Pittsburgh’s hip hop scene has been poppin’ off for years now after gaining national attention for Wiz and Mac. But those of us who were paying attention realize the community had been gaining credibility for many years before “Black and Yellow” hit the airwaves ad nauseam. So when DJ Soy Sos told us about his newest project, Encryption Cipher, which features some major longtime players from the Burgh, we set up an interview to learn more about this unique project. The album, from Tuff Sound Encoding and Pittsburgh Modular, features gritty, futuristic remixes by Soy Sos, with some help from DJ Thermos as well. The productions heavily feature modular synths, a re-emerging music production method with a local connection, Pittsburgh Modular’s Synthesizers.
Contributor, Shad Ali, had this to say about the project, “It’s always a great experience coming through Tuff Sound and creating with Soy Sos. His ability to harness the energy that may have just been a thought in your mind prior to walking through the door has always been amazing to me. With his new project, Encryption Cipher, he was able to create an entirely fresh vibe. Glad to say I was a part of the process.”
You can join them to celebrate the release on Oct 25th at 720 Music, Clothing, & Cafe from 8-11pm. The event is free so there’s no excuse not to go show some support. It will include performances by contributors, Jon Quest, Hubbs, Shad Ali, R Sin, Ras Maisha, Yah Lioness and more. The album download will also go live on October 25th on Tuff Sound’s Bandcamp.
Laney Boggs: What inspired you to put this project together?
Soy Sos: I had been doing remixes like this on the side for the last couple of years. A lot of what’s been happening in Hip Hop these days has had a homogenizing effect on the scene. When I first heard Kanye’s latest record, I thought “I’ve been doing stuff in this lane, maybe people might be more receptive to it now” I originally wanted to call the record “Yinzus”!
LB: How did the collaboration with Pittsburgh Modular Records come about?
SS: I’ve been friends with (Pitt Mod founder) Richard Nicol for about 3 years. His HQ is in the same building where my wife Staycee and I have our PearlArts Studios. I have a relationship with the company where we discuss new product designs and I help beta test modules to see what might surface from use “in the field”. I used a ton of their gear on Encryption Cipher. Richard and I were talking about the project and listening to some of the mixes when I mentioned about them doing some sort of ‘endorsement.’ He offered to do a vinyl release. I said hell yes!
LB: How did you choose the songs to feature on the album?
SS: It was pretty much my favorite people to work with. Folks like Boaz (who I’ve known since 2004) were very gracious about it. These are long term relationships that I want to honor and do right by. Many of the songs just seemed to lend themselves naturally to the process and were tracks I had ideas for. It was very organic, just letting myself get into the process of the remix and allow things to occur with a sense of discovery and progression.
LB: What makes Encryption Cipher unique in sound and format?
SS: Part of it, comes from my aesthetic as a producer and sound designer. I want to present these songs in a different way. I’ve engineered so much hip hop over the past 25 years and I’d like to think I can bring something unique to the table. I want to work with a special sound set, and using modular synthesizers/Ableton Live does that for me. This release should be of interest to those seeking sick flows and interesting word play as well as the electronic heads who are looking for something grimy. DJ Thermos assists with me now and his contributions fit in perfectly, while adding another perspective to the overall picture. As for the format, we’ve opted to skip CD’s on one hand and go straight to downloads. On the other side we’re doing a vinyl release in December with some exclusive tracks available nowhere else.
Here’s one of the first tracks released from the album featuring Hubbs and John Quest:
Hubbs said of the collaboration,”The attention to detail, dedication to the craft, and professionalism at Tuff Sound not only stand out, but are qualities that are of great benefit to my creative process. I have great appreciation for what Soy Sos contributes to my final product.”
So even if you can’t make it to the release party, be sure to download the album, and keep your eyes peeled for future Encryption Cipher albums.