12 posts categorized "Filtering Samples"

July 19, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin'"

Getting to the Rhythm, So I Can Get to the Rhyme

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

"As a beatmaker, rhythm is fundamental to any structure I compose. As a rapper, rhythm is vital!" —Sa'id

A couple of weeks before I made and recorded "Before We Started Fightin'," I had been experimenting with extended bar structures. That is to say, rather than doubling up 1-, 2-, and 4-bar schemes, I was exploring the use of 8- and 12-bar frameworks. Throughout this exploration, I learned a number of different things. I learned new ways to anchor my beats with lightly syncopated drum patterns; I learned more about blending separate sampled pieces into single cohesive riffs; I learned more about why certain changes work better at specific points within a sequence, depending, of course, on the number of bars in the sequence; and I learned how "double time" tempos of longer bar structures could be manipulated in ways that allowed me to avoid timing correct (quantizing).

So it was the "double time"/bar structure manipulation discovery that had the most impact on how I made "Before We Started Fightin'." As a rhymer, I like to push past the typical AB AB AB AB rhyme scheme, and come up with new rhyme paths. So as a beatmaker, my focus is always on capturing the sort of rhythms that will allow me to create the vocal syncopation that best matches the idea, topic, or subject matter that I'm rhymin' about. Moreover, I don't see my vocalization as something separate from the mix; instead, I like to view my rhymes as just another instrument in the mix. (I will be writing more about that in an upcoming article.)

So when I came up with the idea—a semi-autobiographical story about a guy who realizes (almost too late) that his girl has just double-crossed him—, I wanted a beat structure that was aggressive, but not overpowering. I wanted something that would rumble in the beginning, then taper off at the end of the sequence. I also wanted something that didn't easily fit into 4/4. After re-arranging what was initially a *12-bar* sample, I chopped off 3 bars (shaving the tail of the main sample), and started experimenting with a 9-bar sequence, adding a lone snare on "the one" (rather than a kick) with a piece of silence, right before the main sample starts. Then I added in a hi-hat that I played straight through, live, with no timing correct. After that, I color everything with random low-velocity kicks. I had also added another guitar sample, but it distracted me when I was writing my rhyme; so I stripped it from the beat, and added one more hi-hat, and I was done.

For the mix, I EQ'd the bass in a way that turned up the rumble that I wanted. In contrast, I peeled back the highs to temper the vinyl static and to allow my vocals to come through stronger without using any compression. I tucked the hi-hats and kicks in the mix, so that they blended more with the main sample.

The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin'" (prod. by Sa'id)

Download Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin''

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

July 06, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Traffic's "Glad" Taught Me How To Shuffle

Lessons From One Of Progressive Rock's Most Engaging Bands

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Beatmaking, the chief compositional method of hip hop/rap music, allows for one to pull from a wide variety of musical forms (and sources) for instruction. For instance, progressive rock has always been a mainstay influence in my style and approach. And no other progressive rock band—other than Led Zeppelin of course—has had a direct hand in how I construct drum frameworks, and subsequently, my sense of time, more than the group Traffic.

Here, in their song "Glad," listen to the percussion hats that strike with suspenseful urgency on the quarter notes. And see if you can make out where the kick "hits" on the up-tempo sections of the overall arrangement. Then around the 5:00 mark, the arrangement dives into a slow, milky smooth bluesy-funk jam session that drummer Jim Capaldie laces delicately, with the sense and craftsmanship of a cat burglar. Indeed, there have been few songs that have shown me how to incorporate—and more importantly, account for—the "shuffle" element in music, while at the same time helped me improve my sense of timing.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Traffic - "Glad" (from the John Barleycorn Must Die album)

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 28, 2011

5th Seal Vlog #7

Brooklyn Beatsmith 5th Seal Drops His Latest Beat Vlog

For vlog #7, 5th Seal raids the infamous (and well-tread) dig spot A-1 Records in New York City (and runs into one of the greatest ever on the beats). As per his other installments, he offers a glimpse of the making of one of his beat gems. 5th Seal is a friend, so I'm happy that he's gaining a new level recognition.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

5th Seal Vlog #7

5th Seal Vlog #7 from 5th Seal on Vimeo.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 12, 2011

TBC Thread of the Day: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

Finding the Right Signal Chain for Your Style and Sound, When Your Mixing Samples in Your DAW

By DARRELL KELLOWAY (DK) and AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

DK: "Is there a proper signal chain for mixing samples (pre-recorded material off records) such as drums, basslines, and non-drum sound instruments?"


Sa'id: dk, First thing. When you say "*signal chain* for mixing samples," do you mean to ask about what signal chain to use to when tracking (recording) into your DAW? The reason I ask is because, if you're at the *mixing* point, you're already past the signal chain point...

Second thing:
I don't think that the use of the word "proper" is the best way to phrase your question or kick off this thread. Perhaps the word "effective" is better. "Proper" sounds dogmatic, as in there's only one way. In regards to signal chains, there are multiple effective ways that different people like to choose, for various reasons

Third:
If you are asking about what signal chain to use before the mixing point, well, then consider the fact that an *effective* signal chain completely depends on the beatmaker (and mixer) and the style and sound he or she (or they) is/are going for. Different sounds produce different signals, but the degree of difference changes with the sample. For example, a stand-alone bass sample will generate one kind of signal; while a sample that contains basslines, drums, and non-drum instruments will generate yet another kind of signal.


DK: First of all, thanks the reply.

Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly that "effective" would have been a much better word for what I'm asking. The best thing about TBC is that we have no "know it all's" here that claim to know everything and therefore bring down the integrity of the boards. Amen to that.

Back to my original question though, I meant once the samples are tracked into the DAW, is there a certain signal chain on the inserts that would help me mix my samples more efficiently? For example, say that I have a high-pass filter applied on my primary sample track (the sample contains a guitar, strings, piano chords, organ etc) and I planned on "bumping" the sample like you described in the BeatTips Manual. Say, I wanted also wanted to compress the sample and add some reverb as well. Would the proper plugin sequence on the inserts be 1) high pass filter 2) compression 3) reverb, or should I compress the sound last? If so, is there a reason behind doing so?

I remember you posting here a few months ago that it helps to know your sounds, and to have that sound available if possible before entering the mix phase (eg. using a kick drum with lots of low end in your beat before tracking it into your DAW).

Before sampling, I also use your trick of playing around with the DJ mixer so I can get the sound that I'm looking for before sampling. What I mean in this case is that for this particular I noticed that the bassline didn't really stand out, but I wanted the strings and the organ sounds (the mids and the highs) to stand out so they would be easier to chop. Doing so, I turned down the low end on the dj mixer so the bass was less audible when I sampled it. This did help me get the sound I was looking for, but if I was looking to tweak it even further in my DAW, which plugin effects chain would be the most beneficial for what I'm trying to do with the sample?

Thanks


Sa'id: Dk,

OK, now I get what you're asking...
Generally speaking, compression would be last on the chain you described. As for the high pass filter and the reverb, that depends on what you're trying to achieve. I usually work my levels (EQ/Filters) before I apply reverb. But then there are other times (for instance, sometimes when I re-sample my own snare sounds) where I apply the reverb (for the elongated sound and roominess) before the EQ. In cases like these, I'm interested in the "shape" of the sound before the "color" (feel, EQ) of the sound. So once I get the shape of the sound (the duration, spacing), I can then go about modifying how it knocks (or doesn't), shuffles, or tucks through the mix, etc.

It's often a good thing to compress last because compression actually "squashes"/restrains the fullness of a sound. In fact, with my style and sound I tend to avoid compression as much as possible. This is why I've spent a great deal of time knowing my sound before I track into my DAW... The idea is to have the sound as close to complete as possible before I mix. This way, when I mix it or turn it over to someone else to mix, there's no guess work—The sound scope is already there, like a map... Check out my interview with mix engineer Steve Sola in The BeatTips Manual where he discusses receiving a near-finished mix, before he even touched it.

As for the DJ mixer amplification/EQ, please note: I pretty much have the left and right EQ bands (channels) set to a default! In other words, I don't adjust my mixer for every record (or other source material) that I sample. Instead, my DJ mixer's EQs stay the same... But remember, I route my DJ mixer through my analog Mackie board. And it is there where I may modify the Hi's and Lo's of the source material, before I sample it. Keeping my DJ mixer with my custom default EQ setting helps keep my own style and sound.

Finally, remember, once you get any bass part into your DAW, you can just duplicate the tracked bass part (as needed) and boost the low end (I like to use the multiple band EQ) on the duplicates or turn their volume up.


Participate in this TBC thread here: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."


June 02, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More"

Steady Swing-Beat Anchors this Little-Known Gladys Knight & The Pips Gem

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

One of the greatest benefits of being a beatmaker (particularly one that scours through scores of old records) is discovering "new" musical gems by some of the titans of recorded music. Such is the case with the wonderfully arranged "No One Could Love You More" by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

Driven by a swinging backbeat that places emphasis on the traditional "2" rather than the "1," (a beat emphasis pioneered by James Brown and his funk sound, first introduced in 1965), "No One Could Love You More" features a groove that churns and turns over as the song progresses in all of its repetitive glory. Look inside the hood of the groove, and you will find that it's flanked by several engaging musical components. First of course, there's the classic Motown tambourine dropping in on the "1;" then there's a light, pitter-patting, syncopated snare pattern that oozes with old rent-party celebratory charm; and finally, there's a silky 4-note bass line that rumbles, glides and "walks," as it ascends every two bars, before returning to the bass line's core pitch.

Recorded ca. 1971 and released by Motown the following year in 1972, one might say that "No One Could Love You More" was overlooked. Buried deep in the album as song number 10, the last track on the entire album, perhaps it was thrown on to the LP as a bonus—considering the fact that plenty of albums during the same era routinely carried just 7 or 8 tracks. "No One Could Love You More" was never released as a single, and this proved to be one blunder that foreshadowed Motown's inability to retain Gladys Knight & The Pips.

But whether "No One Could Love You More" was intended for obscurity or not, no doubt a casualty of Motown's—and the music industry's—hit-first ethos, its drawing power is absolutely undeniable. Here, before their explosively popular albums Neither One of Us and the Curtis Mayfield produced Claudine, Gladys Knight & The Pips are in top form. The naturalness of family harmony is here; The Pips' incredibly nuanced vocal stylings are here; and of course, Gladys Knight's piercing, beautifully raspy voice is here, breathing a heart-torn life into every lyric as only she can. Having discovered "No One Could Love You More" much later than some of their other music, I can't help but wonder how much of my musical understanding could have (would have) benefited, had I "found" Gladys Knight & The Pips' "No One Could Love You More" much sooner.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More" (1971)

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

April 17, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Royal Flush - "Ice Downed Medallion" Prod. by EZ Elpee

Hungry Beatwork and Rhyme; Appreciated More in Middle of a Storm

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

"Motion picture/analyze your world Flush'll hit ya..." That's the emphatic declaration that Royal Flush makes to open the New York hood classic, "Iced Downed Medallion" from his debut album, Ghetto Millionaire (1997). Speaking from the rapper/lyricist part of me, I've always considered Royal Flush to be one of the illest lyricists in rap. Cut from the same Queens lyricst bloodline that bled inside of areas like Corona, Queensbridge, Lefrack City, and Astoria Projects, Flush was a street-respected M.C., circa 1996-98. Unfortunately, however, Flush never rose to the level of notoriety that I felt he deserved.

Thing is, Royal Flush came on the scene—with the right skills—at the wrong time. It was 1997/98, right in the eye of Diddy's (formerly known as Puff) storm. This was when Puff was throwin' shit in the New York rap game with the shiny-suit, bubble gum-rap mystique. (Note. Puff's reign would eventually help lead to the undermining of New York's hip hop/rap structure—a near fatal blow that New York has yet to recover from.) The years in rap 1997/98 would also serve to mark the beginning of Jay-Z and Hot 97s (New York's #1 hip hop/rap radio station) meteoric connection to the top. Had Royal Flush come on the scene just two or three years earlier, he would have missed what I like to call the New York Kill Zone of '97/98, and in all likelihood, he would have gained as much (perhaps more) shine as Mobb Deep, AC, or O.C.

Speaking from the beatmaker (producer) part of me, "Iced Down Medallion" was one of the most aggressively programmed beats I've heard. Produced by EZ Elpee, the beat utilized a straight-forward, two-bar loop of a 70s music phrase (I don't name sample sources that I'm not sure about their cleared status) with the bass frequency of the phrase filtered milk-smooth, and the high (mid/treble) levels left just as warm and even when let out. For the drum framework, Elpee went with a standard double-kick snare pattern. Wisely, he tucks the kick while exploding the snare with a handful of reverb. And the hat, which is truncated (no prolonged sustain), is a shaker that he politely sprinkles over all measures. It is further worth noting that because of how the bass frequency of the sample is filtered so fat and warmly, the kick—which is actually truncated short—sounds so much more rounder and booming every time it lands on the one, and as it sets up the two.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion"

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion" (Official music video)

March 26, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Roc Marciano, "Game of Death;" Pete Rock on the Beat

Tough Strings, Solid Drums, Jabbing Bass-Stabs, and Punch-You-in-the-Face Rhymes

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Been following Roc Marciano's development for a while now. He's reached that rhyme confidence level that many rappers fall well short of. Here on one of Pete Rock's more sinister beatworks, Roc Marciano is all bravado, no filler or un-useful slang. Each line of poetry flows effortlessly with each meter of the beat. Dope.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Roc Marciano - Game of Death (Prod. Pete Rock)

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 25, 2011

BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds, Vol. 2

Record Gems with Open Drum Sounds

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

I'm a strong advocate for using custom drum sounds. And although I have no issue with stock drum sounds (I've used stock drums in the past, and I have no problem with using them in the future) I believe that one of the most effective ways of creating your own style and sound is through the use of your own customized drum sounds.

That being said, I will be compiling an ongoing list—the BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds—of ALL of the records that I (and many others) have found to be great for drum sounds. For each installment or volume of the list, I will try to post at least five songs. Furthermore, this list will also include those songs that I have studied as a guide for drum pattern arrangements. And it is my hope that the songs on this list well help serve as a guide for those who want to tune the drum sounds that they already have to the sounds showcased on this list.

Finally, although some readers will note that there are some obvious choices that should be on this list, please bear with me, as I will be rolling out this list periodically without, necessarily, any preference to the most well-known "break-beats" (this is not a list of break-beat records). In fact, I suspect some songs on this ongoing list will surprise some of you. But after a "full-listen" of the record, you'll see just why it earned a spot. Still as always, I invite discussion. So any and all suggestions, whether well-known or obscure, are certainly welcome.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

ZZ Hill- "I Think I'd Do It" (1971)

Beatmakers are sure to be immediately pleased with this joint, as the drum break opens up the song. In the intro, the kick, snare, and hi-hat are all open and free from other sounds.



The Soul Searchers - "Ashley's Roachclip" (1974)

The sly brass section and the furious wah wah guitar-lead rhythm keeps me returning back to this classic by The Soul Searchers. Throw in the tambourine and the bass, and you've got one of the finest songs for MusicStudy. And as far as drum sounds to sample go, catch the break at the 3:31 mark.



Monk Higgins - "One Man Band (Plays All Alone)" (1974)

For the most part, this song is laid back jazz/rhythm and blues fusion. But don't let that fool you, as a mean 21-second drum break comes in at the 2:17 mark.



Duke Williams - "Chinese Chicken" (1973)

A serious early funk number that had countless b-boys destroying the dance floor. Short, but dope, drum break appears at the 1:40 mark.



Dennis Coffey - "Son of Scorpio" (1972)

This is the one Dennis Coffey song that I studied the most. The "marching", half-open hi-hat sound on this song is something that I incorporated in to my own style of drum programming. Then there's the bongos and the rumbling bass line: Classic... As for the drum break, catch the 1:30 mark.



Funk Inc. - "Kool Is Back" (1971)

One tough, but short, break. Catch the 1:48 mark.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

March 24, 2011

Beatmakers and Trade Secrets

Shop-Talk Elevates the Beatmaking Art Form and Tradition

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Musicians have long shared tricks of their trade amongst each other. It's a tradition as old as popular music itself. However, for some reason, many beatmakers (producers) pride themselves upon keeping a vale of secrecy over their beatmaking methods. What gives?

I could speculate about the cultural undertones of this, but that's not what this piece is about. On the contrary, this article is about why the notion of secrecy (specifically among some well-known beatmakers {*producers*}) in beatmaking is ridiculous. As I told a fellow beatmaker the other day, "there are NO secrets between real musicians!" What I was saying (and he understood immediately) was that dedicated musicians share a common fundamental goal: to develop their skills and elevate their craft. Indeed, this is why we constantly seek out people and resources that we believe will help us reach that goal. In this regard, beatmakers should not view themselves any different. We are musicians, and as such, we stand to benefit a great deal from an exchange of information.

No Two Beatmakers Are One in the Same

Regardless of the method or technique used, no two beatmakers are the same. Given the same tools and the same understanding, each of us will inevitably develop our own approach. And I've found that it is within this approach that you find the most interesting "secrets." But instead of having an attitude that promotes the talking of shop (beat talk, if you will), when pressed for specific ideas, secrets, and the like, some beatmakers clam up, or offer the proverbial: "don't wanna' give the secrets away." Huh? What's that all about.

Listen, at face value, there are NO magic secrets that can instantly transform a beatmaker's skills. Secrets (or better yet, pointers, tips, hints, insights) are only as good as the beatmaker who understands them and can, in turn, incorporate them into what they're already doing. For example, DJ Premier is known for his drums, chops, and his ability to finesse the bass out of the breaks that he chooses to use. However, there is no doubt (and he has said as much), that he would not have been able to develop those skills, had it not been for Large Professor. As Premier told me (rather matter-factly), it was Large Professor—another beatmaking pioneer in his own right—who showed him how to filter bass sounds in samples, and also how to make the Akai S950 really work for him. In turn, Premier introduced Large Professor to a new way of diggin' in the crates and surveying music. And before that, another beatmaking pioneer, Showbiz, schooled Premier on diggin' in the crates and surveying music. Thus, these examples of sharing trade "secrets" demonstrates how, for each of the aforementioned beatmaking pioneers, the common goal was to get better and elevate the art form.

Needless to say, I've always been against the notion of not not sharing knowledge ("secrets"). In fact, those who know me, know very well that I consistently share as much as I can, whenever I'm asked by a fellow beatmaker. Likewise, some of the most well-known beatmakers have shared as much as they could with me. Also, consider this, even if one beatmaker breaks down their entire beatmaking process to another beatmaker, chances are, the latter beatmaker isn't going to utilize everything that he (or she) learns from the former. Not at all. The latter beatmaker is only going take what he needs and/or can use from the other beatmaker's process. It's this sort of exchange that each beatmaker can use to further develop their skills.

Final note, keep this in mind: the entire beatmaking (hip hop/rap production) tradition is only as good as its weakest beatmaker. Hence, there's merit in all of us trying to help each other step up our skills.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 17, 2011

Using the Alternating Pitch Technique on Drum Sounds

Technique Adds Unique Dimension to Your Drum Frameworks

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Even though "the drums" are fundamental in beatmaking, many beatmakers overlook the various ways to get the most out of their existing drum sounds. One way to get more out of your drums sounds is to alternate the pitch of each drum sound within various measures—if not all measures—of a beat.

Changing the pitch of drum sounds is something that I often do in the creation of my beats. For snares, I typically have the same snare sound landing in a beat at three different pitch speeds (degrees). That is to say, I'll have one snare sound set at its original pitch level, the same sound set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower), and the same sound again set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower). Sometimes I determine the right pitch-degree of each snare-hit in real time usually by assigning the same snare sound—at three different pitch-speeds—to three different pads on my MPC, and playing the snares while the rest of the beat is in play/record mode. Still, there are other times (perhaps more often) where I simply play each snare-hit at the same pitch, then I later go back in and program the pitch changes at the points that feel right to me.

For hi-hats, rides, and tambourines, I use the same alternating-pitch technique for; however, for hi-hats, I usually only alternate the pitch of hi-hits at specific points within a beat. And when it comes to kick sounds, I use the alternating-pitch technique even more sparingly. With kicks, I only slightly change the pitch of the kick at certain times within the drum pattern.

Finally, I should point out that not only does alternating the pitch of your drum sounds allow you to get much more out of your existing drum sounds, such a technique also helps you create drum frameworks that really come alive. In other words, in addition to creating unique textures and sonic impressions, using the alternating pitch technique allows you to make your drums come off more natural, and it helps decrease the mechanical feel that often occurs with electronic drum sounds. Moreover, used in the right way—that is, for feel and sound, NOT just for the sake of using a technique—the alternating pitch technique also helps with the tightening up of the rhythm of your beats.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.

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