Meg: Ms Easy Groophz

About DJ Groophz

Rainer Eschen (DJ Groophz)
A bit about my development from the DJ beginnings in the 70s in the discos of my parents, the experienced development of Hip Hop in Germany, my actual love the Funk up to the modern production approaches and the development of the Easy Groophz approach.

January 11, 2003

MCquadrat - My Hip Hop Story

From the former

My Childhood

My life has been full of music since I was six years old. It was my birthday when I got my first record player and some vinyl records. Because my parents owned several discos during my childhood, I was surrounded by funk, soul and disco music. It was fascinating to be part of the 70s generation, even though I was younger than ten. There were some nights when I was allowed to be part of the scene. It was a privilege that shaped my life. What's really crazy is that I like the music of the 60s and 70s more than the music of the 80s when I was a teenager.

It's no wonder I became a DJ when I was ten. Because we opened at 5pm on Sunday for younger people (you could be younger than 16 between 5pm and 7pm) and my dad didn't want to pay a real DJ, I got my chance. On the one hand it was fascinating because I could be a real DJ even though I was so young, on the other hand the vinyl selection was always second choice. It was a bit unpleasant: about 50 singles, but only ten usable for dancing. And that every Sunday. That's why it got boring some of the time.

Although I learned enough to work as a DJ, I never did that job in my parents' discos. I got a chance in my uncle's disco after my parents' divorce, a few years later. But at that time everything changed. The mood of the 70s was evaporating. I felt the disco movement died in the 80s and being a DJ became boring for me. If hip hop hadn't come to Europe in the early '80s, I'm sure I would have given up music completely.

My Hip Hop Years

I started hip hop at the end of 1983. At that time, East Coast rap was coming out of the Bronx and Harlem via Europe. It was an exciting time. I was seventeen and doing what everyone who started hip hop did: I started break dancing, did some skits and finally decided I preferred rapping and DJing. So I came back to my DJ experience and tried to become a mixer, scratcher and also a rapper.

It was really not easy. We didn't have the opportunity to go to New York and learn from our idols. So we tried to gather every snippet of information we could get. Every movie that showed break dancing, every magazine that wrote about hip hop, every single, with a hint of scratching, was bought. But there was little information at the end of 1983. And 1984 wasn't much better. So we tried things we had seen, heard about, or read about. I remember one school party, we were about ten guys in a circle, when we spent a good 10 hours at a time researching the steps for the moonwalk. I think we did it then, but it was a tough one. We didn't have videos for slow motion analysis of each step. We could only use what we could remember in our heads. And we had nothing else. By the way, don't even think about the fact that the moonwalk was invented by Michael Jackson. Years before he used it in his live shows, you could see it in the hip-hop movie Wild Style (1983).

After some time of dancing, I found that I was too heavy for all the spins. But switching to Electric Boogie didn't help much either. Because my school friend Thomas was a good drawer, whom I could never surpass, I didn't even start big with sketches or spraying. So there was only DJing and rapping left to become famous in the hip-hop community. Well, there wasn't really a hip-hop community in our little town at the time. Today, every town has one. But back then, we were outsiders without a community. Sometimes it wasn't easy for us.

For me, it wasn't really a problem. I always chose the path away from the mainstream. That is still true today. Back then I was too young to be a DJ, today I'm too old to be in the hip-hop underground. Well, this hip-hop portal is the result :-). I hope you still like it somehow. I think it just gives the young hip-hop enthusiasts a chance to get an idea of how it started in Germany and what all the old-skool stuff actually stands for.

Well, back to my story. In the beginning Thomas and I tried to become the scratch kings. Because we loved Grandmaster Flash's Short Cuts, we tried to do the same. We called ourselves "Quick Cutting Corporation" (QCC), Thomas chose "Master Jam" as a pseudonym because he thought he was MC from the beginning, whereas I thought I was the great DJ, so I chose "DJ Grandmixer Scratch", inspired by Grandmixer D. ST., one of the best scratchers at that time. Well, we tried a lot, but it didn't come out what we wanted. The absence of real innovation and the poor production equipment produced only mediocre results. We did some mixes, but the rapping was really bad. Thomas tried to imitate Kurtis Blow, Whodini and Grandmaster Flash at the same time, but it wasn't my world. My English wasn't good enough and I had no feel for English lyrics. I didn't know yet that I preferred German-language rapping, because nobody was rapping in German at the time. Everybody tried to copy the US style and nobody thought about trying something different (there was no place for a German style or independence).

After I graduated from high school, I lived in a shared apartment. Robert became a friend. He was a fun fellow, cooking, singing and rhyming. It was amazing. Whenever we were out shopping, we would rhyme something in German. And we did this with a certain rhythm. As my girlfriend's birthday approached, Robert got the idea to rap something for her in German. That was in 1987, and we used the instrumental version of The Message by Grandmaster Flash. Well, the recording was terrible because we just didn't have enough lyrics for the good 7 minutes. The improvisation made it fun, but it wasn't professional in any way. But the idea was born. So I continued the birthday raps for some time.

When I did the first really good birthday rap for Robert's girlfriend, I developed a special style. During the days with Thomas, I loved to mix different effects into each other and create (sometimes very strange) sounds. I think everyone has some experience with Vincent Price's laugh at the end of Michael Jackson's Thriller :-). Combined with an instrumental version of a current chart hit I produced my own beats. Well, it wasn't as easy back then as it is today. I had neither studio-equippment nor a big collection of instrumental versions. And recording from one analog source to another didn't leave much room for maneuver.

I didn't care so much about the beats back then (unlike today). They inspired me while writing rhymes, but the goal was to write a funny lyric that would entertain the crowd sitting around the birthday boy. Well, every birthday rap was a success, although the production quality was not special. But the crowd liked it and were already eagerly anticipating the next work when another birthday was coming up. So I made over ten raps in about two years.

I made my last rap in my first semester when I started studying. I was fascinated by computer technology (after my experiences with two Commodore 64), so I gave up producing. My parents didn't have much money anymore (after the divorce), so I couldn't afford as much hip hop as I had in the past. It was the time of west coast gangster rap. I had to skip that phase completely. When I think about it today, I think I was actually waiting for German-language rap since 1984. That's why I didn't really want to buy US raps. In 1992, the time had finally come, and the Fantastischen Vier took off.

I have observed the development of the German-language hip-hop scene over the years. I was never part of that scene, but I loved the different flows. I worked on my IT skills instead and got the diploma. While working as a business consultant, I started developing my own shareware (yes that's right, the Webetiser). After some time I thought about marketing measures and developed the idea of a free offer for placing advertisements. Thinking about what I could offer, what I know about and what could be interesting for the internet, I came back to Hip Hop. In the meantime I had attended my first jam. That was really cool. What a pity we didn't have something like that in the 80s. I took some photos during the jam and came up with a new idea. I loved all the graffiti I had seen in the past and was annoyed by its short life or destruction. The goal became to preserve this type of art. So in 1998 I started looking for graffiti and photographing it systematically. In this year I also opened a first homepage. To make it interesting for the kids, I decided to take a closer look at Hip Hop history. A topic I had always missed on the internet. For some time people were very interested in the homepage. However, I didn't have much time to continue the project.

Meanwhile the success of my shareware project grew and I developed a portal framework on the side. So I soon thought about rebuilding the Hip Hop site as a portal. To offer more interesting content, I started again with my birthday raps in 2000. One thing was different now though. Because of my experience with multimedia PCs and their computing power, there was the possibility to combine personal computing with music production. Since I didn't own any studio equipment, it was easy for me to do everything on the computer as long as you could get the necessary software. At first I experimented with the Hip Hop eJay. But it wasn't very flexible. The samples were boring. When I bought my Soundblaster Life Platinum (I really thought it was a professional sound card for music production :-)), I got the Personal Edition of Steinberg's Cubasis with it. My first real sequencer. After some time, I produced my first rap, based on my own beats (using some hip hop eJay samples). The timing was bad, but I got an idea of how things worked. After that I bought Cubase and switched from Window 98 to Windows 2000, Cubase and the Soundblaster card didn't work well together. So I bought a professional audio card, lots of sample CDs, VST instruments, a midi keyboard, etc. For the future, other raps are planned besides the birthday raps. But really interesting are the possibilities of creating, mixing and scratching beats. I think nowadays a good rap is determined by good beats. Without a good beat, the best lyrics are no good. That's why I came back as a DJ :-).

You might wonder what MCquadrat means. When I was thinking about a new pseudonym (you remember "DJ Grandmixer Scratch" from the 80s), I thought of the hip hop ambassador who leads the doubting world into the light. That's why I chose "Hip Hop Minister", or "Hip Hop Minizta". But after some time, I didn't think it was cool anymore. So I was looking for something new with MC in it. Then I remembered Einstein and his famous formula E=MC2. There was a MC in it. So I decided to adopt MC2. I searched the internet for people already using this pseudonym. Well, it looks like some US rappers are using it. But it's not quite definite, because the search engines can't search for MC2, but only for MC2 that is actually found in connection with Hip Hop. That's why I decided to use the long German form MCquadrat.

Images Of The Decades

In the 60s (about two years old)

In the 70s (10 years old, left)

This is a historical document. The man in the middle is Bobby Farell from Boney M. They had a gig in our disco in 1976, even before they became one of the most famous disco bands.

In the 80s (about 16 years old)

1984 with the Break Dance friends (me in the foreground)

In the 90s

At the beginning of the 2000s

October 12, 2015

I Thought It Was The Hip Hop, But It Was The Funk After All

I consciously got involved with making music when hip hop came to Germany in 1983. Everything was still very awkward with the tape, tape machine and turntable cable salad setups. Pretty oldschool analog. It took quite some time until it became something at all. At first only for the birthday kids around me to the maxi-B sides of well-known raps, I could already give some German-language birthday raps at the end of the 1980s to the best and develop a certain own style. During my studies in computer science, however, the whole thing came to a standstill.

More by chance I got on a jam with the still unknown Massive Töne, which took place shortly before the hot phase of German-language hip hop around the turn of the millennium. The old enthusiasm was back. I started to photograph graffiti and to deal with the idea of merging internet, rap and digital music production into one. Although I had a feeling for rhythm early on due to the classic djing in my parents' and uncle's discos, it still took a while until the first beats really grooved. Without real studio experience it was not really easy to work with the music software of that time. Suddenly not only the lyrics and beats had to be taken care of, but also the mixing, mastering, legal aspects etc. The will to continue working on the project Geburtstagsraps helped to stay on the ball.

Meanwhile 15 years have passed and so slowly the thing has a certain quality. When a birthday rap comes up, it is produced much faster than before and also sounds much better :-). Over the years came here and there also times the thought to expand the rapping. But if I look at today's scene so, I'm probably too old for most topics. Heart, pain and the usual woman-despising style or even political statements are all not really my thing. In addition, I am in the time of the 1990s somehow stand still. The time when hip hop still used soul, funk and jazz and really grooved. Many of today's hip hop beats take my shoes off, apart from the lyrics. But each as he likes. We have always been middle class kids and have never stood at burning garbage cans, as Smudo put it so nicely. Why artificially make a gangster out of it?

Well, what I've realized in retrospect over the last 30 years: I always thought I was a hip hopper, but actually I've always been into funk. That can be explained a little bit by the fact that I was listening to disco, soul and funk in my parents' discos when I was 10 years old. That was around the middle of the 1970s. Since Boney M. had performed with us in 1976 shortly before the breakthrough of "Daddy Cool", my unconscious funk passion was eclipsed by classic disco for a few years. Actually, I was into acts like James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Chic/Sister Sledge and Kool and the Gang from the very beginning, even though I was primarily familiar with their disco stuff at the time.

In my youth, Prince, Rick James, Michael Jackson and of course Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, EPMD, Erik B. & Rakim and other first and second generation Eastcoast hip hoppers came along. What the beats had in common was that they built on the achievements of first-generation funk.

So it finally comes that today I focus on a mixture of these approaches in my beats, without slavishly clinging to the works of that time. It's all pretty retro today, even if there is a more modern term for it: Nu-Funk, but that's also a few years down the road. But since "Uptown Funk" recently showed that people still or again find this kind of music cool, it can't be that crazy to continue with this approach.

October 14, 2015

It Was The Same With Us

I just read an old Spiegel (German political magazine) article (in German) by Smudo about the beginnings of Die Fantastischen Vier (famous German Hip Hop / Pop band). Man, it was no different with us. We came into contact with all this stuff at the end of 1983 and bought like devils everything that had anything to do with rap and hip hop. I even still have the famous Bravo edition for breakdancing lying around here somewhere. We have tried with our modest equipment to mix, to scratch, after we had seen Wild Style on ZDF (public German television, more by chance). And also we broke ourselves with the English. My school friend at the time, Thomas, was far better at imitating Whodini, Kurtis Blow and others and stuck with it.

I already thought in 1984, this is not my language. I think in German. I then got into German in 1987 for my girlfriend at the time. The idea of birthday raps was born. Of course to a beat by Grandmaster Flash on the standard B-side of a 12-inch, i.e. the maxi-single. That was still quite a lot of klamauk, at that time still with Robert in the WG together, before I studied. But that was really cool. Walking through the streets shopping and kicking rhymes. Still without storytelling or groove. That all came much later. But cool, creative, and a sense of freedom with rhythm.

I was not as early at the start as Advanced Chemistry, but far earlier than the Fantas ;-). Well, in Münsterland (region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) we were the first and only ones who tried Hip Hop. Since Thomas was simply better at drawing, I didn't even try sketches or graffiti. In addition, because of my size, but still Electric Boogie. Does anyone remember Eisi Gulp and his trainings on TV?

My specialty was the Puppet, which unfortunately also damaged my knees. And of course the Moonwalk. Even though many attribute it to Michael Jackson, we did it in a different context. I still remember how we tried to figure out the right sequence of steps from memory for a whole party. That was all without YouTube. It's so easy today to learn how to do that or to present yourself with your art.

After all, we performed with all our skills in Münster in 1984. Well, there wasn't much of an audience. Nobody could really do anything with that. We also had a hard time with the clothes, of course. When I go into a store today, it still feels like paradise. What we would have given at that time to walk around at least a little bit like in the beginnings of RUN D.M.C. (Adidas, caps).

Through my parents' discos I went through a similar musical development as Smudo. The mix between James Brown, Donna Summer, then Boney M. by the appearance with us 1976 (Bobby and Liz were really nice to us children), or also Deep Purple; one there was actually everything from the time, which one would call today good Mucke of the 1970s.

Some vinyl discs I even bought in the first edition. My pocket money went for it just as with Smudo. However, working in the disco business was also quite well paid. And now and then there was also a gift, when I was with my father again new material for the disco at the record dealer of our trust to choose.

It was amazing how often we both identified the upcoming hits from the new releases weeks, sometimes months in advance. We always played the beginning of a record briefly. If we weren't sure, we put the needle in the middle again, and then the decision was made. However, I also remember a few times when we didn't immediately hit the zeitgeist. Our DJs got to know quite quickly what the people wanted to hear new, so that the time delay until the re-purchase hardly mattered. Two weeks later at the latest, the disc was on our turntables.

Despite the variety and the quasi drawing from the full, I decided later then over the detour Hip Hop finally for the early Funk, so that the own music making gets a direction. Lies me from the feeling simply closest, even if it took a long time to recognize that. Unfortunately, I am not a musician who plays an instrument. In this respect I rather continue the tradition of the hip hoppers of the second generation and play around in a rhythmic way with funk scraps (samples or sample instruments), which are then arranged a bit more modern, since I can afford a virtual studio with all kinds of bells and whistles nowadays. Well, and since there is a 15 year old retro term for this kind of modern funk, Nu-Funk Grooves (forerunner of Easy Groophz) just closes the circle again.

Can we go to the bridge? So let's go to the bridge! One, two, three, ...

January 10, 2022

How It All Began

Excerpt from the e-book "The Grooves I Do Myself Now!"

The Easy Groophz approach originated around 2000 when, fascinated by the possibilities of the World Wide Web, I thought about how I could get my ambitions as a rapper out into the world without getting into trouble with copyright laws.

The Hip Hop Fever And Its Consequences

The thing with rap had its origin in the 1980s. Hip hop came to Europe at the end of 1983. I was immediately hooked on this youth culture. My parents had discos in the 1970s and I was fascinated by DJ culture ever since. Since I wasn't really good at breakdancing or spraying, DJing and rapping lent itself to becoming part of the hip hop culture.

The beginnings in rap were not particularly spectacular. As with many things later, I was once again caught up in a subject way too early. But at least I managed to find a way to develop my personal style.

In the early days, everyone tried their hand at English. But that wasn't the language I was dreaming in. The starting point came when I was looking for a birthday present for a friend in 1987. A friend had the idea to try a hymn in German with hip hop beats. The birthday raps were born and by the way I was one of the first German-speaking rappers, albeit without a record deal ;-).

The rhymes were of course very bumpy, but the beats of the finest. Many of the maxi-singles from that time simply had the instrumentals on the B-side. What made record production simply cheaper was a blessing for me. I was able to use the beats of the hottest hip hop groups at the time: first and foremost Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, who released maxis in this style almost like an assembly line.

By the end of the 1980s, a number of the aforementioned birthday raps and some other experimental lyrics had been created. Then the computer science studies began, and the thing was more or less put on ice.

I had already entered the profession, the World Wide Web was on its way to becoming established, and the German-speaking hip hop scene had celebrated its first commercial successes, first and foremost the Fantas and the Rödelheimers, when I happened to have the opportunity to participate in one of those firmly established hip hop jams in youth centers in the late 1990s. 

This actually took place at the former place of study and had as a special act the then little known Massive Töne. What can I say. The old hip hop fever was never really extinguished and so the idea was soon born to be more creative again with my birthday raps. However, the results should also be able to be published on the Internet.

One Of The First Bedroom Producers Without Knowing It

That was the decisive momentum to think about producing my own beats. I wasn't allowed to use my previous works because of the instrumentals used on the maxi B-sides of well-known artists. Internet is legally "public" and therefore "commercial use". Buying the corresponding rights was not an option for financial reasons.

The challenge was to understand how to build beats at all if you have no idea about music theory, don't play an instrument and lack the equipment that is used in music studios. I had never seen the inside of a music studio - and there wasn't much money available.

What came in handy was my view of the computer. It had been a creative tool for me since the early days of college. I was able to experiment with desktop publishing and its aesthetic aspects of arranging text and images very early on. In addition to image editing, video editing joined the mix after graduation. By the turn of the millennium, the computing power was available for higher resolutions and even simple music production.

I was lucky enough to get a stripped down version of a digital audio workstation that was starting to become popular in Germany with my first expensive sound card, so I was able to try out some things with audio tracks. At that time Midi was still a book with seven seals. But that changed over the years as the virtual instruments got better and better. 

The development took its course and I produced beats for my birthday raps and then put them online for the birthday kids to listen to or download. But once again, I had entered a new development too early. 

The 2000s brought rapid advances in computer processing power and virtualization of music studios. But the user model was exclusively oriented to the production method of physical music studios.

My idea was to do everything in the computer. Add headphones and a midi keyboard and you're done. No expensive studio monitors, if only because of the challenging acoustic conditions in my own four walls. 

What I didn't know at the time was that I was thinking ahead to the Bedroom Producer model. At that time, however, neither hardware nor software were ready for virtual music production to provide absolute beginners like me with approaches to create usable results in a short time.

Despite all my investments in first versions of today's professional tools, I lost interest for the time being. The job as a computer scientist took too much time to learn all the music stuff on the side. So a few years went by without being very creative in the music sector.

On The Way To Becoming a Modern Producer In The Virtual Studio

As the 2010s dawned, some things changed. Audio material could suddenly be edited like midi material. Special algorithms had already been developed that could change the speed of samples without affecting the pitch. A little later, you could even change the pitch in audio files after the fact, or extract things like drums and vocals back out without great artifacts. 

Well, and the development of virtual instruments and effects took off. Suddenly I could use all the hottest instruments of the last decades and the most expensive mixing consoles of the physical music studios in my computer - for a song or two.

So of course I had to get back into it. So I first concentrated on understanding what audio engineers do, how to mix, and finally how to master. That took a few years. But I now have a clear idea of what I need to do to make my productions sound good. 

There are now even emulations of real rooms of famous music studios that I can use for mixing through headphones. After all, I still don't have any studio monitors. And today's sheer amount of excellently produced samples and loops, a just rising industry in music, as well as the developments around artificial intelligence, make a lot of things easier.

We have access to knowledge and experience, with the help of artificial intelligence, that we no longer have to work out ourselves over years or decades, and tools that even absolute beginners can quickly understand and use productively, thanks to improved user experience and almost infinite computing power available on the net. 

My 2000 vision of a music studio in the computer can be realized for less and less money. And this is exactly where the Easy Groophz approach comes in.

My Why For The Easy Groophz Approach

Now, of course, I could just use all these things for myself, concentrate on my own productions and that's it. However, the Corona Lockdowns have not remained without effect on me. 

For me, the music production has enabled a real balance and influenced my mental health massively positive since the first lockdown. However, since many people have had a completely different experience and I firmly believe that there is an artist in everyone who has perhaps not yet discovered the creative side of themselves here and there, I would like to show music lovers a way to discover this side. 

If you want to get into action yourself, be it from mental or even monetary aspects, then follow me on the journey into the fantastic world of the
Easy Groophz. It's worth it ;-).