From humble origins in Detroit, raised on a healthy diet of Motown, Jazz and early Hip Hop – Terrel Wallace (aka Tall Black Guy) has become a standard bearer for the current hip hop beats scene. Through a steady stream of productions filled with incredibly clever sample flips and deft production chops, he has won fans across the world, including Gilles Peterson (who included him on one of his Brownswood Bubblers albums), Lefto, Anthony Valadez, Jazzy Jeff, Questlove and countless others. With the tangible beginnings of worldwide recognition, Tall Black Guy has established himself to be one of the most influential producers working today. We catch up with Tall Black Guy to find out more!
Q. What was the first record you ever bought?
Well to be honest, my pops blessed me with my first records. He had a very extensive jazz collection. When I actually started collecting my own records, I transitioned into collecting Cd’s. I have tons of Cd’s and no records, I gave all my records away or lost them and never went back to buying records like I used to.
Q. How did you come up with the name Tall Black Guy? How tall are you?
Ha Ha, I get asked that question alot. In my art college I was one of the few black students in my class. My teacher gave us an assignment where you had to come up with your own company name and marketing campaign. I went the pro black route. I think at first I came up with “Right On Productions” and my logo was a black afro man with a “fight the power” fist raised. My second name was Tall Black Guy Productions with the same logo. After that Tall Black Guy just stuck from there. I am 6’5
Q. You started as a beatboxer, how did you make that transition to becoming a producer? Do you remember the first beat you ever made?
I think it was just natural progression for me. I went from beat boxing into making pause tapes of my favorite hip hop beats. Around 2000, I wanted to learn how to make my own hip hop beats. Let me tell you, my first beats were super wack! I actually quit for like 2 months because I could not figure how to sequence my drums right.
Q. Which era of music inspired you most?
Anything from the mid 70’s or early 90’s hip hop and R&B
Q. Can you play any instruments? What is your favourite instrument?
For the last 6 years, I have been messing around with keyboard playing. But my favorite instrument is the guitar, which at some point I would like to teach myself how to play.
Q. The equipment for producing music is becoming more expensive, do you have any tips on making dope beats without having too much financial investment?
At least in my situation, I did not have the money to afford an MPC 2000. I choose something that was cheap and that I could just learn the basics on how to create my own beats. Sonic Foundry 2.0 (now Sony Acid 7.0). I spent hours and years trying to master just that one program. My tip would be, find one hardware or software. Whatever you can afford and master it, which means.…. practice,practice, and practice X1000000!
Q. Are you more of a software guy or a hardware guy when it comes to producing? What’s your studio set up like?
I am more of a software guy, but I would love to learn how to use different types of hardware. My studio set up is very basic:
2X Yahama HS 50M Studio Monitor
Sony Acid 7.0
M‑Audio 61 keystation
Audio Technica ATH-M40X Professional Monitor Headphones
M‑Audio Fast Track Interface
Tascam sound recorder
Q. Do you have a lot of sample packs or do you create your own samples? Because you have some pretty unique sounds in your music.
Most of the time, I try to create my own sounds and samples. When I am out and about or at work, I like to bring my sound recorder with me just in case I want to collect some crazy sounds or if I have a idea in my head that I don’t want to forget.
Q. As a prominent producer in the current Hip Hop scene, your beats maintain the old skool sound. Do you see yourself as trying to revive the old skool, or is your music an evolution of the original Hip Hop style?
My goal is to just make good solid music. I never wanted to put myself into a box on what I wanted to make. At least for me, as long as I strive to stick to that, the sky’s the limit.
Q. Tell us a bit about your recent project ‘Searching for Happiness’ with your group 80s Babies? How did you guys decide to work together?
80’s babies is basically me and my best friend Dee Jackson from high school we have been best friends for like 20 years now. We are homies first and music came second. We have recorded 3 other albums before “Searching for Happiness”. So this is project is a continuation of us making music together.
Q. You hail from Detroit, the city that gave us J Dilla, Black Milk, Wajeed and many more. How did growing up in Detroit influence your music?
Even though I am from Detroit. My influences did not come from the city itself but, from friends and family who lived there. However, when I did return to Detroit in 2011 for a brief but, difficult time I was moved to create my debut album, “8 Miles to Moenart”.
Q. One of the missions of I am Hip Hop is to embrace the roots of Hip Hop culture, particularly focusing on the knowledge element. As a producer how do you choose which artists you want to work with, and how important are their lyrics when your deciding?
As long as the artist and myself are on the same page about lyrical content ie; uplifting and empowering. And I like their overall style. I am open to possibilty of working with an artist.
Q. How would you describe the current state of Hip Hop? Are there any artists that really stick out for you?
I think it is the lack of balance in the current state of hip-hop. A lot of the mainstream music sounds the same and lacks substance. I believe if real hip-hop was available on more mainstream outlets, then more people would gravitate towards it. Dayne Jordan, Add‑2 and Dee Jackson are some of my favorites right now.
Q. What brought you to the UK and what would you say the biggest difference is between the music here and in stateside?
My wife is from the UK. Things weren’t going so well for us in the states. So we tried to make it work out here and have been here for the last 4 years.
Musically, I think the people a bit more open to my style of music. I just think that is because I am not from the UK.
Q. What is your all-time favourite book and why?
To be honest, I really don’t have a all time favorite book. I love reading about new musical techinques or watching videos about music.
Q. What does TBG do when he is not making music?
If I am not making music, I am watching YouTube trying to learn something new, watching basketball, or watching movies. That’s pretty much a everyday thing for me.