Camoflauge Monk: «We started GxFR in the basement…»
We interviewed Camoflauge Monk, Buffalo (NY) native producer, who contributed to the birth of the Griselda Records myth. He told us how he started to work with Westside Gunn in Atlanta (GA), his philosophy when he crafts a beat, about growing up in Buffalo, his next projects and much more…
Peace King, thank you for your time in answering our questions. That’s much appreciated. Some may not know that you are one of the architects of what we could call the sound of the Griselda Records, as you were present since the beginning of the Westside Gunn creature and, already, in 2014 you participated as a producer in the firsts “Hitler Wears Hermes”. Can you tell us how this all started? How you met Westside Gunn, how HWH was born and what are the first things or details that come to your mind about those moments? Did you already know you were, somehow, contributing to change the Hip-Hop landscape?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “Appreciate you allowing me to be on your platform. I moved to Atlanta GA in 2013, after pretty much doing everything I possibly could in Buffalo, NY.
I always knew of West’s name in the streets but once I heard Hitler 1 (“Hitler Wears Hermes 1”) and finally moved to ATL, I took a chance on Twitter, told West: “I got my own studio, just moved down here, we both from Buff, we gotta stick together”. lol.
And this is why I love Westside Gunn because at the end of the day he didn’t have to pull up on me but he did.
We started GXFR in the basement of my townhome in Gwinnett, GA. Grayson to be exact right off the 75, take you bout a hour to get to the city of Atlanta on a good day. We had nothing but time and space”
As a Buffalo Kid, how do you think Buffalo(NY), growing up, forged your sound and your attitude to music and life? What were your main musical influences?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “4 NFL Super Bowl losses, top 10 most dangerous city, uptown, down da way, Watson st, Crenshaw, Scum way, st Anns, school 75.”
We didn’t have much in Buffalo but we had determination and will. I mean we lost 4 Super Bowls and still love that team as if we won. Buffalo is just different, it ain’t Nyc, it’s us and I love it”.
Speaking about growing up in Buffalo, we recently read a tweet from you about Benny The Butcher’s Tana Talk 4 where you alluded to him and his crew having an alligator in their hood back in the days lol …Can you break down that story better for us, lol? Can you give us a glimpse of what Buffalo’s streets were like at the time? Did you already know West, Benny and Con before the music?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “If you were into music, you had to know who Benny and Conway was the shit. They were always at the peak, even early underground days they always set the bar for Buffalo hip hop, whether you liked it or not, their blueprint was flawless & yes on Montana ave lived a Alligator named Tupac”.
“I can’t make this shit up even tho, I was from down da way, my cuzin (Billie Essco) is from uptown, so I always was accepted on either side. I was on where most people couldn’t dare do that but Essco fucked wit Montana heavy. We would always hear stories about the alligator. if i’m not mistaken, it’s in 1 of Benny’s early videos”.
We’ve heard somewhere that when you were a kid you initially started rapping…So when and why did you decide to start producing? What were the first tools you used to produce?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “I always pushed buttons but didn’t really take it serious, until literally when I met West ( Westside Gunn ). I became a producer. I just wanted my man to have the hottest shit possible”.
MTV Music Generator is my fav tool. Created all the production from Hall & Nash with MTV Music Generator.
Where does the name Camoflauge Monk come from? What inspired you?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “My brother Mitch Arizona created the name by me rapping and producing. I figured it would allow me to keep the rapping and producing separate from each other”.
Today, what is your approach and process when you make beats? How do you think it has changed over time?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “Direction & speed, less is more, ancient Chinese secret. I just push buttons”.
When you have to pick a sample, in general what inspires you the most? Do you usually follow your instinct or do you search for samples in particular that can fit your producing idea?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “I don’t just go into a beat without direction…waste of time. I smoke too much and get discouraged too easy, gotta move fast. So I spend days just digging and spending time with my kids. So when I go into creating, I know I’m dealing with a list of sounds I know I want to use. Before I know it, 20-30 beats here and then I repeat the process”.
And What are your top 5 non Hip-Hop records?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “ Paul Gresham – Every Sound We Make / Birthright – Breath Of Life / Birthright – Free Spirits / Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners /Kit Andree – Only Love Is Real”
You have on your “curriculum” an incredible catalog of amazing beats you have produced. Perhaps our favorite is still “Vivian at The Art Basel” (FlyGod Lp)…Do you have any productions you are particularly attached to or that you consider your favorites?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “I love all of them but to choose, “327” is just too amazing“.
You have made beats for many of our favorite MC’s besides Griselda: from Mach Hommy, Rome Streetz, ELCAMINO, God Fahim, Jay NiCe, Sauce Heist and many more. Lately, have you been preparing any projects with any specific rapper?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “A lot of new Monk projects and Vinyl releasing this year, and the Liz 2 with Armani Caesar”.
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What are your plans for 2022?
CAMOFLAUGE MONK: “ ‘bout 6 new Griselda projects, few of my own, touring all year 2022. Shall be beautiful for Hip Hop. it’s the Griselda ERA, got the next 10 years planned out!!!!”