INT. CHEU NOODLE BAR - EARLY AFTERNOON
Light cuts through bamboo-colored shades with pleasing symmetry. The feel of a hip living room. Warm wood tones. A nook with cozy vibes. Pots clank.
JENNIFER: So who are you and what do you do?
JOSH: Who am I and what do I do? My name is Josh Hey. I’m the resident sound provider for HyLo Labs as well as a producer and A&R for Paxico Records.
JENNIFER: Blow up my spot, why don’tcha? How long have you been in the music world for?
JOSH: I’ve been in the music world professionally for 7 years but I got my first set of turntables when I was 13 so that’s kinda when I knew that I didn’t wanna do anything other than music for a living.
JENNIFER: Where’d you grow up and what was the music scene like there?
JOSH: I grew up in Western Mass. Northampton to be exact. Small little college town. If you get the chance, go. It’s beautiful. They call it the Happy Valley. Because everybody’s happy in the valley.
Not so much of a music scene there. But I did work for a venue which brought through a lot of amazing artists. So I grew up promoting for them, handing out all their flyers, which got me into free shows. Saw a lot of underground hip hop coming up. Definitive Jux, Little Brother, both musical artists that helped shape me.
JENNIFER: So did you come to Philly knowing the kind of music scene there was here? Or did you come here for other reasons and then get immersed in the scene after that?
JOSH: My knowledge of the Philly music scene was a little out of date. I was really kinda swept up in the neo-soul movement that had happened prior to me getting here. Cats like The Roots were a big inspiration and a big reason for me coming here.
JENNIFER: You guys ready to order? (Turns to waitress who has recently arrived.) We’ll get the dumplings for the table and I’ll have the yakisoba 2.0. Can I get a soft-cooked egg with that?
JOSH: Can I do the brisket?
JENNIFER: (Turning back to conversation.) So music has always been a part of your life, but did you come here for that specifically?
JOSH: So I came to Philadelphia in 2006 to attend University of the Arts. I enrolled in their multimedia program, which was a hybrid of visual and audio design.
It was after I graduated in 2010 that I started working with Sir Froderick, Knxledge, Mind Design, a lot of heavyweights in the instrumental hip hop scene which was flourishing on the West Coast but bubbling over here on the East. And that’s kinda when I had a new awakening to what I was doing.
JENNIFER: What about the origins of Paxico?
JOSH: I met Chris Hund, the founder and creator, when we were both interning for Wax Poetics Magazine up in NY. And it was pretty organic. Chris had already created Paxico, like the visualization of it, but all of his musicians and artists on the label were fictitious. They did not exist. I happened to be making music myself and had a network of producers so I took on that role, filling music for the design that Chris already had. So we continued working together in a collaborative effort. Started doing live shows in NYC as well as Philly.
JENNIFER: What was that cross-pollination like between New York and Philly?
JOSH: It was great. It was hell on my pockets, commuting back and forth, but putting in the work there, really creating a scene, we cultivated a nice group of artists that would come to our events. So now we do a monthly showcase, the POWWAW, which has been going on for almost 2 years.
JENNIFER: And where’s that at?
JOSH: That’s hosted mostly in Brooklyn but we’ve done it internationally as well. We’ve collaborated with Paris, New Zealand, and then have done shows on the West Coast here in the US as well as in Philadelphia.
JENNIFER: Do these folks that you’re working with outside Philly know much about it?
JOSH: Yeah I think Philadelphia’s reputation precedes itself in terms of the music history and the record stores that are here. It’s a known fact that we just have good music. But in terms of venues and locals only type spots, I’ve been kind of a liaison for the New York peeps.
JENNIFER: A very professional way to put it.
JOSH: Yeah, you know, it’s a professional way of saying that they come and sleep on my floor and I take them to great restaurants like CHeU.
JENNIFER: That’s a good segue. So how’d you discover this spot and why do you keep coming back?
JOSH: I discovered CHeU from *you*, Jen. You invited me to an awesome event at Pizza Brain. It was a collaborative effort where the chefs from both CHeU and Pizza Brain put together a really interesting ramen pizza.
JENNIFER: I can’t say I recall that pizza!
JOSH: Aw man, it was amazing. I don’t know what exactly was on it. I think it was like dried fish. Yeah. But it was awesome because it danced in the heat. It would kind of move and grow. It was a very magical pizza. And it tasted great, too, which helped. So after that I had to see what the actual restaurant was about.
JENNIFER: Good thing you’re holding down the fort as far as memories go.
JOSH: Yeah, I do what I can. As soon as I came to CHeU the first time I was blown away. The aesthetic was great. Amazing food. The atmosphere is incredible. As a hip-hop fan it's great to be able to sit and listen to Wu-Tang while eating noodles.
In my experience working in restaurants growing up, hip hop music, especially something as edgy as Wu-Tang, had no place. But I like the fact that CHeU respects their customers and gives them more credit than other restaurants would. Wu -Tang is great music, especially to eat ramen to.
JENNIFER: That first pizza you had—if that were a song, or a group, what would it be? Wu-Tang or something else?
JOSH: I think it would be Wu-Tang. That slice, if I had to give it a song, would be Bring the Ruckus by the Wu-Tang Clan. Cus CHeU and Pizza Brain definitely brought the ruckus that night.
JENNIFER: That could mean so many things.
JENNIFER: We’re gonna stick with the literal interpretation there. Do you have a song in mind for each dish you’ve tried, or is it just more of a general Wu-Tang aura?
JOSH: Wu-Tang aura, I’d say. And just 90s hip hop, just grimy. I like to eat my noodles with my hands. Doing Daz Effect gestures.
JENNIFER: Where does the slurping come in, if at all?
JOSH: I don’t know if it enters the picture. Just a good ad lib. You know, Ol' Dirty Bastard was pretty famous for having a pretty phlegmy voice. So I think it kinda complements that well.
JENNIFER: Do you think of the food here as an art form? You kinda came to CHeU when it was a young restaurant. Do you see it growing in the way a group might?
JOSH: Absolutely. I think CHeU has found a really great market here in Philly. There’s so much ramen and pho, so many different places to get this style of food, but their unique twist on it is what helps them stand out. I see them expanding. Bigger space, more tables, more seats…
JENNIFER: More soundtracks.
JOSH: Yeah. More soundtracks. Oh they’re doing a new spot! On Passyunk. That’s exactly where I can see that going for them.
JENNIFER: So if you had to add another artist to the mix, like CHeU’s adding more food to the mix, who would it be?
JOSH: I would probably have to say Swarvy. A Philadelphia artist, collaborator, good friend of mine. Kind of embodies that mentality here at CHeU. Getting into technology and breaking it but always inserting some soul. I think CHeU should definitely have some Swarvy on the jukebox.
JENNIFER: What kinda people do you like to bring here?
JOSH: New people. I love coming here with familiar faces but it’s more fun to bring somebody who’s never been here before.
JENNIFER: Do they have the reaction you’d expect?
JOSH: Mmhm. They’re usually very quiet because they’re eating so much.
JENNIFER: (Laughing) I guess that makes it a great place to come with a stranger. Sit down, eat, and shut up, basically.
JENNIFER: Do you think the food here could inspire music-makin’?
JOSH: Absolutely. I think music and food are both very instrumental in sustaining the soul.
JENNIFER: That’s some nice wordplay there.
JOSH: Yeah you know I can twist a word every once in a while. But yeah. Nothing warms you to the core like a bowl of brisket from CHeU.
JOSH: That is a difficult question...what do I want people to get out of my music. The same thing I get out of other people’s music. Just some relief. And some insight. Something to unwind. I think headphones are a really great mini vacation you can take for yourself. Kinda get lost in another world. So I just hope people would listen to my stuff while they’re traveling.
JOSH HEY IS A PHILADELPHIA-BASED DJ/PRODUCER. WHEN HE'S NOT MAKING HIS OWN MUSIC HE'S SUPPORTING A CULTURE OF RISING PRODUCERS AS A&R AT PAXICO RECORDS.