Ollie Teeba: Order Up!

By: Matt Innes

After 20 years creating visionary, jazz- and funk-infused hip hop with groups such as The Herbaliser and Soundsci, English DJ/producer Ollie Teeba released his first solo album, ‘Short Order’ in 2015.

Speaking from his home in the UK, Ollie explains how the record encapsulates what is considered by many to be the golden age of hip hop.

“Obviously it’s a record that’s not for everyone; it’s for guys or girls who are into hip hop, but a particular era of hip hop,” he says. “It very much harks back to that classic ‘90s sound, without being too stuck.

“What it’s really about is me and Jonny Cuba (of Soundsci), we’re just trying to keep the sampling art alive because it’s an endangered species to some extent. With all these lawsuits and things like that people are scared to mess with stuff with sampling, so it’s pushed it underground somewhat … what I’m trying to do with this album is keep the sampling art form in hip hop, that particular kind of sampling.”

Featuring fellow The Herbaliser and Soundsci alum, as well as a string of guest collaborators, ‘Short Order’ and Ollie’s use of sampling reflects his own personal views on the current state of hip hop: good hip hop still exists; it’s just harder to find.

“There’s still a lot of really good hip hop going on right now but it’s all indie, it’s all independent stuff,” Ollie says. “I recently did a mix called ‘Rap Must Die, Long Live Hip Hop; I started off with bits of dialogue I grabbed off YouTube of people grumbling about the state of hip hop today and how there’s no good hip hop. But there is; you’ve just got to dig a little deeper into that crate, or that virtual crate.”

“Today’s music is heavily controlled by corporate entities and they’ve basically got the whole exposure sewn up. So if you go on the internet and just look on the surface, that’s all you’re going to see, is the Justin Biebers and whacky-dos with their bloody skinny jeans who rap, even though you can’t understand a word they’re saying. There is [sic] loads and loads of stuff beneath that surface but you’ve just got to be prepared to dip your head under the water.”

As someone who grew up listening to hip hop pioneers, in a time when they were still considered niche and underground, Ollie thinks listeners have become spoilt for choice when it comes to modern music.

“When I first got into hip hop in the early 80s, it didn’t get played on the radio,” he recalls, “if you wanted to hear it on the radio you had to tune into pirate stations that would broadcast from somewhere in various parts of London.

“I used to listen to Tim Westwood, before he was on Capital FM Radio or BBC Radio he was on a station called LWR (London Wide Radio). In Twickenham you could barely get a signal on this thing. I’ve got tapes of it when there’s really cool hip hop playing, then opera or police radio would cut in,” he laughs, “that was the beauty of it.”

‘Short Order’ by Ollie Teeba out now. Read the review here.

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