Interview: Martin of OGDonNinja & Heavy Jewelz Records
I found out about Martin through a Youtube channel I follow, OGDonNinja, who upload some of the best hidden hip hop from the 80s-2000s. Martin has dedicated practically everything into getting the music he loves out to other fans who would have a hard time hearing otherwise. When he isn’t working 45 hours a week looking after nursery children, he DJs, helps with the Youtube channel and Heavy Jewelz, an independent record label releasing old demos that never saw a vinyl release. Martins story starts in Falun, Sweden.
“The first ever memory I have when it comes to artists was when I was at my friend’s crib in ’96. I was 10 years old and we were playing that Sonic game. We had some issues with the game fucking up and while my friend tried to fix it he flipped back to the TV station that was currently on and it happened to be MTV and probably ”Yo!” on air, as the beat from The 900 Number by DJ Mark the 45 King was on and I believe DJ Kool with guests was live on stage performing Let Me Clear My Throat with some of them being dressed as clowns.
I was stunned by this in so many ways. Sure, as a 10 year old kid I’d seen clowns at the circus but never in this art form. I had never seen anything like it. I quickly told my friend to change back to check what that was, he did and I got to watch the performance of that track to the end but they never showed the name of the group so I never knew who they were until years later. It felt as a whole new world opened up for me and I wanted more of it so ”Yo!” became my main focus and obsession until the end of the show in ’99.
The second group which was etched on my memory was when I first saw the video of Throw Ya Gunz by Onyx. This time I got to record it and it didn’t take long until I had bought my first CD along with a white hoodie with the large text ‘Bacdafucup’ on the back of it. I never really understood what it meant… Oh man, looking back at it I feel sorry for my mom who always had to watch me ‘perform’ Throw Ya Gunz in-front of my mirror.”
Was it easy getting hold of the music you liked where you grew up?
I grew up in a small town called Falun in Sweden and except for “Yo!” on TV there wasn’t much hip hop to find. I remember my only local music store didn’t even house vinyl. It only had CDs. The ones that I remember them selling were Onyx, 2Pac, Snoop, Dogg Pound, Too Short, that kind of stuff. Pretty much the most well known stuff available coast to coast along with a few Swedish rap classics such as 3-Ess, Just D & The Latin Kings. Within a year or so the store closed and there wasn’t much more material to gather, at least to my knowledge, so my interest started to fade away for some time.
I got into 2Pac a lot before and especially after his death because I looked up to him and a person. His messages in his music had an unique impact on me and except playing his albums, I remember I sat with my 56K modem and downloaded a few demos of him from a US site, each track taking like 6 hours to download… Eventually I had all the material that was on this site and I played those demos all day. Frankly, I never knew that hip hop was pressed on so much vinyl. I thought it was a tape/CD type of thing because that was all I had been introduced to and used back when I grew up in my hometown. Not one of my friends, their elderly brothers or their parents had a record player. I had never in my life seen a record player until I moved to Stockholm. So I bought my first Technics very late, you could say.
A lot of the music you upload on the Youtube channels are demos or unreleased. Where do you find all these tracks?
That’s complex. I’d like to say that the music finds me in some ways, especially these days. I can’t say for Don, but I’m sure he shares the same mindset on this thing as me, or anyone that loves/collect music for that matter. It’s hard to explain. Practically though, I buy vinyl, trade vinyl, buy mp3s, trade mp3s, stumble across tracks by coincidence, or get shown the music. Back in the days I used a program called Soulseek and got to know a lot of people on there too. (Where ya at, Mori?!) Been a few years since I used that now, though.
Do many of the artists whose music you upload contact you?
Some send private messages and want to know more in detail on how I came about their old stuff and express their gratitude. Some even sent me their record as a thank you. Most of the artists comment on the actual upload though showing thanks and that’s such a good feeling when they do. Especially when some of them haven’t even heard their material for 20 years or so. That’s just crazy even if that’s rare, but it has happened a few times. A few record labels have used OGDonNinja as a source to network with the artists. That’s an amazingly cool thing I sure as hell never thought I’d be part of making possible when I first began to upload music on YouTube. And I’m happy their music gets released in a proper way with recognition all over the globe. But the artists don’t know that one half of OGDonNinja is actually behind a record label which would, in most cases, love to release their material of course!
Vinyl: Terror Green – 1995 Demo EP
For people that don’t know, can you tell us about the record label Heavy Jewelz?
It’s a neo-independent rap label dedicated to bring back to life the overlooked music of yesteryear that, for various reasons and circumstances, never quite got the light it deserved. Born and bred from a background of taping demos, promos, freestyles, and other rarities back in the day, right off the radio shows like Mr Magic, the Awesome Two, Hank Love & Halfpint, Meyhem & Riz, In Control, Red Alert, The Raw Deal, Vibes And Vapors, and most influentially the Stretch & Bobbito Show. Culling from the direct knowledge and memories of the exclusive material these shows consistently broke, plus years upon years of digging for ourselves and always adding a taste from the palate of our own collective history with hip hop.
OGDonNinja / Heavy Jewelz