Archive for November, 2009


Team Demo Interview from Champ Mag (Re-posted)

The Boy Hollywood

CHAMP: What’s up Team Demo? What are you guys up to at the moment?

Zechariah Wise: Working on music, running a company.

J. Cosell: Music and raising kids.

CHAMP: I definitely wanna start off by getting the background on you guys. Where are you guys from?

Zechariah Wise: The four of us (Zechariah Wise, J. Cosell, DJ Dialtone & Jady Experience) grew up together in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.  We currently all live either in DC or Virginia.  Our studio headquarters, Depth Charge Studios, is in Alexandria Virginia literally 3 minutes from DC.

CHAMP: Who were some of your influences growing up and listening to music?

Zechariah Wise: The soundtrack in my house was eclectic – everything from Motown to Fleetwood Mac.  Run DMC was the group that got me into hip hop.

J. Cosell: Eric B. and Rakim, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane etc.

CHAMP: What was the first beat or sign that made you wanna make beats?

Zechariah Wise: It wasn’t really like that. Cosell, Dialtone and I started making music together in 1988 when we were in grade school.  Back then, in-house production was the norm for hip hop.  Rappers either did their music themselves or they had one producer doing their music.  Making hip hop back then meant you were involved in everything.  We all rapped, and learned how to make beats together.  Dialtone and myself dee jayed house parties and all of us were into dancing.  We were 13, 14 year old kids coming up in the golden age of hip hop.  We were like sponges absorbing everything so making beats was just part of being a hip hop head for us.

CHAMP: I definitely got introduced to you off the Crime Wave – 50 Cent joint. Crazy crazy joint. How did that whole situation happen?

Zechariah Wise: Back in 2004, Riggs Morales at Shady Records heard some of the stuff we were doing with Illa Ghee and took interest.  Since then we’ve developed a great relationship with Riggs and we pay him a visit every three months or so to submit tracks. Eventually, that led to direct contacts within G-Unit and Jady would shoot over to their office and drop some beats on them directly as well.  We ended up doing a track called “Hold Up” for Obie Trice and some remixes for Eminem and Stat Quo that never really got out there.  Finally, we got word around Christmas time of 2008 that 50 picked a track from us.  The deal went down a short time later and here we are.

CHAMP: What was your reaction when 50 dropped the video to his movie with “Crime Wave”?

J. Cosell: We were excited.  It all happened so fast.  We knew it was on the album but we had no idea he was pushing it as a street single with the video.  They intentionally kept it very quiet.

Zechariah Wise: I was working on location at a live sound gig when Cosell called me saying “it leaked, it’s out, it’s a single!”  Within an hour my phone was ringing like crazy.  The next night, we had a session at the studio so we got to take a break and watch the video premier together.  It was surreal.

CHAMP: What was your reaction when people accused 50 of stealing the beat from Fabolous?

Zechariah Wise: We chuckled. They just sampled the same record folks.  It happens!  We made the “Crime Wave” beat in 2005 and submitted it to G-Unit in 2006.  We’ve made something like 350 beats since then.  None of us heard the Fab track and from what I gather, we did ours before Fab’s was even out.

J. Cosell: It’s just a coincidence.  The fans can decide which one is better.

CHAMP: Where do you guys stand in the argument of sampling vs. original based beats?

Zechariah Wise: I think with the technology that is now available, the argument is moot. There used to be an obvious difference in the sound of a beat based on samples versus one done synthetically, and some producers still have that really brittle “synthy” sound that none of us are that crazy about.  But now, if you know what you’re doing and you have the right stuff, the sky is the limit.  For example, when you play piano in a plug-in instrument or on a newer module, you’re not playing some synthetic representation of a piano.  You are playing a piano that was sampled from a real grand piano recorded note by note and style by style in a recording studio. Computers have become so powerful that you can literally have a sample by sample totally organic version of every instrument you can possibly think of at your fingertips.  When you couple that with premium pre-amps and compressors, your only limit is your talent and your knowledge of instruments and recording techniques. Getting that, “sound” used to be impossible without a band and an SSL Console.  Not any more.

We do both completely original beats as well as beats with samples from other music.  The ones containing a sample also have plenty of original elements: everything from basslines, to orchestral arrangements. Sampling is a tool in our toolbox.  Some of us use it more than others.  Obviously, samples cost us money as producers so there can be a business issue with sampling, but if we can’t clear it, we can re-create it.  We have plenty of tracks where people have asked me, “where did you get that sample from,” and the beat they are referring to is totally original.  The bottom line is, whether it’s original, or contains a sample, if it’s dope, it’s dope.  If it’s a hit, it’s a hit.

CHAMP: Now the name Team Demo. What’s the origin behind the name?

Zechariah Wise: It’s actually short for Team Demolition.  We were, and I guess still are a hip hop group.  We put out a bunch of independent 12 inch records starting in 1997 and an album called “Demolition Derby” in 2001 and a second called “Yo! TD Raps,” in 2004.  We made a little noise.  Sold like 50,000 total units if you count the downloads.  In 2004, the decision was made to focus squarely on production.

J. Cosell: Illa Ghee started calling us Team Demo for short and a bunch of other artists we were working with followed suit.  It stuck.

CHAMP: What’s Team Demo top three beats from other producers?

Zechariah Wise: I don’t think we could possibly narrow it down to just three.  We are hip hop historians with a particular expertise on the time period of our youth – 1986 through like 1994.  When you have been doing this as long as we have, your frame of reference becomes so large that it’s impossible to narrow it down.

J. Cosell: We all probably have our own individual favorites, but I’m sure no one will disagree that we all loved the work of the Bomb Squad, Marley Marl, DJ Premier and Dr. Dre.  That’s four producers, not three beats, but you get the idea.

CHAMP: What projects are you currently working on that the people should look out for and what else can we expect form Team Demo?

Zechariah Wise: First and foremost, I would encourage everybody to pick up some of our earlier work such as the albums we talked about earlier as well as “Bullet and a Bracelet,” by Illa Ghee which came out in 2007.  We did the majority of the production on it and it also has tracks by Havoc and The Alchemist.  We have been working closely with an artist from DC named Kingpen Slim who has made a ton of noise regionally and has some real heavyweights interested so if you haven’t heard his stuff, you will very soon.

J. Cosell: Early next year we are putting out a mixtape called “Pocket Full of Music,” featuring DMV (DC, Maryland & Virginia) artists and Wise has an album called “Mister Wise” which should be out around the same time.  We also have tracks in the works with Sean Price, Tabi Bonney, Kurious, another Illa Ghee album and a bunch of stuff we can’t really talk about yet.  Stay tuned.  Visit for news and links to everything.


Left to Right: J. Cosell, DJ Dialtone, Jady Experience, Zechariah Wise

Photo by Chapi-D


The Time to Support DMV Hip Hop is Now!

wale-attentiondeficitThere has never been a more crucial moment in the long history of hip hop music in the Washington, DC area. For the first time in a long time, a hip hop artist from DC is dropping a major label release. Wale’s “Attention Deficit,” hits stores on November 10th. For those of you DMV hip hop heads who for whatever reason, intend NOT to support Wale, please hear me out.

I hate the fact that hip hop music is so regionally identified. It is one of the many things I don’t like about hip hop. It seems that “where an artist is from” is the first question anyone asks when they hear something new. The world has become so small thanks to our new abilities to communicate with one another. Yet in hip hop, we want to group people by neighborhood. This practice is outdated but it is the reality and because of that, we now have an artist, Wale, who has been given the burden of seemingly carrying an entire city and region on his back.  It is not fair but it is what it is. Imagine for a moment, you are in a pitch black room. You cannot see a thing except for small little lights appearing and vanishing. Each of these lights looks like something on a christmas tree. They are not powerful enough to cast any glow on the rest of the room. You are still blind. Suddenly, a 60 watt light bulb ignites. It’s so bright it draws all your attention, but then you realize that it’s light has now made everything else in the room visible. You had no idea of the wonderful contents in the room, but now you can see them. The room is the DC hip hop scene, the 60 watt bulb is Wale, and the little lights are all those who came before him.

Over the past year, I have heard a ton of jealous and flat-out hateful garbage being spewed by DMV residents towards Wale. Everybody from so-called fans, to artists, to even local radio personalities. I don’t know what personal vendetta any of them have against Wale, but this self-serving ego-maniacal bullshit needs to stop right now. Maybe you don’t like his music or his style. Maybe you think YOU should be in his place. Maybe you think he doesn’t show love to DC (which is utterly ridiculous.) Whatever you feel about Wale personally is irrelevant. Wale is his own man with his own artistry who is going to do what he wants. But he also bears the burden of being a proxy for all of those talented artists who came before him who never got a shot, and all of those who have been sitting in the darkness hoping for a chance. LIke it or not, he is the DMV’s light bulb. It makes absolutely no sense for anyone who has been sitting in the dark with him to try to dim his brightness in any way. The entire room may be visible thanks to that light. Make it brighter! Buy his album!

In addition, I am proud to say that my DMV based production company, Team Demo, produced the street single, “Crime Wave”  for 50 Cent’s new album, “Before I self-Destruct.”  The album is available on itunes now and in stores on November 16th.  The better this album does, the more attention we get.  Which means more attention to the many DMV artists we produce.  Please support us in adding another small light to Wale’s glow! 

The time is now everybody.   There are a dozen or so super talented artists from the DMV that are ready for deals and opportunities RIGHT NOW!  Help make the light that is illuminating the room even brighter and before you know it, we all may need sunglasses.


Gasp! New Illa Ghee Video

So I’m chilling watching some game at the crib while my lady is on her laptop.  Suddenly she gasps and proclaims, “oh wow Illa!”  She had reached the 1.19 mark of the new Illa Ghee video which I have re-posted from  My homie is getting it in… Literally…

New video for “My Image” off of the “Bullet and a Bracelet” album on Depth Charge Digital available on itunes and everywhere else. The song was produced by Team Demo and recorded and mixed by Zechariah Wise at Depth Charge Studios. Parental Discretion is Advised!


Think Twice Before Heading to Full Sail

There are a lot of folks who want to join the production side of the music business. Every year, institutions like Full Sail’s School of Recording Arts, bring in millions of dollars worth of tuition from young and sometimes not so young, bright-eyed and naive kids who want to work in studios. Every year, these schools graduate more and more kids; and every year these kids join a choir of disappointment when they find out the dream job they thought was waiting for them, doesn’t exist. I have been scratching and clawing my way through a career as a music and audio production professional since 1996 and while I did attend college, I did not buy into the institutions of higher learning who were attempting to sell audio production as a career path that they could guide you into as if it were nursing, law or physical therapy. Before any of you kids decide to rush into student loans for the music business, hear my story and advice.

By the time I graduated high school (a long time ago)I was already heavily involved in music. I had a small and crude studio in my bedroom where I had cut no fewer than 10 albums worth of material of myself and my friends, and had even landed a couple of small outside production gigs as well as a professional manager. When it came time to decide on college, I was already being courted by major labels as the front man for the duo, the Lower Life Forms, and wasn’t really feeling the idea of school. I was learning my creative arts by being connected with others who did the same, and the technical art by a process of trial and error, and repetitively working in a recording environment (albeit less than professional) each and every day. My father discovered that my local community college had a small audio production program. It only offered a certificate of completion as a reward, but at $35 a credit hour, why the hell not? I got to continue pursuing my career while making my parents a little less worried by going to school full-time.

The school’s studio facilities were out of date, but it was the classroom material that mattered. There, I was given the understanding of sound and what it was I was manipulating in my work. It taught me to think, problem solve, and develop my own methods of working based on the tried and true methods of the prior 75 year history of recorded sound. I don’t think I ever received less than an A in any of the classes, but by the time I finished the program, I discovered that the majority of my credits would not transfer to a four-year college. Meanwhile, my studio had grown to a professional level and I had started to build a decent list of clients who paid me to work with them. I was also working part-time in the audio-visual production industry as a freelance audio tech. While doing so I remember several times meeting new co-workers who had graduated from Colleges with Bachelor’s degrees in Audio production. There they were with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, earning an entry-level wage that was twenty percent less than my own. They certainly were not happy to be settling for a job in A/V. When I decided to enroll at a university part-time, it was to pursue a degree in business and philosophy, not audio.

I never finished college. My career in music was growing as were my responsibilities. School became too much, but I learned plenty in my study of business that I could apply to my own. I also read constantly. I kept up with all the latest gear and techniques in the trade journals and I spent THOUSANDS of hours in the studio. I had racked up a good amount of debt from expanding my facility and putting out a couple of unprofitable independent records, but I figured it was no different from student loan debt. The only difference was I was seeing immediate returns on my investment. I wasn’t striking it rich, but I was making enough money to actually live off music.

Fast forward to the present and things are pretty good. I still have a good deal of debt but the investment has been well worth it. I’m making a great living and I own a studio facility, production and publishing company. All of this without going to Full Sail.

Surely I am not suggesting that every one who attends colleges such as Full Sail will NOT go on to have great careers in audio. What I am suggesting is that with real talent and passion, Full Sail just might not be worth it. I talk to people all the time who tell me that they are very interested in what I do, and are considering studying audio production in college; like they can spend a few dozen hours in a school’s studio and be ready to take on Tony Maserati or Doctor Dre. Music is a highly competitive trade. It is not something one should enter into just because it is interesting. Here are a few things one should ask themselves before stepping out on the limb…

  • Are you good at some of this stuff already?  What kind of evidence do you have to support this as a career choice that fits you?  If you aren’t good with electronics and computers, or you aren’t the analytical problem solving type, this isn’t for you.  At the same time, if you aren’t a creative person who loves to express themselves, this may not be for you either.  This means you have to be in some ways, both left and right brained.  This isn’t the most common thing in the world.
  • Are you already seen by your peers as the smartest of your group with computers, equipment and music in general?  Have others told you that they believe you have the gifts for this?
  • Are you confident that you could walk into Full Sail and be their best pupil?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, save your money. Forget about the business all together or get subscriptions to Mix and Electronic Musician, buy some high-end equipment and start using it.  If you lose interest or it turns out you don’t have the right stuff, you can cancel the subscriptions and sell the gear.  You can’t do that with tuition.  The bottom line is that audio production is not a field with glass ceilings and degree requirements.   Employers and clients want to know what you know and what you can do.  They want to see a track record.  I have never had a client demand that I have education credentials.  My discography and reputation speak for themselves.  Think, before you spend thousands of dollars on an education that promises glamour and riches, and instead lands you a job setting up microphones in hotel conference rooms.

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