The Reset Button: A Conversation With Street Corner Music’s House Shoes
Growing up outside of Detroit in Lathrup Village during the 1980s, Street Corner Music founder House Shoes didn’t have much exposure to the evolving cultural force of rap music during his younger years. Then a fortunate twist of fate took place in late elementary school when Father MC’s nephew moved into his neighborhood. The two quickly became friends and his new connection exposed him to a treasure trove of classic rap albums. “That was my introduction to hip-hop,” he says. “He had all the tapes like Whodini, Fat Boys, Run DMC, and Ice T. Everything.”
Being introduced to these iconic artists turned out to a be a major turning point — it set Shoes on a journey from hip-hop novice to obsessive connoisseur. “I didn’t know about hip-hop music, I was in fifth grade. It was like he pushed the reset button and everything went from there,” Shoes tells me.
It wasn’t long before he was saving up to buy a copy of The Skinny Boys’ Weightless , an album Shoes still holds in high regard for the group’s unique sound and the unheralded beatbox classic “Jockbox”. As his rap collection grew, Shoes developed a growing curiosity for the music that was being sampled on his favorite albums. “Hip hop was my introduction to everything else,” he says.
“I didn’t know about hip-hop music, I was in fifth grade. It was like he pushed the reset button and everything went from there.”
Curiosity got the better of him and he decided to create his own Cliff Notes and expand his musical horizons. “I went through all my records, tapes, and CDs and I literally wrote down every sample that was listed that they cleared on all the records. I was like, ‘I’m gonna start getting this shit,’” he says.
His dedication to studying the origins of his favorite beats was an eye-opening experience that introduced him to a whole new world of music. “That led to me being exposed to the greatest music that’s ever existed in the world in my opinion. International, Brazilian music, prog, and psych rock. The shit I never thought I would have listened to when I was younger,” he says.
The exposure to so many new genres sparked a desire within to try his hand at beatmaking. “I first started making beats on a four-track with a nine-volt battery-operated sampler called a Rock and Play. It had a headphone mini jack that you’d plug into and sample into it. I’d get a drum loop, loop it up, and lay it on the four-track,” he explains.
“I went through all my records, tapes, and CDs and I literally wrote down every sample that was listed that they cleared on all the records. I was like, ‘I’m gonna start getting this shit.’”
Though he spent his formative years in the Midwest, a lot of his early work had a heavy Beatminerz influence. “It was a lot of loops and filters where you let the sample breathe on the chorus. Then when the verse comes in you filter all the highs out and the bassline and lower frequencies come through,” he says while describing the sonic qualities of his first beat tapes.
Shoes eventually purchased an MPC 3000 in 1996 and his beatmaking skills really started to take off. In addition to producing for Danny Brown and Elzhi, some of Shoes’s earliest beats were used by fallen Detroit rap icons and D12 members Bugz and Proof.
Bugz and Shoes’s friendship started back in the early 90s and their song “These Streets” was born out of a low key collaborative session while the two were living together. “I was just playing him some beats and that was the one. That might have been one of the first joints when I got on the MPC and got a little more professional with the sound,” say House Shoes. Sadly, the opportunity for future collaborations was cut short when Bugz was murdered at a picnic on May 21st, 1999.
Not long after Bugz’s untimely passing, Shoes and Proof connected for “Broken” — a chillingly somber, string-sample infused track that was featured on Proof’s forgotten classic Electric Coolaid Acid Testing. Once again, while the song was a promising beginning for the two artists, Proof’s murder in 2006 meant the loss of another close friend and collaborator.
“I first started making beats on a four-track with a nine-volt battery-operated sampler called a Rock and Play.”
Despite losing Bugz, Proof, and his close friend J Dilla to lupus the same year as Proof, Shoes stayed resilient in the face of adversity and continues to DJ and produce. 2012 saw the release of his solo album Let It Go while recent years have brought instrumental efforts like Relics: 95–2000 (The Turkey Tape). He also provides the occasional beat for rappers like Chino XL, El Da Sensei, and Quelle Chris.
Although he still produces the occasional song, the bulk of his attention and energy now goes towards curating and promoting albums for his Street Corner Music label. After receiving strong praise and co-signs from folks like J.Rocc of The Beat Junkies and Madlib, the label has already earned it’s way onto a Bandcamp spotlight feature. With an incredibly vast and diverse discography, it seems like the label is just getting started.
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