The Creators Project: Hi. What was the hip-hop scene like back when you first came to the states and started spinning records?
Mark Ronson: Hip-hop was in an amazing place at that point. You had the first Wu-Tang album, Biggie, and all that Bad Boy stuff was about to come. You had Blackstreet, Dre on the West Coast. I had been playing guitar for about 5 or 6 years at that point and it was like, “I don’t need this. This is too much fun.” I started playing clubs in New York.
Did you get an early recognition?
Suddenly Puffy and Biggie and Jay-Z were coming down and we’re like, “How the fuck did they find out about our shit?” Puffy took a liking to the way I DJed or something. He liked the cut of my jib? And he took me around the world and I remember DJing a DiAngelo party with Mos Def on the mic and I was like “Holy fuck, like these are the people I DJ because I love their music and here they are at these parties that I’m playing at.”
What was the scene in New York like at that time?
There was this cultural melting pot in New York. You had skater kids, hip-hoppers, drug dealers, athletes, rappers, pretty girls. It just felt like something was happening. And you know, these downtown Supreme kids hanging out in one side of the room and then you have like Biggie and Jay-Z in matching white pimp hats on their birthday. It was exciting and the music was good, most importantly. And I was good, even more importantly.
So everything just took off from there?
I think I got my first production gig because I was out playing and everybody knew the parties I played were good. I would play an interesting mix of good hip-hop, good soul music, and then some rock. Like, some good rock that you wouldn’t maybe hear that much in clubs.
And then you started making your own records?
I got a deal for my first album, Here Comes the Fuzz, which was basically me doing the beats and having all my favorite artists get on these tracks. I was probably a bit young and over-eager, and maybe a bit over-ambitious. I maybe didn’t have the talent at that point to fully deliver on the vision, but I wanted to somehow let the listener feel like they had been through one of my three-hour DJ sets of all these things and genres, but with 45 minutes of original music.
What’s your process for songwriting?
I think a good song, a great song, always comes down to chords and melody. So if you preserve that part of the song, then you’re OK.
Stick to the core.
The thing is, great art is great art. There will always people that are going to want to have great music, so we all need to figure out the way to let people access it in a way that’s not going leave artists and musicians starving on the street.