MoSS : Looking Through the Cracks of the Underground

Remember the days when you purchased a twelve inch single from a new artist, and you knew what to expect from the rest of their album? Remember when albums had a consistency to them, so you could drop the needle and just let the music play? Jason “MoSS” Connoy remembers those days and albums, and […]

Remember the days when you purchased a twelve inch single from a new artist, and you knew what to expect from the rest of their album? Remember when albums had a consistency to them, so you could drop the needle and just let the music play? Jason “MoSS” Connoy remembers those days and albums, and he misses them.As a producer who’s been chopping breaks since the time Pete Rock first stepped on the scene, the Toronto native has been around for a minute, although he’s now just getting the recognition he deserves.After placing key tracks on albums with New York legends like AZ and Ghostface, MoSS is now known as the go-to guy for his unique heat. He is currently working on projects from Joell Ortiz, Termanology, Red Café, and Skyzoo to name a few. But in true modest, Canadian fashion, MoSS will be the first to tell you he’s just another guy who loves music, and it just happens to make beats. Your first big break as a producer came back when you were working with an unknown Obie Trice before he signed to Shady Records.MoSS: At that time I was living in Ohio, and I was going to school out there and ended up living with Obie’s cousin. I met Obie and we went into the lab and started doing songs. At that point as far as I know he wasn’t really doing songs, or in the studio. He’d just been freestyling and stuff. So we started doing songs, and ended up doing “The Well Know A######” and “Gimmie My Dat Back” and “Mr. Trice” and all of that. So we pressed up a 12 inch. Then we did a second 12’ through Certified Records. Then literally one day we were down in Detroit in the studio when Shady called. So we put together a demo, sent it in, and the rest is kind of history Crazy.MoSS: Yeah, we’d done a lot of songs, basically recorded an entire album before he signed, and I still have the album sitting here. I wish I could put it out. I’m trying to see what I can do with Is there a lot of red tape around that?MoSS: I don’t know, when an artist has a major label contract, getting an independent album out isn’t that easy. I’m not even saying that I really pushed it that hard. But it was still a good look for me, because when he was signed to Shady I was still recording with him, and I ended up getting a bonus track on the Cheers album. And that’s how I ended up meeting my manager. So everything ended up working out in the long So you’ve credited your manager Dan Green as the one who started to get your beats into the hands of the more recent artists you’ve worked with. He took notice from the Obie joints?MoSS: Yeah. At the time I first met Dan, he was just out in New York trying to get his foot in the door. So he ended up coming up to Toronto for a weekend, and he contacted me through his cousin who was a friend of mine. He listened to some beats and said he was gonna try to push them for me. At the time I didn’t really know what was gonna happen to be honest with you. I just said “See what you can do.” Two weeks later he called me and said he had gotten me on with Black Moon (“Looking Down The Barrel”). So that was a positive thing, and it was a really good song. From there he just kept on placing beats and we became good friends. And that’s my manager now, and he will So what was your reaction like to hearing those tracks, cause I guess you didn’t get to jump into the studio with the artists. You just heard the songs when they were done recording them right?MoSS: Yeah, I mean it was pretty exciting. I’ve been making beats for a lot of years. And I mean I’ve been buying records for maybe sixteen, seventeen years. When I was working with Obie it was interesting because it was with somebody who was unheard of, and I saw a lot of potential in him. So it was exciting to see the progression from him not having any songs, to him having some songs, to having a 12 inch, to a major label deal. But once you start placing beats with other artists, it’s a sense of self-reassurance. So it kind of reminded me that I could make this happen. But it just so happened that a lot of the artists I started working with were artists I had appreciated. So I was lucky to be working with artist that I actually supported myself. That was kind of crazy. Doing a song with AZ, Black Moon. It must have still been a while back before ’98 that you knew producing was something you wanted to pursue professionally.MoSS: Yeah, I’m a bit older, so if you want to put it in a timeframe I started making beats back when Mecca and the Soul Brother (Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth) came out. That’s when I started making beats, but I was buying Hip-Hop years before that. But I didn’t really put two and two together, realizing that if started buying breaks I could make beats, you know? (Laughs) But I met some people who had the equipment and they showed me how it was Now you’ve got a compilation coming out, The Discography, which is a lot of your past work. Was that you just wanting to let everybody know that the stuff you’ve done was yours?MoSS: Yeah, most of the time when I meet people in the industry, or I work with artists, or people in general realize I produce music, the most common remark or comment is “I didn’t realize you did those.” I figure if that’s the feedback I’m getting I should try to fix that. So I decided to put together this compilation of my music and get it out there. I’m gonna have some big name DJ mix it up. It’s not gonna have everything I’ve done, but a good portion. And then I’m gonna come out with a production album in the near future, working with some of the guys I worked with, and some I haven’t It’s too bad nowadays, people don’t even check the credits anymore, they just buy music off the internet.MoSS: Exactly. I work with a range of artists, from major to independent. But so many people just download stuff now, people just don’t know. It’s part of the industry, so I’m not gonna say it’s wrong. And it’s not just me, it’s a lot of people. I think all producers get hit like that, unless they have a trademark sound on their music. Do you consider yourself as having a trademark sound?MoSS: I don’t know if I really have a trademark sound, apart from the fact that I use a lot of drum breaks. Maybe someone will listen to my music and hear a consistency. I just try to make stuff that I feel, I don’t try to mold my music more with a certain artist. And I don’t say that in a conceited way. I’m more just hearing something on a certain record and thinking how I can flip it. At this point, do artists come to you for beats, or are you seeking them out on a regular basis?MoSS: Between my manager and myself, we do a lot of hitting people up. I don’t think I’m at that caliber of a producer where people come to me. What I have managed to do, because of who I’ve worked with, is get people to actually listen to my beat tape (Laughs). There are  a few artists I’ve got a pretty good working relationship with. It doesn’t mean I’m placing all my beats, but I’m getting meetings with labels now, whereas five years ago that wasn’t gonna It must have helped when “Kilo” [From Ghostface’s Fishscale] got mentioned in People and Spin magazines, which aren’t even known for being Hip-Hop savvy.MoSS: That was a real good look, I’m not gonna lie. I think getting on a Ghostface record is a good look for anybody. Cause a lot of people check a Ghostface album, he’s a real consistent artist. And having the song that a lot of people seem to appreciate was even better. But when I saw it in People magazine it kind of bugged me You produced almost the entirety of Big Shug’s new album Street Champ, with the exception of a few Preemo tracks. Would producing a full album for an artist be something you’d want to do again in future?MoSS: Yeah definitely. I’m always looking to work with people and get a complete sound to an album. I think when a few producers each do a big portion of the album, a lot of the records become more consistent. I buy a lot of records that I feel are consistent. When you can get a consistent sound from beginning to end, either someone’s really gonna like it, or their not gonna like it. They’re not gonna be like “Yeah, it’s ok.” I don’t really like albums that [are] just ok. I’d rather have a bad album, so someone can remember the whole thing. If you just have a bunch of random records, people are gonna think it’s cool, but no one’s really gonna grab onto it and say “This is something special.” And I hope with the Shug album, they hear some consistency. It’s like producers now, if they’re involved with an album want the single, they want the publishing, and they don’t want the album cut.MoSS: You’re absolutely right. I think that could be part of it. And a lot of artists coming up are younger too. I’m in my 30’s now. So they’re used to the era of the CD. They’re not used to getting the single and seeing what’s on the B-Side. On a lot of the Hip-Hop I grew up on, it’s not even the singles that I remember from the album.And it’s not even the artists fault a lot of times. If I was an A&R, I would want a well-rounded album because that’s what sells. But as a person who buys music, I want a consistent record. So you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. But to me, more consistency is more important. And maybe that’s why I haven’t really been banking yet (Laughs). As long as the rest of the record sounds like the single, I’m all for it.The thing to remember is as a producer, I don’t really have the luxury of dictating what’s on a record. So when I sell a beat, I just sell a beat. Whether they decide to make a big commercial song out of it, or whether they decide to make an album cut, it’s not really in my hands. On that note, have you ever sold a beat and heard the finished product and thought, “Wow, that’s not what I had in mind.”MoSS: I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve ever done. What I think happens more often is I’ll send an artist say 20 beats, and I’ll have an idea in my head if he was gonna take something, what he might take. And often it’s not the beat I expected. But they ended up killing it.