After wandering off on my own to catch TOKiMONSTA’s set at What The Festival 2015, I found my crew at another stage completely enthralled by a face-melting, bass-infused, hip-hop-laden mixture there. As if the sound waves hit us all at the same time, my friends and I looked at one another in excitement, moving with the beat, getting closer to the stage to get a better look at the man behind the music. That man was Great Dane, Co-founder of the L.A.-based collective of producers and beatmakers known as Team Supreme.
Great Dane, aka Dane Morris, challenged himself and Preston James (aka Virtual Boy and one half of Penthouse Penthouse) to make a one-minute beat in one hour using a set BPM and vocal samples from The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems.” They used the Biggie lyric, “My team supreme, stay clean/triple beam lyrical dream, I be that,” and the name Team Supreme stuck and the first TS members were selected. Their beat-making challenges were released for free online as mixtapes, which proved crucial to the growth and sound of each individual producer in the collective, as well as the growing TS fan base. Eventually the mixes stopped, and each TS member went on to make music and tour solo—until recently.
The TS crew has brought back their beat sharing experiment, but with a new twist: “Pass The Aux” started in March of last year. Before shows, members of TS allow young, up-and-coming beatmakers to bring tracks of their own to showcase to the audience. “We poke fun at each other, like, ‘Yo, what kinda 808 [drum machine] is that?’” Morris laughs. “Or, ‘What sample pack you usin’, bro?’ Stuff like that. But it’s all in a loving, fun, encouraging way.” But it’s more than giving people an opportunity to share their beats to a crowd. “The cool thing we found out about doing [“Pass The Aux”] is that . . . there are a lot of little music communities that are coming out to the show and then meeting each other in real life. They had no idea their neighbors were doing the same thing they we’re doing, so it’s really cool to connect people to that.”
The pleasure Morris finds in music and the community is palpable. But Morris wasn’t always a producer. He’s a singer who majored in vocal performance, and up until recently hadn’t merged his beats and voice together. “Putting vocals on things seemed harder to do,” he reveals. “I think mostly it’s just being self-conscious. Once you put your voice on something, it’s kind of like opening up your soul a little bit. It’s a tough balance. You want to be able to express yourself with all the tools you have, and your voice is a huge one. When I saw [my] song “To Stay” take off and do really well, the payoff was insane. It just felt so rewarding to have people that know my lyrics . . . but then again, I just want to do what makes me happy, and making beats makes me really happy.”
Outside of his music Morris has been vocal on his social platforms about everything from women’s rights to racism and white privilege. “I have kind of turned into an activist by default,” he explains. “I’m trying to help in every way I can without basically turning my twitter into a political twitter. Riding the line of, ‘Hey here’s my new music,’ but also, ‘Women are people!’” he laughs, adding, “In case [people] didn’t fuckin’ know that.” Coming from a family of strong women—including his mother and grandmother, who were always the head of their households—the degradation of women’s rights doesn’t sit well with Morris, which is why the rape allegations against Gaslamp Killer during the #MeToo campaign hit close to home.
Morris has toured with Gaslamp Killer, a fellow electronic musician. “I don’t know him super well,” Morris notes, “but obviously it was definitely the one that hit closest to home of all the [allegation] stories. It’s heartbreaking. It’s been hard for me to even articulate how I feel about it . . . Men need to call each other out and say, ‘That’s not okay,’ in the moment. If they know something about someone, then they need to be the ones to shed a light on it as well.”
Artists like Great Dane have been breaking genre-confining boundaries from the jump, introducing the world to new ways of discovering and engaging with music. Expect to hear much more from this powerhouse producer in the years to come.
Facebook: @grrreatdane | Instagram: @grrrreatdane | Soundcloud: @grrrreatdane
Originally published in print and online at DOPEMagazine.com.