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The GENG PTP Interview

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Where do I start with NY legend GENG PTP? I've been aware of him for a few years, since I went to one of the coat drives he organized where it was like this ridiculously stacked lineup of local rap and noise music, including his own duo Centennial Gardens, in an apartment, with bangin food being served. I was so inspired that I offered to help with another coat drive he threw this past winter. Something about the way he was moving made me want to get down. The social awareness, the quality of the curating, the strength of his own music...

I slowly began to work my way through his crew PTP's bandcamp, finding so many styles that overlap the gritty and the gorgeous. Currently I am still scratching the surface, still learning about legendary shit he produced in his younger days, including on Diplomatic Immunity 2, while trying to keep track of random brilliance he puts out like DJing on four decks with Dis Fig and putting drill music in a completely natural and yet otherworldly context. He's always doing something dope in the city, and I can't keep up. The other day he screened ultra rare camcorder footage he shot of MF DOOM's first-ever show, using a Chinatown storefront as a kind of video museum to show what he shot. How sick is that?

Most recently my mind has been blown by RESIST COLONIAL POWER BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, a massive effort GENG put together by networking his "accomplices," featuring 100+ genius musicians contributing 90+ songs to a compilation where all proceeds (almost $10k so far) go to Palestinian and Haitian relief. Listen to the comp to get a feel for the sonic universe(s) that GENG is involved with and has the power to connect, from ambient, to hip-hop, to singer-songwriter, to truly experimental stuff.

We talked about the comp and a bunch more recently while GENG showed me and the homie Atoosa around Jackson Heights, one of his beloved home areas in New York City. We ate momos, we ate dosa, and we shot photos, and we chopped it up. You'll be glad to know I only dropped my zoom mic on the floor once and it didn't break! Read a lightly edited version of our conversation below, with all photos by Atoosa Moinzadeh. Thank you GENG and thank you Atoosa.

AM: So you’re at the Nuyorican and it’s 1998 and it’s MF DOOM’s first show. What’s the vibe?

G: The energy was…it was full. I feel like Nuyorican has a 150 capacity, maybe, and it felt like there was 250 people there. It was packed. So much so, that we were in the balcony, where no one’s allowed. But yeah it was the Night Train showcase, Night Train was a radio show on 89.9FM WKCR kind of taking after the model of Stretch and Bob, basically like the next chapter, next in line, kids who were raised on Stretch and Bob. Vaz TCK, who I always look at as the visionary or the head of (Night Train), organized this as their first show…the flier’s on the internet and it’s crazy, it’s a laundry list of heads, and then there’s a secret guest, that was DOOM. He only had two 12 inches out, so it wasn’t like people really knew who he was. There were whisperings like, “Yo, I heard Zev Love X is gonna be here…,” they weren’t even calling him DOOM necessarily. But yeah, DOOM came out at the end, he and Megalon. To be clear, Night Train was Vaz TCK, Kinetic from the Arsonists, Alex Gale who used to be Apex - who also rhymed and he was crazy nice, and DJ Eli Escobar. Eli was djing that night, as was Ken Sport. So DOOM came out, stocking cap over half his face - pulled right below his nose - in a tank top, and ran through “Operation Greenbacks,” the latest release he had out, into a new song by Megalon called “One In A Million” that sampled Aaliyah, just to let his mans rhyme for a minute… the second song in his set! Then came what would become the infamous recording that’s been circulating on the internet via a certain somebody in this room, “Doomsday,” for the first time. In the beginning, the room was loud, and people were rapping along to “Operation Greenbacks,” because they knew that song from the 12”, then we were listening to Megalon, then he drops this Sade sample and people were like, “what the fuck?!” into dead silence. This was September 1998, so this was before Operation Doomsday dropped, a year before. So he did that, and then he did “Dead Bent” into a roaring room. And as an encore, he did “Hey!” When that Scooby Doo shit dropped he was like, “I’m out!” I know now that he was mad nervous. I know now that it took a certain amount of change for him to leave the house. So like, the lore of DOOM hanging out at open mics, what people were including in his eulogies in 2021, that was cap. He was not hanging out at open mics. They got that from a flier for a previous show at the Nuyorican in 1997, a show he didn’t show up for.

So he was scarce, he was rare.

Yeah, he didn’t come out of the house unless you were paying him. There’s that thing of telling the story the way it was, and you had to be there to tell it. And a lot of people who were writing the eulogies, never were there. And that’s like problematic, to the idea of cultural history. That’s the point of us showing the footage at our recent Chinatown activation. Me screening the camcorder footage of that live performance, and being like, “yo, this was his first performance in September 1998…” The point is there’s a flier in a book that Evan Auerbach and Stretch Armstrong did entitled No Sleep that has Ursula Rucker, Beans from Antipop Consortium, Aboriginals, and some other folks, plus MF DOOM is on the flier, and it says “WORDS,” which was a monthly event that Bobbito hosted, and it says “open mic.” “DOOM must have been at open mics!” Well he didn’t show up to that joint. I spoke to most of the people from that night and…we would have been there to witness and remember it. That was when “Dead Bent,” “Hey!”, and “Gas Drawls” - his first 12” - was out. By that point, Bob’s label, Fondle Em, who put out DOOM… we bought that off the strength of Bob’s track record. Before that, he put out Cenobytes, Kool Keith and Godfather Don, The Juggaknots… now iconic records of that era. He put out Cage’s first record that sampled A Clockwork Orange. Shit that had us at the time, geeked. So it was like who is this MF DOOM cat? And the day I got that record, I’m at Fat Beats, and Q-Unique from the Arsonists is like, “you know who that is right?” And I’m like “nah.” He’s like, “that’s Zev Love X from KMD, MF DOOM is his new alias.” And I heard the voice and I was like oh shit. That’s crazy. I heard it in the tone. Sounds like an aged, rugged Zev Love X. But my point is, if heads weren’t there at that September (1998) show, people would be basing it off that No Sleep book. That flier. It’s just a flier. No one’s asking the question, was he there? All those first photos, when he’s wearing the stocking cap and red fitted, that’s from the show we were at, the one I have footage of. Not that other joint. There’s no evidence of that. And there would be, I promise that.

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Thank you for sharing all that. I notice you’re really sensitive to telling stories the right way. You’re mad media savvy. Media literate.

I guess that’s something I had to learn.

And you just mobbed with a camcorder? You carried it on you at all times, or what?

I was 16, 17 with that shit. I started going to shows, and I was like, being someone who grew up with a VCR, I don’t know, I just had an interest. Being an only child, too, it was about show and tell. The show and tell becomes vital to your existence and identity. People coming through, and you’re like, “this is what I did this weekend.” And it was a countercultural perspective and movement to what was happening at the time. It was the “shiny suit” era. The kids in my school, they only knew about Biggie and Mase and whatever had come through the mainstream pipeline. They knew Wu-Tang, they knew Nas, but at that time Nas was doing the shiny suit thing too. The pink suit in the “Street Dreams” video. It was weird for us. We were like, this isn’t us. We were looking for stuff that was more representative, and that we could fall into. There was also a certain politic to that. Even the Nuyorican itself, that was a space you could pop into any night, and know that it would be generative, it might be poetry, it might be a community action sort of thing - where people were talking about local politics - and I started to get radicalized in that way, too. Saul Williams and Sarah Jones were there, Mike Ladd… I saw them as elders because I was a teenager. Certainly Bob, too. He had his thing, basketball games, shit like that. So it all gave me that learning of, it’s bigger than a musical performance. The idea of open mics, where anyone could share and express themselves…we were watching cats talk about addiction, or their own incarceration, their pops’ or mother’s struggles, it was like, “oh…”

The mainstream was about how great life could be, to massively oversimplify. And the underground was more relatable, the ugly parts of life.

I look at Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang the same way, dead prez or whatever. I see that shit the same way. Even Biggie. But there was such an aesthetic change. The language changed. It was a far cry from Public Enemy, Rakim, and the Native Tongues which I grew up on... Queen Latifah type shit. Rap that has more of a(n overt) political leaning, maybe. Rap that’s not just about selling. It became… the mainstream became a consumer sport. At least for us at that moment. Looking back, I have a more nuanced view. But yeah…

That’s when hypercapitalism took hold. Everyone wanted to be a mogul.

“Entrepreneur” became a thing in the lexicon. And then on the other side you see Master P, and Ca$h Money, and Suave House. We were seeing Pen & Pixel shit in The Source, and 8Ball & MJG, and that shit wasn’t… I wasn’t hip to that whole bop until way later…until I saw a couple joints on Rap City like, “that Tela joint is fire.” Or that joint 8Ball did with Mobb. Three Six Mafia… we were like, “what?!” We were looking at this shit as foreigners. We were looking at shit that Sue Kwon shot, or Danny Hastings, or B+, or Eric Johnson, photography and lens people who were nice. And on the other side, a lot of shit on the other coasts, so to speak, they were on that Pen & Pixel shit. They were doing something different. Different presentation, different language.

It’s funny how the south has that stereotype of being slow but Pen & Pixel was digital, using computers and software and new technology.

They were embracing technology early. And that’s the same shit with DJ Screw! The way Screw was doing his shit with recording his mix onto a tape, and then re-recording it to another tape using a speed control to slow it down that way. Ingenious. I teach that shit in my class, as like, tape manipulation. We just went into a rabbit hole.

I’ve seen your interviews, you’re all rabbit holes.


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You’ve done so many aspects of music, from shows, to merch, to mixing and mastering, to documenting with video and photo, why is it so important for you to do everything yourself? Or is that important to you?

It was born out of necessity. Now I have the privilege to be able to call people up… people have roles, practices… they can get the rock and handle it that way. And I’ll be ready for the “alley” and/or the “oop.” But one, you’re just much more dangerous if you know how to do that much more. There was a point where, it’s not just that I didn’t have people to supposedly depend on, but the main point is that people I was rocking with weren’t always available. And I was like, yo I can’t just expect people to make the time for me, or this thing that I’ve been bubbling on my end. PTP has not been this well-oiled thing, for a few years there it was hemorrhaging money, so to speak. I’m like, “I’m glad I have a 9 to 5, and I’m glad I’m selling gas on the side.” I had two jobs, two main methods of making bread. Because if you want to quickly lose bread… start a label especially physical releases. Or start doing shows and flying people in from other countries, beyond just paying local people their whole fees.

How do you do it, and still give away so much of the proceeds to social causes?

Well now, it balances out. 2016… 2017… it was a turning point for PTP. The first release was in 2012. It took a good few years of shit not adding up. You can’t just put out music either… you have to be outside. And I don’t have angel investors. My angel investor was my Adidas box and my digital scale…plus my 9 to 5. And now I’m able to say no to shit. I don’t have to run over to Red Bull or Complex Network and be like, “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.” And I pride myself in that shit, in a way, ‘cause fuck that. I never was a cat who was waiting in line at Supreme. I don’t go to KITH. That is a whole culture that was born on the internet. This is a sidetrack, but I had a conversation last night with the archival section of PTP, about nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia which I’m not about, and my homie Isabel Flower said it nice and succinct, “Retromania is not the same as archiving.” I was like “retromania” is crazy.

It’s a book by Simon Reynolds.

Oh word. And some of that shit, I don’t have an issue with… but that ain’t me. Certain things can look alike, look very similar in initial presentation, but once you get to the intention behind it, once you get to what goes on beyond the post image or splash page, then you’re talking about the differences. Then you’re talking about who’s doing what for what. For us, the whole archiving thing is a preservation and also contextualization and dialogue that’s counter to institutions and the academy… the Whitney, Sotheby’s, fuck all that shit. I don’t even think they deserve this. That’s why this shit ain’t on YouTube. It’s gonna be ate up by weirdos who ain’t even from here and wanna capitalize. You’ll see it on a(n Instagram) reel tomorrow if I put it up tonight, and someone’s gonna be like, telling the story wrong.

Would you ever do a museum exhibition where you did tell that story?

That’s what that Chinatown activation was! We’re making our own spaces. We are the museum. We are literally the fucking museum… and we’re storytellers. Framing it that way is important. But to go back to “doing all the things,” or whatever… that comes out of survival, necessity, and I always found power in not having to depend on anyone else. When I used to be in the quote-unquote “game,” or whatever, my mans told me, “Never owe the plug. Always come with the money up front. Then you never owe anybody.” You leave with what you leave with, and you make it work.

Your mindset is like that, but you’re also so community minded. Is there a conflict there? Self sufficient guy who can live off the grid, but also totally interdependent with family and collaborators?

I don’t think they’re too different. What I do as a single person, can only benefit those around me, my accomplices. Who I’m in accomplice-ship with, we can only benefit from each other if we’re all also individually strong. I seen this person critiquing Rick Rubin’s dumb ass, his individualism, art for art’s sake, ah-ah-ah, “I’m on the top of the mountain by myself” bullshit. Art isn’t about that. Art is about going down, off the mountain, maybe you make some shit on the mountain, but it’s about going down and sharing that with the people. That’s where it’s at. If we’re all going to be doing shit, especially with what we’re up against… (grabs phone) literally this phone is a weapon against us. I feel like we all benefit if we’re all that much more savvy, much more stronger. That’s not an individualistic take, it’s for the sake of the coalition, for the sake of the village. I ain’t doing this shit for myself. If so, I woulda been outta here already.

Have you ever sold any music gear or equipment that you wish you could have back? Or any gear period? When we did that coat drive together, I saw you give away brand new Timbs. Do you wish you had those back?

Pretty much brand new. That’s not on my regrets list. Equipment, I don’t know. Gear? Probably a Final Home cardigan that I had. I don’t know if I fuck with the fit right now, I was definitely a slimmer boy. I was into skinnier silhouettes back then. The construction was cool, the weave was cool, the toggles were unique. It was like a piece of art.

Final Home has aged well on the second hand market. Lei Takanashi was selling a Final Home stadium coat at your Chinatown market. He sold it last week for $250.

Damn, I’ve been thinking about that. I have Final Home pants, I was thinking about the whole fit. But let me think, selling regrets, maybe some mixtapes I sold. Like the first Roc Raida mixtape. Some of the Tape Kingz stuff I had, like Evil Dee. Stuff I grew up with. Maybe some Stretch and Bob tapes… they used to make compilations of the freestyles. My earlier side gig hustling, I used to work at an ophthalmologist’s office, but then on the side, I was selling stuff off of eBay. 1999 is when I started that… I started early. I sold a lot of wax, most of my underground hip-hop shit, and maybe there’s a couple of those that I wish I hadn't sold. But I don’t know. My second Technics 1200. I still have one 1200…(one of) the ones I learned on, and one of them I sold. And I regret what I bought with it… an MPC2000 effects unit. That shit was ass. I ended up selling the MPC with the effects unit in it, for the price of the effects unit, back in the 2010s when MPCs were not worth much because everyone was switching over to SP303s and SP404s, and it was also when everyone was switching to software like Maschine and Ableton.

I’ll sell you another turntable if you need one.

You should sell that shit and pocket the bread, those are worth money. I have one, and I’m good. I was just mad that I sold a 1200 and bought what I bought with it.

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(conversation becomes inaudible, then turns to “backpack rap”)

In high school we had backpacks, and it was a utilitarian thing. You’re running around, without a car. We were literally backpacking.

I’m not a backpacker, I’m backpacking.

Right, but I think the term has switched into this costume. The colorful Polo cosplay, rapping like you have a mouthful of rocks, a lotta white guys with big beards and towels under their caps, it’s corny as shit to me. I don’t fuck with nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. “Real hip-hop.” “90’s.” It’s sad (laughter).

Rapping about rapping.

I am NOT a fan of that.

What is the music for? What is it doing? Is it promoting itself? Kinda shallow.

It’s missing that “je nais se quois” for me. That special element.

Let’s talk about the compilation. Over 100 artists, 90+ songs. You’re known as a community organizer. Is this your greatest feat of organizing?

No. It is the most people I ever coordinated on a project. It was a shit ton of work. It felt, I don’t know, necessary – I’m thinking about that word. It felt necessary to make space for people to not feel lost or helpless in these moments, especially as it pertained to their work. Of course people want to do shit, because you want to address shit, and it’s not limited to going to protests. Not everyone can go to protests. It might be a mobility issue. Or crippling anxiety around crowds. Or cops. So there’s other ways to protest, is what I’m saying. But don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying that to shit on or discredit marching. That’s important (as well), but that’s not the only form of protest. I believe in things that I don’t feel comfortable saying on public platforms or Meta. Resistance looks like a lot of things, and can be complicated, or certainly nuanced (…) in ways that aren’t the prettiest, but it’s necessary. You don’t get shit done by turning your cheek.

Everyone looks at you crazy when you propose a violent revolution, but there’s two ways, you either do that or you slowly phase it in over time.

You’re putting your radical trust in the people who are literally the leaders of these systemic ills, especially if you advocate for reform. You’re putting your trust into government.

That’s why people who vote for Trump are truly radicalized, because he’s radical, he’s just evil. He’s outside the realm of politics, and comes from business, not the man of the people like he says, and he’s not a politician.

He’s a lunatic and I’d never vote for him. I wanna see things done to him that I can’t say. That goes for Joe Biden, too.

I think the Trump support is notable because that’s an enormous amount of people who, I think, believe that America is broken. They aren’t aligning themselves with progressivism, but they think America’s broken and they have no faith in the government to reform itself or serve them, so they’re voting for this outside figure. They believe in a radical alternative, but they fell for the wrong alternative. The state of being radicalized, to me, is uncritical, even though how you get there is through critique and engaging your intellect. But we’re a nation that’s susceptible to radicalism right now, like I just saw Matt Ox make a song called “Andrew Tate.” And even though he’s just like, “Pull up in a Bugatti like I’m Andrew Tate,” that’s alignment with a radical figure whose views are awful and I think Matt Ox doesn’t even probably know about. But it’s cool, or seen as cool, to be like aligned with these types of figures.

That’s the thing, splash politics. It’s that thing of memes being political, too. Popular Front and podcasts like that have spoken about this… memes get used to inject and express radical views in a simple cartoonish manner. But also only so much can be said in a meme. If that’s the foundation for your understanding and viewpoint on this world, I’m not fucking with you. That ain’t it. If Matt Ox makes a song called “Andrew Tate,” that’s a shock value thing. That’s just stupid. Edgelordism. Type stupid, we don’t need it.

There’s a lot of popping alt right rap. Kanye’s alt right.

I think JPEG is an edgelord. Folks like that lurk on 4chan, and still think the frog (meme) is funny, I don’t know. You’re a clown, get out of here. If you’ll just do whatever, to get wherever, that’s the same as any other individualism. You might as well be or rock with a white nationalist. You might as well go to Tel Aviv, bro, with your individualism.

Individualism is like the nucleus of neoliberalism. There’s no such thing as society, there’s no society, there’s no we, there’s no us.

Yeah neoliberalism! That’s what I meant maybe instead of white nationalism. But it’s all corners of the same cesspool. Fuck off.

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How’s your album coming with Desde?

I’m catching up after the comp. I got burnt out, coordinating with over 100 people, mixing, engineering, over the course of a few months. The comp burned me out and I had to (learn to) admit that.

How do you know you’re burnt out?

When you don’t want to do shit. When you feel like a shock to the system, a rush of anxiety burn through your body when you open up your laptop or phone. Open up Ableton, your tunnel for expression, your place of getting that shit off, and you feel like you don’t belong there. You feel like you’ve been outcasted. It’s dread-inducing. I don’t know what other people’s burnout is…but you gotta be in your body, listen to your body, and I needed to take a break. There’s songs on the compilation that, at this point, on this day, March 24, 2024, that aren’t done yet. Point being is that I’m getting back to finishing it now. PTP was on hold, too, I’m catching up on emails from January just this week!

Thanks for doing this, then, considering all that’s going on.

Thanks for doing this with me. A lot of people have not reached out. The compilation is special, and rare, and unique. Look who’s on it. Look how it’s framed.

You updated your resume, in a way, or updated the resume of PTP in a way, like this is the federation, or the new UN. These are our representatives.

Not everyone on the comp is PTP, but they’re people I bang with. And most of PTP is on there.


Accomplices. It’s something we did, a gesture of solidarity.

It’s about strength in numbers, to me. I brought it to this one discord that I go on, and people called it performative and mid. I was like, you didn’t listen.

People can think what they need to think, but you’re wrong if you think that. You gotta figure out the best way to navigate in these muddy waters. You probably didn’t listen to it, and at the end of it all it’s not about you or your opinion. I’m banging with people who are down to do this shit unapologetically. It’s not about external validation. It’s not about you bro. It’s about actionable mechanics. We’re almost at $10k, and that money is going out to actual people (not a celebrity-endorsed charity fund).

People want to hate. OK last question. Let’s say I want to get into listening to NY rap radio shows. Who are the goats I should listen to, to study up?

Like history? I’d definitely say Zulu Beats, which was Afrika Islam, not Bambaataa. Mr. Magic, when Marley Marl was young and was the DJ, and Marley would feature a young, 15-year-old Pete Rock. That was like noise music to me. Scratches, and cutting, and three to four turntable blends. I was like, “what is going on? This is not the song I remember seeing the video to, this is way different!” Live remixing and deconstructing. Definitely Red Alert on KISS FM. And by about ‘92-93 you can listen to early Funkmaster Flex on Hot97. A few years later is Evil Dee on Monday night, way before DJ Clue. In the 2000’s, DJ Kay Slay’s Drama Hour on Hot97. Of course, Stretch and Bob from like ‘91 to ’98. And you gotta listen to like, 80s WBLS and KISS FM…you gotta listen to Mastermixes… you gotta listen to the Latin Rascals! Their tape editing was crazy. They were doing full on tape edits, like a science. I grew up on that shit, too. I’m bugging, WNYU too, Sunset and Mayhem, plus DJ Riz in the 90’s. There’s a lot I’m leaving out. Definitely gotta tap in with the house shit, Masters at Work, Kenny Dope, Louie Vega…type shit where folks were transmitting live from the club nights...Club Zanzibar, Paradise Garage…but that’s not radio but cassette, mostly. I’m forgetting mad shit (laughs).

The DJ mix has really replaced the album for me.

I feel you. I’m completely with you on that. There’s something to that longform, continuous style. That’s why I made some of my albums that way, because of the DJ format, whether that’s radio or mixtapes. No breaks, constant transitions.

Your shit is like that. Transmissions.

That’s how I was describing the RESIST compilation. Put this shit on, let it play. Let it be a transmission. Let it take you someplace.


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