.
To be in with a chance of winning, head to our Facebook page and like this post and Facebook message us your e-mail. Competition ends at 5PM GMT, Wednesday September 30.
‘I Remember When’
This record actually formed my ears to jazz. It was my father’s morning record and every time I listen back to it, it’s like being in a time machine. The power of music!
Smif n Wessun
My father had just bought me my first turntable, it was still in the trunk of the car when I bought this record, the double LP Dah Shinin’ on Nervous Records. There’s nothing like listening to these guys with the smell of a brand new Technics turntable in the dark.
Jeru the Damaja
Probably one of my favourite videos as it really got my attention when it was broadcast on Yo! MTV Raps. For me Jeru was the definition of New York rap, not only him but his extended crew of amazing artists like Gang Starr, Group Home. Most of them came out on the Pay Day label and of course DJ Premier was the man behind the masterpieces at that time.
School mates got me into French rap. I wasn’t really into it in the beginning but it grew on me and I got it after a while. I would take the train to Paris with a serious amount of cash in my pockets to get the records at their source. It was a pretty crazy time in Paris and France with the suburbs on fire. La Haine was out and DJ Cut Killer was the mixtape guy at that time.
‘Come As You Are’
I lived in a difficult neighbourhood of Brussels and my father decided to move me to the countryside for a while, and out there everyone was into rock. I would go to their parties and see them jump all over the place with long sleeve shirts, skinny jeans and Dr. Martens boots. That’s when I realised there was another world out there.
Ahmad Jamal Trio
Stolen Moments was one of the first records I got into when I started to get interested in sampling, in the songs behind the beats. Nas, Pete Rock, O.C., all these artists I would listen to had sampled from this record.
This came in at the record shop I used to work at, in the same box as the ‘Reflection Eternal’ 12” and both were the beginning for me of a whole new era of successful rap coming out of New York City. Rawkus Records was on the rise and brought amazing bedroom emcees to light.
‘Featuring Phat Kat’
We all knew Jay Dee’s work but Welcome 2 Detroit put the large spectrum of his talent in the spotlight. It is a masterpiece and maybe even his best work. Rest In Peace.
Coming out of nowhere, this record probably put Stones Throw on the world map. Amazingly produced by Madlib, it made a lot of people buy an SP–1200, which he used for most of the record with its short 12 seconds of sample time. Not only was the music great, it gave the West Coast a whole new sound. All the MCs on the record would go on to drop amazing albums as well as a little yellow monster that we would later call Quasimoto.
Talking about Stones Throw, Steve [Flying Lotus] used to be an intern there before releasing this debut. He made a lot of music around that time and one label was brave enough to put out this record, which would later wake up a whole community of bedroom producers in Los Angeles and the world.