143 posts categorized "MusicStudy"

January 27, 2012

BeatTips MusicStudy: Elvis Helped Me Become a Better Beatmaker

Homage to Black American Music Tradition: Part of the Secret to Elvis' Success

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

For the better part of the last 15 years, I've encountered people who either adore Elvis or hate him. This has always struck me as an odd scheme of understanding. I mean, how and why can one individual cause so much polarization? Of course, you never hear anyone say (publicly at least) that they hate The Beatles. And at last count, Michael Jackson's album, Thriller, still seems to draw favorable consensus. So what is it about Elvis that causes such disdain, especially among purveyors of hip hop/rap music?

Maybe it's because Chuck D declared him a racist two decades ago; remember the Public Enemy song "Fight the Power," where he Chuck D rhymes: "Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me you see Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain..." Or perhaps the disdain for Elvis by some in hip hop/rap stems from the misperception of Elvis as some sort of "culture vulture," who stole his sound from black American musicians in the Mississippi Delta. Wrong! That's a bogus argument even on the face of it. Less one forgets (or doesn't know), Elvis is from the Mississippi Delta. Therefore, he has as much a native claim to any and all musical developments that occurred there as anyone else who was born and raised in the region. Moreover, it's been widely reported that the teenage Elvis spent considerable amounts of time taking in the blues scene of Memphis' Beale Street. Add to that the fact that he grew up listening to the regional radio stations like Memphis' WDIA, the nation's first radio station to feature an all-black format and on-air staff (1949). (Stations like WDIA played what was then known as "race records.") So by all serious accounts, it's rather obvious what Elvis' early musical influences were: blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly—all components of the Black American music tradition. Moreover, these early musical influences from the Black American Music Tradition were largely a part of Elvis' success.

Thus, when hip hop/rap aficionados (or any other groups) reject Elvis, they are actually rejecting a musical icon who earned his stripes through the serious study of the musical tradition that laid the foundation for all American popular music in the twentieth century. Moreover, those who reject Elvis's musical validity, also, in effect, turn their backs on the musical scholarship that he provides. For less we forget: Every musical artist is a gateway to others...and the more critically acclaimed the artist is, the more enriched the gateway is.

By listening to and studying Elvis, I was prompted to listen to and study Big Joe Turner, the iconic bluesman who helped create the template for rock and roll (rock n' roll). Perhaps I would have studied Big Joe Turner even if I didn't take a more serious look at Elvis. But listening to Elvis' earlier work prompted me to A/B his style with Big Joe Turner. MusicStudy of this nature has been and is incredibly important to understanding of all music, not just hip hop/rap music.

Certainly Elvis doesn't need any marketing help; you don't get much higher than him in the scheme of American pop culture. And there's certainly not doubt that his career benefited tremendously from the fact that he was white; many of the Black artists that influenced him could never access the platform that he was afforded. But Elvis, who I at one time refused to listen to (for whatever reasons), does represent the complexity and beauty of how music traditions and cultures can, at times, transcend negative racial attitudes. But all of this aside, 'What can his music teach or do for me,' I once asked myself. Well, it taught me a lot and it did more for me than I could have imagined. Ironically, or perhaps not, through an honest study of Elvis, I discovered Sister Rosetta Tharpe; became more interested in Big Joe Turner and B.B. King; and I meticulously traced the business roots of rock n' roll.

Bottom line:
If you're going to contribute to any music tradition or culture, if you're going to go after a career in music, the more musical understanding that you can draw from, the more enriched your music will be, and, subsequently, the better your chances at having a career in music.

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

Elvis Presley - "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (Elvis' first televised appearance.)
Note. "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was originally recorded by the bluesman, Big Joe Turner.


Big Joe Turner - "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
The original recording of "Shake, Rattle and Roll."


Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
The song below is unmistakably blues.


Sister Rosetta Tharpe - "Didn't Rain"
Sister Rosetta Tharpe had a seminal influence on Elvis.


Elvis Presley - "A Little Less Conversation"
Although it's from Elvis' later catalog, it's my favorite Elvis recording. If you know Mack Davis (singer-songwriter), you can hear him in the lyrics. Also, peep the drumwork at the intro of the song!


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

December 19, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Led Zeppelin's Approach to the Blues; A Lesson for Beatmakers

Committing to a Music Tradition On Its Own Terms—from Its Foundation, Perspective, and Sensibility

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Considering the approaches that some new beatmakers are increasingly taking to hip hop/rap music and beatmaking, specifically, the approach to beatmaking through the guise of other music traditions, I can't help but be reminded of the brilliance and genius of Led Zeppelin. Instead of trying to change the blues to fit rock 'n' roll, Led Zeppelin used the blues as their core musical influence to formulate their own sound—a sound that helped to usher in a new dimension in rock 'n' roll in the late 1960s/early 1970s. In Led Zeppelin's musical example, I find a good lesson for beatmakers, particularly those who attempt to interpret hip hop/rap music and beatmaking not from its own perspective and on its own foundation but from the perspective and foundation of other music traditions.

A fellow musician and music history enthusiast once said to me that the "brilliance of Led Zeppelin was due to their firm understanding and grasp of rock 'n' roll." My reply was (and still is) this: Sure, Led Zeppelin had a great grasp of rock 'n' roll, but in my view, their brilliance (and genius) was, above all, due to their embrace of, and commitment to, the Black American blues music tradition. What made Led Zeppelin's music so distinguishable was, in great part, each members' affection and admiration for, and deference to, the blues. Musically speaking, the members of Led Zeppelin were less interested in early 1960s rock; they were more into 1940s and 50s blues and the aesthetic preferences that it carried with it. Led Zeppelin's unique sound was the result of their approach to playing—fundamentally—the blues; rock 'n' roll was a secondary aesthetic for them. Indeed, early on they did not draw their core ideas from rock 'n' roll; instead, they drew heavily from the blues—
it was the core musical influence and inspiration for their first couple of albums, especially Led Zeppelin I.

Since Led Zeppelin’s arrival in 1968, there have no doubt been other rock bands who have drawn from the blues (The Rolling Stones also drew from the blues, at least in their beginning). But in a lot of those cases, those bands approached the blues through the perspective and prism of rock 'n' roll rather than through the perspective, prism, and sensibility of the blues. Here, Led Zeppelin stands out again, because their approach proceeded from the foundation of the blues outward. That is to say, they approached the blues from its own tradition rather than trying to interpret it through the guise of another tradition, a common mistake some beatmakers make by trying to look at hip hop/rap music and the art of beatmaking through the lens of other music forms and traditions rather than first coming to terms with hip hop/rap music's and beatmaking's own perspective and sensibility.

Bottom Line

Despite a musician's ultimate musical goals, if he or she is intent on effectively using elements of a particular music tradition—in this case, the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions—then, clearly, one should go about learning at least the fundamental elements and aesthetic priorities of that tradition. They should not settle for, or attempt to create, misguided interpretations of the tradition's fundamentals—misinterpretations, I should add, that are based on perspectives outside of the tradition they purport to use.

Finally, there's one more thing that seems appropriate to be mentioned here, it's about sampling and non-sampling. Thing is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either sample-based or non-sample-based beats; both styles are well-represented and supported within the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions. However, it must be noted that beatmakers who dismiss the art of sampling as a second-rate, non-creative process also disrespect the foundation of the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions. Further, such dismissals discount the inherent value of MusicStudy that sampling offers. In fact, for many, groups like Led Zeppelin (and the music gateway that they provide) would be missed, if it were not for the curiosity in new music that sampling processes—like diggin' in the crates—provokes.

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

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

Check out Led Zeppelin's commitment to the blues tradition. Their use of repetition and delta blues-inspired rhythm and lyrics would become paramount factors in their ultra successful and influential music career. Enjoy this rare footage of a stripped down Zeppelin in rare form.

Led Zeppelin - "I Can't Quit You Baby"

Led Zeppelin -"Whole Lotta Love"

Led Zeppelin - "Dazed and Confused;" Lost Performances [early performance, ca. 1969]

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

October 11, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Bobby Boyd Congress - "Dig Deep In Your Soul"

Early Funk From Obscure, Little-Known Band

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

One of the things that makes digging for "new" music so exhilarating and rewarding is the fact that you never know exactly what you're going to discover. Even if you're searching within a specific genre of music, the sheer number of recordings that may exist is staggering. And when it comes to funk music—particularly early funk, ca. 1965-1974—, the recorded output of music runs deep. A fact that's further made even more impressive when you consider the number obscure and lesser-known early funk bands who made only a few recordings during that time.

Bobby Boyd Congress certainly fits the category of "obscure" and "lesser-known" funk bands. To my knowledge, the only recording of the band is a 1970 self-titled album that they recorded in France. (You ever notice how France has always maintained a deep reference for quality American music, especially musics in the black American music tradition?) Still, I'm convinced that Bobby Boyd Congress, a quintessential New York funk band, made more recordings in or around New York City at the same time. Therefore, I believe (I gotta believe!) that somebody somewhere has something else of this superb funk outfit. And as long as I'm "diggin'," I won't give up trying to find it.

Finally, I'm compelled to mention that several months ago, a music professor (someone whom I hold in great regard) asked me about the relationship between the drum patterns of modern beatmaking and that of those of the early funk music typified here by Bobby Boyd Congress. Specifically, he believed that the relationship was less apparent in beatmaking in the early 1990s. I strongly disagreed. As I pointed out to him (and in my book, The BeatTips Manual, I show the link in greater historical detail), it was precisely the drum patterns of funk songs like Bobby Boyd Congress's "Dig Deep In Your Soul" that pioneering beatmakers like DJ Premier and Pete Rock drew their inspiration from.

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

Bobby Boyd Congress - "Dig Deep In Your Soul"

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

September 12, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: The Police - "Walking on the Moon"

Group Offers Great Example of Style and Sound Fusion

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Before Sting became a one-man mega star (in the 80s), he was the front-man and bassist for the group, The Police. The Police where an English outfit who specialized in an uptempo rock-reggae that mostly side-stepped the British ska sound of their time. Originally a punk inspired band, The Police moved towards the new wave sound, before settling on a minimalist rock-reggae hybrid that was decidedly pop (the good kind).

The collective musicianship of The Police was great, but most of my attention went to drummer Stewart Copeland. Copeland's default drum style was rooted in the reggae style, a rhythmic style characterized by accents on the off-beat. Specifically, Copeland road the "steppers" beat sub-style (itself a variation of "four on the floor"), but he was also clearly influenced by other worldly sounds and rhythms. This was perhaps one of the main reasons that he drummed on an expanded kit. I remember the first time I saw his set in a video, I couldn't believe how many mini-toms and percussion pieces it contained.

Guitarist Andy Summers was a seasoned and accomplished sessions player before he joined The Police. In fact, before he got with The Police (replacing The Police's original guitarist, Henry Padovani), he nearly became a member of The Rolling Stones. Summers play was less prominent than Stewart's drumming, but it didn't need to be. Instead, it was relaxed but insistent and never overbearing, perfectly equal to the sum-task of The Police's rhythms and sonic designs.

Sting, a former school teacher who was dedicated to the blues-rock tunes that he'd heard in clubs as a high schooler, began as a guitarist, before eventually switching over to bass. Like Summmers, Sting's bass play didn't do anything more or less than it needed to do. Compared to similar bassists, I found Sting's playing to be subtle and plush, never overworked or harsh.

The Police ran a table of successful albums between 1978 and 1983. In 1984, the trio unofficially split up. However, the "unofficial" tag was removed a year later, when Sting released his first notable solo effort, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Shortly thereafter, Sting's solo career went somewhat viral. Sting was a great solo artist, but I've always found his work with The Police to be edgier, much more engaging, and more raw.

Side note:
Imagine what would have happened to The Police if MTV was around in 1979... I wonder how their music would have changed. Would it have changed for the better or worse? Would Sting have left for a solo career? Would he have left even sooner?

Below, I've included an example of The Police in their prime. When listening to the song, pay careful attention to the drumming decisions Stewart Copeland made; pay close attention to the repetition of the guitar framework; and, finally, pay attention to how the bass is used almost as a support for the rhythm of the drum framework. I can not stress enough how much The Police—and the song "Roxanne," in particular—helped me with my overall understanding of music creation.

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

The Police - "Walking on the Moon"

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


August 24, 2011

One Beat, One Rhyme, and Some Peace of Mind

How I Regained My Rhyme and Beatmaking Focus, and Connected It to My Interest In Writing

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

It was the end of 2001. Nearly six months before I would decide not to pursue the major label opportunities that were being presented to me (read). More importantly, it was a hectic time in my personal life. Relationship woes; chaos from "street stuff" in the past was creeping up and increasingly posing a serious threat; and a close friend of mine had just got hit with a bid, right at the moment of some of our plans. Further, my son, Amir Ali Said, was just beginning his acting career.

Notwithstanding the factors that were causing great angst in my life at that time, I had resolved that I no longer wanted a career as a rapper. I mean in hindsight, I don't think I ever really did have those aspirations. I've never liked the notion of touring (close friends know this very well). I didn't like to live in the studio like many of my contemporaries. And as far as some of the perks of a "rap career," namely money, fame, and women? Well, I've always been a more "independent," go-my-own-way kind of guy. And fame has never held much of my interest. And when it comes to women, I've done all right in that area without having to use money or fame as part of the attraction. (In fact, women was one of those "chaotic factors" I alluded to earlier.)

But more than anything else, what made me finally pull-back from carving out a career as a rapper was the realization that what I really wanted to do, more than anything else, was write. Thing is, long before I started rapping or making beats, I was writing. Rapping, which was a natural engagement for me, considering the fact that hip hop/rap culture was always in the backdrop, became just one of several conduits through which I was able to express my writing. Overtime, this was a fulfilling experience. But the closer I got to a "deal," the more disenchanted I became with rhyming—or at least rhyming as my main profession. Moreover, from the start of my rhyme journey, I had a plan: Rhyme just long enough to create a platform from which to write. But as I developed as a lyricist and, subsequently, gained the respect and admiration of my peers (something that no doubt boosted my rhyme ego), I drifted away from my plan of writing.

And so, one night in December, 2002, I'm at home in Brooklyn, reflecting on the direction things had gone and thinking about which moves I'm soon gonna have to make, when I come across an old sales receipt from Unique Recording Studios. On this receipt, there was a balance of 4 hours of unused studio time. Now when it came to studio time, I was always thorough. I prepared for and planned out sessions way in advance; and this made my time in the studio go by quickly. So I would often rack up lots of unused time, which the studio owner Joanne Nathan (a kind, wonderful person) would allow me to use whenever there was a slow night; all I had to do was pay the engineer. Well, immersed in thought of what rhyming used to mean to me and what it had become, I made a beat, wrote a rhyme, and created a song called "When I'm Famous."

In many ways, "When I'm Famous" would prove to be the most important rhyme that I would ever write. The concept of the song dealt with me imagining, or wondering out loud, how much of "me" would still be in tact after I became "famous." And the underscoring premise of this theme was this: "Fame" (or success) doesn't matter, if you don't do what you really feel, and if you don't retain the respect and love of the people closest to you. So it was in that moment, that precise time when I was writing "When I'm Famous," that I finally realized that the joy I found in making beats and writing rhymes was not something mutually exclusive to having a rap career. In other words, I had finally come to understand one thing: that for me, having a rap career was not necessarily a natural progression to having rhyme skills; I could make music without forcing myself down the wrong path.

Thus, it was from this context that I went to Unique Studios that night and recorded "When I'm Famous." I only recorded one take of the song, as the rhyme was written. I never had any intentions of ever releasing it; if anything, I made the song to help me get through a hectic time. I wasn't even in the studio more than an hour before I returned home and let my son hear what I had recorded. He loved it, though at that time he probably couldn't quite grasp everything that I was saying in my rhymes. But what stood out the most about his reaction to "When I'm Famous," was his interest in the beat and the rhyme itself. It was then that I vowed to teach him how to write rhymes and make beats. Some peace of mind had come, and within a year, I wrote and published the First Edition of The BeatTips Manual.

"When I'm Famous" - Sa'id

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

August 17, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Baby Huey & The Babysitters - "Listen to Me"

Early Funk Jewel Showcases the Pulsating Rhythm and Groove Sound of Its Era

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Among the earliest hip hop pioneers, Baby Huey & The Babysitters' "Listen to Me" is one of the most celebrated early funk jams. With no less than five tempo and mood changes, "Listen to Me" is the personification of its era: hard-hitting funk with rolling bass lines, side-winding rhythm guitar, and of course, steady and ready drumwork.

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

Baby Huey & The Babysitters - "Listen to Me"

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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 27, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Snoop Dogg and Pharrell - "Beautiful;" Well Constructed Arrangement

Non-Sampled Beat with Well-Thought Out Arrangement; Rhythm Track Flanked by Unique Percussion Scheme Serves up Warmth in Typically Cold Style

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

When The Neptunes (Pharrell and Chad) first burst on the scene with Noreaga's "Superthug" (1998), it was clear that they would soon be a production force to be reckoned with. Using the non-samples featured style as their base creative beatmaking approach, The Neptunes carved out a new sound; and in the process they created an alternative lane for other budding beatmakers to follow.

Unfortunately, far too many beatmakers moved into this lane with Neptune knock-off tracks rather than original interpretations of the sound that The Neptunes created. Indeed, within four years of Nore's "Superthug," the level of Neptune "biters" was so widespread that some began openly questioning the genius and contribution of The Neptunes themselves. Enter January, 2003. Snoop Dogg and Pharrell drop "Beautiful, one of the most well-arranged beats I've heard.

To understand how Pharrell might have come up with the guitar arrangement for "Beautiful," all you need do is listen to The RZA's work on Liquid Swords,' or perhaps even the beatwork of True Master—Pharrell no doubt studied them both during his prime developmental years. Although Pharrell doesn't use sampled sound-stabs to construct the core guitar-based groove of "Beautiful," his use of a shuffling, semi-closed hi-hat and tambourine—which spread throughout the composition like a multi-layered shaker—shades the otherwise brightness of the first generational (non-sampled, module/keyboard/live) guitar sound. And with the shine of the brightness dimmed by his creative use of percussion, Pharrell is able to work in organ bridge phrases that bookend every fourth bar. It should also be pointed out that these organ riffs, which are subtle and relaxed, are used more to sure up the rhythm and groove of the beat than they are to firm up the main melody—itself a secondary product to the rhythm in the "Beautiful" beat..

For the drumwork, Pharrell is intent on letting us know that this beat comes from the stratosphere of The Neptunes. Therefore, he uses their trademark stomp-kick as the most forceful percussive element in the track. Often in most beats, it's the snare that gets the top billing while the kick co-stars. But with "Beautiful," Pharrell reverses the roles, giving full priority to the appropriately placed stomp-kick while opting for a short-truncated snare that's barely more than a snap.

Far as the rhyme goes, lyricism takes a vacation...literally. But then "Beautiful" isn't the sort of song that you even want to hear a complex rhyme scheme on. The beatwork invites a straight-forward rhyme, and Snoop delivers something that's steady and not too hard to follow. And because of the strength of the chorus—sung surprisingly well by Pharrell—any ambitious rhyme structure and/or theme would only have distracted, not enhanced, the well thought out arrangement of the instrumental.

"Beautiful," perhaps more than any other song from either Pharrell or Chad, proved that although a beatmaster's style could be bit and copied, more seasoned beatmasters are able to rework their sound into something even more unique.

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

Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell - "Beautiful"

Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell - "Beautiful" (Official music video)

July 25, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: The Band's "King Harvest" Gives Lesson in Groove

The Melody Talks, But the Groove Tells It Like It Is

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

When it comes to music, there is little more truthful than the groove. If you listen to it, open it up, and unpack what's going on, you'll always find just what the song's feel and sound is all about. This is one of the reasons that I'm always drawn to the groove of any song. No matter the melody, for me, it's the groove(s) that ultimately either makes it or breaks a song.

One of my favorite grooves of all time is the one found on the song "King Harvest," by the group The Band. Powered by the flawlessly funky drum-work of Levon Helm, "King Harvest" moves with a rhythmic focus that is as much funk as it is southern rock; as much Woodstock jam session as it is Memphis blues rock. Robbie Robertson's guitar work whines and twangs, spilling out a funky blues that moves between laid-back cool and jam-solo bravado. The keys are a split duty affair. Richard Manuel, who also does lead vocal work, plays a steady, but artfully understated piano. And Garth Hudson handles the organ, making it bake, roll, and moan at the various "frenzy" points in the number. Finally, Rick Danko makes everything warmer with his fat, but deliberately soft bass playing. (I learned a lot about arranging bass parts listening to this song.)

Of the various things worth studying in "King Harvest," pay attention to the instrumental "cool-down" that takes place at the arrival of the chorus. Next, pay careful attention to how the band glides from the chorus, right back into the groove. Incredible. Also, be sure to study the little jam session warm-up just before that rip off the main number.

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

The Band - "King Harvest," from The Band in Woodstock

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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 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 16, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Syl Johnson, the Soulful Belter

Behind Al Green at Hi Records, But Syl Johnson Just as Valuable to Hip hop/Rap Music

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Blues-Soulman, songwriter, and producer Syl Johnson is an ironic example of how being second on the depth chart can sometimes work out for the best. In front of him at Hi Records was a more well-known legend: Al Green. Even still, Johnson carved out his own name and niche.

Like Green, Syl Johnson had an arresting, soulful sound. But if Al Green was the crooner, Syl Johnson was the belter. Syl Johnson distinguished himself through a vocal delivery that was piercing, and way, way out front, a style no doubt owed to his blues roots. His seminal hit, "Different Strokes," (which he recorded at the age of 41), offers a glimpse at the powerful phrasing that could have made him as big--if not bigger than--Al Green, had either been on a different label.

Still, for my deep diggin', I prefer the virtual obscurity of Syl Johnson over the popularity (and most often sampled) Al Green...

And if you didn't know Syl Johnson, check out a couple of these cuts. Listen, and see if anything sounds familiar.

For educational purposes...

Syl Johnson - "Wind Blow Her Back My Way"

Syl Johnson - "I Hate I Walked Away"


Syl Johnson - "Could I Be Falling Love"

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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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