Truly a Master
|Interview by AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
True Master is a sharp dude. You can tell he calculates three (or more) moves ahead. He’s the type that could have excelled in a career business, had he not chosen hip hop/rap music as his primary vocation. He always speaks carefully and with a purpose. And his understanding and appreciation for beatmaking is among the deepest that I have seen yet.
Most well-known for his contributions to the Wu-Tang Clan collective, a closer examination of True shows you just why he’s been a big influence on many beatmakers and rappers. I got up with True Master for this interview in 2007; I held back widespread publication of it because I knew his words would prove to be timeless, and that they would become incredibly value to a new emerging breed of beatmakers. Hence, this is BeatTips Jewel Droppin' with True Master...
True Master’s setup: Ensoniq EPS 16, Ensoniq ASR 10
Notable credits: “Fish” – Ghostface Killah; “You Know What” – Black Rob; “The MGM” - Wu-Tang Clan; “Brooklyn Zoo” – Ol’ Dirty Bastard; “Heaterz” – Wu-Tang Clan; “Milk The Cow”, “Slang Editorial” – Cappadona; “Rec Room”, “Lovin’ You” – Inspectah Deck
BeatTips: Your music is sharp and never sloppy. You can never tell on your beats where the loop begins and ends.
True Master: Well, I don’t loop! Most of my career I haven’t looped. I’ve only cleared one song in my whole career, so far. And that was “Til It’s Gone”, on Busta Rhymes album, It Ain’t Safe No More. I sampled the hook. Other than that, all my tracks, I chop ‘em up and reassemble them. So it doesn’t have a looped sound. So it sound more of…like a live feel, not synthetic, ‘cuz I try to sit down and redo it so that it’s not too…Like, my sh*t is sharp, but at the same time, I try to make it a little off, you know what I mean. I try to create a live feel to the machine, somethin’ that’s more realistic… I break everything down into so many pieces…that art form in itself, a lot of people ain’t gonna go through that time. That’s how I started making beats, and I like to stay on that same thing, you know what I mean. Rather than deviate from that. I use my same old machine.
BeatTips: What did you start off using?
True Master: EPS 16 Plus. I got ASRs and all that. I made joints on the ASR, like “MGM” [Ghostface & Raekwon], you know, stuff like that. The EPS is an Ensoniq machine. They come in a rack mount or keyboard version. The keyboard version is more simpler to use. Even though the ASR 10 is supposed to be an upgrade to that model, the EPS 16 Plus is killin’ the ASR!
BeatTips: Did you use the EPS for that new Black Rob joint?
True Master: I used the EPS for that. And that’s an old ass machine. It’s the same machine, all the way from “Brooklyn Zoo” to now. Actually, it’s the same machine that RZA used to use when he made most of the classic Wu Tang sh*t. Before I had a machine, I used to go to his house and make beats on that machine. Then I bought the machine from him and I started f*ckin’ with it.
BeatTips: How do you approach drums? Do you sample from records or sample CDs?
True Master: I sample off of records, sample CDs. I got live drummers that let me sample snares and kicks. I’ve sampled off of T.V. programs, anywhere that I could find a snare or a kick.
One of my greatest inspirations and mentors is a brother named, Eazy Mo Bee. He taught me a lot with drums. ‘Cuz really, drums is the essence of the sh*t. You can have the illest sounds in the world, but the drums gotta have a certain feel to ‘em, you know what I mean. They gotta hit a certain way. Drums is the pulse and heartbeat of the whole sh*t. I give credit to Eazy Mo Bee, as well as RZA, for inspiring me. But Eazy Mo Bee was the one who definitely showed me how to get ‘em tight. He used the SP 1200. I never used the SP 1200, but nevertheless, I learned a lot from him. How to truncate sh*t. He showed me tricks…
BeatTips: What tricks?
True Master: With hi-hats and snares, volume changes… If you take your kick, and let’s say, you copy it, three times, then lower the volume on one kick, then keep one volume the same, then lower the volume on one. So it’s a three-hit flow. One hit is softer, one hit is milder, you know. That’s one of the tricks… Adding an echo to one hi-hat is another trick. There’s gotta be some unique ingredient while you’re doing your beats. ‘Cuz a lot of times it’s more of feelin’ your way through it, as opposed to knowing exactly where you want to go!
BeatTips: When you sample ‘em, do you sample dry or do you add effects before hand?
True Master: I put effects first. A lot of times I track it with the effects already. These EPS got crazy effects already built in.
BeatTips: Were you ever a DJ?
True Master: Yeah, I had my two Technics, I used to do my DJ thing. I used to pause tapes… And I first used to make beats on a Casio SK4. It had like four little pads on it, each one was like a second. So I had to get real sharp with little stabs. Create beats from sharp stabs.
BeatTips: Describe the Hip Hop-Rap formula. For you was it more gettin’ the sample to match the drums or how was it.
True Master: I could do it both ways. I could start with a sound and go to the drums or start with the drums and go to the sound. Most of the time, I start with the drums and go to the sound. So my drums is basically my foundation, most of the time. But I’ve learned how to match drums through snares to sounds, you know what I mean. And that’s been important.
BeatTips: Do you use Timestretch?
True Master: Nawgh, I was never able to f*ck with that. All those advantages that people was using, I don’t even have those sh*ts.
BeatTips: What do you think is the most significant change in hip hop/rap music today?
True Master: It’s a lot more advancement in the way things are being made, which makes people take shortcuts. You can still be creative…but that [from before] kind of sound, you just can’t get that sound. There’s so much you gotta do. You gotta be able to chop the sh*t up, and put it back together in an inventive, melodic way.
BeatTips: Sounds like you listen to a lot of music before you even sit down to make beats.
True Master: Well, I listen to every form of music. At the same time, you have to make a lot of beats. I always tell people that you gotta make so many beats that you forget what the f*ck you got! If you know what you got, you don’t have enough. Sometimes when I’m listenin’ to my sh*t, I’m just as surprised as the motherf*cker hearing it. Keep it movin’. Go back in your archives. Always keep working.
The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon and Cappadonna - "Fish, produced by True Master