So about a year or so ago, a friend of mine pointed out the Hipnotech label on Facebook during a chat about Detroit and the links between techno and instrumental hip hop in the city. Unfamiliar with the name I looked it up and found an entire, official looking, YouTube channel with some of the label’s back catalogue (pretty sure there was more back when I first looked at it).
Sure enough here was a string of instrumental hip hop releases dating from the late 90s to the mid 00s, all coming out of Detroit. Discogs gave a little more information, showing that DJ Dez Andres – of Slum Village fame among other things – had contributed a good chunk of productions to the catalogue, including a full instrumental/beats LP in 2003 that veered between headnodding beats and slow mo house. I tried to find out more info but came a little short and filed it for research.
Fast forward to last month and my visit to Detroit. While waiting for our visit to start at the techno museum (see previous post for more on that), I bumped into Mike Banks again and somehow remembered about the label. Turns out Mike knew it well, and that the label – and its predecessor Uptop Entertainment – was in fact part of the Underground Resistance history. Mike took us down to the Submerge shop and played me a bunch of the Hip Hop Beats volumes that Hipnotech first released. As he explained the label was associated with UR, a child of sort (I forget the word Mike used now) and the Hipnotech centre labels on the vinyl featured the UR logo with Mike explaining how the idea was that with every new release the UR logo would fade until the child label was flying on its own.
Uptop Entertainment preceeded Hipnotech in the 90s, running from 94 to 98 it seems. Hipnotech started in 99. Following this discovery and while going over my notes back in Europe I hit up on something else Mike had said, a guy called PGruv who I should look up. Twitter came through (thanks to Houseshoes) and yesterday I spoke with PGruv, aka George Taggart one of the co-founders of Uptop and Hipnotech. According to him, and the info in the UR museum, Uptop is responsible for the first Jay Dee production on vinyl, back when James Yancey went under J.D, for the flipside of a 94 12″ by Da’Enna C, a track called ‘Now’.
My chat with PGruv threw up some interesting stories about both Detroit and the way in which the city really seems to have fostered a hybrid approach to hip hop and dance music, which as he admitted drove PGruv to set up Hipnotech and put out the sort of beats they did. For him it was all about borrowing from the dance music/techno aesthetic in terms of synths and the likes and meshing that with hip hop tempos and grooves. Or as he put it “as long as it’s funky, I don’t care.”
More on them when I’ve written everything up but in the meantime you could do worse than look into their back catalogue for a slice of instrumental hip hop history most people seem to know little about.