Early Stones Throw recording artist DJ Design teams up with Phat Kat & Elzhi from J Dillas vaunted Slum Village crew

Early Stones Throw recording artist DJ Design, known for creating the iconic Quasimoto monster character and the LP cover design for “My Vinyl Weighs A Ton” by Peanut Butter Wolf, is also a beat maker responsible for the seminal instrumental LP, “Gather Round” with the supporting EP, “Sparkdala” featuring Madlib/Quasimoto.

For his new single, DJ Design teams up with Phat Kat & Elzhi from J Dillas vaunted Slum Village crew. The track “The Blues” is aggressive and loud with screaming organs, laying down a backdrop for two very different perspectives rooted in the rough reality of lived experience from the heart of Motown, Detroit. This is the first single of Design’s upcoming producer/emcee album. Next to Phat Kat and Elzhi, other notable guests on the album are Fashawn, Guilty Simpson, LMNO and Gennessee.

There’s a unique synergy in this single that makes you take note. I haven’t heard a single with this king energy in a long while. I love where this is going. Terrific collaboration.

DJ Design

The Blues (feat. Phat Kat & Elzhi)

Released by: Below System Records

Genre: Hip-Hop / Conscious Hip-HopOther: Old-school Hip-Hop, BoomBap

Moods: Energetic, Aggressive, Epic

While more of a behind-the-scenes player DJ Design’s (aka Keith Griego) work has had a sizable imprint on the history of modern hip-hop. As a DJ/Beatmaker and visual artist he has contributed production and art since the late 90’s for notables including The Beastie Boys, Madlib, A.G., Foreign Legion, Rasco, Peanut Butter Wolf and Phat Kat.

Hailing from the Bay Area he began his path in hip-hop in the early 90’s where he crossed paths with equally passionate upstarts in the area such as Peanut Butter Wolf, Charizma and Fanatik (The Unassisted Producer).

The end of the 90’s was a breakthrough period for DJ Design. This includes an early release for his group, Foreign Legion on the ABB Records label who also released essential LP’s from Dilated Peoples and Little Brother (among others). Foreign Legion included Design on production and included high school comrade Prozack Turner and Marc Stretch on mic duties. 

He also contributed greatly to the then fledgling Stones Throw label. In addition to producing a track for future Cali Agents member Rasco 1998 LP Time Waits For No Man and Peanut Butter Wolf’s classic 1998 LP, My Vinyl Weighs A Ton (for which he also designed the album cover) he released an LP for the label in 2000 entitled Gather Round. The LP was an early entry into what would become the beat-tape sub-genre of instrumental hip-hop and highly regarded by heads in the scene (including DJ Qbert who would occasionally scratch it into his routines). The follow up EP entitled Sparkdala (released in 2001) featured tracks with Madlib/Quasimoto, MED and Wildchild.

As a visual artist, his high point of work with the label was his design of the 12” vinyl cover for Lootpack member Madlib’s side project Quasimoto. The cover for “Microphone Mathematics” featured Design/Griego’s visual representation of Lord Quas as a sort of alien aardvark, which was adopted by the artist and has since become one of the most iconic and enduring characters in the game today. 

Touring and live shows provided essential networks and showcases of Design’s talents. This led to a remix for Grand Royal Records of The Beastie Boys as well as a unique opportunity to work with J Dilla. Though Design never got an opportunity to work with Dilla, the latter introduced him to his earliest emcee partner Phat Kat. Via his own Look Records label, Design released Phat Kat’s 2007 LP Carte Blanche which was produced by J Dilla, Black Milk and Slum Village’s Young RJ. Another important release for the label was Get Dirty Radio by A.G. (Diggin’ In The Crates, Showbiz & A.G.) for which he produced several tracks and enlisted an all-star list of beatmakers to contribute to including Dilla, Madlib, Jake One, Oh No and Showbiz.

2008 was the release of DJ Design’s second LP Jetlag, which had several instrumentals but was rife with talented emcees riding his productions, including Dudley Perkins, Party Arty, Guilty Simpson and Oh No among others. A world tour in support of the project followed and in recent years the man has returned to producing underground style beat-tapes and mixes of unofficial remixes.

However, 2024 will be the year of a new DJ Design LP with appearances from several talented friends to drop via Below System Records.