Belgian-born, Los Angeles-based producer Beat Bop Scholar is definitely not your typical teenager. Whilst many of his peers are likely to be glued to MTV soaking up the latest overnight mainstream music sensation, this nineteen-year-old prefers to spend his time listening to classic Hip-Hop albums from the 80s and 90s, researching the history of the music he’s become an avid fan of since being introduced to the culture at a young age.
With the likes of Bronx legend and current West Coast resident Percee P co-signing the Scholar’s musical endeavours, the youthful crate-digger has graduated from simply posting remixes of golden-era tracks online to recently releasing his debut project, the mainly instrumental “Authentic Minded” which also features appearances from true-school veterans Craig G, Sadat X and Boot Camp Clik affiliate Louieville Sluggah of OGC fame.
Accurately summed up by its title, “Authentic Minded” is an impressive collection of sample-fuelled boom-bap beats which effectively capture the head-nodding 90s vibe that Beat Bop Scholar has spent so many hours listening to, enjoying and studying.
Paying tribute to his influences rather than simply emulating what has come before him, the Scholar has definitely achieved the right balance on this first project between allowing the past to help shape his music whilst ensuring his production also has its own identity.
Here, the Beat Bop kid speaks on his initial introduction to Hip-Hop, his favourite Cold Chillin’ albums and the importance of younger artists knowing their musical heritage.
How did you first get into old-school Hip-Hop?
“Well, my brother is older than me and he was always listening to Hip-Hop and had a big CD collection so I used to listen to his albums as well. Then when the Internet started to become really popular, around 2004 / 2005, I started to do some research of my own and brought some CDs by artists like Big Daddy Kane and Positive K. So I was really researching the music at that time as well as listening to it and I was really just trying to build my knowledge of Hip-Hop.”
What prompted you to actually start doing so much research into the artists of that golden-era period rather than just simply listening to the music?
“Well, I was going into the the online forums where people would talk about 80s / 90s Hip-Hop and would become curious about what I was reading and just do further research on the artists. I really wanted to know everything I could that was related to Hip-Hop. I could really hear the difference between what I was hearing on the radio and the music that I was listening to in terms of both the production and the lyrics on those golden-era records. Listening to certain artists would then lead me onto other artists, like when I heard Big Daddy Kane’s first album and Marley Marl’s production, that then made me check out the other members of the Juice Crew like Kool G. Rap and the “In Control” albums and my knowledge just grew from there.”
Your friends at the time must have wondered what you were doing listening to all those old records?
“Yeah, you’re right (laughs). I was probably around thirteen-years-old when I was first listening to those Big Daddy Kane CDs I mentioned, so at that age a lot of my friends weren’t really into any type of music, so I was really on my own with it aside from my brother, but he’s like eight-years older than me. I mean, I have friends now who support my music, but that’s not because they’re Hip-Hop heads, it’s because they’re being supportive of what I’m doing.”
Percee P has shown you quite a lot of support and is also featured on the album – how did you hook-up with the Rhyme Inspector?
“I used to go to Fat Beats a lot when they had the store here in Los Angeles. I was probably fifteen the first time I went to Fat Beats for a Large Professor in-store. A couple of months after that they had a Cappadonna instore and Percee P was there outside the store doing what he’s known to do, selling his CDs hand-to-hand. I already knew about him from watching his battle with Lord Finesse online and the “Yes You May” remix and we just started talking.”
I’m guessing that talking to Percee must have opened you up to a lot more first-hand Hip-Hop knowledge?
“Honestly, Percee is one of those cats who not only really knows his Hip-Hop but he also has so many stories which are things that you won’t find already written about online. He’s not one of those people who makes you feel like he’s not really interested in replying when you ask him a question. If you talk to him about Hip-Hop he can go on forever and he really appreciates the fact that people want to listen to what he has to say.”
So at what point did you decide to get into production?
“I probably started making beats about two years ago. I was always interested in watching people making beats and would watch videos online and things like that. I already knew about the great producers like Large Professor, K-Def, Marley Marl and others who had that real true authentic sound and I just started buying vinyl looking for samples. Then I started chopping samples up, putting drums under them and I guess I found my sound really quickly. At first making beats was just something I was doing for fun but then I realised I had something good with it and that’s when I really started working on my techniques and pushing it. I always really liked those tracks that had raw drums and dusty samples, that was the sound I enjoyed most listening to old records, so I guess that was the sound that just came naturally when I started making beats.”
So you basically taught yourself by trial and error?
“Yeah, there was nobody who really taught me how to use a sampler or equipment so I really learnt on my own just watching videos online. Although there was one experience I had that really had a big influence on me at an event we have in LA in Chinatown called Beat Swapmeet which is a place where people can sell records and stuff like that but they also sometimes have performances there. Thes One from People Under The Stairs was invited there one week to do a beat showcase and he came with the MPC 2000 and he basically showed people some of his techniques, how he’d work with drums and the way he’d chop samples. Being there to see Thes One do that really helped me because I was able to actually see someone making beats in front of me and that really helped me to elevate my game and try different things.”
What equipment did you use for the “Authentic Minded” album?
“Right now I’m actually using an Akai MPD32 which is the one you hook up to the computer and I’m using that along with the programme Reason. At the time, I got that because it was one of the cheapest I could afford but I would really like to be able to use something like the MPC 60 or the 2000 although I’ve really mastered my sound using the equipment I have, so for the time being I’ll probably continue on that unless I find an MPC for a good price. So for what I could afford I definitely think I made the right choice. I’d like to be able to use the original samplers and equipment like that but I think you’re still able to achieve an authentic sound using software. I mean, I read that even producers like K-Def are using software more now because you can pretty much do the same thing you’d do on the older equipment and you haven’t got to worry so much about problems with the machine losing your work and things like that.”
“Authentic Minded” is largely an instrumental album but you also have a few tracks on there with Craig G, Sadat X and OGC’s Louieville Sluggah – how did you hook-up with those particular artists?
“Like you said, I wanted the album to really showcase my beats so I only wanted to work with two or three artists on the project. Craig G I met at a Fat Beats instore for Chali 2na and Rakaa from Dilated Peoples. Craig was in LA and I’d seen him write on his Twitter account that he was going to be showing-up at Fat Beats. Since I knew he was going to be there I took my Marley Marl “In Control Vol. 1” vinyl which is one of my favourite albums. I’d already had the back cover with the Juice Crew picture signed by Masta Ace a few months before when I’d met him, so I wanted to get Craig G to sign it as well. He signed the record for me and we just started talking about doing something together. That’s why on the track we did “Veteran Tactics” he has that line where he says “Classic like that copy of “In Control” on Melrose…” which relates to the day we met and he signed the Marley Marl album cover.”
And Sadat X?
“Sadat X I just hit up online and he was down to do the track. I already had the beat that I wanted to send him, which had a kind of Western feel to the sample which I thought tied in with the whole Wild Cowboy thing Sadat has. I thought that beat was perfect for him and as soon as I made the track, which was months before I even asked him to be on it, I knew I wanted Sadat on there and I think he did a really good job.”
Craig G and Sadat are both artists who’ve had a consistent presence in the underground scene over the years but Louieville Sluggah is definitely a less obvious choice of emcee to collaborate with…
“Honestly, by the time I had the Craig G and Sadat tracks I thought I had everything I wanted on the album as far as vocal tracks were concerned. But then I had a connection with someone who knew Louieville Sluggah and he happened to be out in LA and was open to working with me. I was a fan of the music he made with OGC and tracks like “Leflaur Leflah…” so I decided to do it. I had a beat in mind that he’d sound good on, we met in the studio, he listened to the track and I was really happy with how it came out.”
When you’re looking for sample material do you use the old-school method of physically digging for vinyl or do you go online to look for tracks to use?
“I kinda do a little of both, really. Here in LA it’s really good for vinyl and you can go to places like Amoeba in Hollywood and pick up vinyl from any genre you want from Hip-Hop to soul to jazz. I mean, I’m young but I probably have about five hundred records in my vinyl collection. But sometimes I’ll also find tracks online and will sample from those as well. So it’s really a little of both. But whether I’m using actual records or tracks I found online, I always try to make sure I’m using samples that haven’t already been used over and over. I don’t want to use known samples or just do loops, I like to chop my samples up in a way that makes them sound completely different to the original track they came from.”
What are some of your favourite golden-era albums that you really gravitated to when you started listening to Hip-Hop?
“I used to really like a lot of the early Cold Chillin’ albums, particularly Big Daddy Kane’s first two albums “Long Live The Kane” and “It’s A Big Daddy Thing”. I also really liked Grand Daddy I.U.’s “Smooth Assassin” album and thought there was some great production on there with tracks like “This Is A Recording”. The first Masta Ace album “Take A Look Around” was also something I used to listen to a lot. The Juice Crew were really the first group of artists that I studied and listened to, so the production on those albums really had a big influence on me when I started making beats.”
The Juice Crew is definitely a pretty good place to start….
“Yeah (laughs). Another album which I listened to a lot and have on vinyl, CD and also have the vinyl singles from as well, was Main Source’s “Breaking Atoms”. That’s definitely one of my favourite albums and was another big influence on me musically with what Large Professor was doing on there.”
So aside from Marley Marl and Large Pro which other producers would you say influenced your sound?
“I guess it would be people like DJ Premier, Diamond D, K-Def, Da Beatminerz, but then I also went back and studied people like Paul C. and what he was doing back then, so I think I learnt something from listening to and reading about all of those producers. I’m definitely more into that East Coast boom-bap sound than anything else.”
Obviously you made the decision to research the history of Hip-Hop before you started producing, but do you think that’s something all young artists should take the time to do before they get into the game?
“Definitely. I mean, it’s normal now for young artists to say they were influenced by people like Nas, Jay-Z, 2Pac and Biggie, but everyone says that. I’d be more impressed if I heard people saying they appreciated artists like T La Rock, Lord Finesse or Tragedy because then that tells me that they’ve studied the music and have really taken the time to look at the history and the legends who’ve been a massive influence but who might not be known in the mainstream. So if you say you make Hip-Hop music, I definitely think it’s important to have actually studied the history of the music you’re making.”
If you could jump in a time-machine and go back to the 90s with the beats you have now which golden-era artist would you want to work with most and why?
“That’s really hard to say (laughs). Maybe someone like Lord Finesse when he first came out or Nas during the “Illmatic” era. I actually remixed the “Shootouts” track he did with Mobb Deep on his second album and I thought his voice definitely sounded good over my beats. That’s the great thing about everyone putting acapellas on their singles back in the 90s, because as a producer today you can use those classic rhymes with your production and really get a feel for how certain artists would have sounded if you’d worked with them back then (laughs). What’s also good about doing that is that it really proves how timeless a lot of those artists were with their skills. Like, I just did a remix of “Good Combination” from Postive K which came out in the 80s. But if you listen to those old rhymes over one of my new beats, it doesn’t sound like those rhymes are from back then (laughs).”
What advice would you give to other young producers who might also have an interest in true-school Hip-Hop but feel pressured to conform to popular musical trends?
“You’ve just got to make the music you like and make sure that what you’re doing is something that you really feel yourself rather than just doing what you think people want to hear. It’s difficult sometimes for people to understand the differences between what’s being labelled as Hip-Hop in the mainstream and what Hip-Hop actually is, but that’s why it’s important to make the music you truly believe in. One of my favourite lines ever is on R.A. The Rugged Man’s “Every Record Label Sucks D**k” when he say’s “There’s only fifty thousand heads that are true to this, The rest are clueless to what real Hip-Hop music is…” and I think that’s still true today which is why I really want to focus on making music that’s true to me.”
So what are your plans beyond the release of “Authentic Minded”?
“I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback on the album and I’m hoping that grows into real support. I have a lot of beats that are already finished but I didn’t want to put too many on “Authentic Minded” so, right now, I could put out so many albums without actually making any more beats (laughs). But I’m really just looking to see how this first project does before I decide what I’m going to do next. People have been saying they’d like to hear me do some tracks with Percee P, so we’ll have to see what happens. I just really need people to support the music that I have out now.”
“Authentic Minded” is out now via BeatBopScholar.BandCamp.Com
Beat Bop Scholar ft. Sadat X – “The Truth” (BeatBopScholar.BandCamp.Com / 2012)