One day someone will write the definitive book, perhaps even make a documentary, about The Beatnuts. But it probably won’t be Jerry ‘JuJu’ Tineo.
“Man, I wish someone had documented it all, that DVD would be classic,” says JuJu, down the phone from his New York home.
“All the tours, all the run-ins with artists: crazy. But it’s sad to me, because I know that even if I wrote a book, I remember some of it, but most of it’s been a beautiful blur.”
He could start making notes now, as the legendary producers/performers continue to make new beats and break new ground. JuJu and his production partner Psycho Les recently played their first Hong Kong gig, and make their Dubai debut on Tuesday with a free show at the hip-hop culture showcase Sole, soundtracking an exhibition by hip-hop photographer Lisa Leone.
“We’ll probably do some new stuff, let people hear that we still got it,” says JuJu. “Then of course there’s so much [back] catalogue.”
Both Latino New Yorkers, JuJu and Les began making beats in the late 1980s, hip-hop's Golden Age, while hanging out with the likes of Pete Rock, Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest. JuJu recalls "Q-Tip calling me on my mother's old rotary phone, playing me [Tribe classic] Bonita Applebum, going 'JuJu, what do you think?'"
The duo’s own sound, often encompassing a distinctive Latin flavour, was impressively pragmatic. “You’re young, you don’t have much money so you get music where you can. Your uncle’s house, your parents’ house, a flea market, a grocery store: the ones that have albums on sale for a dollar.”
Those sampled artists eventually got wise, and started suing hip-hoppers for royalties: which just made The Beatnuts more creative, says JuJu. “That made it fun, ‘OK I’m gonna flip this beyond all recognition,’ and that’s still my ideology.”
It certainly worked, as by the mid-90s The Beatnuts were enormously in-demand as producers and remixers; then, ironically, newer artists began hijacking their beats.
The 2004 Jennifer Lopez hit Jenny from the Block was heavily based on The Beatnuts track Watch Out Now, while others sampled their source material.
“Real hip-hop people, we have our rules,” says JuJu. “You don’t touch anything that anyone else has touched.”
The band endured internal tensions too. Their resident rapper, Fashion, left after the 1994 album Street Level, but continued to work with Psycho Les. JuJu, though, "was done with him, I haven't spoken to him since".
So how have JuJu and Les stayed tight for so long? “We’re complete opposites, but the music, that’s where the magic is, and we genuinely care for each other,” he admits.
“There’s a lot of stuff that he does musically that I don’t like, and vice versa, but that’s part of being a group. You’ve gotta fly with it.”
JuJu now “really feels fortunate” to be flying to Dubai and performing live; it’s clearly still a buzz. “We’ve only got an hour, but we could do two-and-a-half, we love it,” he laughs. “So we’ll just keep on going, ‘til they tell us ‘OK guys, that’s enough.’”
• The Beatnuts play at Sole, Dubai Design District (d3) on Tuesday. Free entry. Doors open at 7.30pm. For details go to www.soledxb.com