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Bear-One: Gentleman of Leisure and Sound.

August 5, 2015

BearOneOnline01A self-described “audio engineer by craft,” Bear-One has been working with some of the biggest names in Philadelphia for more than a decade. Our Holli Stephens caught up with the producer and DJ, who has been riding a high in 2015 … and with good reason. Images by Dustin Fenstermacher.

Where does the name Bear-One stem from?

Oh man, you want to start with that one?  Wow, I never really told too many people this …

As a child, I was infatuated by Winnie the Pooh. My sister would call me Pooh Bear around the house or whatever. As I got older, like 11 or 12, I was like, “Don’t call me that!” But she kept calling me that. Playing football, she would be like, “Pooh Bear, time for lunch.” People would be in the backyard like, “Who’s Pooh Bear?”

So I dropped the Pooh but I kept Bear. Then I started doing graffiti and I put the “One” on and it just stuck.

So what is your relationship to Sugar Tongue Slim [STS]?

Just MC and DJ. Like Gang Starr. I handle the majority of his production and I’m also his DJ. The whole team is called GOLD (Gentlemen of Leisure and Development). That’s me and Slim and then we have different managers. Jordan Brown, who does a lot of vocals, and I’d also put RJD2 in there. It’s a whole force.

Me and Slim moved here around 2003. That’s when Slim started rhyming. I got on board with Slim in 2010. I was working at Def Jam and Slim was signed to Def Jam. We knew of each other and had crossed paths.

We all started working together with The Roots. I was really good friends with Dice Raw and Truck North. Then Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought from The Roots) founded Money Making Jam Boys. I was a DJ for that. Slim was also a part of that. Then we really started connecting.

What is your production process?

In general, it’s me going through records, just digging. A lot of times, it’s not really about chopping up different sounds. It’s about vinyl. That’s my biggest thing. I need the vinyl.

What makes vinyl so important?

The digital aspect is cool but I come from the vinyl aspect. I come from beat digging in the record store for four or five days. I feel like it’s a lost art. A lot of people don’t dig because there’s YouTube and Google but I come from the era of vinyl. We would go in from when the record store opened at 9 a.m. to when it closed at 9 p.m.

That might sound crazy but that’s how we used to do it. If you ain’t got the vinyl, you don’t have a hit.

How did you and Slim link up with RJD2?

When they did RJ’s record together, RJ was like, “Well I owe you a track.” Then we did one song, which is called “420.” Slim pinned it and engineered it and RJ made the beat. One song went on to five songs, five songs went to 10. Ten went to 15, 15 went to 20, 20 to 25, and at 25 we had an album, which came out May 5 (with 12 tracks).

You’ve seen a lot of big names come through your studio spaces. What is it like to have Meek Mill or Method Man come in for a session?

It’s love. I worked for Def Jam and was around all these big artists, so it got me to be in the main frame of thinking, “Oh, they’re just like me. They’re cool, they don’t really trip.”

I met Meek when he was 15. He was a kid.

Working for a major label for eight years prepared me to be with these bigger acts.

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