Chromeo and DJ Mehdi. It's been almost a week since we found out about the tragic death of the too-young Ed Banger DJ Mehdi. One of the first confirmations of the awful news, as we pointed out in our post , came from Mehdi's friends in Chromeo via Twitter. Dave One has since posted a lengthy memorial to their friend on Facebook along with the above picture.
You can read the whole thing below. That Terminal 5 show has since sold out, but they've since added a second show at the same venue the next night. Updated dates and the words on Mehdi, below I first intended it to be a series of personal notes: an attempt to retrace the chronology of our friendship with Mehdi. Then I figured I'd share it. It's long and perhaps too full of factoids.
But that's how Mehdi, ever the raconteur, like his stories: starting "ab ovo" from the very beginning, the origins and rife with trivia. So here it is, my own personal Mehdipedia entry But to properly explain how this improbable encounter even took place, I must rewind to a year or so before. As some of you may know, in the mid to late 90s, way before Chromeo, I was a hip hop producer in my hometown of Montreal.
Along with my little brother A-Trak whom I'll refer to as Alain in this text , I owned a small indie label called Audio Research, which was distributed by Fat Beats: arguably the greatest institution in independent hip hop culture the Fat Beats flagship NY store closed a year ago, I hope you got a change to visit it. In , Audio Research released its most successful 12": "" by Obscure Disorder a group composed of three of our high school friends rapping, Alain on scratches and myself on beats , featuring Ill Bill and Goretex of Non Phixion.
One day, I got a call from our Fat Beats label rep and worldwide crate-digging authority Amir, saying something to the effect of: "My man from France wants some beats from you.
He loves Obscure Disorder. He owned the indie distributor Chronowax, the Fat Beats of France, so to speak. In our first conversation, he asked me if I had heard of DJ Mehdi. I had no idea who that was. He said that Mehdi was one of France's foremost hip hop producers, that he loved "" and that they wanted to get beats from me for a project they were working on.
Keep in mind that I had never made beats for anyone outside of Montreal before, so I was thrilled. I was going to spend a few months in the south of France that summer; we agreed to meet then. Olivier invited me to come up to Paris for a weekend, crash at his place and get to know his group of friends.
When I finally got there and met Olivier in person, we clicked instantly. Here's a fun fact: as the office was getting ready to close for the weekend, a bunch of people were crowded around a turntable, listening to a test pressing. Olivier was like: "This is going to be huge. We all went to dinner that night. Mehdi and I talked about sampling.
We talked about chopping drums. He was a hip hop nerd, just like myself. But he was way more accomplished: only one year older than me, and he had made beats for just about all of France's major rappers. As the record spun, I read all of Memed's articulate liner notes. I don't know why some of those stuck with me to the point that I was able to quote them back to my brother two days ago!
Yesterday, in Paris, I got a chance to look at that EP again, for the first time in years. What a trip, or should I say, what an honor - names on the track listing that I was barely familiar with at the time Zdar, Boom Bass, Feadz have since become our friends and colleagues.
All thanks to Mehdi. Both he and and Mehdi were affiliated with the crew Mafia K'1Fry. They came to Montreal in the summer of and I oversaw the mix, producing a track on the record as well. Mehdi had done two.
By then, I was starting to stray away from producing hip hop. Without really knowing what kind of music we were going to make, Pee and I signed a deal with the Montreal-based electronic music label Turbo.
But as always, we kept in touch. In the summer of , Pee and I finally had a band name and a handful of songs. Turbo was getting ready to release our first single. I sent Olivier more demos, including "Needy Girl. In , he released his major label solo album, " The Story of Espion. And sure enough, as Chronowax worked out a merger with the now defunct mini-major V2, Olivier offered us a record deal for Europe.
Olivier also released a compilation of original songs sampled by Dr Dre, for which Mehdi wrote the liner notes. I really encourage you to read them if you can. He has such a sincere and knowledgeable eloquence, a truly unique prose later exemplified by his Cool Cats blog posts. Around the release of our first album, we were taking a lot of trips to France, where Mehdi introduced Pee and me to a whole network of early supporters of our music, including his best friend and close collaborator Pedro Winter, who is now like family to us.
When Mehdi would swing by NY, we'd grab a bite, have a drink or go record shopping. In the summer of , he came with his girlfriend Fabienne, who was pregnant with their son. I recall that afternoon as being particularly happy and carefree, with Memed showing me his recently completed Lucky Boy tattoo. That was going to be the title of his upcoming album for Ed Banger.
That same summer, he asked me if we would remix the first single. Instead, we wrote a song to it and recorded the vocals in a Los Angeles motel room during the fall of It became the main version of the track, although it took a while to figure out a definitive edit; hence the "Montreal" and "Paris" versions on the single. Meanwhile, Pee and I were working on our own sophomore LP. With almost half of the album done, I moved to Paris for a year in the fall of on a French Literature scholarship. A few days after my arrival, Memed asked me to make a cameo in the "I Am Somebody" video.
That's when I saw him DJ for the first time. Behind the decks, the friend whom I had thus far only known as a producer absolutely blew my mind. Not only with the impeccable tastefulness and precision of his mixes, but also with his posture and aura.
His inimitable dance, his concentrated and contagious smile. Surely many of you are familiar with what I can barely find the words to describe here. In the following months, Mehdi invited me to do a few tag team DJ sets with him and each time, as I was watching him go, all I could think of was: "I can't wait until Alain sees this. I immediately recommended Mehdi. I remember picking him up in the freezing cold and taking him to my brother's house. The second they started talking, it was as if I no longer was in the room.
Before my eyes, one of the most beautiful friendships I have ever witnessed was born. That night, along with Pee and some other friends, Memed came over to my parents' house for New Year's Eve dinner. He stole the show, and not only because of the pink sweater he was wearing! During our animated family discussions, he jokingly refuted every single point I was trying to make, charming everyone with his customary poise. My parents were smiling.
Together, we ushered in the year that Mehdi wanted to get tattooed on his arm: When I came back to Paris, the city was buzzing. Ed Banger had become the most important record label in music.
Justice were getting ready to unleash their debut album, and Pee and I also had to complete ours. I would update Mehdi regularly and get his feedback throughout the entire process.
One night, he came to my apartment to hear the last songs we had completed. His favorite track on the LP was "Waiting 4 U. We saw Mehdi more than ever, but that's when things become a blur: there are too many memories to recount. Every few hours during the last couple of days, another dinner, another joint gig, another chance meeting has come to my mind. I can't keep track. I remember all of us together at Coachella , one of the biggest moments in our careers.
I remember Memed DJing before us when we opened for Justice at Madison Square Garden he knocked over one of our guitars and broke it - probably while doing his signature dance - though I'm not sure he ever admitted it. He was like: "That's my joint, I love that song you guys put on there. This was also the period where Alain and Mehdi's friendship blossomed.
They went on tour together, played countless back to back DJ sets, even traded apartments for a couple of months. Memed was no longer just my homie: he was another older brother for my younger brother. Alain would go on vacation with him and his family. They took such amazing care of him, and never missed an opportunity to tell him to put his phone down anyone familiar with my brother knows that he can't. Some of my Mom's favorite pictures of Alain in recent years are from his vacations with Mehdi and Fafi, some of the only moments when he's enjoyed actual downtime.
There is no possible way to express how grateful we are for this. Trips to Paris without a dinner at his place were an anomaly. Pee and I used to refer to him and Alain as the honorary members of our band.