Moxie Raia celebrates the one-year anniversary of the release of her debut mixtape 931 by sharing 996, a collaborative project with renowned DJ MICK with additional work from Chi Duly. 

The project was made out of their respective appreciation for hip-hop from 1996, and as MICK says, it channels a " love affair to hip-hop past and present." Stream 996 and learn more about how the project came together below.

Moxie, this will be released on the one-year anniversary of 931. What was the inspiration behind remixing your debut mixtape?
Moxie: When I hooked up with MICK, I had heard about this remix project he did for Adele’s album 19. I thought it was really cool to do a whole project of remixes, so why don’t we do it for 931? When MICK heard it, he came up with '996’ which is inspired by probably our favorite year of music. I was super pumped that he felt the same way and wanted to remix the project with a bunch of songs from 1996. 

MICK, you’ve worked on several classic mashup projects. How did you approach this one with Moxie?
MICK: Kind of different, because I haven’t done anything like that in a long time. It’s changed a lot in the last decade. When I first started doing a lot of mixtapes, I focused on a lot of projects, like Adele, and I did a similar project called Viva La Hova, which was Jay Z and Coldplay. This was back when mashup stuff was really popular. The thing I did to set mine apart was that they weren’t necessarily mashups, they were complete reconstructions, and that’s what I thought they always should be.

I thought this would be a way to jump back into that rabbit hole and do something really fun. When I heard her project, I thought it was amazing. There was such a soul to it, and she still had commercial appeal. What really kind of drew me to it was her project had a lot of breakbeat samples and had nods to stuff I already liked. Since she had that aesthetic to her, what if Chi Duly and I really blew that out and do something conceptual?

Originally it was going to be a much simpler project than it ended up being. It was going to be just blends. A couple months ago I sent her the song that we sampled “Dead Presidents,” and it was literally her vocals over the Jay Z instrumental. I remember I sent her a rough MP3 of it and played it at Up&Down one night and people really liked it. I believe that’s where Moxie and I first met too. 

As the project kept progressing, we thought, let’s make this better and better. Let’s dig up all the original samples, reconceptualize them, and then modernize them, which was very important to both of us. It was supposed to sound retro, it wasn’t supposed to sound throwback. It sounds very new and current, we’re just using samples that reference that era. So you’re going to hear halftime drums, you’re going to hear sound effects that you would hear in contemporary hip-hop. There’s nods to Kanye, there’s nods to Future and Metro Boomin, but at the same time there’s nods to the Roots, and Fugees, and Xzibit. It really plays as a homage and love affair to hip-hop past and present.

Moxie, you were very young around ‘96. Did you learn about new music or were you like, “I remember that track?”
Moxie: I had already done so much research in my life about ‘90s hip-hop, and I already knew a lot about ‘96. One of the first emails MICK sent me was, “Can you send me some of your favorite songs, artists, moments from 1996.” I think that was my favorite email I’ve ever received. [Laughs.]

MICK: When I suggested the idea to her, she sent me a Spotify playlist that she did, and it had so many songs from the Roots’ Illadelph Halflife on it already, which was mentally my vibe going in. I was like, she gets it, I’m not going to have to sell her on this, this is totally her aesthetic anyways. 

Moxie: That’s the music I listen to when I’m home in my free time my whole life. 

MICK: Another reason we chose 1996 is because, to me, it's the year even underground hip-hop and classic artists started sounding more modern. For example, De La Soul Stakes Is High is 20 years old but it still sounds way more new than say De La Soul Is Dead, which feels so retro. Same with that Roots album. It's still rooted (lol) in a more modern aesthetic. Versus Do You Want More?!!!??! or Organix, which sound super old school.

I mentioned how both of us love the Roots’ Illadelph Halflife. The one song we used for that, “Healer,” it was the only song we actually used two songs. We used “Clones” and at the end we used “What They Do.” You hear them so differently than listening to a Roots album.

A lot of times when DJs do blends, they just kind of play shit that they want to put something over. There’s no real reason. That’s the one thing about mashup culture that I’ve hated. I always thought there had to be some rhyme or reason or thought process on why anybody should do anything musically because that’s what gives it a legitimate timeless feel. 

What made it really easy to figure these out, I was listening to the a cappellas of her stuff and at the end of “How to Feel” she’s doing these crazy vocal riffs where she sounds like an opera singer and it’s amazing. It was unlike any of her vocals on the project. And I thought, what goes with that? Xzibit “Paparazzi.” That song had what I thought was an opera sample. I started doing some digging and it ended up being this really weird Barbra Streisand sample. So if you listen to “How to Feel,” you’ll hear where the sample actually changes and it goes from Streisand to Moxie. It’s perfect. 

There’s going to be two audiences for 996. There’s going to be people who listen to it and like it, then there’s going to be people who listen to it and really get it. Not everybody needs to get it, but for those who do get it, there’s little Easter eggs like an Avengers movie. There’s bonus levels to comprehending it.

We’re a year out from 931, when can fans expect the follow-up?
Moxie: All I can say is that it’s in the works. [Laughs.] A lot of new music, definitely 2017. I can’t wait.