Tag Archives: Beatmaking

Welcome To Detroit – Black Milk

Motor City producer Black Milk talks to DJ King David for “Detroit Streets” DVD magazine.

Old To The New Q&A – Asaviour

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Born and raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, emcee / producer Asaviour has spent the last decade on a constant grind to reach the upper echelons of the UK rap game. Debuting back in 1999 on fellow Northerner Jehst’s first release “Premonitions”, the wily wordsmith has amassed an impressive discography, collaborating with a long list of Brit-Hop figures such as Ghost, Braintax, Tommy Evans and Kyza.

2006 saw Asaviour’s hard work pay off with Low Life Records releasing his full-length project “The Borrowed Ladder”, an album that fully captured Savvy’s artistic potential, combining his unapologetic Northern delivery with off-the-wall humour, worldly subject matter and true-school beats.

Having recently released the “Play 2 Win Vol. 2” mix-CD, Asaviour is now ready to embark on the next stage of his musical journey. With the long-awaited “A-Loop Theory” album with UK production heavyweight DJ IQ dropping soon, and his own “Next Skool Klassics” project in the pipeline, 2008 looks set to be a busy year for the multi-talented individual.

Old To The New caught up with Asaviour recently to get a sneak preview of what to expect from his next wave of material.

What made you decide to drop another mix CD before putting out your second ‘proper’ album?

I guess it was because of the development I’ve made since my last album. I wanted to put some material out there that people might not have heard from the past, plus stuff I’ve been doing with other artists, and I also wanted to prepare people for the onslaught DJ IQ and I have been working on, which is our album “The A-Loop Theory”.

So how do you feel you’ve developed as an artist since “The Borrowed Ladder”?

I’ve moved on in leaps and bounds. Don’t get me wrong, “The Borrowed Ladder” represents my development into a proper solo artist and I’m proud of that album, but I also learnt so much while making it, both as a writer and a producer. My vision is a lot less polarized nowadays. I’m trying to draw on as many influences as I can and I’ve learnt to be myself more in my music by working with sounds and tempos I’m into rather than what I think the scene will be into. I’m going against the grain a little bit more now and feel comfortable taking risks.

DJ IQ ft. Asaviour – “Kaleidoscopes & Tightropes” (Mancan Music / 2006)

What can people expect from the “A-Loop Theory” album you’ve recorded with DJ IQ and when are you planning to put it out?

Well at first “A – Loop” was me just getting a little bored and experimenting by wanting to make tracks bigger than just drums and an eight bar loop. It was me developing my playing and sampling techniques, learning about chords and progressions, stuff like that.

IQ and myself often work together gigging and at the time we were touring with Jehst. We’d all play each other beats on the way to shows, we were both into each other’s sound, and we’d talk about how to improve each other’s beats. After a while we were like ‘Let’s combine some of this sh*t as these beats really complement each other.’ Then we started to make a few tracks and the whole concept started to come together. The lyrics and guests on the album kinda fell into place due to the tracks having such a strong identity.

I guess what you can expect from the album is change and a fresh twist on sh*t, so to speak. The album’s roots are in Hip-Hop but you can expect us to slide into genres like rock, electro, jazz, grime, soul, blues etc. We’ve brought in some really talented musicians to play on the album, so you’ll hear violins, violas, trumpets, electric guitars, keys and vocalists. I’ve tried to inject a variety of emotions into the album in terms of my lyrics and I’m always gonna try to find new angles to approach subjects from. We’ve just tried to make good music really.

We’re looking to have it out by summer and we’re at the contract stage now. We’ve got interest from a few labels and one of them is a new kid on the block in terms of UK labels but it’s an exciting possibility. We’re really just trying to get the best deal possible. So if there’s any labels with money interested then gimme a shout! Let’s do lunch (laughs).

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Talk about the “Next Skool Klassiks” project you’ve also been working on . Who’ll be featured on there and is it just yourself handling production?

Well the title is just me being a little cocky I suppose. It’s basically just a statement of intent. The album is me looking towards the future of music from the UK and just trying to develop and push my sound forward.

I’m just making my mark in my own way. To be honest I don’t really wanna give away too much on this one as it’s all about “Play To Win 2” and “The A -Loop Theory” right now, but you can expect a mixed bag of tricks with some names you might expect and some you most definitely won’t. My approach to “Next Skool Klassiks” has been more from a music producer’s point of view rather than just a Hip Hop standpoint.

Even though you’re known primarily as an emcee do you feel it’s important for you to establish yourself as a producer as well?

Yeah I’m mainly known as an emcee but I reckon I only started rhyming about six or seven months before I started making beats. The thing is, writing rhymes costs f**k all, you just need a pen, pad and some brain cells. To make beats, however, you need equipment. I got a little break a while back when I was in college and a teacher let me f**k about in the studio when no-one was around. I learnt how to use a sampler and that was the beginning of me making beats. I wasn’t a music student though so it wasn’t easy to get studio time.

Eventually I got together the money to buy a second-hand Akai S1 and an Atari. I got a copy of Cubase from Jehst, which allowed me to make beats at my yard. Through the years I learnt about digging and different tricks in sampling. I bought and sold equipment to improve what I was working with. I had some sh*t stolen and had to buy new sh*t, plus I studied music technology at university and also learnt a bit about musical theory, which all helped get me to the point I’m at now.

Production’s just something I’ve been doing pretty much as long as I’ve been rhyming, but it’s a side of me people haven’t heard that much of yet. Hopefully peeps will feel what I’m cooking up.

If you could only take three UK Hip-Hop albums to a desert island what would they be and why?

Ah man! Can’t I just take like an 800 gig Ipod or some sh*t? These questions are impossible and please bear in mind my choice may change in the next thirty seconds (laughs). But it’d be Task Force’s “New Mic Order”, London Posse’s “Gangster Chronicle” and Asaviour & DJ IQ’s “The A-Loop Theory”.

Ryan Proctor

Ghost Interview (Originally Posted On UKHH.Com Feb 27th 2008)

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If you spend more time than is probably healthy reading Hip-Hop-related interviews on the internet, you’ll already know that you could bet your collection of rare rap singles on the likelihood of your favourite emcee, deejay and / or producer using at least one or more of the stock phrases that nowadays appear to be industry-standard responses during said Q&As. You’ll hear MC Kill-A-Man talking about how he’s “keeping it real”, DJ Radio Payola will insist his show is all about “what the streets want”, and Mr. I’ve-Only-Been-Making-Beats-Since-I-Got-A-MySpace-Page will tell you how his forthcoming album is sure to “take the game to the next level”. However, in all honesty, once the overzealous statements and hyperbole have subsided and it’s time to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, few individuals are actually able to deliver what they’ve promised.

All of which puts one of the UK’s finest producers, Ghost, in a bit of a tricky position. As you’ll be able to tell after reading the interview below, 2008 is all about progression and moving up a creative gear as far as the London-based beat junkie is concerned. Not content with resting on his laurels following the release of his impressive 2006 debut long-player “Seldom Seen Often Heard”, Ghost has been back in the lab working not just on new music, but also on new directions in which to take his sound. But will the finished product back up his claims of sonic elevation?

With three full-length projects in the pipeline, Ghost is determined to cover a lot of musical ground over the coming months. First, there’s the Invisible Inc set, a collaborative effort with lyrical allies Kashmere and Verb T that Ghost promises will be “something different”. Then there’s the Lingua Franca album with female vocalist Devorah, a release that fans of Ghost’s traditional Hip-Hop sound might not have seen coming, but that the producer says was all about “challenging” himself. Last but certainly not least, there’s the official solo follow-up to “Seldom Seen…”, yet judging by Ghost’s description of the album, even that might not be exactly what’s expected from him.

So the individual responsible for some of the best homegrown Hip-Hop in recent times has definitely set himself some high-standards to live up to, let alone exceed. But unlike those who litter their interviews with empty promises of quality product, Ghost’s previous musical track record and sincere respect for his craft indicates that, in this instance, actions are likely to speak louder than words.

It’s been a couple of years now since the release of “Seldom Seen Often Heard”. In hindsight are you happy with how the album was received and did it achieve what you hoped it would?

No on both counts (laughs). I was really happy to get the album out there and compared to a lot of other releases it did do really well and I’m thankful for that. But I guess what I look at is, had I done that album five years sooner maybe there would’ve been more sales because obviously the whole download thing has taken off and it’s affected everybody.

But looking back it’s all a learning experience and by putting the album out when I did it’s taught me a lot about how the industry works. So a lot of positive things came out of the album and I certainly don’t look back on it in a negative light, but it is disappointing when you know a project had the potential to do better than it did. Still, I can look back and say that I did it and not a lot of people even get that far.

I understand you’ve gained a pretty loyal fan base out in Japan.

Yeah, we got a licensing deal for the album out there. It was weird because I started noticing that people were picking up on the singles over there and they were selling really well. Then we had about three or four labels get in touch saying they wanted to put the album out. So Skeg at Breakin’ Bread hooked up whatever he hooked up and that was that really.

Obviously it’s extremely pleasing to know your music is being appreciated outside of the UK and going forward it looks like the Japanese thing will be an ongoing relationship, which is massive to me. They seem to have an amazing taste in music out there, and without wanting to sound like I’m bigging myself up too much, they seem to be into music that’s got some heart and soul in it, and that’s what I like to think I do.

The Japanese audience is very particular about what they want and I feel very lucky and privileged that my music is in demand out there. The next step is to try to get over there to do some shows and promotion.

Ghost ft. Abstract Rude – “Basic Instinct” (Breakin Bread / 2006)

Your recent single “It’s All Love” has introduced a slightly different side to Ghost than perhaps people have heard before – does the single represent something of a turning point for you as a producer?

In some ways, yes. With that single I wanted to do something a bit different because I’m not someone who can just continually do the same thing over and over again. I like to challenge myself and try new things. The a-side is a real party tune, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s not my regular thing because it’s quite happy and upbeat and very much dancefloor-orientated. The b-side, again, was me wanting to do something outside the box. I still think both tracks have a Ghost sound to them, but within slightly different styles of music than people are used to hearing from me.

It’s always difficult because the Hip-Hop crowd might listen to the single and say ‘What the f**k is he doing? Why isn’t he still doing straight-up Hip-Hop?’ I’m not trying to move away from doing Hip-Hop at all, but as a producer I want to be able to express myself musically and that sometimes means trying different things.

With that in mind, compared to the Hip-Hop scene you came up in, do you think there even is a UK Hip-Hop scene nowadays in the traditional sense of the term?

That’s a very good question (long pause). It’s hard to know what’s going on anymore, really. There doesn’t appear to be much of a structure left. I’ve actually been discussing this with a few people recently and I think the UK scene got to a good level a few years back and I can’t quite put my finger on what happened, but it feels like the ground just fell from beneath it. But that said, there are still artists out there making good British Hip-Hop whose aim is to keep pushing it, keep getting shows, and hopefully ride through the storm a little bit.

It is difficult though, because if you look at what’s happened to the majority of record shops just in London that supported Hip-Hop, the main ones have gone. It feels like the scene has dropped down a little bit. But sometimes that needs to happen so it can regroup, pick itself up and move forward again. But I don’t think the music media here in the UK has ever really taken British Hip-Hop seriously and it’s always been viewed as just a knock-off of the American stuff. Which is really disappointing because there are artists in the UK who’ve made some amazing music but have had to really struggle to get it heard. UK Hip-Hop has never really been in fashion.

Many people are of the opinion that there’s a real generation gap developing between those UK Hip-Hop acts who came up embracing the culture as well as the music, and those younger artists who grew-up with Hip-Hop being this huge money-making mainstream machine. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s a weird situation. I grew-up on the culture of Hip-Hop and it taught me a helluva lot of things, but you don’t see that as much anymore. But you can’t necessarily blame the younger listeners coming up because that’s the type of Hip-Hop the media chucks at them. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I don’t think all hope is lost. I think the key is to try to embrace some of the newer sounds but keep the roots in Hip-Hop, which is partly what we’ve tried to do with the Invisible Inc project that’s coming out.

Ghost ft. Verb T, Kashmere & Asaviour – “Seldom Seen Often Heard” (Breakin Bread / 2006)

So how did the Invisible Inc project with Kashmere and Verb T come about? 

After I’d done “Seldom Seen Often Heard” I was sat down twiddling my thumbs thinking about what I was going to do next. “Seldom Seen…” was the culmination of years of me making music, so once I’d put that out I felt that I wanted to try and do something a bit different. The same can be said for Kashmere and Verb T as well in the sense that we’d all finished our respective albums and were looking to do something new. I’d kinda been playing around with some new sounds and I played them some of the music I’d been making and they both said ‘Yeah, we really like this.’

I’m trying to keep the production quite contemporary sounding but with some depth. A lot of the synth-based Hip-Hop stuff you hear can be very cheesy and simplified, but I wanted to use that sound for the Invisible Inc album but give it a Ghost feel, which is exactly what I’ve done. Everything on the album has been played and the only things I’ve sampled are the drums. It’s still very much a Hip-Hop album, but it’s us taking a fresh look at the music.

We’ve been out doing shows together for about three years now, so we’ve all got to know each other really well and have become close friends. We all sort of came up through the scene together at a similar time, and what became very apparent when we started talking about doing a project together was that we’d all reached the same point of wanting to do something different.

I went into this Invisible Inc project without feeling any pressure about what people expect from me. So I definitely felt freer putting this album together and the result of that is a project that I think will stand out from what everyone else is doing. I mean, we might put the album out and perhaps nobody will bite on it, but at least we can sit back and say we’ve recorded an album that doesn’t sound like anything anyone else has done in this country. That to me is a very important thing.

It almost sounds as if recording the Invisible Inc material has been a rejuvenating experience for you.

What I found was that when I was getting caught up in the business side of releasing music, it just took my enjoyment out of making music. It dragged me down so much that I started questioning why I was involved in doing what I was doing. The business definitely took the love out of it for me for a long time. But after I’d had a bit of a breather, went back, and started to think of fresh things to do I rediscovered my love for making music again. Of course, I’d love to make enough money to put food on my table and keep a roof over my head, but I’m not going out there thinking ‘I need to sell records’ anymore. It’s gone back to me just doing it because I love it.

How does the Lingua Franca project you have coming out differ from the Invisible Inc album?

I think the Lingua Franca project is going to be more appealing to some people than the Invisible Inc album will be. Basically it’s a bunch of tracks that I gave to Devorah to write to, and it’s a really nice soulful album. Again, I wanted to try something different and work with a singer on an entire album.

We’ve been busy over the last five months or so rehearsing with a band, so that when we go out to perform we can do all of the tunes live. So it’ll be a drummer, a guitar player, keyboardist, a bass player, and me twiddling about onstage with some knobs (laughs).

Again, it’s all about challenging myself, but still keeping the heart of Hip-Hop involved in the music. The album is a bit happier than anything I’ve done before, but I think that’s perhaps because I’m a happier person now. I think that both the Lingua Franca and Invisible Inc albums have a very positive feel to them. I have high hopes for both projects and they both sound very good.

So with Lingua Franca and Invisible Inc keeping you busy, when can we expect to see a new Ghost solo album?

It’s already done. I didn’t do much else in 2007 but I did record a load of new music (laughs). What I will say about the new album is that it’s more instrumental than vocal this time around. It’s a step further than “Seldom Seen…”.

Sometimes people lose focus of what you can do as a producer when you work with a lot of different guest artists, so I wanted to show that there’s enough depth to my production for me to be able to handle tracks on my own.

If “Seldom Seen Often Heard” is the album that really put you on the map as a producer, what are you hoping the Invisible Inc and Lingua Franca projects will do for your career?

Firstly, I just hope they actually come out this year (laughs). I’m hoping that both projects will allow me to get out and do more live shows, as that’s something I love to do. But I really hope that after hearing both projects people will say ‘Sh*t! Ghost has got a few strings to his bow.’ I’d also like the haters to realise that good music can come out of the UK Hip-Hop scene and that we should be taken seriously. Plus, it would be nice to get some new fans and be able to expand on what we’ve already done.

Ryan Proctor

Behind The Boards – DJ Khalil

The West Coast producer previews a new Nas track (“What It Is”) and discusses working with Dr. Dre on “Detox”.

Quincey Tones Interview (Originally Printed In Hip-Hop Connection Issue 220 / Death Row Cover / March 2008)

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In case you hadn’t noticed, the world is becoming an increasingly smaller place thanks to almost daily advances in technology, a situation that west London-based music man Quincey Tones has been very happy to use to his advantage. Introduced to hip-hop in the mid-90s and captivated by the sounds of legendary sample wizards such as DJ Premier and Pete Rock, Tones decided to try turning his beat-making hobby into a viable career in 2003. Unfortunately, Quincey’s sound, which he describes as “very soulful and melodic”, wasn’t exactly met with open arms by the homegrown rap fraternity.

“I was reaching out to a lot of UK rappers,” recalls Tones, “but I felt they weren’t really giving me a chance. Everyone seemed to be working with their own clique and didn’t want to hear what I had to offer. I felt quite downhearted, but then I decided to see if any of the American guys who I’d been listening to were interested. I started sending people my stuff on MySpace and almost straight away artists were coming back saying they liked what I was doing. They didn’t care that I was this British guy they knew nothing about, it was just all about the music.”

The amiable producer soon found himself placing beats on albums from respected stateside acts such as Casual (Hieroglyphics) and Apathy (Demigodz), which led to further interest from the likes of Masta Ace and DITC’s O.C..

“In some ways it can be difficult,” says Quincey when asked about the limitations of working with emcees located halfway around the globe. “I always try to get as involved as I can in the concept of a track and stay in regular contact with whoever I’m working with. When artists send vocals back to me I’ll give them some input in terms of what I might think could be done better. Everyone involved just has to be honest with each other and open to constructive criticism.”

2008 will see Tones release his as-yet-untitled debut album; a project he says will feature US, UK and European artists, including Kidz In The Hall lyricist Naledge and Ghostface protégé Trife, plus some “singer-songwriter types you wouldn’t normally expect to hear on a hip-hop project.”

With contributions to releases from Yungun, Torae and The Arsonists also wrapped up, the coming year definitely looks set to be a busy one for the bespectacled beat junkie. Proving that rap’s favourite gangster Tony Montana was right, the world really is yours.

Ryan Proctor

Baby Paul Interview (Originally Posted On SixShot.Com Feb 11th 2008)

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When it comes to producing, New York-raised music man Baby Paul knows a thing or two about putting together top quality beats. Initially making his entrance into the Hip-Hop biz in the early-90s as a member of the Beatminerz camp, Paul had a hand in helping shape the sound of golden-era Rotten Apple rap through his contributions to albums from Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun and Heltah Skeltah.

After leaving Da Beatminerz shortly after the completion of their 2001 Rawkus album Brace 4 Impak, the down-to-earth crate-digger hit the ground running, crafting cuts for a long line of heavyweight artists, including Nas (Destroy & Rebuild), Fat Joe (My World) and Pharoahe Monch (Livin’ It Up). Paul has also worked closely with Brooklyn favorite AZ in recent years, producing the 2003 Grammy nominated AZ / Nas collaboration The Essence.

Having now established his own company, Divine Order Entertainment, the individual also known as ‘BpZy’ looks set to stay busy in 2008 and beyond. Aside from once again teaming up with AZ on the rapper’s new album Undeniable, Paul has also signed former Roc-A-Fella vixen Amil to his label, with the pair currently working on her full-length comeback project. But if you can’t wait any longer for your fix of Baby Paul’s trademark sound, the Queens native recently dropped an online-only release entitled Throwback City, an instrumental album that seeks to reintroduce the producer’s gritty-but-musical style to the masses (a CD version is due to be released early in March via Redline Distribution).

Taking a break from scoring upcoming indie flick Ex$pendable (in which he will also be seen acting), Baby Paul jumped on the phone with Sixshot.com to talk about his history, his new label, and the secret to staying relevant in an increasingly fickle music business.

Explain briefly how you got involved in the production game.

I started my career with Da Beatminerz – shoutout to Evil Dee and Mr. Walt. I got my official start in the game in the early-90s when Black Moon came out with their Enta Da Stage album. Even though both Walt and Evil Dee are from Bushwick, Brooklyn, Walt was working in the Music Factory record store in Jamaica, Queens. He was always up on new music and we built a friendship based on the fact that I was just a hungry kid, an aspiring DJ and beat maker, and I was always up on new music before it came out as well.

I used to intern at Power Play Studios in Long Island City and this was when Large Professor was working on Kool G. Rap’s Wanted: Dead Or Alive album, Eric B. & Rakim were making Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em, and KRS-One was recording Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip-Hop. I was going to college and working part-time at UPS, but I was taking every last dime I had to buy records and a drum machine, and I just learnt the ropes being around the greats and soaking up some of that energy.

So did you teach yourself how to make beats or did someone take you under their wing and show you?

It was a combination of both, but no-one actually sat me down and said, ‘Okay, this is what you do.’ Large Professor was really my inspiration to be a producer and I watched the work he was doing with Eric B. & Rakim and Kool G. Rap. Large Pro is my hero, man. He was working the SP-1200 like magic back then. Watching him do what he was doing, it definitely motivated me to want to do something like it.

There were many legendary producers making music in the New York rap scene in the early-90s, such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Lord Finesse etc. Was there a high level of competition between you all?

Man, it was beautiful. We were all digging for records, looking for that perfect beat and trying to be the one to flip it first. We were all competing with each other, but we were also fans of each other. I always compare that era in Hip-Hop to what the great jazz musicians and soul musicians went through in their eras. Everybody was acquainted with each other and respected each other’s work. I mean, you’d hear somebody’s record and that’d make you want to beat them creatively.

It wasn’t even about the money back then. The money was the second thing on your mind; the first thing was the integrity of what you were doing. It was like, ‘I wanna make something hot to impress my peers.’ That was the motivation before anything else. Whatever you made financially off the music it was like, ‘Okay cool, I can pay my bills with that, get some fresh gear and get at some chicks’ but I really just wanted to make sure that any beat I made was so crazy that when I ran into someone like a Pete Rock or a Q-Tip, they’d be like ‘Yo! That shit you did was hot, man.’

I think the commercialization of the game has forced people to suppress their integrity and focus more on just getting the job done, so to speak. There are still a few exceptions to the rule though, and those are the cats that still maintain a level of respect in today’s market. I mean, there are plenty of producers making money today, but they’re not respected. Personally, I refuse to have a career where I’m rich but when people hear my music they’re like ‘Ah, this guy’s corny.’ I want people to experience that natural high when they hear my material because that’s what music is supposed to do. It should take you into another world, make you forget about everything else and it should give you that same feeling every time you hear that particular record.

The Fab 5 (Heltah Skeltah & OGC) – “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka” (Duck Down / 1995)

What did you learn from your experience as a member of Da Beatminerz?

I would say a combination of integrity, respect, and not forgetting where you’re from. One thing I always got from being around E and Walt was that they always acknowledged what came before them and made a conscious effort to integrate that into what they did. There were always subtle tones in their music that showed their influences. That’s why in my music I always try to include tones of my foundation with Da Beatminerz, but then I build on that and take it a little further so that it’s accessible for today’s market and younger listeners. It’s almost a Catch-22 situation because you have to try to make the old new. If you focus too much on the old then that’s what you’ll become, but if you focus too much on the new you can alienate older fans. So you really have to try and find that balance between respecting the past and creating a new future.

Do you prefer to work together with an artist to put a track together or just shop beats you’ve already made?

I like to do it from the ground up, but there are instances where you’ll build a rapport with an artist and you’ll bounce ideas off each other and it gets to the point where you know the type of beats that artist looks for anyway. But I like to work with new artists and I like to develop artists. I’d rather do that than worry about selling another hot beat to that hot artist who’s working on a new album. Don’t get it twisted, I love to work with artists who want to work with me, but it means more to me to build something from the bottom up.

Given the economic state of the music industry right now, how does that affect you as a producer in terms of placing beats on major label releases? Has there been a loss of opportunity since the business started to suffer financially due to declining sales etc?

Right now, I think it’s deep-rooted competition. Meaning that, if you don’t have a relationship with an artist, or someone within that artist’s circle, it’s so saturated that you’re not going to get any work. If you don’t have those relationships then your music has to be so strong that you can shop your stuff randomly and people will say ‘Yo! I’ve got to have this record.’ But right now, the music game is a completely relationship-driven business. That’s why I decided to delve a bit deeper in terms of getting involved behind the scenes of the industry because I figured that building relationships that way would allow me to maneuver a little better as a working producer. So I started doing A&R consulting for a couple of indie labels and brokering deals for artists on different projects.

Multi-tasking has allowed me more options as a producer. Now I can take an artist under my wing, bring them to a label, get them a deal, then oversee the project and produce on it as well, instead of making thirty beats and trying to shop them to all the artists putting albums together at a particular moment.

AZ ft. Nas – “The Essence” (Motown / 2002) 

Nowadays if you go on sites like MySpace it seems like everybody’s making beats. Do you think increased access to technology has been a blessing or a curse for the production game?

That’s a good question. I don’t really like to knock anybody who loves the music and wants to be involved in it, but I think access to technology has made it a little bit too easy. For me, I had to work hard to make a name for myself. Before anybody even knew who I was I had to pay a lot of dues, and what I mean by that is that I had to do my homework in terms of beat-digging, learning how to use equipment, networking, and getting beats placed. Nowadays, you can get on a computer and download music to sample instead of going to record stores to search for it and learning your music history.

Digging in the crates for me was like going to music school. There’s a technique to it and you have to know what you’re doing. You couldn’t just go into a record store and buy any record that would then inspire you to be creative. There’s a science to digging which involves understanding the musicians on certain records, the timeframe of certain music, the labels, the artists. I guarantee that any producer who comes from the 90s era of Hip-Hop especially will agree with what I’m saying right now and know exactly what I’m talking about.

Now with technology as it is, you can just go to a software-sharing site, type an artist’s name and download all types of stuff, which definitely makes it easier. I mean, there are definitely songs out today that sound like they only took five minutes to produce. I’m not hating, because a lot of that stuff is for the kids. But what moves and motivates me is more intricate than that.

What’s the concept behind your new album Throwback City and why did you decide to put out an instrumental project as opposed to a producer-based joint with artist features?

I actually had an album that I was working on called The Making with guest artists but I kinda stalled it because I just felt the timing wasn’t right. That’s when I decided to dig deep into the industry side of the business so that when I do put out a record I know what I’m doing in terms of really making my presence felt. So I decided to hold back on my full-blown producer album, but keep putting out more material to build on my brand so that when I do put The Making out it has a little more importance. I decided to do an instrumental album because I was so inspired by what J Dilla did with Donuts.

I named the album Throwback City because conceptually it’s taking the past and making it the present and the future. It’s my interpretation of Hip-Hop music. Beings that I come from the 90s era you’re going to get hints of that in the sound, but then it’s still somewhat progressive so that some of the young kids listening to music today can get into it. I’m also planning to do a promotional mix CD in support of the album and have selected artists dropping freestyles over some of the beats on there. I’m hoping to have AZ, Amil, Large Pro and Monie Love on there, plus John Doe who’s signed to Timbaland’s label and is a good friend of mine from Queens.

What can people expect from the DJ tour you’re doing to support the album?

The idea just came to me. I was thinking of ways to promote the album and trying to find a unique approach to making people aware of the project. I started thinking about the name of the album and it took me back to the idea of throwing parties where all you would hear is that hot Hip-Hop that we love. So you’re going to hear a lot of classic tracks, a lot of 90s music, plus some of today’s current stuff. I’m going to have a segment where you’ll hear a lot of breaks, and then there’ll be a turntablist segment to represent the DJs. To me, all of that combined is a dope party.

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You recently wrote quite a lengthy blog on MySpace to introduce your new Digital BpZy logo – for those people who didn’t catch that explain the meaning behind the image?

That’s like my official mascot. That’s BpZy and he’s real hood (laughs). He’s like ‘Yo, I gots to get it.’ He’s a tough guy (laughs). My whole goal has always been to balance my art with being able to make money and that’s part of what the BpZy logo represents. It’s almost like a subliminal statement because I used the American flag scarf in the logo to signify the capitalist society we live in. Hopefully it’s an image that will catch people’s attention.

You’ve signed former Roc-A-Fella artist Amil to your Divine Order Entertainment imprint. What can people expect from her forthcoming album?

I’m so excited and I can’t wait for people to hear Amil’s new music. She’s grown as a writer and as a woman since she dropped her All Money Is Legal album in 2000. Creatively, her subject matter is very diverse and that’s something people might not expect because of the perception they may have of her from the singles that were put out first time around.

Amil has a lot of depth as an artist, which is something people really didn’t get to see before because of the way she was marketed and her label really only focused on pushing joints like I Got That with Beyonce. But on the actual album she had songs like Smile 4 Me, which got into her spirituality, and also Quarrels, which dealt with some of Amil’s personal conflictions about trying to make it in the business. It was tracks like those that made me a fan of hers, so when we met and started talking about working together I let Amil know that it was that side of her I wanted to take further in any new music we made. Of course, we’re going to have to balance that out with a little of what people expect for the project to sell, but I really want there to be some substance in the music as well.

There’s going to be some fun records on the album which are entertaining, but then there’ll be others that substantiate Amil’s value as an artist. It’s hard for female MCs in the game right now, so regardless of sales, I want people to walk away from the project saying ‘That was a good album.’

Who else are you working with on the label?

I’m working with a pop artist called Dani Davis out of California who is a great writer and performer. I also have another artist out of Florida called Mikey Bloodshot who’s West Indian, so his sound is like reggae-meets-Southern Hip-Hop.

If you were to step away from the music game tomorrow, how would you want your contribution to be remembered?

I’d just want people to say my music represented quality and integrity and that it was considered classic material you could always go back to.

Ryan Proctor