It's been 15 years since Christchurch rapper Scribe released his ground-breaking debut The Crusader, which shot to number one and went on to become one of the biggest NZ hip-hop albums of all time. To mark the album's anniversary, with thanks to Grindin.net, we take a look back at the making of one of its biggest tracks - 'Not Many – The Remix!'.
Scribe release his debut album The Crusader on November 2, 2003. The record debuted at number one and remained there for thirty weeks. It was critically acclaimed and went on to sell five times platinum.
Never before had a New Zealand hip hop album enjoyed such success.
Scribe won three Tuis at the New Zealand Music Awards that year: Album of the Year, Best Urban/Hip-hop Album and Best Male Solo Artist. He went on to win the coveted Silver Scroll songwriting award, along with co-writer P-Money for the album's opening track 'Not Many'.
The popularity of the 'Not Many' single led to an 11th-hour decision to include a remix the song on The Crusader. Producer P-Money brought a young David Dallas (then Con-Psy) and the effervescent rapper Savage on board to give the track new life.
It took on a life of its own.
The following excerpt reveals how 'Not Many – The Remix!' came about
Scribe: It was P [Money] who convinced me to remix it with Dave [Dallas] and Savage as the song’s popularity grew like crazy. Getting Dave on was a no-brainer: he was the new kid making waves ... the next MC to become a phenomenon.
We all knew that, although I don’t think he did at the time.
Savage was one of our fave dudes in real life, but also his voice was the missing link to the track, and in our eyes a star in the Dawn Raid camp, although [fellow MC] Mareko was getting all the push then.
It’s funny 'cause I was staying at Callum’s [Callum August, co-founder of Dirty Records, along with P-Money] house just up the road from the gas station where Savage worked. I'd see him and say, “You finished your verse?". Who’d believe the kid would one day sell two million singles in the US?
Savage was special. It didn’t take long to figure that out once you spent time with him. The whole video was P’s idea. He showed me the 'Flavour In Yo Ear' (Remix) clip and said he wanted to do that. He’s a fricken genius.
The most phenomenal fact about this track is, from the conversation P and I had about remixing it, to the completion of the song with Dave and Savage and the video, was seven days... One week! Pretty crazy!
P-Money: We had 'Stand Up' already on the charts, and 'Not Many' was included on the single [as the b-side], which was in stores. My man Omega B [4 Corners' DJ] was working in a big music store and called me to say that everyone was asking about the, "How many dudes roll like this” song because we'd featured it in the video for 'Stand Up'.
'Not Many' was proving to be even more popular than the lead single so me and Callum discussed releasing it as its own single to catch more sales. While we were debating the merits of that I was struck with this idea to remix the song. That way we'd give the fans more value than just repackaging the same track and we could give the song a longer life.
But we basically had 10 days to make the song and shoot a video in order to hit the delivery deadline with our distributor. It was a crazy deadline but we really believed it would work.
I asked Savage to get on it because he'd just stole the show with the 'Stop Drop N Roll' cameo (on Mareko’s 'Here To Stay' video). I also called this new kid that I barely knew named Con-Psy (David Dallas) because I wanted to include a fresh new voice as another talking point for the remix.
The next call was to (in-demand video director) Chris Graham to see if he could pull together a crew and shoot the video within this crazy deadline. I brought him two music videos: Craig Mack – 'Flava In Ya Ear' and Dizzee Rascal 'I Luv You' and said, "Let's make something that looks like a combination of these.". Thankfully he was down to do it and the end result was absolutely legendary.
We booked a day at The Lab studio in Mt Eden and I told the guys to write 16 bars each to the 'Not Many' beat (which was actually a mistake because the verses were supposed to 12 bars each). Savage figured out the timing and wrote 12 but Dave still had 16. I don’t think he liked it when I chopped his verse down to 12, but at the end of the day it all worked out.
When we did the session it was so rushed and under pressure that we still hadn’t worked out who should go first or how the record should start. The mood was kind of low in the room and Savage steps to the mic and does the: “Would you please give it up for SAVAAAGGGEE!!” and we all crack up laughing.
He had this huge grin on his face and it cheered everybody up. Of course, I kept that take and eventually tagged it on the end of the song. It was a perfect finishing touch.
Savage: It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m on the road with DJ Sirvere, DJ Ali & DJ Shan at the time. We'd just finished a show in Queenstown and were heading towards Dunedin and P calls through and says, “Hey buddy wanting to know if you’d be keen to jump on the remix to 'Not Many' for Scribe.”. I was already feeling the song and was like, “Hell yeah!”.
So soon as we got to Dunedin I went to the nearest music store and copped Scribe’s 'Stand Up' single which had 'Not Many' on there with the instrumental.
At first I struggled to find the right flow for it and when I got home that Sunday evening, I actually put the instrumental on repeat and fell asleep with it on my headphones. I woke up the next morning with an idea and wrote it down straight away, which happened to be the verse I recorded days later.
When I did get to the studio it was really quiet so just for a laugh I said to P to record me and that's where I did the “Can you please give it up for Savage” line which cracked the fellas up. I had no idea P kept it.
After laying my verse down, P asks me, “Bro can you try to redo your own version of the hook?”. I was put on the spot but just thought of Scribe’s bridge part where he shouts out each side of Canterbury, so I twisted it my way.
'Cause the word South Auckland didn’t sit right I said it in Samoan: "Pito Saute Aukelagi," which means southside of Auckland, and it stuck. I used to actually write that on my tape cassette demos from back in the day.
At that time I worked at a petrol station just up the road from Callum August and him and P came over to see me the next day and said, "We're filming the video to the remix.".
I was like cool, “When?” and they replied, “Tomorrow,” so I found someone to cover my shift for the following day and it was released not long after that.
I heard the final cut and was just blown away by it. With David Dallas’ killer verse and the way Scribe re-wrote a new verse with so much energy. It just stayed on repeat until it finally got released.
Man, that song created magic and everyone who played a part in it had gone off to be huge players in the game, from the director [Chris Graham] to P to Scribe, D-dot [David Dallas] and even me! We made a classic hip-hop song that made history and we've each gone off to create history in our own lanes and still here 10 years on!
From the call from P to this day I’m just honoured that I played a part in a movement that changed the sound and quality of NZ hip-hop! Look, even the Aussies claim the song LOL which is fine with me I don't mind!
David Dallas: I only met P a few weeks prior through Nick [Nick '41' Maclaren of Frontline]. Keep in mind that, although Scribe and P weren’t the huge mainstream phenomenon that they’d go on to be ... these dudes were already big stars to me.
Just as a regular hip-hop fan, I had P’s debut album, I'd watched their videos on TV, so for them to be hitting me up to jump on something seemed like the craziest thing ever.
I think P told me the remix was gonna be 'Not Many' on a Sunday and that I’d need to go in and record the verse on the Tuesday. For some reason, he was on some secret squirrel shit and also asked me to keep the following Saturday free, but wouldn’t tell me the reason.
I’d find out after we’d done the song that it was for the video shoot – guess he thought I might freak out or not focus on the song if he told me.
I'd recorded maybe four songs in my bedroom prior to this. So it was the first time I stepped foot in an actual studio and had someone else record me. I recall getting there early and putting my verse down before the others arrived.
Got told the 16 bars I'd written would have to get chopped to 12 to fit the song.
I didn’t mind the verse being shorter, but I was thinking it was gonna sound really random being that there wasn’t a proper ending to the verse. P always got everyone to record a tracks of just adlibs, I remember him being like “Just say whatever… vibe out” or something to that effect, so I just awkwardly rambled some shit and didn’t think too much of it.
When I got the finished track back, he placed the adlib of me sayin' “Let’s go” in as the last line of my verse, sounds like a small thing, but to me that was genius. It sounded like I actually performed it like that and he effectively gave the verse a proper ending.
Those little things that P did like that, like taking Sav’s, “Please give it up for Savage!” and putting it as the outro really opened my eyes to what the actual act of producing a song is, as opposed to what I thought it was i.e just making a beat.
I might’ve been the only one who had a car at the time, because I recall after Scribe came through and did his verse we had to hop into my fucked up '94 Civic and go pick up Sav and bring him to the studio after his shift finished at the gas station.
I was dropping Scribe off at his cousin's house and my car died in the middle of G.I on this busy ass street, without saying a word the bro got out the car and pushed us to the nearest BP LOL… I only met him that day and his single had just hit #1 on the charts yet here he was, no shame, pushing this car through the intersection with traffic beepin' at us.
Chris Graham: 'Not Many' was an interesting one. Having raised the bar so high with the immediate success of 'Stand Up', which went to #1 and stayed there to break records, we were left with a challenge.
I recall sitting down with Pete [P Money] who always had strong ideas to offer, and saying, “WTF are we going to do to top 'Stand Up'?” and he simply said, “The opposite,” and he was right.
It got me thinking. 'Stand Up' was black and white and full of people, we could make 'Not Many' in colour and strip back the crowd to just focus on the performance of the three MCs.
'Stand Up' had a busy as environment. 'Not Many' could be minimal and almost empty somehow. I starting thinking about shooting in a studio, which made me think of the classic 'Flava In Ya Ear' remix video by Craig Mack hence all the video homage references.
But while Flava was in black and white, we loved the idea of a black and white wardrobe and styling against a white psyc [curved infinity wall], but still shoot in colour, so basically the skin tones would be the only colour in the video. P and Scribe felt all of this when I pitched it to them, so that was us.
The shoot was a blast, as it was the essence of the three bros having a blast together and also to an extent, battling each other in performance to camera. In retrospect, it's a snapshot of the start of three strong careers.
I recall David aka Con Psy being understandably nervous. I think it was his first video appearance and I gave him the directorial pep talk to step up to the level of the now well-known Scribe and Savage, who was known well through his Deceptikonz crew.
Jumping ahead a bit, I remember editing the video a week later and swinging by the gas station where Savage was still working, to tell him I was sold that he was going to be a star, while he was pumping gas.
We all had a blast that day and it was refreshing for me personally to minimize everything in the video, as I usually try and make big ideas, but this video allowed me to just focus on directing performance and pushing the guys to give it their all.
To read more about Scribe you can check his Audioculture page, which also has heaps of great photos and video links.