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Waajeed

Inventive, genre-defying producer Waajeed was cut from the same cloth of Detroit's soul-driven hip-hop underground as its chief representative, Jay Dee (aka Dilla). After all, Waajeed -- born Robert O'Bryant IV in Detroit in 1975 -- and Jay Dee both grew up in Detroit's Conant Gardens neighborhood. Assuming the position as DJ, Waajeed, along with Dilla and many others, formed a crew called Senepod, but when the group slimmed down to four people around 1991, they renamed themselves Slum Village. However, Waajeed's parents disapproved of his involvement and pulled him out of the group. Although he went on to study graphic arts and design and photography at a local college, he still maintained a close relationship with the now trio. After Slum Village released their first album and rare underground classic, Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1, in 1996, Slum went on tour throughout Europe and invited Waajeed to be their DJ again. Waajeed was so inspired by the experience that, when he returned, he spent countless hours (which turned into days and then months) perfecting his beat-making craft.

Over the next few years, the eclectic producer tried to break into the industry selling his music to other artists. Ironically, after Dilla left Slum Village in 2001, he found himself working next to Slum again, building tracks for their Dirty District mixtape and major-label debut, Trinity (2002). He also co-produced for Dilla on his 2001 solo debut, Welcome 2 Detroit. Due to growing interest in his work, he founded his own record company, Bling 47, which also served as a creative space for developing artists of all types. The first significant project of the new venture was the otherworldly Platinum Pied Pipers outfit, which included him and multi-instrumentalist Saadiq (although the first of the label's releases were two beat tapes entirely produced by Jay Dee). The group was meant to be a vehicle for their artistic process and musical production, enlisting as many MCs, vocalists, and musicians as they saw fit. After cutting a few singles for Ubiquity Records' acclaimed but underexposed Rewind! compilations, PPP debuted their full-length Triple P in spring 2005 to favorable reviews. In the wake of Dilla's death early the following year, it was clear that Waajeed was still building on Dilla's legacy of Detroit-styled hip-hop soul, collaborating with local artists like Monica Blaire, Dwele, and Invincible. ~ Cyril Cordor
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