Kid Sublime on his past 20 years, Ballroom Radio Records, collaborations & more.
One of Amsterdam's most prolific producers of the past 20 years has been Kid Sublime without a doubt. Today is his 40th birthday, a great time to take a moment and dive into the Kid's journey up till now.
Jacob Otten, who most people know as Kid Sublime, is by all means no new kid on the worldwide block. His first release dates back to 2001, but when going deep into his life it's quite evident that he was always surrounded by some form of artistry.
Both parents are writers, his grandmother was a radio DJ for 52 years, played harp and truly an all-around artist. His grandfather lived the most musician-like life though. As a classical flutist he's toured in Japan and had a huge passion for jazz. He's the one that gave 5-year-old Jacob his first piece of equipment when returning from a tour: a snare drum. Next to that there was a piano in the house already, these two elements were instrumental into his personal musical adventure.
He went to piano lessons for a couple of years but realised the formal way wasn't really for him. During those lessons he did get schooled on North Sea Jazz Festival footage and got introduced to jazz/funk legends like Herbie Hancock & George Duke. In his teens he played drums in a hardcore-punk band and was hanging with the skaters, but it was the pivotal moment of seeing Yo! MTV Raps at his grand-parents place that re-directed his interest towards hip hop. Seeing Gang Starr's 'Step In The Arena' specifically inspired Kid to get turntables and start scratching. Shortly after around the age of 17 he started working at the infamous Fat Beats recordstore and by then there was no turning back. Getting exposed to some of the best rap albums of that time, learning about all kinds of music, discovering sample-sources in soul, funk & jazz records and seeing an MPC in the store, all led him to get his own drumcomputer and start producing next to his DJ'ing. It was a buzzin' time in Amsterdam, with Rush Hour having just opened up as well. They introduced him more to the electronic house music scene and that led him to incorporate that in his craft. He's been dabbling in hip hop and house since the early days and never let that go.
"I still frequently dream about Fat Beats, being back in the store, like it still exists. Thats how important that spot was for me." - Kid Sublime
Amsterdam-based brazilectro group Zuco 103 were the ones that took him on tour as a DJ and thats how he started seeing the world and discover the fun, but exhausting, tour life. Around the same time Kid joined the group Rednose Distrikt with fellow MPC-experimentalist Steven De Peven (Awanto 3). They used the pads to flip samples not just into hip hop-oriented beats, but future jazz/broken beat, house & other electronic sounds as well. It led into the release of one album, Iller Dan Je Ouders. The collaboration didn't work out for too long, so he left and went solo.
Between 2004-2005 Rush Hour's Antal saw the potential and founded a sublabel called Jahwell Recordings just for Kid's releases and he dropped seven 12"s in a short timespan. Another key-figure that supported him early-on was DJ KC The Funkaholic, who ran the Kindred Spirits label. KC also introduced Kid to a lot of the artists that ended up on his debut album, such as Jneiro Jarel and Lady Alma.
In 2005 he released his debut album Basement Soul on Kindred Spirits. A great album, still 15 years later. It portrayed his versatility in genre-blending of all kinds of soulfulness. The few years after that carried somewhat of a dark cloud, due to the extensive touring life and lifestyle. It made him retreat to his parents place where he could live in a garden shed and stayed a couple of months to get back on track. Reflecting back on those years Kid felt like it was his most troubled time, but despite that fact the consistency in releases barely dropped. He had features by MCs like Frank-N-Dank, Camp Lo, Illa J, did remixes for Recloose, Grooveman Spot, Nicky Guiland, Amp Fiddler, Lay-Far, lots of collaborations with Inkswel, Han Litz are just a handful of names he's worked with. Take a good look into his discography.
Throughout it all he never stopped DJ'ing clubs either. Kid had several residencies in the city and traveled abroad to countries like the UK and Japan. Japan is also the place where he released two albums, Hot Water Music in 2014 and The Padded Room in 2018. Finding the balance of consistently producing and playing gigs is always a hard challenge and he did experience that at times. When asked what he considers himself to be first, his answer is clear. Producer/musician first. It's the language he speaks naturally.
"I DJ like a producer. I play what I’m making, would’ve liked to have made or did make."
In 2020 Kid launched his own label Ballroom Radio Records with his beloved wife and multi-talented booking manager Ness (she also runs her own delicious take-out & pop-up food joint Nessie's. Highly recommended!). One of their aims with BRR is to build a community amongst the various artists they will sign. Collaboration will be key. So far there has been only one release by himself called The Umami EP but we've heard that lots of good stuff is on the come-up. During our interview the masters of a forthcoming project arrived and trust me, it's hot. More on that soon!
Just two weeks ago Kid released the collaborative broken beat project TURBULANCE, which came out in the UK on CoOperation Records. The album was born out of a few steaming sessions in Sublime's former studio with keyboardist Beka Gochiashvili and dj/producer Misho Urushadze from Tblisi, Georgia. We did a write up on that process & a more in-depth dive HERE. One of the people responsible for getting it into the hands of label-chief Afronaut is the late great UK pioneer producer/DJ Phil Asher. Since his recent and unexpected passing in January a lot of things sparked across the globe in the music community. Phil was a man who constantly connected the right people with each other and instigated so many great collaborations and friendships. This spirit lives on in everyone who knew him, and it shows. His loss let people know how vital those things are. One of them is to simply try and contact artists you like to work with and tell them how much you appreciate their contribution. "Give them their props and flowers while they're still with us." Kid's happy he did get to say that to Phil, many times. "But imagine if I didn't?"
After 20 years it's pretty clear Kid Sublime hasn't lost his touch and is more productive than ever. Currently he's working on much anticipated solo album The Paradigm Shift, a collaborative project with Duke Hugh called The Dialekt, a hiphop album for Dutch MC's Skeer & Boos and he's constantly flipping beats for his own rhyme skills as well. Earlier this year he released his official debut album as an MC, called 'Straat Coach', a playful album with him rapping in Dutch on self-produced banging boom bap beats. Another example of his versatility and endless workflow. If you follow the man on Instagram then you know how much he's in that studio, sharing glimpses of all these forthcoming projects you to need to keep an eye on.
Happy 40th birthday, Kid! Keep that youthful energy, stay funky and we'll surely keep on bumping those Sublime tracks for many more years to come. Oh and by the way, to make it all full circle Jacob recently started teaching children and brilliantly calls it "Sublime For Kids". Young parents, you know what to do.
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