Team Teamwork Merges The Worlds Of Hip-Hop And Gaming
There’s nothing like a solid remix to revive a favorite track, or to give you a fresh pass at something you overlooked. I love a good mashup for exactly that reason—same thing, double dip. Jay-Z and Dolly Parton? Check. Flaming Lips and Pharcyde? All day. A good mashup gets two tracks talking to each other, creating something beyond the sum of its parts. Twice the remix, twice the fun.
Boston’s Team Teamwork, born Timothy Jacques, is a master of this craft, plus a DJ, plus a totally nice guy. He broke out with full-game concept albums The Ocarina of Rhyme and Vinyl Fantasy 7, doing justice to two of gaming’s most beloved soundtracks, and setting in wax what we’ve all known all along: MF Doom sounds perfectly natural over video game music.
His latest release, Super Nintendo Sega Genesis, covers a ton of ground, bringing new light to a generation of living room background music, and uncovering strange pairings that pretty much force you to nod, and if you’re a gamer, grin. But how did he get started? What’s next? I don’t know either, so I asked him! Answers to those questions and more are below.
The Creators Project: How did you get started doing remixes?
Team Teamwork: It all started in 2007. I was walking to the 66 bus from my job at WGBH. I had just downloaded Justice’s † album and was thinking, “This would sound dope with raps on top of it.” So, when I got home that night, I downloaded demos of Ableton, Acid, Fruity Loops—pretty much every DAW I could get my hands on.
After a ton of trial and error, I realized Ableton Live was the one for me. Shortly after, I learned about BPM, rhythm, all that necessary stuff, and I realized Justice tracks are way too fast for almost every rap song. So that mash-up project died.
Then I just played around beatmapping acapellas and making quick mashups with Doom and Dilla instrumentals. The first one I put together fully and exported to an MP3 to share with my friends was Shine by Lil Wayne on top of Doom’s “Yellow Dock” beat.
After realizing that cramming together two fully made things was boring, I decided to go in a more Hood Internet-style route, where I took songs I liked, cut them up, and made simple beats that way. The first one I made that I actually liked was Lil Wayne and Birdman’s “Stuntin Like My Daddy,” over some loops from “A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene” by Okkervil River.
Your most recent release, Super Nintendo Sega Genesis, covers a lot of ground. How did you choose/source the video game music?
I found a site that had soundtracks for tons of SNES and Genesis games, binge-downloaded, and dug through all of them for good samples. I didn’t have a SNES or Genesis when I was a kid, so I wasn’t very familiar with most of the music. As a result, I got a more interesting and less nostalgia-clouded set of samples.
How many tracks didn’t make the cut? Mind sharing a couple with us?
Most of the tracks that didn’t make the cut ended up becoming something else. Some remixes I tried to make work but couldn’t were “Don’t Forget Em” by Consequence, “My Section” by Hot Boyz, and “Don’t Sleep on Me” by Rich Kidd. If you’d like, I can render a sample of the Hot Boyz track, but it’s definitely unfinished and I didn’t scrap it for nothing…
I know Aesop Rock once gave you a shoutout in a Reddit AMA. Any other artists ever reach out to you about your mixes?
Nope. That one was amazing, though. I teared up a little. The next best thing is once Aziz Ansari tweeted about me back when Ocarina came out. I saved a screenshot of it because I was so stoked.
Mind walking us through your process?
First I’ll pick a song that I want to remix, find the vocal track, beatmap it, and play around with a few different samples to see which one fits best. Then I’ll set up some drums. Once that’s set, I’ll arrange the melody and the bass line. After that I usually go back through and add more interesting cuts and drops to the melody, develop the drums more, screw around with effects and then it’s hours and hours of mixing to make sure the levels are right.
Have you thought about doing another full-length soundtrack? Any games you’ve always wanted to work with?
I’m done with making full-on video game related concept albums for now. I announced that on my site shortly after Super Nintendo Sega Genesis and I actually received some hateful emails. But I’m still doing some tracks that sample game music. I have a new beat that samples the title screen theme from Skyrim, and I’m thinking of doing something with the planet-scanning music from Mass Effect 2.
What’s your fanbase like? Gamers? Hip-hop heads? Hip-hop gamer heads?
It seems like mostly gamers—a lot of people who are like, “I wasn’t really into rap before I heard this.”
Where do you see your place in the world of music? Do you identify more as a live DJ or as a masher, and how do you see the relationship between the two?
I see myself as a producer and DJ. I make beats, like a producer does. I guess I could also be considered a masher, since I primarily make remixes. But I’m starting to lean more toward the world of making beats that are just beats, as opposed to making beats and showcasing them via remixes of other songs. But I DJ for real, too.
Any stories you’d like to share about pains in the ass with copyright? Problems with artists/labels?
I got a C&D from M.O.P.‘s royalties company about a week after I released Vinyl Fantasy 7. As a result of that, I’ve had a pretty hard time finding a reliable place to keep all of my music online—until about a month ago when I moved it all onto Soundcloud, set up with a pay what you want system through VibeDeck.
Speaking of which, how did you get into gaming? Got a top five? Played anything good recently?
My neighbor, when I was 4, had an NES. I got obsessed with that really fast, got my own a few years later, and have been pretty into video games since.
Top 5 [not necessarily in order]: Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3, Ocarina of Time, Borderlands, and Super Mario 3.
I’m playing Fez and Shadows of the Damned at the moment. Both are fantastic.
You’re trapped on a desert island. In addition to water, you’re allowed to bring unlimited amounts of: one author’s books, one beverage, and one kind of sandwich. What are they?
Asimov, due to the insane amount of books he’s put out.
The Bizzy Bone from WAN’s on Mission Hill (chicken salad, bacon, and honey mustard on a bed of lettuce and tomato on a French baguette).
Who are you listening to right now? Anyone we should look out for?
I’ve been really into The-Drum’s two recent releases, Heavy Liquid and their split with Sich-Mang. Otherwise, a lot of stuff that people probably know: Death Grips, Kid Dynamite, Dilla, Hot Snakes, Okkervil River, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie.
Finally, I asked you a question off the record to which you replied “A Bear, and I’d name him Chumbo.” Name one pet cooler than Chumbo, a bear you can ride around on.
A riding rhino, with a dope speaker system rigged up on its butt.