As one of the original founders of the Molemen collective, producer Ed Zamudio (aka Panik) has been a steady hand in the Chicago hip-hop scene for years. Albums like The Cop Show Themes
and Drama Suite
resonate as a vibrant brush stroke across an already rich landscape, and his vision as a leader has been instrumental in the development of budding producers worldwide. Panik’s influences reflect a wide range of interests—from Earth, Wind and Fire and Pat Benatar to Funkadelic and Afrika Bambaataa—but it’s his ability to channel those inspirations into something much more that has made him the pioneer he is today. In recent months Panik has reemerged, collaborating with label mate Vakill on the Armor of God
project. The production on the album finds him in classic form, and is a perfect rhythmic compliment to Vakill’s spry lyricism. It’s proof yet again that the Molemen ethos is alive and well. Centerstage briefly caught up with Panik to discuss the new project and what’s on his radar for the coming months.
To start from the beginning, what, or who rather, got you first interested in hip-hop? Run DMC and Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force was what caught my ear first, one of my favorite groups of all time.
You have a grip of instrumental albums out there, do you remember the first beats you ever laid down? Not really, it’s been so long. I’m sure they were practice beats then as I got better I started saving them.
How did you link with the rest of the crew, PNS and Memo? I met Vakill through a mutual friend in ‘91 on the Southside in Hyde Park when they were having hip-hop meetings there. I was making beats for this cat from the Southside named Drama and he introduced me to Rhymefest in ’95. Fest introduced me to Memo. Memo and Rhymefest were in a group together way back then. I met PNS in ‘95 at a record store that used to be on Clark St. in Lincoln Park when we were both digging for records.
You guys have a nice young duo in Astonish and Scheme. How much are you involved in their development? At the beginning I was very involved musically but as time has passed by, they been wanting more of their own freedom and space musically to do what they want. I understand though, sometimes you got to just try things on your own and see things for yourself. But I’m still very close to both, they’re Molemen and we still work now and in the future on music. We still work with both on the other stuff involving their projects such as videos, marketing, promo and artwork as well. The thing about Scheme & Astonish is their family to me and Sonia, so we’re always going to build on music or personal stuff.
In what ways does Chicago give you the inspiration you need? I was born and raised in Chicago and I’ve spent most of my life in here, everything I do comes out in a Chicago state of mind. I’m currently living in Dallas for a few months and I’ve noticed my Chicago ways more and more. The thing I noticed of how Chicago has inspired me is the way it’s so culturally diverse and that has given me such an open mind on how to work on music and lends me a lot of creativity.
For many fans of Chicago hip-hop, the Molemen represent the genesis, was that something you guys kept in mind or affected the way you made music while you moved forward? No not really, the main thing is that we love the art and the culture and we wanted to make its presence in Chicago. So when the rest of the world noticed our scene, they would know that Chicago has a strong and vibrant hip-hop scene.
The city can be so hot and cold when it comes to supporting local talent. Aside from senseless hating, why do you suppose that is? You know I’ve noticed different cities treat their local talent different ways, some ways work better than others. In Chicago we use the “tough love” ways. If an artist understands and uses that for motivation, then they’ll do good and survive.
You and Vakill just recently released a project, Armor of God, could you tell me a little bit about how it all came together? This projects was worked on for 4-5 years, a lot of things happened during that time that tested, both personally and musically, our will to continue. But me and Vakill really love working on tracks and albums and this project showed a lot of maturity as an artist. We were very proud of how this album came out. I feel the more pain in music, the better. So we used it to our advantage.
You take on a majority of the production credits. What was the creative process like for you and Vakill? Well, me and Vakill are like a group more than just him being the artist. So when we first started thinking about this album, we wanted to sound different from his previous releases. We wanted a dark and grimy feel balanced with lighter and more produced tracks. One thing I told him is that I liked Jake One’s production and I wanted to see if we could fit him in our album. Vakill checked some of Jake’s tracks and he loved them. The fans wanted a Vakill and Crooked I song and we made that happen. Vakill wanted a Juice and Rhymefest reunion song so we accomplished that. Me personally, I just wanted to step up my production game on the album.
What kind of equipment did you use for the project? MPC200XL, Maschine, protools and a gang of plug-ins and records. I wanted to use some live instrumentation so I had some session musicians add to the album as well. I wanted the old vintage Molemen sound but I also wanted to show the progression I’ve made as a producer.
What plans do you have for the coming months? Winter seems like perfect Molemen weather… The next few months I plan on releasing Astonish’s – AstonishinglyODD Project, helping Scheme with the Life that I Choose EP., dropping some instrumental albums, working on a new producer album and working with Vakill on his next project. I’m living in Dallas currently, so I’m going to enjoy the good weather and show up in Chicago around summertime when the weather is nice in Chicago and terrible in Dallas.