Prefuse 73, the hip hop alias of Guillermo Scott Herren, was a key name to emerge in the early 2000s alongside other US producers such as Dabrye, Daedelus and Push Button Objects. Prefuse’s work provided a vital shock to hip hop’s nervous system, forcing people to reconsider what was acceptable in terms of production approaches, aesthetics, sampling and processing.
We featured the work extensively throughout the ABBC mix and in the talks I went back and used quotes from an interview we’d lifted for vocal samples in the mix. I went over that interview and the key quotes from it in this post a while back. A lot of what Herren touches on in the interview fed directly into the original ideas that drove the mix, talks and now the book. He refers to a need to shake hip hop out of its comfort zone, to show that new ideas are possible.
Continuing the book’s research I recently wrote an Essential Guillermo Scott Herren/Prefuse 73 for FACT magazine which touches on the importance of Herren’s work with regards to the book’s core ideas and collates 10 key productions from his career – including non Prefuse work – as well as some extra ones.
I’ve embedded the entire playlist of tracks above and you can read the entire feature here.
The work of American producer and musician Guillermo Scott Herren is extensive to say the least. Over the past 15 years, he’s worked across continents under a variety of aliases, both solo and in collaboration, though he is arguably best know for his work as Prefuse 73. Indeed, he’s released a body of work spanning various experimental corners of hip hop and electronic music across tens of albums, EPs and singles. Mainly issued on the UK-based Warp label, Prefuse’s work over the course of the past decade would prove the most transformative. Appearing at the turn of the century, it came at a time of general malaise within hip hop, and provided a much needed new perspective as to where the music could go, particularly in terms of production aesthetics.
By the late 90s, hip hop production aesthetics generally tended to fall within one of three major schools of thought and practice that had arisen and settled in previous decades. These affected the overall sound and understanding of the music both at an underground and mainstream level. They each had their own sonic characteristics, their own figureheads and pioneers, and were loosely named around American geographical boundaries: East Coast hip hop, centered on New York City; West Coast hip hop, centered on Los Angeles; and Southern hip hop (or Dirty South), centered on a variety of cities in Southern states including Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, Miami and Houston. There were, as always, exceptions to this rule both in the underground and mainstream, but by and large these were the sonic cards hip hop had dealt itself after two decades. And that’s where someone like Herren came in and showed that the deck could be reshuffled to move things forward.
Update: Below is a mix of Prefuse/Scott Herren music I was inspired to put together following my work on the piece. It’s also inspired by Kutmah’s irregular artist specials on his NTS radio show.