Jigmastas: Beyond Real ’til Infinity (Exclusive Interview)

Jigmastas aka DJ Spinna & Kriminul

Delivering consistently soulful, smooth underground beats and rhymes since 1991, DJ Spinna and rapper Kryminul’s ‘Jigmastas’ partnership is surely an important part of NY hip hop history, in the city where it all started.

Both Brooklyn natives, the duo have worked with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of artists over the years, including Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch & Talib Kweli. After almost a decade working on separate projects; Spinna touring the globe as a DJ, Kryminul staying close to the streets in BK raising his three sons, the pair have reunited. An expanded re-issue of their classic Grassroots album in 2014 seemed to be the first signs of life from the duo in a long while, but as it turns out they’ve been working consistently together this whole time; now ready to share the results with the world over not one but two full length albums. Plans are afoot to tour Europe and Japan once more, with the aptly titled Resurgence about to drop on BBE, we spent some time with Spinna & Krym to catch up on the last decade..

Describe how your personal and working relationship. How has it evolved over the years?

Kryminul: I actually met Spinna through my younger brother. I was a pretty known pop-locker (dancer) in my neighborhood and my brother brought Spinna to battle me. Needless to say I smoked him and that was the beginning of our kinship. Our working relationship is great. We think similarly, we are considerate of each other, we pay attention and appreciate what we both bring to the table what one misses the other catches. Through out the years our bond is stronger because we grew up together we have been through rough and good times together our families are intertwined. He is truly my brother.

Spinna: I would say that we have both matured and grown as individuals, which has led to us being a lot closer than we were years ago. As adults, family men, homeowners, partners in music and friends for more than half of our lives there’s definitely a strong kinship there that helps with our creative process.

The new album feels like a statement of intent to ‘re-launch’ Jigmastas. Is that the plan? Why now?

Spinna: Now, because we aren’t getting any younger and we’ve been hovering over material we feel needed to be heard. With the people’s attention spans being so short in this new era of music consumption (and in general) the time couldn’t be more perfect to reinstate ourselves and drop product more consistently and frequently. In my global travels over the years two of the most asked questions I get from Jigmastas fans are “where did we go” or “when are we coming back out” so it just made sense to keep the wheels turning. We never stopped recording. Plus, there’s a void to be filled. We are from that era of classic boom bap, funky beats with jazzy and soulful elements, lyrical witticism and slickness, and most importantly originality, which is horrendously lacking today.

Kryminul: I have never stopped recording. Spinna and I always intended on putting out another album regardless of what is going on in hip-hop. This album differs from the others because our growth. Raising and being part of our own families gives us a different perspective of the world and that in turn affects how I write.

With the expanded package of ‘Grassroots’, then this record and the ‘Stellar LP’ coming up, it feels like the albums represent Past, Present and Future. Would that be fair to say?

Spinna: That is very fair to say. This Resurgence project picks up from where Grassroots left off and the music on Stellar for the most part is mostly new material with the exception of a few tracks that were recorded years ago that still feel timeless.

One of the unique things about the Jigmastas sound (apart from those soulful beats) has always been the moral messages and stories in the lyrics. Was this something you considered, or does it come naturally to you?

Kryminul: Yes, my lyrics contain stories and a sense of morality because of how I was raised. I can honestly say I come from a line of good and honest people. I tried hustling and some other illegal activities but it never panned out for me and I can say the only reason I did not take to the streets is because of my family. They managed to instill values in me that helped me resist the temptation of fast money and the streets, so that sense of morality does come naturally for me. As for story telling, I really get that from the pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Fearless 4, Spooney G and Slick Rick etc. I just feel you can connect with more people when you write in that fashion and I want to be understood even in the times when I am abstract.

How does the writing process work these days? Has it changed much over the years?

Kryminul: I feel I’m more precise than ever in conveying my point lyrically; flow patterns and subject matter varies. I have evolved from the pen and paper to sitting with beat and writing in my head so my flows are cleaner and sometimes more insightful. It’s definitely a longer process but worth it in terms of cadence and omitting what doesn’t work. Spinna is more in-tune than he has ever been in creating a solid sonic solitude for the listener, meaning when you listen you wont think about anything else except this particular body of work.

Spinna: I give him beats and we vibe on concepts for each track. Sometimes I’ll give input on a few lines or words but Krym handles the majority of lyrical content. He’s very insightful and is great at feeling the temperament of the groove and letting that dictate his direction.

At times Kryminul, your artist name often seems to me a little at odds with the complexity and intelligence of your lyrics. How did you come by the moniker?

The name Kryminul was given to me by a guy named Buzz Willis who use to manage Kool and the Gang back in the early 90s, because of how I dressed and moved. I took it to mean that is how America perceived the young black male in our country and I wanted people to understand that I was working at a law firm, going to school full-time and an artist which was the furthest thing from a criminal, but that is how we were treated and perceived. I wanted people to understand and accept our generation, not be afraid. The name has evolved to Krym dela Kreme aka Mr. Fresher than Most.

What’s the future plan for Jigmastas? Are you touring together?

Spinna: Make more music of course and hopefully hit the road in Europe and Japan, where we toured in the beginning of our journey together.

Finally, do you have a message for Jigmastas fans, who’ve waited oh-so patiently for new material?

Kryminul: I want to say to our fans and new supporters that we will continue to deliver at our highest standard. I love what I do and I appreciate every single person that supports us: rest assured whenever you see Jigmastas, Krym or Spinna’s name on a record its gonna be quality and done out of love first and foremost.

Interview by Will Sumsuch (5 Magazine Chicago)

Photo by VSHootz

Resurgence is available on 2LP, CD and digital formats via the BBE Shop