I asked myself the question: There are so many dope producers on this earth, what is THE man people probably want to know and learn more about and at the same time I can expand my own hiphop knowledge. There was always one guy that made me curious all the time with his dope sampling, big drums and fat basses.
Kevin Hansford is the name of the producer which gave me that special feeling while listening to his tracks. I hear you asking: “Kevin Hansford, who the phuuuck is Kevin Hansford?”, the man behind Real Live, let me introduce to you: K-Def. Or shall I call him: Mister K-Def.
For starters there’s already one fact explaining what made K-Def who he is now; his arts were born in the kitchen of Mister Magic Marley Marl. Everybody knows Marley Marl .. word? He came in touch with this legendary beat maker through a good friend of his and former World Renown member John Doe, who was the cousin of Mister Magic.
In the beginning K was considered the ghost producer of Marley other than as an independent beat maker. Marley showed K how to slice tapes and taught him how the work the SSL board and engineering; lessons that would continue to be used throughout K’s career. This learning process ended in true classics for K-Def like ‘Here Come the Lords’ of Lord of the Underground and of course the Intelligent Hoodlum tapes were seen as true classics and the point where the enduring career of K-Def took off.
The younger readers probably know K from his music after 2008, the dozens of records he released on the labels ‘Slice of Spice’ and ‘Redefinition Records’. But, it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, black or white, ugly or handsome; my goal is to show you the true impact and dedication of K-Def to the music and culture that we call Hip Hop.
In this article I will show you a mix of known classics and unknown tracks, and driven by the stories behind the tracks, hopefully with a high wow, didn’t know that-calibre.
Featured Works & Playlist
The tracks can be played individually while you read the stories of our picks, or you can scroll down to hit off the full playlist.
Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs – I Got To Have It (1991)
As we speak about the first record of K, here it is! Probably people think that the collabo with Monie Love was his first release/production ever on wax. Though.. this is partly true.
From the beginning of 86’, K is busy with capturing loops and cuts, almost everything that could be captured, K was there to record that particular sound. But he didn’t have the capability to produce a full track and had a lack of knowledge about how to produce beats yet. This is the moment where he met the Awesome Two; Positive K and Teddy Ted, the producers of this Edo O.G.’s album.
Awesome Two had hardware & knowledge about how to produce beats, beats and more beats and K-Def had the huge amount of loops and cuts. This is where the collaboration started and the reason why this album can be seen as the first tape of K-Def!
Lords of the Underground – Chief Rocka
If we talk about the ‘Here Come The Lords’ album, we are talking about one of the best hiphop albums in history. Produced by Marley Marl, DJ Lord Jazz and of course our best man: K-Def.
For K, this is the record where it all started and the moment where it all went upwards. From this moment K-Def is the man on his own and showed the public what he is able to do with his drum computers, mixers and samplers.
‘I had just seen Marley two weeks prior and I was at his house. I was thinking that I had no more beats after I gave like 25 joints to him, so I knew I had to get more beats done. After I had got back to my crib, I went home, vibed, and I pulled out some breaks from here and there and pieced it together with the drums. Afterwards, I put the beat on and everyone went crazy. This was at time when everyone was focused and Mr. Funke went in!’
The man who first worked and developed himself in the shadow of Marley Marl is ready for the big work without his friend and teacher Marley Marl. This record peaked at #55 on the Billboard 200 and went to #1 on the Hot Rap Singles-chart. Because of his great dedication of bringing this album to a success, he also produced 50% of LOTU’s second album ‘Keepers Of The Funk’ in 1994.
Intelligent Hoodlum – Street Life [Return Of The Life Mix]
Not long after his success with LOTU, he hooked up with Tragedy Khadafi for bringing this album together with Marley. And if we talk about one of the fattest K-joints, we are talking about this joint. K-Def to the fullest! Funny to see that the first 16 bars are without the drums like almost every other track he produced.
Together with Marley he is responsible for almost every production/beat on this album; The classic ‘Tragedy: Saga of a Hoodlum’, a must for every man that labels himself as a hiphophead .This is the second album of the man that called himself ‘Tragedy Khadafi’ after he dropped the first HIGH rated album ‘Intelligent Hoodlum’. K-Def took the place from Large Pro on this second album, the first one, ‘Intelligent Hoodlum’ is produced by Marl & Large Pro together.
Real Live – Pop the Trunk
If we talk about K-Def, we talk about Larry O. And if we talk about both of them in the same sentence, we talk about Real Live. And if we talk about Real Live, we talk about ‘The long awaited Drama: The Turnaround’. Definitely one of thé best underground hiphop albums ever made, without a doubt.
“The best records to me? I would have to say the Real Live album. The early stuff, I didn’t look at myself as a producer because I was young, it was going so fast and I was doing so many projects, and it was only when I did the Real Live that I got serious about being an artist and taking on a lot of the business responsibilities that I didn’t have to take when I was just making beats for everybody else.”
It wasn’t the flamboyant relationship between K and L most people think. Larry and Kevin broke up a couple of times because of different disagreements. Larry O was having his own agenda and didn’t pay much time to K and the projects they had. As you can see, ‘The long awaited Drama: The Turnaround’ is released in 1996, this could be more earlier if they stayed together the whole time because they already hooked up in ’88 !.8 years between it! KRS was also a good friend of Larry, which caused a part of the problem because Larry spent a lot of time with the hero we call ‘The Blastmasta’.
Unfortunately this fragile relationship didn’t change much and this is quite shitty for you and me.. you know why? Otherwise we would have had a second LP of this golden duo, something a real hiphop head is dreaming about. The dicky fact is that the album is for 90% finished now, al-fucking-most! But wasn’t and will not be released because of arguments between each other.. damn..
World Renown – Long Gev
If you talk with a random hiphop lover and start talking about hiphop albums that should have been physically released but never came out, people quickly start talking about the unreleased album of ‘World Renown’, consisting of John Doe, cousin of Marley Marl and Seven Shawn, the cousin of K-Def. And.. It’s shitty but it’s true, it never saw the light because of bad management of the label ‘Warner Bros’ which didn’t have the actual knowledge of running a subsidiary underground label instead of drawing cartoons with shitty voices. Wrong choices were being made and this album didn’t come out, too f*cking bad!
Because everybody was siked about the two tracks which already saw the light on wax; ‘Come Take A Ride’ and ‘How Nice I Am’, with the Phife Dawg-sample, people wanted to know when the album was planned to be released. Now, since a couple of years, the album is available on the internet. Unluckily the quality of the sound is quite bad because K didn’t have the full master tapes anymore.. but the tracks.. damn!
‘Long Gev’, the song we have here and also a track of the ‘unreleased album’ of World Renown is also physical released on vinyl (7”) on the legendary ‘Slice and Spice’ label in 2013 under the name of K-Def’s own series: Signature S3vens of K-Def. For the collectors: be quick, only 199 pieces are pressed!
NAS – Street Dreams (K-Def remix)
Ya’ll know this song? Probably yes but I bet you haven’t heard this remix!
K-Def used to be a diehard Nas-fan at that time. The label Atlantic gave him the Nas-accapella of Street Dreams, which wasn’t even released at that time. After he made the remix for this dope ass track, he handed it back to the label and they just threw it overseas, to Europe. A couple of years he saw it back by accident. A good friend saw that the record started circulating around in the US. ‘Didn’t know you did some joints for Nas, K?’ in 2012 ’Slice of Spice’ signed the record and released it on CD and 12” in the US.
It really has the special ‘K-vibe’ which he also showed track after track on the Real Live album!
Da Youngsta’s – Mad Props
We continue with Nas.. you know why? This beat was first assigned to Nas and was planned to be on Illmatic, yea, Illmatic J. Unfortunately it didn’t happen due to money issues.. Now he got this fat joint with Da Youngsta’s where he produced this EP for together with his fellow Marley Marl.
“Pete Rock’s ‘The World is Yours’ inspired me to produce this song”
This is a typical K-Def joint you recognize from miles and miles away. The low volume drums at the first 8 or 16 bars and the short but really fast and dope scratches during the whole track.
[Here two short examples of what K-Def is producing these days]
K-Def – Relay the Piece (Redefinition Records)
Here a good example of what K-Def is doing these days. A production of ‘The Exhibit’-album (instrumental!), released on the label of ‘Redefinition Records’ in 2013. As you can hear; it still has the ‘K-signatures’! Starting without any drumbeat, just the samples and of course the cracky snares! Good example that K stays true to hiphop no matter what kind of equipment he is using.
K-Def – It’s Going Down Sucka (with J-Twice) (Slice of Spice)
Here another track of the series ‘Signature Sevens’ of K-Def,. I already showed you the World Renown record, this one is from the same series. This record is one for the real collectors. Only 10 are pressed on 7”s, only 10!
As you probably noticed, the typical K-sound is also packed in this record! First couple of bars without drums, the cracky snares and of course the fast & aggressive scratches. K-Def to the max!
Extra tracks you should really check for a better view about what K did in the past and is doing now, they’re all included in our playlist below.
Artifacts – It’s Getting Hot (K-Def Remix)
Mic Geronimo - For Tha Family (K-Def Production)
Nonchalant – 5 O’Clock (K-Def Remix)
Sah-B – Some Ol’ Sah-B Shit
De’1 – Rather Uneke
K-Def – Escapizm (Feat. Rob O)
K-Def – Sparkle (Instrumental)
Check The Technique (Style, Gear & Influences)
K has some distinct signature sounds in his music. Like recording the first 8 or 16 bars without drums, just the samples and bass as you may have noticed and can proof throughout the playlist. Almost every oldskool track from the hands of K follows the pattern like this!
The second typical K signature are the fast en short scratches, almost aggressive scratching, check out Da Youngstas’ – Mad Props for the perfect example!
“Drums are the foundation of the track, if the drums ain’t good, I stop the track and won’t continue. I need good drums to push and drive the track. You have to drive it. If you want a bassline and to do extra things in here, the drums drives the track. And as long as the snares are cracking? IT’S GOOD”
Marley was one of the first who owned a SSL (mix)board and this is what K learned to mix full tracks on since, knowing how to get all these sounds balanced and blend them together like taking all kinds of fruits and make the best kinda smoothie out of it.
The beat machines he started with were the SP12, then in ’88 the SP1200 (which got more sample time) and putted a year later his hands on a MPC60. You can say he learned all the shit on those machines. Later on he added a S1000 sampler to it (which is a legendary in many music genres and the first stereo sampler). Basically he used it all. When the the MPC3000, to the S3000 and even MPC4000 came out he had to use it.
“The Real Live album is a plain example of what I could do with the SSL, the S3000 and an MPC. I could really say that using 2 machines only with no extra hardware, no nothing but an SSL, S3000 and MPC3000… I did the whole album on those. The sequencing was, by far, superior to anything anyone was doing at the time in ‘96. If you listen to any of the samples [I used], and you know that those samples are now familiar… if you listen to how they [other producers] used em, they got drums in the samples. Listen to my tracks! See if you can hear those drums in my samples. That’s how you can tell that I mastered those machines.”
After producing the whole Real Live album which got released in 1996, he changed his beat making equipment drastically. Around 1997 he started incorporating the computer into his work flow, and now exclusively uses a software based setup with Cubase and Logic. If you listen to his new productions, you really hear the differences in sound.
“As computers came onto the scene, I jumped right on the computers and started making music on the computers and I used that to my advantage. Now, I feel outta place trying to use an MPC again, it just doesn’t make sense. I can’t make a hit song like I did in the ‘90s, because the first thing I’m thinking is it’s going to take a whole bunch of sample to make this song and I’m not going to see no money, and I need to life, you see?”
The dingy basses, creaking drums and dusty sound of the samples are over and made place for a cleaner sound. The type of samples and loops didn’t change that much if you compare it with the shit he used to make in the early days, still a lót of soul, funk and hard cracking snares, but the overall sound of his beats sound more like they had a bath with a lot of shower gel, if ya n0 wuh I mean.
Present & Future
After doing a lot of oldskool shit in the early days, K is now involved with the labels Slice of Spice and Redefinition Records of the one and only Damu the Fudgemunk, where he is probably known for to most people. At this moment, he is DJ’ing, mixing & mastering for a lot of different artists (like Pete Flux and Parental f.e.) and creates beat after beat. Most of his releases these days are instrumental EP & LP’s.
He got his own ‘K-Def’s Signature Sevens’ on the label Slice of Spice, where oldskool beats are getting remastered and being dropped on 7” with just a limited amount of slices. He has also another series of records called ‘K-Def Bonus Beats Volume X’ with the same conditions; limited editions and brought to you on a 7” colored vinyl. He has also project with a MC called DaCapo, he already released a couple of albums with him.
Besides the records on Slice of Spice records, he is doing really a lot of stuff for Redefinition Records label. Together with Damu and Klaus Layer he is number #1 supplier of records under the name of Redef and he’s responsible for mixing several Damu & Klaus Layer albums & EP’s.
Because he is in a really good relation with Damu, his releases will definitely continue but ‘musically, you never know what the future will bring to you’, he once said. There is only one thing that is sure and won’t change for K, that’s the unstoppable love for Hip Hop.
“I DON’T WANNA BE A GUY THAT PEOPLE SAY OH, HE’S A OLD SCHOOL 90’S GUY, HE’S OUTTA HERE. I WANT THEM TO BE LIKE, WOW HE’S A 90’S GUY THAT STAYED PREVALENT WITH TECHNOLOGY AND KEPT IT MOVING AND FIGURED OUT MORE INNOVATIVE WAYS TO PRESERVE WHAT WE CALL HIP HOP.”
K also has his own record label called ‘Ghetto Man Beats’ which is not just a label but a music company. Aside of releasing it covers other fields, there’s graphic design in this company, there’s photography, music, DJing, editing, mixing, mastering pretty much everything involved in the music the company Ghetto Man Beats can get down and do. That’s one of the main focuses right now, having the company stand on its own and be able to do things other than just K-Def making beats for the company there are other things that can transpire from it.
My goal before writing this article was to teach and show you more about the contribution of K-Def to the Hip Hop scene in general, hopefully I passed my exam and please feel free to provide us with more of your knowledge and feedback. Be on the look out for our next edition in which you’ll get to know all about Godfather Don. Meanwhile, get your daily dose of hiphop tracks and history snippets through our facebook page Golden Era Tracks. Peace!