It’s no secret that my favorite video game of all time is NBA Jam. When I recently discovered an album being released that was inspired in part by NBA Jam I purchased a copy sight unseen. When you combine sick beats, NBA Jam and retro media you’ve got a guaranteed customer from me! I reached out to the artist himself, Boom Baptist to chat about his latest album, Boom Shaka Laka.
NJB: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name? Where are you from?
BOOM: My name is BoomBaptist and I am from Austin, Texas, by way of Venezuela, Miami, Santa Fe, and Denver.
NJB: What are some of your biggest musical influences?
BOOM: I have always been immensely inspired by vocal harmony, in any fashion. My mother was a classical pianist growing up and she wanted me to follow in those footsteps, but hip-hop called me early on: DJ Premier, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, and Biggie made me want to produce…
NJB: What inspired you to make the album “Boom shakalaka?
BOOM: LONG ANSWER ALERT, ha-ha, feel free to paraphrase or cut anything….
My love for hip-hop was birthed from old video mixtapes of NBA highlights called, “NBA Jam Session.” These video mixes at the time were predominantly composed of new jack swing hits of the early 90’s and the videos were edited to the beat. When I discovered Jam as a kid, the joy of doing cannonball dunks 50 feet in the air as Bill Clinton, or any other secret character for that matter, was irreplaceable. The 50-foot dunks were a developer’s mistake that had to do with rotation and velocity. When they tested it among the team, they decided it was too cool and kept it. Those dunks got me that much closer to feeling like Shaq. The same year, Shaq released “Shaq-Diesel”, his debut rap album: “I tisk it, I task it, I rip down the basket.” Which I played religiously on cassette. For reference, I also found Vanilla Ice & MC Hammer to be absolute gods. I was 7-years old, cut me a break. The music of jam was also iconic for a video game, way more funky than anything before it. The composer’s source material/inspiration was “Not Just Knee Deep” by Funkadelic and the game physically put George Clinton in as a secret character as a nod. The original arcade’s audio memory was minimal, so any announcing would have to be kept short and sweet. Acclaim could not afford Marv Albert’s insane rate to be the in-game announcer, so they found a comedian from Chicago, Tim Kritzkrow, who would record the short phrases in a dated recording booth. He recalled, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Higher” had a section where the full band repeated the phrase, “Boom Shakalaka-laka, Boom Shakalaka…” Tim tried it out and immediately it made the cut. The onomatopoeia was indicative of the impact of a slam dunk and the release of the rim…”BOOM! SHAKALAKA!”
Twenty years later (2013) and a lifetime worth of music making, I found myself in very real writer’s block. Uninspired, not having released anything of my own since 2010, I met two wonderful people who set me straight. Butcher Bear was on the verge of creating Exploded Drawing. I played the first one ever in a tiny studio with no AC, not far from where I live now. Butch was always so encouraging and has found a way to make me finish records even when I never thought I could. Lorenzo was running a great music production and DJ school. I am thankful to him for putting me on that path because I was ready to give up on music. When we had time away from the school, Lorenzo and I would go to an arcade and play NBA Jam together. Many drinks and dollars lost in bets, led to a sneaky hustle that he and I developed, where we would sucker unsuspecting players into buying us pitchers of beer by playing like shit for the first half and then raining threes until literally two 6’7 University of Texas basketball players stormed off in a screaming match. We were totally addicted to the game, all over again. So much so that we drove in a pickup truck, across Texas to find our own NBA JAM arcade. For a year, it lived in the music production school next to a margarita machine, but that was a clear conflict of interest. Then in the lovely music venue Holy Mountain, but our trash-talking matches would often disturb the “Acoustic Singer-Songwriter Nights”. So we found one final location, 50 feet across the street, at Empire Control Room. Over the following four or five years, the bar at Empire Control Room became a full-fledged arcade where countless NBA JAM tournaments were held. 36-players, all wearing jerseys, trash-talking, crying, fighting, jumping around, while the buzzer sounded and game-winners made fully grown adults re-live the greatness of NBA JAM and gamble just like Shaq did against the Magic.
Ironically, the half-decade running a vending business distracted me from making records. The entire time, I did not realize that what brought me to making music was those first NBA JAM Sessions video mixes. The moment the business was sold, “Boom Shakalaka” was completed. Putting together something as detailed as this record, was a true labor of love. NBA Jam and its origins are why I chose this life as a musician. “Boom Shakalaka” is not only a return to BoomBaptist, after 10 years, but it is a return to my childhood and my first true love, basketball.
NJB: I think it is safe to assume you are a fan of the arcade classic. Did you personally do the SNES inspired album art?
BOOM: My dear friend @goodkinghippo on Instagram masterfully recreated the Jam stuff! Cannot thank him enough. We took every element of the jam design and made it a new flip, which was the approach to producing the music as well.
NJB: The album was released digitally, as a cassette and on vinyl. Why do you think cassette albums are becoming increasingly popular?
BOOM: You know, I think in the world of “beats” and music in general, there’s been a return to analog, vintage, lo-fidelity mediums that envelope the music in a warmth that digital/CD just can’t provide. The imperfections of vinyl and cassette are appealing to some and the way my cassettes sold, in this case, was far superior to digital sales, so I would say so, yes!
NJB: Your store on Bandcamp is sold out of the physical releases. Do you have any plans for a second release?
BOOM: Actually, I am so happy to say that the record label approved a repress! I did not intend to press more than 250, but there have been so many disappointing Jam fans who came to the release a month late, so I am really just hoping to share it with as many of those people as possible. It is not even about money to me, I am legitimately such an admirer of Jam so every time I speak to another jam freak I feel like I HAVE to share this commemorative piece.
NJB: What is your favorite version of NBA Jam to play?
BOOM: Unpopular opinion here, but NBA Showtime has aged the best of all the iterations. Hangtime if we are talking 2D. Maximum Hangtime was sort of the sweet spot between the jam of old and the new Showtime approach, which heavily borrowed from Blitz…. I honestly love the franchise and all of its offshoots.
NJB: Who is your go-to team?
BOOM: Well, in Showtime, Shaq was one of the cover athletes, so he is a beast down low, and Glen Rice is absolutely incredible from 3, almost anywhere on the court. Among friends, Glen Rice is banned, because he is so unfair to play with…
NJB: The album features audio tracks from Tim Kritzrow. Did you personally interview him for the album?
BOOM: Releasing the record has been really incredible because I have gotten to meet so many people deeply involved with the game. The writer of NBA JAM (The Book) was a really great source of information and history for me and was really helpful in connecting some dots for me. Many of the jam-related samples are archived footage and the opening track actually takes from the original license pitch that Midway did to the NBA. Really cool to go so far back in time and trace the lineage, all while producing something that fits it. Post-release, I have actually gotten the attention of Kritzrow, who has been so supportive about the project. I actually also had an opportunity to send it to Mark Turmell, which to me, there really is no greater honor. So, yeah, making a tribute to Jam really means the world to me and the response has been more than I could have ever imagined.
NJB: Where can people follow you and learn more about your music?
BOOM: I typically ask that people support the music via Bandcamp because it is the friendliest to artists: boombaptist.com
But of course, I am on all the social media sites and streaming, etc., etc. I really appreciate you chatting with me!
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