Lost in the reports of Canadians who fared well at this year’s Grammy Awards was a name familiar to fans of Juno Award-winning ‘90s groove merchants Bass Is Base.
It seems curious that Chin Injeti – bassist, songwriter and lead vocalist with the erstwhile Toronto-based soul band – wasn’t mentioned, considering his contribution to the Eminem album Recovery, which won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Injeti co-wrote and performed on Eminem’s “Talkin’ 2 Myself” and “Almost Famous,” and co-produced “Talkin’ 2 Myself” with his musical partner DJ Khalil.
So how did “Talkin’ 2 Myself” end up in the hands of the notorious rapper? “I was in the studio one day knocking out these Bon Jovi ‘Runaway’-type joints when all of a sudden I stumbled on this keyboard riff, followed by guitar and drums,” Injeti says from his Vancouver home studio. “Khalil then added these incredible drums and our friend Kobe did the lyric.
“Right away we knew Em would kill it!” he adds excitedly. “Years later, I get a phone call telling me that Em cut it. The song had gotten to him through Dr. Dre, to whom Khalil is signed.”
“Talkin’ 2 Myself” is a deeply introspective track in which Eminem speaks candidly about his struggle with drug addiction and how it manifested itself in alienation, writer’s block and hatred. As Injeti says, “It was written from the perspective of what he went through and who we thought he is today.” If anything, that earnest sort of subject matter proves Injeti’s musical philosophy hasn’t changed since his days in Bass Is Base.
Back then, he said that the group was all about “writing from the heart” and that “simplicity and sincerity in music is what impresses me.” Those qualities are evident once again on Re’tach, an EP that Injeti released on iTunes in March of this year. It features remixes of some songs that appeared on D’tach, a full-length album he put out in 2009.
Like Injeti’s other work, which has occasionally featured session musicians from India, Re’tach displays a musical eclecticism that showcases his South Asian cultural roots. One of the standout tracks, “Don’t Shake It Down,” features tabla and a ghazal singer, Neeraj, duetting with him. (The ghazal is an ancient, romantic form of song that originated in Persia and migrated to India.)
Explaining what inspired “Don’t Shake It Down,” Injeti says, “I was sitting in my backyard sipping wine and enjoying the day when my cousin came into the house and started disrupting the chill vibes. I told him that it was like climbing a tree, and as I got higher and higher he was shaking it down until I fell out.”
Hardly shaken down, Injeti – who sang on the Young Artists for Haiti version of K’naan‘s “Wavin’ Flag” – has written and produced songs for some of the biggest hip-hop stars in the world, including 50 Cent’s “Could’ve Been You,” (featuring R. Kelly); Drake’s “Fear”; Dr. Dre’s “Topless” (featuring Nas and T.I.); Clipse’s “There was a Murder” (featuring Kanye West); and the aforementioned Eminem songs.
Injeti says that making his own records is an escape from the big beats he creates for his big-name clients, and that Re’tach was inspired by the need to give the songs on D’tach “another lease on life. They were originally cut as acoustic songs, at a time when I was going through some serious life changes. Also, the nature of the other music I was producing was more dense and aggressive. So when it came to Re’tach, I thought I’d take another stab at them and infuse them with more production and more influences.”
In addition to his big-name hip-hop alliances, and his solo work, Injeti also co-writes and produces for Canadian songbirds Zaki Ibrahim and Kinnie Starr; co-leads a band with DJ Khalil called The New Royales; and, with Khalil, owns and operates a company called The Hastings Set that works in the fields of creative multi-media collaboration, artist development and management, and branding.
On top of all that, Injeti now has the opportunity to champion independent and emerging Canadian musicians through a new gig he landed in March. Universal Music Canada hired him to work in its expanded A&R department at the same time as they recruited Juno Award-winning and Grammy-nominated producer Gavin Brown (Metric, Sarah Harmer, Billy Talent).
Injeti himself is no stranger to awards: Bass is Base won a Best R&B/Soul Recording Juno for First Impressions For the Bottom Jigglers in 1995, and were nominated in the same category the following year for Memories of the Soulshack Survivors. In 1997, Injeti won the SOCAN Pop Music Award for co-writing “I Cry” with Shane Faber and Michael Mangini, an honour he says marked “one of the greatest moments of my career, because it was my first solo award.
“I think songs will always be important even in these ever-evolving times,” Injeti says. “Beats and image can only go so far. After all, we are in the song game and there would be no image, or no beat, without a song. People need to recognize the very essence of what we do and that some of us have been working on our craft all our lives.”