Wednesday, June 26, 2019

SOP a.k.a Smoked Out Productions

Let's talked about that group called SOP a.k.a Smoked Out Productions. It was a group from NYC who consisted of four MCs named Stress, Agony, Black a.k.a Black Attack and Problemz. 

The names of Stress and Agony might not be very familiar to you but no doubt you've already heard about Black Attack and Problemz, who were both affiliated to the Beatnuts and also members of the group Missin' Linx with Al' Tariq in the late 90s. 
For those who don't remember and to recap quickly, Black Attack and Problemz recorded a lot of stuff from the mid to the late 90s.Black Attack released two classic 12-inches featuring Problemz in 1997 which were both played many times by Stretch & Bobbito that year : "Holdin' It Down / Verbal Attack" on Correct Records and "My Crown / Correct Technique" on Ghetto Gold Recordings / Rawkus. They also worked a lot with DJ Honda at that time and featured on all his albums...

Smoked Out Productions was founded in 1993. They released their first 12" titled "Back Up Kid (That's What You Get)" on Smoke Out Music in 1994, which is very hard to find. Personaly I've never seen a physical copy of it for sale in a record store... always online for a fucking crazy price... 

The tracks "Back Up Kid", "Aw Yeah" and "Phases" were produced by two cats named Big Tone and John Kapon who also managed the record label.    

12" - 1994 - Smoked Out Music

Problemz : "SOP initially was a production squad with two Emcees .. Stress and Agony. Black and I met thru SOP, began recording songs and before you know it we all formed as a crew. We'd link up a few times a week at John's crib, smoke, kick it and write ... When it came time to record we'd go to a studio owned by one of John's friends called the Cutting Room... funny thing is although we were Smoked Out Productions ... I didn't really start smoking until like a half a year after getting down with the crew... I would get skipped in the cypher unbeknownst I was catching crazy contact high. SOP was just that ... Smoke Out Productions lol"

Black Attack : "Well before me they were already a group. SOP was already established. Problemz, Stress and Agony were already making records and all that. I came along after the fact introduced by a mutual friend that knew them. But once we met we automatically just clicked. They pretty much welcomed me in.
Stress, Agony and Big Tone were all from Harlem. If I’m not mistaken Stress and Agony were a group before SOP, with Big Tone making the beats. I think they kinda grew up together. John Kapon was from Manhattan, John and Tone together on them beats tho was fire. John just had a ear for something different. Tone was that all music guy... take any melody and turn it into a beat. He could listen to any beat and come up with the craziest hook you’ve ever heard."

The following year the crew was back with a brand new 12-Inches composed of 2 tracks titled "Styles" and "Bok Bok" ... same emcees, same production team ! 

12" - 1995 - Smoked Out Music  

The same year, Problemz appeared on the Echo Underground Airplay Volume IV with the solo track titled "Neva B4" which was an alternate version of the track "Styles". 

If you are a follower of the great "Take It Personal" podcast, I'm sure you're familiar with the name of Andre Prine aka DJ 360, member of the Philaflava crew. 
Here is something people don't know... In the mid-90s Andre was affiliated with SOP. At that time he worked for the music industry and he did productions and remixes for the group. After a brief interview Andre gave me more info about how everything started for him in the music industry and tell me more about how the connection happened with the SOP members... here is a slice of NY indie hip-hop history :

DJ 360 : "I was born in NY in 1971 and moved to Florida at a young age. I went to film school for college and that brought me back to Manhattan in the early 90’s. I lived in the West Village and was fortunate enough to experience Hip Hop’s "Golden Era" from the source.

I have been DJ'ing for 40yrs I started around 8 yrs old with my fascination for roller skating and the funk & soul that was being played there. I would go at least 3 times a week and became a king on 4 wheels. I started collecting records at that time ’79-’80 and the DJ at the rink would let me up and pick records out for him. Within a few months I was buying music nobody knew about that I would hear on pirate radio stations and my trips back up to New York visiting family. I would record nonstop 98.7 Kiss & WBLS at all hours of the night where they would play music that couldn’t be played during regular hours at the station. Jellybean, The Latin Rascals, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Mr. Magic, and Jeff Fox would run the dial late night and they were great to listen to. Certainly not the most skilled but equipment was limited back then and the setup in most radio stations didn’t make it easy for DJ’s to be close to the turntables and the mixer at the same time. They also used knob mixers (Bozak) mixers back then crossfaders were not the standard. Regardless, the shit I would bring back with me made most of the local DJ’s envious so they allowed me in with them. 

Shortly after I bought the old 2 Channel Numark Mixer from the Roller rink for around &150-$200 which was a lot for a kid under 10 yrs old and I begged my dad to buy me 1 turntable. For a kid in the late 70’s to ask his dad for a $250 Technics 1200 turntable (it wasn’t happening). I purchased a lesser quality direct drive pioneer turntable and I would hook up the turntable from the wooden stereo cabinets popular at that time and I taught myself how to scratch and blend 2 records over each other. Music was limited at that time there was no Hip Hop section in record stores and there were only a handful of songs being pressed that were even available nationwide. As time went on I finally hit my dad up for 1200’s just one but I traded my old mixer for a newer one and my skills started to really take a turn. I started DJ’ing for local acts in south Florida and found myself going to this record store in the Lauderhill Mall (Ft. Lauderdale FL)  which was really a record label called 4Sight Records run by Billy Hines who was a studio engineer. His son was MC ADE (Bass Rock Express, Bass Mechanic etc). One day he let me cut it up in store and within 10 minutes this little white boy had a crowd surrounding the turntables and afterward  he called me in the back asked if I would be interested in touring with his son ADE as his tour DJ. His son didn’t like the idea and he apologized and 2 other artists from the label asked if I would work for them. Here’s the kicker, I hated Miami Bass. I was a purist and my Hip Hop taste came from 1 place (New York) period!!!
Through the years I started DJ’ing on Miami radio mix shows Hot 105 and Power 96 and I went in all the DJ contests back then. I was the quick mix king. During one completion I battled thousands of DJ’s to qualify in the top 5 at a club called (1235 in Miami). I went up against one of the greatest DJ’s Bad Boy Bill from Chicago. He did shit I never saw before a real showman. He had a guy in a suit timing him so he stayed in the time frame of the contest. He even wore a strap on dildo pulled it out of his pants put it on the turntable and with no hands started scratching “Suck My Dick” from Eddie Murphy’s comedy album. That was the first time that I understood the concept SHOWMANSHIP. I stopped competing after that because it took too much out of me and shortly after that time DMC started and it became a world view that I wasn’t looking to compete with. 

The natural progression from DJ’ing led me into production. Aound the late 80’s I finally was able to buy my own equipment (credit cards) and I invested in a new drum machine that was the most expensive but it had no sounds on it. Roger Linn’s Akai MPC 60. Before this there were a few drum machines available (Roland 808, 909, DMX, Linn Drum, EMU: Emax etc). All were unattainable for a teenager.  The MPC was the 1st of its kind a sample based drum machine (Roger Linn realized the future of music production). My record collection was big by now so I started making songs on the drum machine sampling everything I could get my hands on. Ten seconds of sample time wasn't enough but you learn the tricks. Sampling records at 45rpm instead of 33rpm to speed the sample and then slow it down to conserve time. I eventually had a custom disk drive made to extend sample time to 24 seconds which was the most available with those types of machines. Every day making beats but the type of acts in Florida were not for me. I headed to college and went into film school where I Learned to produce and compose film scores but I would incorporate a Hip Hop mindset using the gear I had and they loved it. It also made my music have a little more movement. I hated when producers would just loop one thing throughout an entire song. So I learned song structure and created changes to the Hip Hop I was brewing. Once I got back to NYC I was on it. I went to every show there was, every record store, and went digging for breaks and rare groove. The diggers didn’t move completely in yet so records were still affordable. You could still buy a Bob James One or Two for about $20. Once “96/’97 rolled in you couldn’t find anything for under $100. I bought an SP 1200 and and few other pieces and continued making music. I worked at EMI/Capitol Records so I had access to some great promos and did a few remixes for artists they were trying to build. After a while I decided to leave the record company and went to work at Chung King Studios which was the biggest and best at the time. Every act from the Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass, LL Cool J, Salt & Peppa,  Fat Joe etc I would assist the engineer and learn the process from a professional perspective. The people who owned the studio always asked me why I worked there. They always alluded that I had a college degree and I deserved more as a career. I think they snubbed there nose at the Hip Hop that seemed to dominate all the studio rooms. “Your too good for this job” was what they said. The pay sucked but I wanted to be around these artists. 
Eventually I met enough people and carved a niche for myself producing and DJ’ing remember back then you didn’t have every kid in the world thinking they could DJ or produce music it was still rare to meet people that had there own equipment, passion, and the means to make music. 

John Kapon lived in Manhattan on the upper east side. His dad I think owned an apartment on top of the wine store that he owned. His father wanted him to be done with music and work for him. That wine store Acker Wines is one of the biggest in the world for buying and selling fine wines. We would always go into the shop when it was closed and grab a few bottles and hang out this was before cameras were a thing in businesses. 
Big Tone was from uptown NY (Harlem) I’m not sure if he eventually moved to Brooklyn but he always repped Uptown.

The connection with me and SOP happened when I was working at Capitol/EMI Records. John was a big weed smoker and a dude I worked with at the label was a big weed dealer. I remember John and I met at a showcase and he gave me his card and the crews demo and I slid him my stuff. He worked on a EPS 16 keyboard and I was an MPC guy. I loved his style of production because it was smooth and in the pocket. A nice dusted out moody vibe and I always said I could remix this shit all day. Was so surprised at the level of hidden talent the group SOP had. Black Attack was always my favorite he was just that Brooklyn dude with a great voice. Then you had Stress who had that raspy voice and presence and I immediately gravitated to the two of them. Big Tone was the east coasts version to Nate Dogg but much less polished but a great dude. I got in close with everybody towards the end. They were a super group and wanted a deal that would allow them to record as a group and also split into solo careers so they wanted what Wu Tang was getting. Most labels didn’t have that kind of vision but I knew a few people to send them to since I worked at the label and studio. A good friend of mine had an uncle Richie Cordell & Kenny Laguna that wrote music through the 60’s and 70’s. He wrote songs like "I Think Were Alone Now” and wrote and molded Joan Jett back in the 80’s. I brought him their demo with my remixes and songs I produced for them. I also gave him their original demo that had “Bok Bok” “Keep Smoking” and “Styles” on it. He heard the group and thought maybe he would try to create a deal in Hip Hop since it was what was going on. Older dudes who don’t understand what we did constantly tried getting in the game thinking they could pull the wool over a crew of kids who just wanted a deal and would sell their souls for nothing. SOP loved having me around because I was the type of guy who tried to make things happen for them. To be honest, they were the first group that I ever worked with that had the skills of a project I was proud to get behind. We took that deal to my friends uncle and it almost happened. I remember the meeting very well. We were all sitting in this large board room and it was at the offices of Bert Padell who was the accountant that used to get BIG deals for the artists in the Hip Hop world. I really thought this was gonna happen but it eventually never materialized because there were too many variables with the group. Too many members who want solo side deals etc instead of just focusing on a group and staying together cohesively. I won’t lie, I thought it was my pay day for bringing the group to the table.
Shortly after those meetings I immediately got the group back in the studio (which I paid for) to cut new vocals for Mad Drama” at Cutting Room Studios and I also thought of working with certain individuals mentioned earlier that I though had solo potential. I took Stress and Big Tone to a studio in East New York Brooklyn and recorded “Stress Vs The West which was popular for east coast artists to diss the west with all that beef. The songs were a little ahead of their time but nothing really materialized from it. The group slowly started to disband with The Beatnut's Fashion taking Black Attack and Al Tariq giving him work that eventually gave him a shot on Correct Records. They tried bringing Problemz on a few joints but nothing would stick. If I remember correctly John Kapon’s girlfriend was pregnant and his father pressured him to get in the wine business and secure his future which as I told you was the right thing to do."

So the group disbanded shortly after the second single in '95... Stress and Agony disappeared from the New York Hip-Hop scene, Black Attack and Problemz followed their path in the music industry. 

Black Attack : "In all honesty it was no beef or any thing like that. It was more of too much outside interference... I mean there’s 4 dudes which means 4 different personalities and 4 different crews. So we pretty much had all different views on what we should be doin.  Everybody pretty much just started their own thing. Me and Probz started doin shit wit Tariq and that was the ending."

Here is an info for all the tapes collectors who follow the blog... a Demo tape exists... It was recorded in 1994 and includes the tracks titled "Mad Drama", "Why O Why", "Stress Vs The West" or "SOP Flow" ... I've only seen one copy in my whole life which is owned by DJ 360. He ripped 2 unreleased demos exclusively for the blog ... enjoy the gift fellas !!!

 Mad Props to Andre Prine, Sean Black & Problemz. 
Thanks to all of you ! 


  1. WOW, Thanks for sharing the demos DJ360. Amazing.
    I miss Problemz & Black Attack. Please come back.

    And thanks for the info unikone. Dope as usual.

  2. Magnificent reporting. You did it again, shedding the light on a dope NY crew. This blog is amazing for NY indy fans.