IceRocks has built a strong following producing for top artists throughout the underground hip hop scene. In 2013, he collaborated with Meyhem Lauren to produce “Raw Cashmere” and two years later “More Cashmere”. Other notable projects include “BUNKER BEATS” 1 & 2 (2XLP) and the newly released “Crossing The Rubicon” released on Get Down Records. IceRocks has definitely been putting in the work. Together with DoamPeace they complete the group DXA. We recently caught up with them to talk about underground hip hop, their love for music production and the DXA organization.
Q. Big Noise: Big up Dface and IceRocks thanks for the interview, apologies for the delay, we’ve been dealing with all kinds of stuff over the past few years… as I’m sure you have, NY beat makers DXA… how are you these days brothers?
A. DfaceDXA: All good. Appreciate you asking and hope the same for you. Appreciate you reaching out and taking the time to ask us a few questions.
A. IceRocks: I’m good, no real complaints in the grand scheme of things.
Q. Big Noise: How did you get introduced to hip-hop music production, when did you know you wanted to make beats? Did you rhyme first or make beats first, what started it off?
A. DfaceDXA: I started rapping in high school so that came first in relation to making beats. I had friends and people around me that did every part of hip-hop. I always wanted to DJ, but turntables were a lot of money. I honestly can’t pinpoint the first time I was introduced to production but it was all in high school. We used to loop up beats just to freestyle on before I even had a conscious idea that it was the beginning of understanding production. I would say my desire to make beats simply came from the need to have something to rap on.
Q. Big Noise: Kanye West is known for bringing in studio musicians to collaborate on projects. Who do you like to collaborate with? You’ve mentioned in the past, you like combining live instruments and sampling, do you play any instruments yourself?
A. IceRocks: I never was taught any instruments but I have played on beats of my own although I prefer to bring in musician homies or otherwise if I have an idea that I can’t execute myself.
Q. Big Noise: Can you please tell us how the DXA organization was formed, what were the roots? How many members are in the crew and where do they all hail from? What’s next for DXA?
A. DfaceDXA: When people ask that I start it at the beginning of what DXA is. That is IceRocks, Calamity Chris, DoamPeace and myself. I started hanging out with Chris in high school, Doam is his brother, and Ice is from their neighborhood so we all became friends and built it into the rap crew DXA starting with freestyling, making beats and making songs. We grew that into selling releases, doing shows and building a record label. There are other more loosely connected members including TooDeep, Smalls, and Foka aka the bucket astronaut aka Kuba(RIP), Art-Official and also my brothers from KDP. If you are on releases (in the plural sense) with us you are DXA fam.
Q. Big Noise: It’s good to see independent record labels supporting underground hip-hop. Where is Get Down Records based? Are you signed to Get Down Records?
A. IceRocks: I am not signed to Get On Down, although they did handle the vinyl release of my Crossing The Rubicon album. I believe they are based outta Boston if I’m not mistaken.
Q. Big Noise: Independent record labels are doing their thing these days. When did you start DXA Records, where is the label based? Is everybody in the crew signed to DXA Records?
A. DfaceDXA: DXA Records officially started in 2005 in NYC. DXA 001, the first catalog release was that year and it was the first DXA release. We pressed our first 12″ record ourselves in 2007. It is more of a joint venture between friends than it is something with contracts that we are signed to.
Q. Big Noise: Can you please tell us what DXA stands for? How did DXA start, how many members are in the crew and where do they all hail from? Are there other hip hop music crews you affiliate with?
A. IceRocks: DXA stands for Dirty Xplicit Artists and it started with Dface and his homie as a Graff crew then it morphed into a music crew and then a record label. The 4 core members are DfaceDXA, Calamity, Doampeace and myself. Dface was in the BX and Calamity, Doam and I grew up in the east village/LES. There are def other crews I affiliate with, but aren’t an official part of – but y’all know who you are.
Q. Big Noise: Who is DoamPeace, when did he join the DXA crew? What are you working on now, any exciting news or big names? Who would you like to collaborate with regarding hip-hop producers?
A. IceRocks: Doam is the homie, we’ve known each other for almost 3 decades, He’s been DXA from way back. We have a few tracks in the stash scattered for some different projects. He’s about to release music produced by Dface, stay tuned.
Q. Big Noise: DXA Records has a nice catalog of hip-hop music, I count around 23 releases since 2010. What’s next for the record label, can you tell us what you’re working on for the next release?
A. DfaceDXA: We all are somewhat moving in our own direction but with relation to each other. Ice has a lot of music on the way, some of which I mixed. DoamPeace has at least one project on the way that I produced as well as others. I have been putting out tracks this year for myself with the help of both Ice and Doam. For example, the last song I dropped as I am answering this was produced by Ice and Doam is rapping on the song with me. I also have some instrumental stuff on the way. Nowadays we move more on our own but with the input and help of each other to some degree. It is not like when we started in 05 where we all moved as one unit so it is hard to say what exactly is in store for DXA Records. The simplest answer would be, to accommodate what any of us need at that particular moment.
Q. Big Noise: After your 2013 collab with Meyhem Laure on “Raw Cashmere” and the follow up “More Cashmere“, were those game changers for you, did they lead to other projects? Who would you like to work with next?
A. IceRocks: Well at the time those were just vinyl releases and they def sold out etc but they weren’t released digitally until a few years later. As for other things they def helped and to this day people dm me about those albums and the impact they had on them.
Q. Big Noise: You have collaborations with Armed Dukes, BC & Monowax, Yamin Semali, Blunted Astronaut Records, Eastkoast and Klaus Layer. Who would you like to work with next, anybody new coming up?
A. DfaceDXA: I am pretty organic about it, especially nowadays. I work with friends/fam. The more you have going on in life the more work it is to track people down, if I regularly build with someone it makes more sense to work with them.
Q. Big Noise: How do you connect with the artists you work with, is there a process you go through, do they reach out to you or visa versa? For artists interested in working with you, what’s the best way to connect with you?
A. DfaceDXA: People hit me up on IG mostly. If anyone wanted to hit me up for a beat that would be a good way to start the conversation. But as far as me making music, it is with friends/fam.
A. IceRocks: I am a little selective on working with people, I prefer some sort of connection beforehand although it’s not a dealbreaker. Some artists have reached out to me and others I reached out to but the more you do the easier that becomes. As for artists that wanna inquire about production or other stuff the email in my IG is the way to go, please come correct.
Q. Big Noise: They say boombap and lyricism are back, we say it never left it just returned to the underground. What are your thoughts on the matter and the current state of hip-hop? Do you miss old NY culture, where do you see things headed?
A. DfaceDXA: I don’t dwell in the past. I believe it’s easier to glorify something you already know is good in comparison to doing the work to find something good now, that is new. To say this release from 2018 is classic is more contestable than saying Illmatic is classic if you get what I am saying. In the 90’s people complained about music, so it’s nothing new. There’s a ton of good music now and the mobility artists have today combined with the lower barriers to entry in the market mean there is just more music. I am happy to see the tables have turned and you don’t need a record label to be a monetarily successful artist. In my opinion hip-hop has never taken a day off.
A. IceRocks: I think that there has been a lot of great things happening in hip hop the past few years and I think people are def pushing themselves and each other to move things forward and at the same time take it back to the essence of it but with that being said I also see a lot of people doing the same thing but I guess that’s inevitable.
Q. Big Noise: Sampling records is where it all started, how important is D.I.T.C. to you? When it comes to sampling records to make boom bap beats, is there a particular style or genre of music you like to sample?
A. DfaceDXA: When you are sample based, digging is the best way to find samples. That is, from my point of view. It is the best way to learn about music as well. I don’t stick to one thing over the other, you end up bumping into the same samples people used, the same ideas you had last time you went out digging etc. I mean simply, I am just looking for something that inspires me to sit down and get to work.
Q. Big Noise: Speaking of your passion, we noticed you sample Liberace break-beats, can you share any other unknown drum-break sources you know about? Sampling records is where it all started, how important D.I.T.C. to you?
A. IceRocks: There are tons of sample sources and ways of finding them, I’m not gonna just tell the secrets tho. Might drop one here or there but I had to learn all of it the hard way, rolling around to record stores with a written list and taking trips to find things, going through vinyl and finding breaks learning who played on what other albums etc. It wasn’t just download a folder or rip all the songs or your favorite archiver’s youtube channel.
Q. Big Noise: I see you using the E-mu SP-12, SP-1200 and E-Max 1. The Akai S950, S1000 and Ensoniq EPS 16+. What is your favorite piece and why? What is it about 12 bits that make E-MU samplers sound so good?
A. DfaceDXA: I have owned a lot of samplers over the years. It is hard to say favorite. Sometimes you just want to have something that makes sense with how you work, and how you want to accomplish your vision of what you want to do at that moment. I might break out this machine for xyz scenario, and then not use it for an opposite scenario. I think they are all extensions of the process of how I get to work. I guess what I am saying is my brain is my favorite thing, how I hear a sample and want to get it to point B. A sampler is just a blank canvas to do so. That is why when you turn a sampler on it is empty, no sounds. I believe this is how most producers look at it as well. I get an appreciation of something from it helping me get to where I want to go, not the other way around. What makes an SP sound good is the producers who have used it.