What first drew you into music production and Hip-hop/Lo-fi in particular?
Well I’ve always been a huge hip hop fan and fortunately, I really got into it during what I consider a golden age of hip hop. From Kid Cudi, to Lil Wayne, to Kendrick, there was so much timeless music available at our fingertips, so I really tried my hardest to keep up with it all. Going into college, I really had no idea what kind of career I wanted to pursue. Music was just something that helped me get through the day, but not something I considered myself talented in at the time. Despite that, I always felt like I had a deeper appreciation and connected with hip hop more than most.
I’ve always been a big sucker for good production. In my opinion, the beat either makes or breaks a song and I believe it’s one of the most essential elements when trying to convey a certain mood or feeling. So I’ve always been curious as to how they were made. I remember one night in the college dorms I came across a beat making video on YouTube or Facebook and was completely fascinated. I mentioned to my roommate at the time how cool it would be to make beats and was definitely something I thought I could be decent at, but really had no actual intention of pursuing it. Being the broke college student I was, I first downloaded Garageband on my phone just to scratch that itch. I spent hours making absolutely horrible beats but soon it got way too tedious and after watching another extended YouTube ad for beat making software, I decided it was time for an upgrade. My roommate helped me get a copy of Fruity Loops Studio 11 and I’ve been obsessed ever since. So S/O to you Jack! From there, I spent my time learning the ins and outs of FL Studio and really began to grow a serious love for the craft. I watched hours of tutorials and made hundreds and hundreds of awful beats and with hip hop being my favorite genre, I naturally steered towards that style of production from the beginning.
Some of my favorite memories early on in college involve plenty of pregame/post-party freestyle sessions with the boys, going to shows and getting lost downtown, taking over the aux at parties just to show someone a beat and meeting all types of artists trying to network and get my name out there. About 2 years into producing, I realized I actually could do something with this. I started regularly working with various artists and gained confidence as my beats got better and better. My support system was growing and I’ve got amazing parents who have believed in me from the beginning, so I figured I’ve really got nothing to lose.
At the time, there’s one beat in particular that really made a huge impact and as corny as it is to say, kind of changed my life. I had a couple buddies over who liked watching me make beats. I came across this amazing sample, chopped it up and when it was finished, we liked it so much, one of them decided to spit a verse for the hell of it. It was all kind of a joke, but it all happened so organically and even though he did the whole verse in one take, the song was actually kind of hot. Over the next few days, the track gained multiple thousands of plays on Soundcloud and we were all kind of blown away. Next thing you know, that same beat ended up being leased by 3-4 different artists and one of them actually ended up winning a rap contest performing over that beat. Here’s the song he performed:
One of the judges asked where he got it from and Rob grabbed the mic and shouted me out in front of everyone. This sparked many great networking opportunities and eventually lead to my first executive producer role on a studio album
(https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/twenty-six-ep/1406090152). This was easily one of the most pivotal moments in my young career. The feeling I got that day is something I can’t really put into words, but all I knew was that I had to do whatever I could to experience it again
We have never heard Hip-hop/Lo-fi quite like you make it How did you manage to achieve such a unique signature sound?
Well first off, I appreciate your comment a ton, it makes me happy. Just like any other artist, producers really need their own style or sound to stand out. This is a really tough question for me though, because I didn’t really know I had my own signature sound yet. I’ve been told this before and is definitely something I’ve been trying to develop, but nobody has really gone farther than just telling me it sounds “different.” Though, I would say, your description of a Hip hop/Lofi combo is pretty spot on, unfortunately, I can’t really tell you how I made this my style, it just kind of happened. Before I had good plug-ins and stock sounds to work with, I began shifting my interest towards sampling. I loved it immediately and wanted to know everything about the craft. I probably watched every beat making video available on YouTube at the time, had the whole J Dilla experience and really learned to what extent I could manipulate these sounds. I found a bunch of amazing YouTube channels run by people with massive record collections. I would sift through those and just fool around with the different sounds, just letting the samples guide me. There was no rhyme or reason when it came to making these beats, I always started a project with an open mind and basically if an old record sounded good to me, then that’s what I rolled with.
I think a big part of me developing my own sound was once I learned my way around FL Studio and was truly confident with how everything works, I just stopped watching how-to videos. Don’t get me wrong there is still plenty of music theory and mixing techniques that I still study up on, but when it came to those “How to make Travis Scott type beats” videos on YouTube, I really try to stay away from those. This lead to a lot of trial and error, but also helped me develop my own way of doing things within the software. I mean the only way to sound different is to do it different. Anyone can fall into that cookie-cutter process and make good sounding beats, but I would much rather play a part in the evolution of music.
If I had to choose one element of my beats that kind of drives my sound, I would probably say it’s my drums. I put an enormous amount of detail into my drum patterns. I do a lot of snare/hi-hat layering, drum break sampling and pattern variation, while at the same time trying to make it sound as organic as possible. This is probably what I receive the most compliments on and have even done just the drum for the beats of other producers. Like I said, I’m not really sure how I acquired my own sound, I just know that my mentality has always been to make something different. And as helpful as YouTube can be when it comes to producing, I think the years of self-taught practice is really what helped me develop this signature sound you speak of.
Going over your soundcloud we can tell you love making lots of different styles of hip-hop! Which style is your favorite to produce?
Again, thank you very much for noticing, being versatile is definitely something I take pride in :). There are so many styles of hip hop that fascinate me and so I believe it’s important to be able to switch up styles and accommodate for any kind of beat the artist may want at the time. This makes this question hard for me though, because I don’t know if I have one favorite. It really all depends on the mood I’m in when I’m making a beat and also the music I am listening to at the time. I really get inspired by specific tracks, and if there’s a beat I really like or there’s one noise or section that grabs my attention in a song, I’ll often times feel the need to make something of that same style.
As I’m sure you heard in Museum Music, I also really enjoy making epic sounding beats with big choir samples and strings, paired up with a fat bass. I definitely am also a huge fan of boom bap beats and darker melodic/lo-fi beats. I think ultimately though, my favorite style to produce has to be that feel good, summertime, sun setting, melancholy vibe. Something Curren$y or Kid Cudi would sound good on. I just love that organic, pure feeling that style can provide and it’s not too easy to recreate. I think this is where my love for lofi comes in as well, because that melancholic style and organic sound, which I often create through sampling, can oftentimes be easily manipulated into that lo-fi style.
Bottomline though, I think being versatile when it comes to producing can only be beneficial. I am a fan of many styles of hip hop and many genres of music in general and so I want to reflect that through my beats as best I can. The amount of weird experimental stuff I have sitting in my vault is actually overwhelming. Anyways, I’ve still got so much to learn, but I really am confident in my ability to switch it up and is something I always do.
Your latest track “Museum music” is your best track in our opinion! From its artwork to the Incredibly powerful sound we absolutely love it. Could you tell us more about the story behind this track? Also, what is your creative process like?
I appreciate that a ton, I would definitely agree. So basically, the first beat on the track was originally named “Museum Music” by itself. I made it late 2018 and it was one of those beats that before I even added the drums, I knew it was going to be special. I showed it around for a month or two and after getting nothing but positive reactions, I began to realize that it’s probably one of the best beats I’ve ever made. At the time, I was kind of itching to drop something because I felt like I was sitting on so many quality beats that I needed people to hear (still do). I kept receiving compliments on the name ‘Museum Music’ and one day it just kinda of dawned on me as the perfect name for a my next project. I thought the named matched very well with the beat it was originally attached to, so I tried to emulate that same epic/ancient sound throughout the whole track and the cover art. Like I said, I was sitting on hundred and hundreds of beats, so picking and choosing which ones and which order was quite a task. A majority of the beats were obviously sample based and I find that the best way to really create that
belongs-in-a-museum type of sound. What I think is really cool about MM is the fact that some of those beats were made within 2 days of its release and then some were made like three years ago.
There’s so much I could say about my creative process but to pretty much to sum it up, it’s like organized chaos. People watching me have no idea what’s going on and frankly I don’t really know either sometimes. I just keep tweaking and manipulating sounds until it sounds good. I usually start with the melody, sometimes I want to sample, sometimes I start with the drums, it all just depends on the day. The last thing I want to do is get in a routine when it comes to making beats. I think that’s a one way direction to sounding like everyone else. When I open FL Studio, I really don’t know what I’m going to make, I just try to let the sounds guide me. I’d say I’m pretty quick when it comes to the beat making process. From my experience working with other producers, I feel like I can maneuver around the software faster than most. It probably comes from all the video games I’ve played and from consistently making beats in front of people, but regardless I have made A LOT of beats. I probably make my best stuff when around others. I don’t know what it is, but I get inspired to kind of prove myself and with people’s short attention spans, I know I don’t have time to overthink anything. I think speed is important especially when working with artists, because when those vital moments of inspiration hit and the energy and emotion are at its peak, I feel like I need be ready to react and do whatever to capture that inspiration.
This year I’ve made 81 beats so far. I made around 240 in 2018, around 350 in 2017, and hundreds more the previous years. I never really feel satisfied. I make something I really like, I send it out, I listen to it many times in my car, on headphones and then it’s onto the next.
Content, content, content, you can never have too much. As I’m sure many other producers can relate, I create the core aspects of the beat and by the time I’m done with that, I typically am so desensitized to the sound, I have to walk away for a while to kind of forget what it sounds like.
Listening to a beat the next morning or sometime later is when I can actually decide if I like it and should finish it. The mixing/arrangement process is definitely the most time consuming for me. I make sure every individual sound is polished and cleaned up to my liking and even if I made a majority of a beat in like 30 minutes, I typically spend about 2-3 hours mixing it until I feel it’s finished. It frustrates me how much of a perfectionist I can be at times. But the beauty is in the details and as hard as it is to know when a beat is finished, I’ve definitely grown to not care nearly as much about what people think.
I can’t think of anything more fun than getting in the studio with another artist and there’s nothing but positive energy and beautiful music being made. Being able to recreate an idea for an artist, and collab with them, while bouncing ideas off each other and having them there for feedback is so rewarding. There needs to be give and take though, if my creative freedom is taken and I have no say in the production process, it begins to feel like I’m being micromanaged. All I need is a reference track from the artist and I’ll be able to understand the core concepts of what they want. This makes it easy for me to make something similar but with my own sauce added to it.
Sometimes though I hear a beat that’s so good it hurts my soul and the only thing I can do to feel better about my musical abilities is try my hardest to mimic that style in my own way.
Your music is very melodic and your harmonies are great! Do you play any instrument? Did you ever learn music professionally?
Thank you again! As for instruments, I would consider myself an amateur pianist. Back in middle school, I was in the orchestra and played the cello but didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. Music came kind of naturally to me as I was 2nd chair, but never practiced. Unfortunately, when I decided music was my passion, it was too late for me to intertwine into my schooling.
The college I went to didn’t have an audio engineer program and although their music school was huge, it had a strong classical music emphasis. Two years into college, I almost switched schools entirely just to learn music, but being halfway done with a 4 year degree, I figured I should just finish that and continue to self teach. My senior year of college, I had a ton of open credits and so I decided to take beginning piano just because I knew those skills could translate. That one class was super helpful to me and really changed the way I move around a piano keyboard. I still wish to improve greatly on my piano playing skills, which I’m sure I will, but I know it’s not necessary to create beautiful music.
What are your goals for 2019? Any upcoming projects we can get excited about?
My goals for this year are nothing too specific other than being more consistent with posting content, networking as much as possible to get my name out there and continue to improve on and master my craft. I’m kind of hoping this is the year where I get my first big placement and sort of make a name for myself. I’ve met and been in contact with multiple popular rappers from minnesota and have some stuff in the works, but this music stuff always takes way more time than we think it will and I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. Basically, I just have to keep working and networking and through consistency, its bound it happen. I’ve come a long way from the freshman dorms and I know I’m not going to stop, so the only thing I can really do is work harder than anyone.
For the past few years my good friend Will White and I have been plotting and scheming trying to figure out our way onto the music scene. We send each other new songs and beats on the daily, always bouncing ideas off each other. I think he’s one of the most talented rappers/musicians I’ve personally worked with and with his unmatched style and his rapping/music theory knowledge/production skills, he has provided nothing but inspiration for me. When we combine our skills, I really think we can make all styles of music. So expect plenty of new content from us this year. Here’s our first tape we made together. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/william/1436311853
Other than that, I plan on releasing at least 3 more tracks similar to “Museum Music” throughout the year, along with plenty of singles and other songs I’ve made with various artists. I plan to release my own album this year as well, which will feature a bunch of different local artists all rapping/singing over my executive production. A bunch of big name producers have been doing that, such as Metro Boomin and Murda Beatz, and I always thought it would be cool to do at the local level. Other than that, I plan to continue putting in that work and to just go with the flow
with whatever comes my way. I feel so close to making this dream a reality, I can almost smell it.
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