Shigeto and Waajeed on the MOVEMENT Sample Pack and giving back to Detroit

A microphone, an assortment of mallets, and an abandoned liquor-store-turned-recording-studio.

These were the ingredients for creating the MOVEMENT Sample Pack, spearheaded by Detroit-based musicians Waajeed and Shigeto. The duo drove across the Motor City, making stops along the way to capture field recordings and, in a sense, quite literally document the sounds of Detroit. Hours of these recordings were then dissected, deconstructed, and transformed into samples. Throughout the day, musicians from the Detroit scene and those performing on the MOVEMENT lineup came in and manipulated these samples, transforming each sound into loops and one-shots with their own unique approaches. The culminating project is a celebration of Detroit and the artists who call it home.

“It’s the sound of making something from nothing,” Waajeed says. Waajeed, born Robert O’Bryant IV, grew up in Detroit’s Conant Gardens, developing an affinity for Roy Ayers, Funkadelic, and more through his father’s record collection. His genre-spanning career began as part of the Slum Village crew, producing tracks for the seminal recording project of J. Dilla, Baatin, and T3. He went on to form the label Bling47 and the hip hop duo Platinum Pied Pipers, and now runs Dirt Tech Reck, a label releasing sinewy house and techno from the likes of Rimarkable, Theo Parrish, and more. “What I can say,” he continues, “is that the sounds Shigeto and I captured are a reflection of The D.”

Shigeto, recording alias of Zach Saginaw, grew up in Ann Arbor, around 40 miles from Detroit. “Even though I wasn’t from there,” Saginaw says, “I always felt a connection musically growing up.” Saginaw spent his formative years playing drums in Detroit’s jazz and hip hop scene, performing alongside the likes of jazz mainstays Roy Brooks and Laurence Williams, rapper Paradime, and saxophonist Vincent York. “Vincent is like a musical father to me,” he says, “and a huge reason why I grew up with a strong connection to the scene there.” In Detroit, the young jazz drummer got his first taste of electronic music as well. “I remember going to the very first Movement Festival as a kid (we called it DEMF back then), and couldn’t believe it was for free.”

After several years touring behind his jazz-via-electronica solo project and living in multiple cities, Saginaw returned to Michigan in 2013 and moved into the city that shaped much of his musical identity. He has since become fully engrossed in Detroit’s music scene, hosting a weekly DJ series at Motor City Wine, starting the Portage Garage Sounds label in Hamtramck with his brother, and linking up again with Waajeed. Waajeed is candid about the artist community that’s been fostered amidst the city’s greater struggles. “Community is everything here in Detroit,” Waajeed says. “Our system has failed us. Repeatedly. We’ve learned to rely on one another to prevail.”

Saginaw echoes this sentiment. “Community makes the world go round,” he says. “There’s always going to be ups and downs. Always going to take losses and feel like things are crumbling at times, but building over the years with like-minded people and growing together makes life richer and more vibrant.” He’s committed to playing his part, adding that “I’m honored to call this city home now and just hope I can keep doing it justice and putting it on the map, helping out how I can in the right ways.”

The importance of giving back to the community that had given so much to them was central to the MOVEMENT project. All proceeds of pack royalties will be donated to Spin Inc & Seraphine Collective (via Allied Media Projects). Over 20 musicians comprising Detroit locals and a number of performers from the MOVEMENT Festival (including the likes of Mark Flash, Andrés, Black Noise, and many more), contributed by transforming the field recordings Waajeed and Shigeto had produced. The musicians transformed these samples, spanning percussive hits on a gate by Belle Isle, scrapes across the overpass on I-75, kicks using barricades at the Eastern Market, and the whirs of the Archer Record Pressing Plant, into musical loops with their own unique processes and artistic touches.

Amidst a changing city, a music scene of tightly-knit artists remains constant. “I’ll say this much,” Saginaw says. “We have a Whole Foods now and new shops are starting to pop up, but real talk, there are more independent record labels here, putting out good music, on wax, available to buy in shops than there are places to buy groceries.” Labels, like the ones that Saginaw and Waajeed run, act as a through-line to Detroit’s deep musical roots. “Most of our records get pressed at Archer [Record Pressing], who’s been pressing since Motown,” he continues. “If that doesn’t say something about a city staying connected to its history, I don’t know what does.”

The artists who contributed to the pack cover the enormous musical ground the city is known for – hitting on techno, hip hop, house, and more. When defining what makes the Detroit “sound,” the two respond with a bit of hesitance. “If I could tell you exactly what that sound was I wouldn’t,” Waajeed says. “For the same reason a magician won’t reveal their tricks. How can you explain the inspiration from the sunrise? You just can’t. It’s in the air.” Likewise, Saginaw is unsure how to answer. “To be honest, I don’t know what’s inspired generation after generation of musicians in Detroit because I grew up in Ann Arbor. What I do know from living here for a while now is that it’s the people of Detroit where I get most of my inspiration from. So being able to kick it all day, record and do this project with Waajeed gave me a lot of inspiration.”

Get the pack here, and check out the records that make Shigeto and Waajeed most nostalgic for the city below:

Waajeed:

  • Underground Resistance “Hi Tech Jazz”

Shigeto, who adds: “I was missing Detroit the most while in London from 2003-2007 so those records might be…”

  • Slum Village “Fantastic Vol. 2”

  • Dabrye Ft. Jay Dee & Phat Kat “Game Over” 12″

  • Platinum Pied Pipers “Triple P”

June 22, 2018

Ken Herman Ken Herman is a producer under the name Exitpost and is an editor of the Splice blog.