Q&A: El-P On “Rush Over BKLYN” And His Friend Mr. Dibbs


One of the most respected turntable artists in the independent hip-hop world, Brad Forste’s fierce, punk-like approach to scratching always pushed each set he DJed right up to the line of pandemonium. On more than one occasion I have seen Forste, apparently unsatisfied with the crowd’s energy, cut up something like Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” and then run through the mosh-pit to ensure the audience’s enthusiasm level meet his high standards. Working under the name Mr. Dibbs, Forste toured with indie-rap kings Atmospere and El-P, collaborated with artists such as Peanut Butter Wolf, cLOUDHEAD and Murs and released several influential breakbeat albums.

For the past month Forste has been in the hospital for cirrhosis of the liver. Because he didn’t have any health insurance, he has already racked up more than half a million dollars in medical bills. Dibbs’ close friend Jamie Meline, better known as El-P, recently released a song to help Dibbs with his bills; “Rush Over BKLYN” merges his recent “Drones Over BKLYN” with Rush’s classic-rock staple “Tom Sawyer.” (The mashup was made using Legitmix, a piece of software that allows producers to create mixes using copyrighted material that they have legally acquired.)

When we got him on the phone Meline was reluctant to talk too much about Dibbs’ current health or state of mind, but he did want to spread the word about the collection Forste and his wife are taking to help with the medical expenses. “He’s my friend and he’s in trouble, so hopefully ‘BKLYN’ will bring a little awareness,” he said. “They’re in a situation where they don’t know what to do. They’ve gone public with it and they’ve asked people to help, which sometimes is all anyone can do. Sort of the last avenue sometimes.”

I was really sad to hear about Dibbs’ troubles. He’s such an amazing DJ. I’ve seen him just destroy so many crowds, and whenever I met him he was a really nice dude.

He’s an amazing person, and an important person to hip-hop music, and there’s a lot of people who don’t understand how seminal he is in terms of what he’s done in the DJ scene and his approach. He’s kind of legendary. And a lot of the people who are big DJs are students of Mr. Dibbs. They came up listening and being inspired by Mr. Dibbs. He was one of the first people really combining hard-rock music in DJ sets and just flipping shit and all the breaks records he did. In the turntablism world… he’s a very important person in a lot of people’s worlds, but in that specifically he’s kind of, in my opinion, a national treasure. And more importantly he’s just my friend. It would be really cool if there was an outreach, and some people helped.

How long have you guys been working together?

I brought him in to work directly with me for I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. I’ve known him for years; I met him through the Atmosphere guys. When it came time for me to do my record and I knew I wanted a backbone to my stage show, a really strong personality and a serious, interesting DJ, and Dibbs was my friend. But I had never really stepped to him about that, I had just invited him to New York. I had someone else in mind that I was thinking about DJing for me, but the guy wasn’t available to come and do cuts on my record, so I invited Dibbs. Not that Dibbs was my second choice but I didn’t know what he was doing at the time. Long story short, Dibbs and me had so much fun together, and I appreciated what he brought to the table that he just ended up staying and being my main DJ. Basically I’ve been working with him since 2006, but friends longer than that.

So this Legitimix, you’re the first high-profile guy to use this program, right?

That’s what they say.

So you can use any sample you want, as long as the listener already has it in their library?

Yeah, from what I understand, the way that it was explained to me, was that they had come up with a way to in certain cases… it seemed kind of interesting to me. I don’t know what else to say. They created it so that the file doesn’t work unless you own the song that was sampled, and in order to do that you have to have it already or you have to buy it, and they link you to buy it. Was it perfect? I don’t know. I’m not on the board of trustees. But it seemed cool enough and interesting and simple enough that it sounded like a fun thing to do. They’re definitely catering to a particular fantasy, which is exactly that. Producers like me who haven’t had shit-tons of money flowing from our fingertips basically had to stray away from a particular type of sampling. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Personally, I’m very much in to where that led me as a producer, but as a hip-hop head and as a hip-hop producer, you’re always going to have that fantasy of just rocking over the fantasy record. Mostly it happened to coincide with an opportunity to maybe help out Dibbs, so that’s what sealed the deal for me.

El-P, “Rush Over BKLYN”

Are you a big Rush fan?

I’ve just always loved that song. I grew up in Brooklyn, and I wasn’t quite old enough to be a big Rush fan, but “Tom Sawyer” is and always has been my shit.

Well, I really appreciate you talking with me. I realize this is a sensitive subject and that you want to respect your friend’s privacy. But is there anything else you want to say?

My last words would probably be that I’m appreciative and Mr. Dibbs is appreciative of any help that anyone has given.

You can donate to Mr. Dibbs at Facebook or via PayPal (use the email address Checks or money orders (payable to his wife, Kristin Rose) can be sent to 4830 Poplar St, Cincinnati, OH, 45212.

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