Robotic drum machine beats, a sultry synthesizer melody, and enticingly deep vocals. Since the early 80s, freaks around the world have known that these are the Egyptian Lover‘s tools for dancefloor classics and nighttime excursions.
To Greg Broussard, the TR-808 synthesizer is no mere instrument; it is an extension of his persona. In photographs, the instrument hardly leaves his side. In artwork, it often features prominently alongside his ancient Egyptian alter ego.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the TR-808 in hip-hop and dance music. Since its incorporation by early adapters such as Soulsonic Force, its sounds have become ever-present in hip-hop, Detroit techno, and even R&B.
Across the vast landscape of artists, however, the Egyptian Lover has earned his crown as “King of the 808”. Since he began producing tracks in 1982, this synthesizer has been an integral part of his works, with a vast array of beats for any occasion or mood.
As a DJ, producer, and owner of Egyptian Empire Records, his impact on hip-hop, and dance music at large, is undeniable. A lifelong native of Los Angeles, his mark is most prominent in the West Coast sound.
Egyptian Lover’s latest release 1984 is a 12-track album that sounds like a time capsule from the 80s.
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The entire album is a masterful production. It sounds retro, it sounds futuristic, and it sounds seductive. These hallmarks ensure that Egyptian Lover‘s releases withstand the test of time across generations of fans.
While on tour across Europe, Asia and North America, the Egyptian Lover took some time to speak to River Beats. Here’s what he had to say…
You’re widely regarded as the “King of the 808”. What was it about the Roland TR-808 that made it your synthesizer of choice?
“The Roland TR-808 is a rhythm controller, a drum machine. And I loved the drum sounds it produced. They sounded very futuristic, very toyish, very warm yet very snappy. The cowbells, the hi hats, the hand clap, and of course the kick drum. That bass is unmatched.”
“When I first heard it on “Planet Rock” I wanted to find out what it was. I was determined to know what they used to make that drum sound. When I found out, I bought an 808 and the future was mine. I programmed it like a mad man. Crazy beats, beast beats, bonus beats, freak beats, party beats. I loved making beats.”
You’ve been touring a lot of cities around the world recently. Are there any cities or venues in particular that stand out to you?
“I love them all. Each one has its place in my life. I can not say one is better than another because they all have something I absolutely love. Though I’ve been shocked many times thinking to find what I was taught to look for only to find that we are all the same all around the world. People are people.”
Who are some current hip-hop artists that you feel are carrying the torch in fusing electro and hip-hop?
“I would not know, as I really don’t listen to new music. Only new album I have is my 1984 album. 12 brand new songs that sound like they were made back in the day.”
Back in 2013, you did an especially memorable track with Hot Natured called “Isis (Magic Carpet Ride)”. It’s a very different sound from your solo productions – what led to this collaboration?
“Jamie Jones was the mastermind behind this track and I was featured on it. So all the credit goes to him. He is very creative and a great guy.”
Do you have any future collaborations planned with similar artists?
“No collaborations with house artists but I am doing a song with Newcleus and a song with Cybotron for my next album 1985.”
Last year, you released an anthology (1983-1988) that highlighted your early material. As a pioneer of electro and hip-hop, how do you follow up on something like that while maintaining a forward-thinking creative mentality?
“My next album 1985.”
Despite gaining notoriety in LA, your family is from Louisiana – what was the music scene like when you were growing up? Were there any local influences that led you to the music you make today?
“I’m from Los Angeles but my father is from Marksville, Louisiana and my mother’s parents were from Lake Charles and Lebeau. So I have Louisiana roots but I’m born and raised in Los Angeles.”
“The music scene in L.A. was great! Funk, soul, punk, rock, disco, pop, and then hip-hop. West Coast hip-hop that I helped put on the map. Uncle Jamms’ Army and I were unmatched and I became a top D.J. in L.A. That’s when we released ‘Dial a Freak’ and ‘Yes, Yes, Yes‘ and then ‘Egypt Egypt‘.”
“After ‘Egypt, Egypt’ came out it was a wrap. I started touring and never stopped.”
True to his word, Egyptian Lover continues to bring his old-school electro sound around the world
His next US show will take place on Friday, June 16th in New Orleans at Castillo Blanco Art Studios. Tickets are available HERE courtesy of New Orleans-based collective Trax Only.
Afterwards, he will embark on a European festival circuit before returning to his native California in early August for HARD Summer Music Festival.
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Feature image – the Egyptian Lover with the ubiquitous Roland TR-808 Synthesizer. Image courtesy of artist.