Jesper Nyboe Nielsen is a long standing record collector, a DJ, a record label manager, a music journalist, but for the most part a music lover. He is definitely one of the kind – one of the Hip-Hop kind. Since the late 90s, from Aarhus to Copenhagen, Nyboe has been immersed in the Danish Hip-Hop scene. Hence, RPM Records visit to Jesper’s small vinyl record library in Østerbro was nothing else but educational. And I believe that the outcome is reflected in the interview below. The interview that tells a personal story and is filled with MUSIC in a form of playlists, recommendations and twenty vinyl record reviews in four categories from Jesper’s personal collection – for vinyl ninjas and beginners alike.
Jesper, can you talk a little bit about your personal history in relation to music, hip-hop, DJ’ing and vinyl records?
Yeah, of course. My music history started in the late 90s when I became part of Undergrunden.dk where we had a download section with curated music on MP3, and I was the music curator for that site. I also did a lot of music reviews, wrote articles and conducted interviews, moderated a forum, where people could discuss things. So we uploaded music there and we had to deal with KODA, and that was not so good. They were threatening to sue us all the time.
Were these local artists you were writing about?
Exactly. They were Danish Hip-Hop artists. We focused on that and once in a while we had someone from Sweden and Norway, but that’s local as well, I guess. Other than that, it was a lot of Danish rappers and Hip-Hop producers who uploaded instrumental tracks and so forth.
Since you curated that website, it perhaps means that you had some background knowledge of the music and culture. Am I right?
Definitely. I’ve been into hip-hop music from a very young age. Perhaps since I was 10-11 years old. It was like 1994-1995 at that time. I was mostly into American Hip-Hop, and then in 1998-99 I started getting knowledge about the local scene in Aarhus.
Then eventually I started curating and reviewing Danish Hip-Hop for Undergrunden.dk. Stopped working there in 2004 and started at Danskrap.DK – another Hip-Hop site. I was there for a few years. Then I wrote for Flavourz and HipHop.DK and the physical Hip-Hop magazine ActionSpeax, where I had my column with selected upcoming rappers and producers, writing reviews, articles and interviews.
People started noticing that I had a lot of knowledge in music and I was a good selector. Eventually I was asked to play at the Hip-Hop Jam and that’s how my DJ career started. I used to DJ with friends at first, but then I continued on my own. And then around 2006-2007 we made our first one hour long mix-tape with vinyl records. Then, of course Serato came in and I used that a lot. Nowadays, I play strictly vinyl too, because it’s much more fun to do.
“To be honest with you, when I was in boarding school I knew I will become a DJ. You know, because I am very strict and I want to control the music, haha! Perhaps that’s how it all started.”
I love to play at Hip-Hop Jams. The problem is that there are not as many as there used to be. Back in the day, every small town in Jutland had at least one Jam per month. For example, we used to go to Svendborg ’cause they had good jams over there. Generally, we were searching a lot, because for me it’s always been about the underground scene. It is one of the things that I really love, and it’s my specialty as well.
You know, I usually play some shit that nobody else does. I play the shit that people either forgot or never heard of and it is dope. As a consequence, I get a lot of people writing to me and asking about tracks after my shows, so I just started uploading my playlists online.
But when it comes to my record collection, you know, I am not rich, so I can’t buy a lot of records with only this or that break I like. I don’t have much of that in my collection. I use Serato for this mostly. My vinyl collection consists of music that I actually listen to. I have around 1700 records, and it’s generally hip-hop records. I listen to the whole record. I am not stocking records with only one particular break that I want to loop.
At the end of the day, I am a collector, so I want my collection as complete as possible, I can do that with Danish Hip-Hop. If I want to collect all the other genres I like, I would need a better income. I don’t make enough money to do that.
Nice Story! You have around 1700 records. Could you describe what is in your collection?
Ok, I have actually quite sorted it out. I have sorted it out on my Discogs account one way, and then I have a different system for my shelves. I have Danish Hip-Hop records, instrumental Hip-Hop, then I have the other genres. I have 12inch records singles, and then I have everything else in Hip-Hop. That’s American, British, German, French, whatever… Hip-Hop. Then I have the test presses and the 7inches.
Do you have a goal for your collection? Did you buy records for Djing, for listening, or?
You know, when I started playing music, most DJs were playing 12inch maxi singles. But then, I was a poor young student, I wanted to buy albums. I used to get much more value for the price. And of course, I bought some singles for DJing purposes as well, but primarily, I buy records for listening. And if I like them, I will play them.
Alright, the thing is that I had several back injuries and I was unable to DJ for some periods of time. I’ve just had one earlier, 2-3 month ago and I can not DJ at this moment, so I am on pause again.
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Is it because you can not stand for too long?
Basically, I have arthritis in my neck and I had several surgeries seven years ago. After that, it took me 2 years of training to be able to DJ again. I was learning to do things differently, and because I could not scratch anymore, I had to find new ways to DJ. Unfortunately, my neck collapsed once again. I am hoping that it will get better at some point, but right now I am on serious amount of painkillers and on pause again.
However, I am still a collector and I am buying a lot of records – as much as I can afford. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for the culture, like releasing music, production, selling music. I work for Run For Cover Records. But for the most part, I am a fan, I have always been a fan.
Where do you buy records from?
Since I work for Run For Cover, I get most of my records from there. And if I can not get it at the store, I buy it directly from the labels. For instance, I buy a lot from Copenhagen Crates. It is a Danish Hip-Hop label that I like a lot. They release a lot of good stuff. Sometimes I also just get records directly from the artists. And sometimes I find it used at the record stores. For me it’s like “wherever I can find it”.
You mentioned about your knowledge in USA Hip-Hop back in the 90s, followed by Danish Hip-Hop. What are your interests nowadays, Jesper?
I like the UK Hip-Hop scene a lot, but another of my favorites is the German scene.
Is it old school stuff or?
I would say that it is a throw-back sound. For me that is a new golden age in Hip-Hop. The best golden age as far as I am concerned. They have this crazy new lo-fi Hip-Hop sound in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands. Many great artists from that scene! I really love that sound and UK and USA producers are also getting into that style. The beats are amazing, drums are low-key, it’s slow, the rappers have a low voice and they do a lot of story-telling.
OK, interesting! Would you say that Europe is where Hip-Hop is at right now?
I would say that production is definitely in Europe. Of course, the majority of best rappers are still in USA. However, there are a lot of UK rappers coming up and getting a lot of recognition, for instance Blah Records. Production is just great in Europe, I am going to a lot of festivals to see the producers live. Festivals such as Tapefabrik or Skaters Palace in Germany. I am in love with that style.
Are these producers working only with German rappers?
It started that way, but now they are expanding. For instance, Masta Ace had all record remixed by German producers. Italian, UK and USA rappers are starting to use them as well. It is funny, because when Hip-Hop started, it was common to have one DJ and one rapper or one producer, and a lot of albums were made that way. Then they started having a lot of different producers on their albums. But now we are coming back to the model of one rapper and one producer and now the producer started getting more recognition and credit for the work. I like that. I think that is actually saving Hip-Hop for me.
“Hip-hop is an old genre, it is more than 40 years old, I don’t thing we should keep adding different styles into that category. Let’s call it something new, like Grime for instance. But it’s just my opinion. However, as I said, I think we are living in the new Golden Age of Hip-Hop.”
The thing is that there are always going be great rappers, but the production is also very important. And to be honest with you, I don’t like any of the mainstream Hip-Hop that is popular right now. I also think that what is called Hip-Hop nowadays is not even Hip-Hop. It’s just people singing with auto-tune. I would not even call it urban music. I think some of it even deserved it to have it’s own genre instead of putting it in the old box.
Since we talked about old-school Hip-Hop, golden age Hip-Hop, new golden age Hip-Hop. Where is Danish Hip-Hop in this picture?
I would say it’s in between. You know, a lot of old rappers are getting more refined and obtaining a larger fan base. That is also fine, since it is not falling completely into the mainstream direction. There are a lot of people that perhaps should not release an album right away. Back in the days, you would practice a little bit more before you put something out. Being able to just release anything has its own consequences… you know. But there is a lot of Hip-Hop and a lot of new artists coming up, so it’s very good, I think.
The Danish Hip-Hop scene had an overflow of vinyl releases a couple of years ago and that hurt the fan base. Because so much music was coming out, that fans didn’t even know what to buy. And perhaps something should have not necessarily been released. Anyhow, right now we are at the good point and whatever is coming out is generally a quality release.
On another hand, today it is easier for people to get something done. For example, working with RPM Records makes it possible to have 100 records in just a couple of weeks, and when I started pressing records, we had to wait 4 or 5 months, and the minimum order was 500. I believe this makes it easier for underground labels to release music. We press a lot of vinyl with Run For Cover, but we also love that artists are pressing records independently.
When did you publish your first release?
I released my first CD in 2004 on our label Burger INC. The name comes from Burger King and Murder INC combined. It’s a collective album with two Danish rappers K-Liir & Ham Den Lange. For this CD, we gathered older unreleased stuff and I produced two songs on this album. After that, Ham Den Lange & Kejser-A made a group called Haven Morgan. At that time, labels did not want to press records, so we made our own label to press vinyl. It was called Idiotsikker Records and our first release was Haven Morgan – Et Lille Eventyr. It came out in 2006, as a limited 200 copies pressing.
Our main focus was to release Danish Hip-Hop on vinyl. At that time we thought that for Hip-Hop to be really legitimate, it must be pressed on vinyl because all DJs were spinning records back then. Serato was still a completely new product.
You mentioned that you work to help Danish Hip-Hop culture, what is your function in this process? How do you approach this?
For example, I always give advice to people who want their record pressed, and basically I send them to the right places. I send people to mastering engineers, coach people about promotion, and also promote new music on Run For Cover. We are trying to have every Danish release possible on our feed and in our shop. If it’s something related to Danish Hip-Hop, we will always have it in our store and I will try to sell it, will try to promote it. We also do Jams, host upcoming DJs and organize release parties.
OK Nice! What is your position at Run For Cover?
At Run For Cover I work with social media, web-shop and some design stuff. I am also responsible for the clothing line and the whole vinyl section, ordering records and our vinyl production. Because when I started at Run For Cover, I was still running Idiotsikker Records simultaneously. I was pretty sick at that time, so could not work that much. It did not make sense for me to run my own record label alongside Run For Cover. After the 22nd release, I closed Idiotsikker Records and started releasing the music I wanted under Run For Cover.
Would you agree that Hip-Hop culture is strong in Denmark?
It is still strong, however I think it was strongest at the beginning of the century, late 90s, early 00s. There is still a lot of new artists coming up and doing a lot of stuff that I love. But a lot of them are producing Hip-Hop and other genres simultaneously. It is something that people wouldn’t do back in the day. And this is still something that I am trying to grasp. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of great stuff being released today, for instance Natkat. Both Aske and Frej are very well known in the House Music, but also do extremely well produced and well sounding Hip-Hop. I think it is still strong, but it is also very differentiated.
–Best Sounding Records–
The album is the solo-debut of the producer / rapper Kno from Cunninlynguists, who is perhaps my favorite producer. As the title suggests, it is circled around death. It’s a very sinister record. Every little detail is perfect. He is not the best rapper in the world, but his rhyme schemes are intricate and skilled. And the universe he creates is extremely well made sonically. Everything is more or less perfect. The feeling matches the lyrics and tone of his rap and the vinyl sounds great. Also it is extremely rare.
The album is produced by Adlib Swayze. It is a German Hip-Hop record. It is something special about the sound of this record, it is sort of old-school, sort of boom bap’ish, but also hard punching and it has a compressed sound. It is just hard hitting and it sounds so good. And there are 3 rappers on it and everyone just sounds great. It is double LP, there is 1 record with lyrics, another with instrumentals and sometimes I just listen to instrumental LP, because it is so fucking good.
The next record I chose is a Danish Hip Hop record. The music by Esben, Loke Deph and Boonekamf. It just sounds so well. I had a hard time choosing between this and Sigma – Arcadia. Both just sound amazing. Danish Hip-hop at it’s best.
This is one of the two albums I have ever reviewed and gave it a 6 out of 6. Alex Puddu is an Italian musician living in Denmark as far as I remember. He made an album with one of my favorite soul singers Joe Bataan. The drums and percussion are just amazing. The quality of the pressing is very good as well.
Last but not least, my favorite Danish producer DJ Swab on a record that I released myself. It’s a crossover between Neo-Soul and Trip-Hop with some Hip-Hop vibes. The sound is so amazing, drums are programmed and mixed so well. We pressed this at DMS in England and the cutting engineer asked us if they could keep one copy for themselves, because they thought it was one of the best sounding records they have ever heard. So I am allowing myself to put this on the best sounding list, even though I am sort of biased in this case.
-Most Interesting Design–
I used to have some crazy box sets that are extremely well designed but I would never listen to them. However, I like this Wild Style book with break beats. It is very well designed and contains a book with pictures and 7 inches inside. This is re-recorded break beats, not the originals from the movie. I just love it, you know, as a Hip-Hop fan, it’s one of my favorite films historically. I also played records at the event after the Wild Style movie screening last year.
I think the cover is OK, but not that great. There’s just a black standard vinyl inside, together with a Christmas Tree record as a bonus disc. And I think that is just so interesting. I would not call it the best design, but this is one of the most interesting designs.
The second one is from Christiania’s Radio. It comes in a gatefold as a green 12inch. You can also find seeds, paper, filters, a mixing tray and a CD. The track “Amen For Weed” is amazing, I played that one a lot. And I think that was an interesting way to do it.
This guy is perhaps my favorite record cover designer. It was originally released on cassette and we re-issued it on a record with Run For Cover. The cover design is printed on a plastic sleeve and it makes sense only when the record is inside. We pressed it twice because it was so popular, first on red vinyl and the second edition on white vinyl.
This record comes in an actual pizza box, because labels and artists used to ship records in pizza boxes back in the day. I think those are the 5 most interesting visually designed records from my collection.
“It is difficult to define what is a rare record. It can be the most expensive records, or records that were made in limited edition of 30 copies. The first one I chose has been re-issued. It is perhaps one of my favorite records of all time.”
When it came out, it came numbered from 0 to 500. The first 100 were pressed on red marble vinyl. It is very, very rare and extremely beautiful. The problem is, that it is one of those splatter vinyl where the sound is fucked up. Splatter vinyl can sometimes fuck up the sound. Something about the way the colors interact in pressing. I have never been able to figure out exactly why. So yeah, this is my favorite album on digital, cause the first release is so shitty. The second actually sounds pretty good. I usually never have double copies, but because the first one sounds so shitty, I had to buy the second pressing.
I could have chosen most of CunninLynguists records. All of them are very rare and sell out immediately. But this one is special to me because it took so many years to get it on vinyl. It was supposed to be released on vinyl when it came out, but it did not at first. When it was finally released on vinyl, they sold it on a tour and came to Denmark, but records were held at customs. So yeah.. It could also be included in the best visual records, but I chose this for the rare ones.
Kno is one of my favorite producer of all times. He did a remix album of the “Black Album” from Jay Z. I met Kno at some concerts and he did not even have a copy himself. My friend gave me his extra copy. As far as I know, it is really rare. I don’t know how rare it is, but I have not seen it anywhere.
I could have chosen both their records, but I chose this one, because it is funny how things change. In 2004 they sold this record on the website for 150 Danish Kroner because they had an overstock of them. And then it was just getting more expensive. Today it is around 1500 Danish Kroner. It is in that price range now.
The last one I chose is the one that accidentally became rare. When I had Idiotsikker Records, I released this album digitally and it did not get much attention. Then I made a deal with Run For Cover to lathe cut 50 copies. Some of them did not work out well and had some flaws. It is extremely rare, people constantly come up to me and talk about how they need it. I don’t know the sale price, but I know it is rare enough for people to talk about how they need it.
-Personally Significant Records-
“The records I chose mean a lot to me and I picked up only those that have a story to tell.”
During that time, I had my neck operation. I was injured and out of business, but then one of my favorite Danish rappers Supardejen contacted me to release his album. It was his come back album after a 13 year break. I accepted the offer, but did not have the means to do it. So we tried the crowdfunding. And it was such a success. We made it in red vinyl and with dope cover art and he started releasing a lot of records after that. It really means a lot to me.
I released his first 2 albums on my record label Idiotsikker. And when I stopped, he released this himself. The interesting thing is that he recorded the whole thing on Reel-2-Reel tapes. The only digital instrument used was his AKAI MPC. He sent the tapes to UK to cut the master plate directly from analogue. Then he sent the lacquer disc to Germany and pressed the record there.
These are 5 tracks produced between 2010-2011 and we pressed them on vinyl in 2015. It all started during the drinking game, the dice game. He lost the match with the consequences, that we had to release a single of his unreleased tracks. And then we spent one year preparing this album. You know, getting the cover designed and fixing up the sound, because some of the tracks were old MP3 files or shitty mixed tracks. We had DJ Swab to make the most out of it and I think he succeeded in making it sound good. It is an interesting album, it has a 12 minute long story-telling track about the boy called Lukas who builds a spaceship. No chorus or anything. I think it is a really amazing record and it means a lot to me.
Around the same time I was working at Stardust, a small cafe and a record shop in Aarhus. We released a live album from down there, also as a crowdfunding project. Sort of trying to save the business. We had some of our favorite jazz musicians from Aarhus playing classic jazz tracks and it has a dope cover.
This record perhaps means the most to me in my whole collection. The reason I stopped the label was because of my health. So I made my last record that took me 2 years to get done. It features tracks that have never been released before. So it is the best music that was not on vinyl, and also 5 previously unreleased tracks. I spent 11 or 12 years convincing Latex Lax to release the track called Genfødsel, because it is so personal. Many tracks on this record are very personal and they are about being mentally ill or having personal issues and stuff like that. This track was written on the first day he was admitted to the mental hospital. The cover was made by the designer who did all the early Idiotsikker Records covers. It is a mash-up of all back catalog covers and my hands destructing the record label.
The last one I chose is the one I did with RPM Records. This is one of the most interesting projects that I’ve ever done. When the corona virus and lock-down hit, I was both bored and thought that we needed something to kick-start the rappers and the whole culture. I had an idea about getting two producers to make the music, and I contacted a bunch of rappers to see if they wanted to participate in this project. The record features 18 rappers. We pre-sold it only and pressed it on green smoked vinyl. We only pressed the amount that was ordered, a few more copies for artists and a few extra, just in case. I needed some for my collection as well.
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