Home Interviews Martez Claybren on Ghettotek, Detroit and His New Album “Raised In The...

Martez Claybren on Ghettotek, Detroit and His New Album “Raised In The Jungle”

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Can you tell me about Ghettotek and its history?

“Ghettotek is a sub-genre of techno and house. In laments tens, Ghettotek is Booty Music. Just like techno and house Ghettotek originated in the streets of Detroit and Chicago. It can most easily be identified by its fast paced speeds, raunchy/lo-fi vocal samples, and the dances that accompany the music when it’s played.

Many originators of Ghettotek (DJ Assault and Derrick May from Detroit. DJ Clent, Traxman, and Rashad from Chicago) were indeed from the ghetto, and without proper musical training, many were lead into making there own rhythms and melodies using beat machines and samples, just like hip-hop. Unlike hip-hop it took this art form decades to reach the rest of the world because most music platforms have been unaware of its existence until the past 5-7 years.

Like hip-hop, Ghettotek is a full genre of music and culture in its own right.

Many Ghettotek producers were originally dancers and would make tracks because the community would ask them to make something for them to dance to (this was the case for many like DJ Rashad and DJ Clent originally both of the Ghettoteknitianz crew in Chicago). This created a competitive element to the culture like b-boy’ing to hip-hop, and in Ghettotek many dance forms sprung about depending on the area the music was coming from. There is The Jitt Dance Form in Detroit, Footworking in Chicago, Louisiana has its own Ghettotek dance style based off Bounce music (another Ghettotek sub genre) as does Tennessee. On the east coast there is Baltimore Club Music, Jersey Club Music, and Philly Club Music, which each have their own sound and dance that correlate to each.

It wasn’t until the mid 90s when labels like Chicago’s Dancemania and Detroit’s Juke Traxx (started by DJ Godfather) started distributing these Ghettotek and Ghettohouse vinyls across the ocean to Europe and elsewhere, that the rest of the world found out about the sound.

Around the same time the radio DJ’s in all the cities I mentioned (I can personally attest to Detroit as this is how I first heard Ghettotek as a kid) would make dance mixes from the Ghettotek songs the DJ’s were making at that time, and they would air usually late night and on the weekends, like the mixes Wax Taxx N Dre, and DJ Kim James play on the holidays and late night on WJLB (Detroit’s Most Listened to Urban Platform). There was always a demand for this music to be played because it would fuel the clubs and was the soundtrack the culture danced to. Many of the Ghettotek songs have been in rotation for over a decade have become a part of the fabric of culture itself, like DJ Assault’s “Ass n Titties”, DJ Godfather’s “Bounce”, and DJ Clent’s “Back Up Off Me” the latter being such an anthem current Detroit music stars Big Sean and DeJ Loaf sampled it, for a platinum selling single with the same name (Back up off me.)

The Rise of Social Media and Youtube enabled the music and dance form to further spread across the world as intimate looks into the streets of Detroit and Chicago’s unknown music styles, were given for the first time. And I suppose it was in Social Media that I was able to discover for myself what Ghettotek was, and be able to put a name on it. I really didn’t know what the proper name of the music I’d been listening to since a kid until I was about 19 or 20.”

How did you get into Ghettotek?

“Well as a kid I moved around a lot in foster homes, and I found solace in the radio. By the time I moved back to Detroit from Missouri as a kid, that’s pretty much all I did was consume MTV and the radio. Carson Daly quickly became more important to watch at 4pm than Pokemon. So it was inevitable that growing up in Detroit I would hear Ghettotek mixes being played on the radio. I lived with my great grandma and would just sit in the front room jamming, really dancing the night away. The sounds and rhythms made me move crazy fast and this was before I knew there were technical moves to the shit I was doing. In Detroit we’ve got this dance style called hip rolling and I remember I’d try and move my hips to the speed and rhythm of ‘Ass n Titties’ and shit like that until my stomach hurt.

In High School I was exposed to DEMF, our electronic music festival in Detroit (the oldest in the world actually), and I seen a set by DJ Godfather the summer of my sophomore year, right before I turned 16, and I fell in love. I had never been possessed by energy and rhythm like that. The next year he played again and I went with 2 of my homegirls (shout out Taylor Warren and Angelina Czarnacki) and that cemented the deal! With a name to put to the sound I had been so infatuated with for years, I got on Youtube and finally had a base to listen to the shit I loved all the time. But it wasn’t really until I got to college and started listening to dubstep, taking drugs and digging deeper and researching that I found out about Ghettotek for myself.

I was at my first Dubstep show for the Zeds Dead Tour with a couple of my friends from Michigan State I’d trip with, and I decided to take some 2c-I before the show. My buddy was on probation so we smoked a j of this K2, like right before the first act (XI) went on and I think that may still be one of my top 3 music experiences ever. This Dude XI was playing all the craziest shit that sounded like dubstep mixed with Ghettotek and I was blown away. In Detroit they seemed to only play the same 30 or so Ghettotek tracks so I was kinda amazed to hear anything new—let alone the music I loved mixed with the new dub shit that seemed to be capturing most of my generation. I hit the dude up after the show on Facebook and asked him what I should be listening to, and he put me hip to MachineDrum and DJ RASHAD, the rest is kinda history.

My first real ghettotek show after that was about a year later in October 2013 when I was at The Works and saw kode9 and DJ Spinn and Local Hero Sinistarr for the first time. It was easily the best show I had ever been to yet and I was left a little disappointed cuz there weren’t that many people there. From that moment I knew there was something I could do to make a change. Shout out to Datswotsup and Calico for constantly being the main guys to take risk on the sickest shit no one has heard of yet. It’s an investment most aren’t willing to make.

I knew I had to forge a path all my own because if the music I loved most didn’t even have an audience, I had to do something about it. That’s why I started throwing shows! So within that month around Thanksgiving 2013 I hit up DJ Earl who was my favorite member of Teklife at that time, and I asked him to come out and do a show, he helped make it a community effort by inviting DJ Clent and DJ Taye out, and I invited the brightest and best hip-hop and Ghettotek musicians I personally knew to perform what I hoped to be a spark in our artist scene. On January 21, 2014 I threw JukeyTown JukeDown with myself, Sheefy McFly, Sinistarr, DJ Taye and Earl, of Teklife, Kash Tha Kushman who I came up with and is the youngest member of Bruiser Brigade. Clyde Moop, and a few more artist. it was a pretty amazing night. That sparked my relationship with Teklife which got me to The RBMA Bass Camp when Earl invited me and I made “What We Gonna Do?” at United Sound Systems. The rest is kinda history…”

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What do you think of the hip hop scene in Detroit?

I love Hip-Hop. I love Detroit. But I don’t know how much I love the scene in Detroit right now. It feels fake. Maybe because we don’t have a basis or a base, if that makes sense. Everything is still mad divided, which is why I started throwing shows in the first place, was to bring us all together. I feel like there’s too many new cats falling into the Soundcloud rapper category which is cool, but it’s like what happens after Soundcloud. There are some I have major love for including my crew Weirdoz Gang, Lokye, Mic Phelps, Kash Tha Kushman, King Visionary, Nolan The Ninja, Curtis Roach, JP from the HP, Nightmericans, Motorkam, and Nick Speed. I love all types of hip-hop, I just wish we focused on banding together more. We’d be a lot more like aslant, we’ve got insane amounts of talent. I feel everyone’s just trying to fit the mold because not too many are getting looks. ALSO I FUCKING HATE swag rap. If a rapper has money here it’s probably cuz he’s from the fuckin’ burbs and his parents cash him out. Thats why most of the hood rappers here get fucked up in the head because there aren’t enough outlets here to get the music out so even those with promise grow tired of working hard as fuck with no one to really turn to for help taking shit to the next level. Some of the newer cats I fuck with are Cogency Cult and OLF, shout out Dre the Gremlin and NVDeeM. At the end of the day I just want everyone to be themselves and not fake. There’s plenty of room for everyone to eat.”

What are you trying to bring to the Detroit scene that isn’t already there?

“We need Fuckin Unity!!! And more media outlets. Shout out to spots like EMCEE Network blazing the trail in being the one of the only outlets for media from Detroit and nationally to meet hand in hand. We don’t have that many outlets. I’m tryna bring more soul to Detroit. I’m working on a project of sorts through a few different mediums that will push our soul artist and urban live musicians in the next year that I’m very excited about. I want to bring more black bass music to Detroit, and not just the shit we already know, there are too many afro/hispanic/arabic artists on the national level that have yet to visit Detroit. I want to bring them here.

We also need more community organizations who are willing to professionally lead up-and-coming artists into a good direction. Assemble Sound is cool but then it’s frustrating because it seems like they are the only viable outlet for a musician to be broadcast to the city’s level on a platform since there aren’t any community-based record labels and they have such a good hand in advertising and publishing. So when any spot is exclusive, or frankly when I’ve reached out to what I deem is the only source I can see, and get ignored or turned away, it stings a little, but then again I’m reminded that I’m from Detroit where I shouldn’t expect to be given shit, and moreso not take handouts from people who don’t really give a fuck anyway. I say all that to say I wish there were more spots like Assemble Sound, (community based creative spaces, and advertising/publishing firms here in Detroit that weren’t so exclusive and catered to different types of artists.)

And finally, this all comes as I get more comfortable with my sexuality but I want to build a bridge between the LGBT, fashion and music scenes. Music and fashion play such a part in such an interesting subculture in Detroit that I’ve barely started to research myself. When the time comes, I want to help make it easier for guys like my self who like guys and girls to live their life a little more easier, and even celebrate ourselves, if that’s fine. It’s cool to be black now, and it’s celebrated by our generation. I feel we should all celebrate ourselves, and what we’re made of.”

What’s your connection with Bruiser Brigade?

“I met my buddy Kash Tha Kushman when he was 16 years old, I was 19, and he had just been scouted by Danny Brown’s Bruiser Brigade to join as an official participating music artist in their collective. He’s the youngest member of Bruiser Brigade. I helped him A&R his first Demo tape with them, and made a few tracks with him singing on hooks and expanding each other’s sound. Our Collective (777) was quickly adopted as the “lil bruisers” as most of the original members including Danny Brown were reaching or over 30 (including Danny Brown) when I first met them. So it made since that we were accepted as an extension of the family. As I think about it I feel like I was blessed into the scene even with making music, my first track I recorded in Detroit was on Drummer B’s (Big Proof’s protege) mic, which before it was his belonged to Big Proof, who helped Champion Eminem.

In my first year of curating shows with Teklife and Local Detroit Ghettotek Musicians, most of these first shows were paired with my Bruiser Brigade Brethren including Dopehead, Kash Tha Kushman, Nick Speed, Zelooperz, Skywlkr, and pretty much everyone but Danny cuz I haven’t been able to afford his ticket yet, aha. Though I have met him a few times, I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet personally as he’s always traveling the world, but I know he sees whats going on. Everything happens for a reason, In Due Time.

Basically in Dummy Terms I was like a promoter and Curator for Bruiser Brigade through extension of booking shows, promoting our brand through curations and music, and I helped bring Teklife and Bruiser Brigade together which has resulted in some of the most insane music most people haven’t even heard yet.”

When did your journey as a musician start and how?

“Growing up in a shitty position moving from foster home to foster home, music was the main thing that made me happy, and couldn’t get taken away. I think my journey started as a kid when my g’ma got me a little tape juke box. It was kind of a dun deal by the time N’sync came around. I got my first CD (6 actually, Christmas of 2nd grade) and Jive Records probably is the soul reason I wanted to be a musician as a kid (N’sync, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears) and by the time I got to high school I quickly chose the choir route over sports. It seems it was all inevitable.

My journey really started in high school I’d make tracks on Garage Band, but it wasn’t until I was living in Lansing for a year that I made a tape with my buddy John Shaughnessy and Tommy Kladis, we called ourself “HighSociety” and after completing this tape I knew I could actually pursue music if I stopped being a scared little bitch. By the way, when I graduated from my catholic high school everything else around me had convinced me that I wasn’t good enough. I had to re-convince myself I was. A little over a year later I met Kash Tha Kushman and everything else kind of happened there after.”

Beyond being a musician, you’re a community organizer, can you tell us more about what you do when you’re not recording or performing?

“I’ll always be a fan first so when I’m not performing or recording a lot of the time I’m consuming more art. I’m a part of an artist collective called Weirdoz Gang, and we help strengthen the artists in our collective by serving as each others A&R’s which means we help book each other shows. We’re a community based organization so a lot of my and our time is spent promoting other artists and creating visual art. I spend wayyyy too much time smoking weed, but I think that’s a habit I picked up in college. I’m about to go back to school this upcoming spring. My goal is to attain enough experience and knowledge to help start or add to an immersive music program that reach out to at risk youth in the hood. We didn’t have any proper music training coming from DPS and that really showed when I got to high school and college. I also spend a lot of time with my boyfriend (who is my first, so I’ve been pretty enamored the past year).

Beyond that I actually make money as a stage hand. AKA I’m a glorified roadie. I help build events from conferences to shit like Bonaroo and Electric Forest. I took up this line of work to network and familiarize myself with both sides of the stage.

I’m also in the process of creating content for my own urban music/lifestyle talk show, similar to “Everyday Struggle” but from a local standpoint/point of view.

I’m working towards building My Empire. Tez TV is coming at ya!!!!!”

Can you tell us about the album you just released, “Raised In The Jungle”?

“Shit, well basically this is the recorded lifestyle I lived from about 20 until about now. I’ve been phasing out of that part of my life for the past 6 months, and I guess this is just a recorded history of my adolescence into adulthood. It’s all original tracks made with some really amazing producers from around the country and world (Belgium, mainly Detroit and Ann Arbor) and it’s one of a kind. Nobody’s trying to fuse electronic and soul music like I am that I’ve heard, and I come from the age of TRL so it’s still not like anything I can put my finger on, besides like……….it’s hard. Ghettotek, Soul, HipHop. I’m singing on it. This is meant to be healing music.

I’ve got some of the coldest artists playing including Sheefy McFly, DJ CLent, Weirdoz Gang, DJ Assault, and so many more. Not too many places are going to give you this line-up with this atmosphere and we’re going till 5. All I know is we’re about to dance the night away, and I’m gonna sing my ass off!!!!! Come through!!!!”

Was this album influenced by anyone?

“This album is damn near a stream of influences. I wasn’t sure how to fuse how I wanted to sing and make tracks until I seen how James Blake was doing it. Total inspiration on the song structure of a lot of this record (Everything is Everything, What We Gonna Do?, Off That Loud).

Teklife was probably my main sonic inspiration for this record, along with DJ Assault and DJ Godfather. I wanted to make something that would fit into a world class Ghettotek mix.

At the same time all I really give a fuck about is shit that makes you feel good and touches your soul so it’s a no brainer I channelled D’angelo, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott for this record. All three of their first records were very inspiration (Brown Sugar, Baduizm, Words and Sounds Vol 1.)

And finally Justin Timberlake and Frank Ocean were probably my most prevalent inspirations I channeled my song writing and style from.

More than anything I was really inspired personally by Lokye, DJ Earl, DJ Taye, and Kash Tha Kushman. I strive for the excellence and feeling I get from their music. Oh yeah. And Chris Kendall!!!!!! Look Out for Him.”

What are the main inspirations for the lyrics you write?

“My music for me is a healing process, often allowing me to talk about shit that I wouldn’t necessarily talk about in person on a day to day (raised in the Jungle, ecstasy, research chemicals). A lot of the time the shit I come up with is channeled from within and above, maybe even below. I aim to make people feel when I write though. No wasted Lyrics or Lines. No filler. I often try to go for complicated ass shit I haven’t tried before, it ain’t fun if we’re not pushing ourselves.”

What have you learned from your journey as an artist?

“Stick to the fuckin’ plan. Make a fuckin’ plan. Don’t do too much. You can do as much as you put your mind to. COMMUNICATION IS EVERYTHING. Don’t burn bridges. Learn how to not be petty. Other people have lives too. No one cares. Stay close to the ones who do care. People care when you give them a reason. DON’T FUCKIN’ FAKE. People like me the most when I’m myself. I’m still learning how to fully be myself.

I feel like I’m just learning how to function properly as my own human being so I’m excited to learn more as a staple person who also happens to be an artist.”

Do you have any other dreams and goals in life that go beyond music?

“I know it’s super vain but I want to be a High Fashion Model. I want to be a fashion model in general. I want to teach someday. And I really want to travel the world. Beyond that I can only focus on the world around me right now otherwise I feel I’d get lost in the efforts of what I’m doing this for in the first place!”

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