74 posts categorized "Themes, Theories, and Concepts"

December 03, 2010

A Respect for Time Spent Making Beats Helps Quality Control

How Long You're on the Clock Plays a Big Role

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Dedicated beatmakers know how meticulous the art of beatmaking is. Moreover, we all know how very methodical and diligent that we often have to be. Whether cranking out a drum framework, or even just tuning a snare sound to the right timbre, beatmaking takes focused time, just like any other musical process. With this in mind, I often wonder how long most beatmakers typically spend on the clock; you know, how long do each of us usually work on a beat?

For me, the time frame averages out to about one solid hour per beat—from concept to preliminary (pre-tracking) execution. However, that being said, I must concede that some ideas take much longer than others; and with certain styles/types of beats, I'll purposely keep crafting for another day or two, if necessary. But if after two days I find that a beat is "decent" but not DOPE—to me—, I put it on the shelf. Sometimes I come back to it in the near future; other times I simply store in my personal music vault, labeling it as something perhaps worth reworking at a later date.

Still, to be certain, when it comes to making beats, there also those times where I can rip something off rather quickly, like say, 20 or 30 minutes. But most of the time, that's certainly not typical for me. Indeed, when I create a beat in 15 minutes, it's more like a "quality check" point, a directional blueprint and barometer that confirms whether or not I'm on to something that's worth continuing. It is at this juncture that I'm most critical of myself; it's at this time where I'm brutally honest about whether my idea and structure is popping (sounding dope) or not. Therefore, if after 15 minutes I find that what I'm working on is whack—to me, I scrap the beat—no hesitation—and begin a new one in a different direction. As per my own personal standards and sense of quality control, I never plow through something just for the sake of "completing" it. If I think that a beat I'm making is even kind of whack, I scrap it and move on to another idea. I never force a beat. In this way, I assure that my music has gone through a strict quality control checkpoint.

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

November 03, 2010

Hank Shocklee "Turns Off His Brain" With Reason; Says "Public Enemy #1" Came From Pause Tape

Beatmaking Pioneer Says Propellerhead Reason's Possibilities and "Simplicity" Is Crucial; Tells How He and Public Enemy Created Their Own Sound After Shunning Radio Early On

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Earlier this year I was invited to Syracuse University's Replay Symposium on copyright law and Sampling. The event, which sought to explore the complex relationship between copyright law and policy and the art of sampling, was impressive, as it featured much more nuance and depth than I've typically found at these sort panel discussions. Equally rewarding was the fact that the event featured several knowledgeable (and "spirited") panelists. Among them, Hank Shocklee—veteran beatmaker/producer and leader of the infamous Bomb Squad production team of Public Enemy fame—often stood out.

After the symposium, I was able to speak with Hank Shocklee one on one. In our conversation, I found him to be someone who shares the same concern for the scholarship of beatmaking (especially the art of sampling) as I do. Moreover, I also recognized that his efforts in support of this concern were similar to mine own; we both in our own ways work to advance the importance of the study of beatmaking as a musical process. Thus, I wanted to share two recently released Propellerhead video interviews of Hank Shocklee, as I think each video does a great job in demonstrating the scholarship of beatmaking.

In the first video that I've included here, Hank Shocklee sits down with Propellhead and speaks about how their Reason software program has revolutionized his production methods and overall workflow. Specifically, he recounts how Dr:Rex, Redrum, and Kong gives him infinite manipulation possibilities. Shocklee's so impressed with Reason that he goes so far as to say that it allows him to "turn off his brain for a minute." (Some endorsement, huh.)

In the second video, Shocklee goes more into detail about his early start as beatmaker, revealing that he "stumbled across filtering." He also discusses how and why he intentionally broke from the common BPMs of the time. He also points out that the song "Public Enemy #1," Public Enemy's first hit, was actually spawned from a "pause tape," and that he "stumbled across" filtering.

For the purpose of scholarship...

Artist Interview: Hank Shocklee (Bomb Squad)

Artist Interview: Hank Shocklee (Bomb Squad) Bonus Footage

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

November 01, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gamble & Huff

Music Producers Worthy of Serious Study

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Kenneth Gamble & Leon HuffSoul music historians can say what they will about the Motown Sound. Many argue that it is the most recognizable sound ever recorded by any single record label. That’s cool. But the “Philly Sound,” the sound relentlessly ushered forward by the famed production duo, Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, is, in my opinion, the meanest, most soulfully consistent sound ever recorded. Pure inner city soul music that just cooked! Their sound was one of the most disciplined, gimmick-free, distinctive sounds that I’ve ever heard.

In 1971, Gamble & Huff started Philadelphia International Records. Throughout the balance of the 1970s, the pair worked jointly on songwriting and production for many of the biggest soul recording artists of the era. In their prime, you could stick any artist with Gamble & Huff, and it was a guarantee that that artist would improve 100% fold! When they produced for an artist, they didn’t just rent out their sound, like many of today’s prominent hip hop/rap production teams. On the contrary, Gamble & Huff lent their sound to an artist, and asked that artist to simply enhance it.

The team put together by Gamble & Huff also included arrangers Thom Bell (who grew up with Gamble in the same neighborhood) and Bobby Martin. And like Motown’s Funk Brothers, Philadelphia International Records’ house band, MFSB, (a rough-city group made up of Philly veteran studio session and road players), kept Gamble & Huff’s signature sound steady and ready with smooth time, velvet harmonies, and pulsating rhythm.

Whether it was love slow jams, disco, or raw soul, the duo injected their sound, which was an infusion of different eras of soul music (notably doo woop and 60s R&B). Gamble & Huff were also champions of humanitarianism. Much of their songwriting contained unflinching social commentary. In fact, Gamble once stated: “We wanted to take social themes and translate them to commercial recordings.”

For educational purposes...

The O'Jays "Who Am I," produced by Gamble & Huff

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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 28, 2010

BeatTips Editorial: Top 10 Things I Want To See From The 'Pete Rock Vs. DJ Premier' Album

Beat Giants' Album Could Have Far Reaching Effects

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

10. Increased Awareness of Pete Rock and DJ Premier as Well as Other Important Pioneers of Eras Gone Past
One of the most disheartening developments of the past decade is the increasing disconnect between the “now” and the “then”. Although it might be easy to assume that no one making beats hasn’t heard of Pete Rock or DJ Premier, the truth of the matter is something altogether different. Unfortunately, there is a growing wave of new beatmakers who (in most cases due to no fault of their own), are not as familiar with the role that Pete Rock and DJ Premier and similar pioneers have played in the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions. Therefore, a Pete Rock/Premier album could serve as a powerful catalyst for new beatmakers interested in digging deeper into the beatmaking tradition. (This is a good thing, because in the end, hip hop/rap music wins with more knowledgeable beatmakers.)

9. No “R&B” Features.
When you say “Pete Rock” or “DJ Premier” you think: gutter, street, hardcore, boom bap. There is absolutely no logical reason that I support for changing that! Serious supporters of Pete Rock and Premier revere them for what they do best, regardless of what any era’s market forces may seem to dictate. And now, with a wide open lane for anybody to make the music that they truly want to make—especially for veterans with loads of unspent good will—it’s never been more easy to drop the dopest shit you can muster up. And I don’t care how nice the idea of an “R&B” joint might sound, a battle record—albeit friendly—between two kings of beatmaking has no room for an “R&B” feature; that shit will only get in the way.

8. One DJ Premier Joint Featuring H. Stax
Preem, "Same Team, No Games," which H. Stax was featured on, was certainly dope; but “Proper Dosage,” is the illest joint you and Stax ever made together thus far. However, "Proper Dosage" never really got the look it deserved. Plus, Stax is home team, and it’s only right somebody from East New York bless the mic! But still, I understand that the stakes involved with this album warrant high profile names. So a collector's edition bonus cut featuring Stax is something that I think would be dope.

7. An Album Release Party At Brooklyn Bowl
As many shows that I've been to over the years, a little known secret of mine (well, not such a secret to those close to me), is that I don't even dig shows all that much. My problem has never been with the music. I enjoy a good set just as much as any other fan. But what I have the biggest issues with are (1) venue space; and (2) the "hip hop/rap show shit" that goes along with a typical hip hop/rap show.

By and large, the venues that I've been to have been either too small or just plain ill-suited for a hip hop/rap marquee. And worse than that is the "atmosphere" that prevails at most shows, specifically, I'm referring to the standard ultra-ego and delusional talk that gets exchanged back and forth between artists, managers, hanger-ons, weed carriers, and groupies. Well, in Brooklyn Bowl it would appear that, for the first time since I saw KRS-One perform at The Fever in the South Bronx, I've actually found a spot I can chill in.

I've been to Brooklyn Bowl two times this year, once for the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival DJ Night, and once for a Pete Rock set. Both times I was impressed with the sheer size and space of the venue. It had a perfect dance floor/show area, and the main seating area that bordered the bowling lanes—yes, people actually bowl throughout the performance (dope, I know)—had deep couches and lighting blocks. One of the best kept secrets in Brooklyn, if not greater New York City, Brooklyn Bowl is a well thought out spot. One that I don't want to see shut down anytime sooner than it needs to. And a high-profile event like a Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier album would certainly help secure Brooklyn Bowl's spot on NYC's new "dope spots" list.

Oh, and did I mention that the ladies are real friendly at Brooklyn Bowl? I'm telling you, it's something about that space that make the ladies more relaxed and aggressive. But I digress...

6. One Joint Featuring Nas From Both Pete Rock and DJ Premier
If the purported format holds true—six songs a piece from Pete Rock and Premier with the rappers of their choosing—I gotta hear two of the ultimate dozen with Nas. In the last several years or so, there’s been a lot of, let’s say, flat-out sketchy talk about best rappers, MCs, and such. And seemingly lost in these “debates” is the notion of superb lyricism in all of it’s glory: style, context, content (subject matter), complexity, voice, delivery, and flow. And although there are great discussions about where Jay-Z, Pac, or Biggie should (or deserve) to be placed, the debate over where Nas fits in (or should, or deserves to be placed) has lost a lot of the attention that it once had.

There are a number of factors that may have contributed to why Nas has edged out of "the debate" in some circles (certainly far too many to weave through in this present editorial), but I would be interested in seeing if this Pete Rock/Premier album could help Nas regain the place he once had in the “best rapper, MC, lyricist” discussion.

5. Real, Prolonged Coverage From All Major and Minor Hip Hop/Rap Media Outlets
Projects of this nature deserve extensive coverage, not just a lost moment in a weekly news cycle. When Illmatic came out, an album that was at the time groundbreaking for the number of beatmakers (producers) in their prime that it featured, the coverage was rather robust and fitting for the moment. I’m not necessarily saying that this Pete Rock/Premier album should be held in the same regard; and I’m not saying that it shouldn’t either! Instead, what I am saying is that for all of the hype that many musically disconnected, uninteresting, and uninspiring projects have received in recent years, a Pete Rock/Premier caliber project should be afforded more than just a cursory mention on the top hip hop/rap news sites and music blogs.

4. At least 3 SP 1200-made beats by Pete Rock.
Over the past two decades, a number of veteran beatmakers made the switch from the infamous E-Mu SP-1200 to the MPC family. Some of the most notable ones include: Large Professor, Buckwild, and of course, DJ Premier. And although the argument can certainly be made that the “switch” greatly favored Preem and Buckwild, I’m not sure if the same could be said for Pete Rock.

Make no mistake, Pete Rock has made bangers on both beat machines. But I'm inclined to believe that his touch on the SP-1200 gets the edge. (Then again, that "Be Easy" joint he did for Ghostface is sick...) I can’t say for certain when exactly Pete Rock made the switch, or why, or even how often over the past decade or so that he’s placed SP-1200-made beats vs. MPC-made ones. Only Pete Rock knows the answer to that. I'm left only to speculate from what I've heard in his canon of dope production, and from what I know about the "sound" that the SP-1200 and MPC makes respectively. But if there’s anything damn near for certain, the “T.R.O.Y.” beat is Pete Rock’s greatest creation. In fact, “T.R.O.Y. (They Reminencse Over You) is arguably the greatest hip hop/rap song ever made. (I consider it to be.)

Therefore, if Pete Rock still has some SP-1200 disks—which I’m sure he does—we perhaps stand more than a fighting chance of hearing that level of greatness again. I mean, 15 years after the fact—time to reflect on his position in the beatmaking’s tree of pioneers; time to see styles come and go; time to use the power of hindsight; time to have acquired thousands more vinyl records—, I’m sure Pete Rock can get his SP-1200 (or even a rented one) to bubble and rumble like it once did.

3. The Actual Release of a Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier Album
Fans have been let down before by announced “dream” albums that never panned out. Many, including myself, are still waiting for the Nas and DJ Premier joint that was announced (rumored) years ago. But just as the present climate is aligning to finally bring forth a Nas/Premier LP, I think there’s even more likelihood that the Pete Rock/Premier album is going to actually happen; and perhaps much sooner than most people expect.

Pete Rock and Premier seem genuinely motivated about this project. Recently, both have publicly confirmed that the album is indeed officially in the works. I want to, no, I HAVE to believe that they know that it’s paramount that they see this album through. Hip hop/rap music isn’t as in dire straits as some would argue (there's some dope music out here), but a timely triumph from a pair of hip hop/rap’s highest ranking royalty could reset the balance of the present day scene. Moreover, I’m sure Pete Rock and Premier are hip to the fact that a new album—especially a groundbreaking one—will grant them new and more lucrative tour opportunities.

2. A Global Tour Orchestrated and Sponsored by BeatTips Featuring DJ Premier and Pete Rock (Trust me, it can happen).
Pete Rock and Premier are (rightfully so) HIGHLY regarded around the world. So there’s no shortage of interest in seeing the two tour. In fact, in the last year or so, they have already done so at least once, if I recall correctly. But the sort of tour that I have in mind has never been done before. And the time is right for it. I’ve already begun laying the groundwork…

1. More Unification of the Beatmaking Community.
Right now, although most beatmakers are somewhat unified, the reality is that the beatmaking community is more like a patchwork community of overlapping identities, where there are far too many of us who on one hand willingly ignore (often reject) the roots and fundamentals of the beatmaking tradition, or on the other hand, frown upon anything new. For the record, I’m somewhat culpable here, because I can dig just about any beatmaking style, except for ultra-melody “emo” joints... But seriously, when two giants of a tradition—two giants, I should add, that you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t respect them or dig their music—join forces for a project of this nature, there’s a huge opportunity to help re-establish a more solid interpretation of what “quality hip hop/rap music” is.

And that’s not to say that boom bap has a monopoly on quality. On the contrary, quality hip hop/rap music—as I’d hope to see it unanimously defined—is merely hip hop/rap music that prioritizes the essence and nuance of the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions, first and foremost. I think a project of this magnitude, given the natural buzz and curiosity it would generate, could draw beatmakers into a extensive conversation about our wonderful tradition. Such a conversation could only lead to more extensive conversations, which could only lead to things like, well, a beatmakers union, something I've long called for. In my book, The BeatTips Manual, I lay out a solid framework for what a beatmakers union could (should) look like. And beatmaking events such as the Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier album, could go a long way in helping the beatmakers union conversation move forward.

—Sa'id

October 27, 2010

"Beats Show Your Personality," Says The Alchemist In New 9th Wonder Documentary

Clip From Upcoming Documentary The Wonder Year Features Acclaimed Beatmaker (Producer) The Alchemist Talking Shop

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

In this video, beatmaking vet The Alchemist discusses some of the most noble aspects about the beatmaking community. There are references to the unique nuances that comprise each beatmaker's style: He draws parallels between beatmakers and painters. And then there are references to the beatmaking community's general sense of unity: He speaks on the brotherhood and camaraderie of beatmakers (producers), acknowledging that "we feed off of each other." Dope video clip.

For educational purposes...

THE ALCHEMIST SPEAKS ON 9TH WONDER

THE ALCHEMIST SPEAKS ON 9TH WONDER from Pricefilms on Vimeo.

October 24, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: Sauce Money - "Snipershot"

Slept On Rhyme Veteran Torches Sample-Based Heat Rock

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

When it comes to rhymin', bravado is half the equation. I'm not talking manufactured confidence or contrived swagger that many rappers these days are wearing. I'm talking about the gusto that only comes from real life experience. Hardship. Joy. Pain. Vindication. Disappointment. Second chances. You know, the stuff that gives you character. And character has always been what ultimately drives one rapper down one path versus another.

On "Snipershot," the venerable rapper Sauce Money displays his character: straight forward, Brooklyn street corner vet, with little known—but major—credentials attached to his music career. Over this filthy, absolutely sick sample-based banger (dig them horns), Sauce Money delivers a meat and potatoes rhyme that is semi-confessional, semi-braggadocious, and ALL bravado.

*Note: If you know who made this beat, hit me up.

For educational purposes...

Sauce Money - "Snipershot" Music Video


October 23, 2010

MusicStudy: The Falcons - "I Can't Help It"

Rhtym and Groove Set to Changing Time Signatures and Amazingly Staggering Syncopation

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Upon the first listen of The Falcon's "I Can't Help It," you will likely be blown away by the heavy brass-lead opening. But I can assure you that after multiple listens, you will be drawn more to the incredibly dizzying (in a good way) use of time signatures and syncopation. It is absolutely amazing how steady and deliberate the vocal arrangement is, in the face of a beautifully chaotic instrumental arrangement that constantly keeps shifting and darting, belting out big bouts of soul with each movement. I can't help it: this song is unmistakable genius.

For educational purposes...

The Falcons - "I Can't Help It"

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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, 2010

Beatmaking Is No "Big Mac"

Beatmaking Tradition Prioritizes Creativity Through Challenge, Not Ease; "In-the-Box" Music Process Often Disconnects

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Earlier this year, when Digidesign (Avid) announced the release of their newly updated Pro Tools Expansion Pack, the "in-the-box" music-creation process seemingly got a booster shot in the arm. To Digidesign's credit, the Pro Tools DAW stands today as the industry standard in the realm of recording music. However, Pro Tools has not been the go-to program for music creation, especially in the case of beatmaking. On the contrary, when it comes to beatmaking, the DAWs that enjoy a premium of support over Pro Tools include Ableton Live, Cubase, and Logic. Thus, it wasn't long before Digidesign (Avid) recognized (rightfully so) that they could further expand and solidify their brand dominance in the DAW spectrum by getting into the virtual instruments game.

Through their partnership with the Advanced Instrument Research group (A.I.R.), Digidesign (Avid) has developed an impressive suite of virtual instruments and tools. In fact, Digidesign says that "having a team within Digidesign dedicated to developing best-of-breed virtual instruments could offer tremendous help and insight in guiding" their effort. In other words, Digidesign combined their in-house efforts with the expertise of an outside party—in this case, A.I.R.—to help them come up with a virtual instrument package that was second to none. But for me the issue isn't about Digidesign's (Avid's) success or failure in the virtual instruments field, or its subsequent impact on the "in-the-box" music process. Instead, my concern is with the effects that making music "in-the-box" has had and could potentially have on the musical process and notions of music creativity, particularly as it relates to the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music.

When beatmaking (hip hop production) first emerged in the early 1970s, it was not seen by many outside of the hip hop/rap tradition as a legitimate musical process.
And unfortunately, even today—in some circles—beatmaking's (hip hop production's) legitimacy as a means for composing music is questioned. But given the scope and impact of hip hop/rap music in the past 36 years, there can be no doubt as to whether or not beatmaking (hip hop production) is indeed a legitimate and complex musical process in its own right. That being said, recent developments in virtual instrument technology have been less about enhancing the musical process and more about merely making music composition easier.

The notion of reducing the musical process down to something that is just "easy" to do is a philosophy that I take—and have always taken—exception with. Contrary to what some gear and music software manufacturers may seem to want consumers to believe, beatmaking is and has been—in its fundamental form—about creativity through challenge, not creativity through ease. That is to so say, the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music was built by beatmakers who valued the pains and joys of creativity, irrespective of how easy their gear allowed them to fully realize this creativity.

Until hip hop/rap music emerged—ushering in a new kind of musician: the "beatmaker"—turntables, DJ mixers, echo boxes, drum machines, and digital samplers were not considered to be "music instruments" at all. And with the advent of beat machine stalwarts like the Akai MPC, the E-Mu SP 1200, and the Ensoniq EPS-16 and ASR-10, beatmakers were able to produce traditional (and non-traditional) musical sounds by using non-traditional music instruments. But by the late 1990s, virtual instrument software programs began to emerge as a viable alternative to the often pricey hardware manifestations that had helped co-wrote hip hop/rap's story for more than two decades.

As the 1990s folded into the 2000s, virtual instrument programs took substantial market share away from their hardware counterparts. But while the hardware stalwarts of the past two decades have seemed to be—in some significant degree—in tune with some important elements of the beatmaking tradition as well as focused on the way in which beatmakers actually make music, the virtual instrument programs have widely proven to be more about making the musical process simply easier, and less about truly establishing and preserving a link to the beatmaking tradition. And therein lies my concerns.

Is the creation of art—in this case, beatmaking and hip hop/rap music—suppose to be primarily a matter of ease? Shouldn't the creation of hip hop/rap music be a matter of one's own reflection, exploration, and attempted execution of both the musical ideas and elements firmly within the beatmaking and hip hop/rap traditions? Moreover, should the means to the realization of one's musical creativity within the hip hop/rap music tradition be so "easy" that there is then a disconnect between the beatmaker and the hip hop/rap music tradition? That is to say, should the means of music creation outweigh the principles of music creativity? Principles of music creativity, I should add, that are well-established by a given music tradition? I certainly do not think so. But I fear that this sort of "microwave," easy-made approach to and notion of music creation disconnects would-be makers of hip hop/rap music from the hip hop/rap music tradition itself.

And to be clear, my objection is not at all to virtual instrument programs, software music production tools, and/or to the process of making music "in-the-box." For even if you use an Akai MPC (or any hardware instrument) you are using that machine's software; therefore, to some degree, you are indeed technically making music "in-the-box." My objection is to the emphasis on the "ease" at which the musical process can be achieved in any music form or tradition. The musical process for beatmaking, or any other music tradition, should never be pitched to the public as something that is "easy" to do, or as something that is merely "a download away." The music compositional process of beatmaking is much more complex, varied, and just plain difficult to learn than virtual instrument programmers have—up until this point—cared to acknowledge or imply.

Finally, it should be noted that virtual instrument programmers have clearly, to some large degree, followed beatmaking's lead. To Albeton's credit, they at least acknowledge this link in their website's information and marketing efforts. There, they go as far as having a section on the site entitled, "For Beat Creators;" indeed showing their respect for the beatmaking (hip hop production) tradition. Yet in their website's info and marketing page for their new Pro Tools Expansion Pack, Digidesign (Avid) advises that: "Whether you like to rock, groove, swing, score, funk out, or jazz it up, the Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack gives you a massive sonic palette to get the sounds you’re after..." Noticeably missing from this page are the words "hip hop."

So it would appear that through their use of the code words "groove" and "loops," Digidesign (Avid) is barely even concerned with merely suggesting that their product has any connection with beatmaking or hip hop/rap music, or even that it's suitable for beatmakers to use. For Digidesign to present their Expansion Pack as a tool that is for "rockers," "swingers," "funkers," and "jazz makers," while not at the same time openly and directly linking it—in even some small way—to beatmaking is a farce. But then again, what should you expect from Digidesign (Avid) when they say on their website's Pro Tools Expansion Pack info/release page, "Supersize Your Sound with the New Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack."

"Supersize your sound?" Wow...does Digidesign (Avid) think so highly of music creation and the musical process that they deem it necessary to borrow a slogan from fast food giant, McDonald's? I seriously doubt that Digidesign believes that making music is as easy as making a Big Mac. But what troubles me is that there are people (far too many I care to admit) who approach beatmaking as if it is just that easy... I can assure you, it's not.

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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 08, 2010

BeatTips Interviews Mix Engineer Rich Keller

"Hip Hop Breaks All the Rules;" Famed Mix Engineer Discusses Challenges of Mixing Hip Hop/Rap Music

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Sa'id: What’s the biggest challenge that mixing hip hop/rap Music presents to you?
Rich Keller: It was really about learning how to mix, out of the traditional style. Basically, it’s breaking rules. Hip hop broke the rules. And the reason I was able to become a Hip Hop engineer was because I understood and I was taught by these early guys I mixed with, by the producers, how to mix hip hop… and how it was different from regular music..

BeatTips: Listen, when you say “Break the Rules”, what was the #1 thing that you had to forget when you started to approach mixing hip hop/rap Music?
Rich Keller: LOW END! I look at mixing hip hop like mixing what a cartoon, or what a comic book looks like, like a Superman, like where the f*cking arm is huge and big and red. As opposed to like a piece of art, where it’s like subtle and detailed. It’s big, it’s bold and clear, and right in your fucking face. And that’s hip hop. It’s different…You’re painting big, broad strokes. Like the 808 is like, BOOM, whereas on some rock records, kick drums can be buried and blurry in the mix, and that’s cool. For those records that’s all you need. But in hip hop, basically the drums are driving the beat, by being really up front… It’s about the drums and vocals.

BeatTips: What sets hip hop apart from Heavy Metal? What’s in common?
Rich Keller: Well, it’s started to blend now. Hip hop has really influenced rock. Vocals are getting dryer and more in your face. They are coming way up, and there’s hardly any effects on vocals, or anything for that matter. Things are not as wet as they used to be. Things are definitely getting dryer. And drums are getting more in your face. And since people are playing their beats on instruments more, you know, like on a Triton and sh*t like that. That really changed the sound a lot. Comparatively to when they used to sample and have to deal with a loop sound, you know, you got the sound already. Like RZA’s shit is a perfect example. You know, I did “Bring the Pain” for him and a few other joints. He picked the sound because it was the sound. You know what I’m sayin’. He pulled it off the record, and it was about manipulating and changing it into something else. Whereas like an 808 out of a Triton, you know, we gotta doctor the sh*t out of it to make it rumble.

BeatTips: What do you do with a sample. You Know what I’m sayin’… Hip hop/rap is basically a loop driven thing, so what are you trying to achieve with the main loop?
Rich Keller: I mix for groove. I wanna hear what the producer did. I wanna hear how the beat was made. Where the levels were that the producer put together. I wanna hear his kick and snare against the music, how does he see it? What made this artist buy this beat? Cuz if there’s a bunch of tracks, it’s not obvious what’s leading and what’s background. I need to hear what it was before I give it my own picture.

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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 03, 2010

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

Early Funk From Obscure, Little-Known Outfit

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. Indeed, to my knowledge, the only recording of the band is a 1970 self-titled album that the band actually recorded in France. (Wow, you 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 group from New York, made more recordings in or around New York City at the same time. Therefore, I believe (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.

For educational purposes...

Bobby Boyd Congress - "Dig Deep In Your Soul"

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