It’s never easy making a name for yourself as a producer in 2010. As it becomes easier and easier to make beats, there are more fans than ever clicking on keys in Fruity Loops in the hopes of creating the next sonic trend. As a result of hip-hop “producers” being at an all-time high, it’s understandable why an experienced ear, like Duke Da God, the man behind the Diplomat movement, would be a bit jaded when a new jack from the smallest state in the U.S. approaches him.
It’s also understandable why the greenhorn producer hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, would step to an established vet like Duke Da God with audio crack. Not only was Duke helping Cam’ron and his Diplomats find some of the hottest beats circulating throughout the industry, but he had been taking producers with hella talent and no rep and giving them an instant credibility that would open up hidden chambers in the game not open to everyone working off a demo version of Reason.
When araabMUZIK first approached Duke Da God after receiving an email from a friend, expectations for fame weren’t sky high, but araab knew if the A&R would give his beats a real chance, then he’d be on the road to making a name for himself. The beats Duke listened to were good enough. Good enough for Cam and Hell Rell to record “I’m the Shit” back in 2006. But the work wasn’t that good to where work started coming in for araab on a steady basis. Relentless in his passionate pursuit, araab kept pounding away on his MPC. In 2008, araab would get the call to help Cam and Hell Rell on their mixtape tracks. Grinding on the mixtapes would lead to working with Cam on his last album Crime Pays, where he produced the “Pusherman” meets Killa Cam with “I Used to Get It in Ohio.” From there, everything else just fell into place, from producing every track on Cam and protégé Vado’s Boss of All Bosses mixtapes to working on tracks for the upcoming Diplomat reunion. HipHopGame caught up with araab to talk about all that and more in this exclusive interview.
You’ve made a big name for yourself in a short period of time. Are you ever surprised at how fast it happened?
Yeah. It took a little time. It didn’t take off until maybe ’08, the summer of ’08. I mean, I first got on in October of ’06. The first joint I did was “I’m the Shit” with Cam’ron and Hell Rell. That’s pretty much the song that got me buzzing and then after that I’ve been doing a lot of mixtape stuff for Cam’ron and Hell Rell. But you know, I just kept working since then and then I got on the Crime Pays album and “Get it in Ohio” has really gotten me to where I’m at now. It took time though. It wasn’t really nothing quick like that though. It’s been what? Four years now.
Where did you the name araabMUZIK come from?
A friend gave me the name back in ’01. I was making a whole bunch of beats. It was a little local rap crew that I knew. They rapped and I knew a few people that made the beats. I got introduced to them and I didn’t have a name for myself and one day he came up to me and said he was going to call me Young Arab. There was no specific reason. It was just a name. It’s not because I look Arab or anything. They just wanted to call me Young Arab and I ran with it. I took the “Young” out and added the “MUZIK.” The reason why I added the “MUZIK” is because it’s my own music. When you listen to my music it’s AraabMUZIK. It just fit and I had a friend at school do the tag that says “You’re listening to AraabMUZIK.”
How did you first link up with Cam?
Well, Duke pretty much put the word in that he had a producer Cam needed to link up with and that I was hot and had a lot of shit. That’s pretty much how we linked up and from there I got, like, four joints on the Crime Pays album. Before, I used to just send him the beats but then we linked up personally and I went out there when he was working on the album and went to the studio. This was before Vado and everybody else. Vado came in the picture in maybe ’09. I actually met Vado in Ohio when we went out there. I think Cam had a show out there and he introduced me to Vado out there.
How were you able to catch Duke Da God’s ear early on?
The way it began was one of my friends who also makes beats used to be under Spliffington Management and at that time him and Duke were close. They were working with producers and getting beats out to Diplomat artists. And at the time he threw me Duke’s email and phone number and told me to send him some beats. I had emailed him around 10-15 beats and the “I’m the Shit” beat was in there and I had called Duke up and told him who I was and from there he was like, Yeah, we’re feeling the joints and I want to meet you. Come up to Harlem, whatever, whatever. Ever since then he was really feeling the beats. He saw my potential because even at that time I was doing the live work on the MPC. He knew I had a big future ahead of me. And at the time I hadn’t even graduated school. I was a sophomore in high school. I graduated June 11 of ’08.
Was it hard going to high school and taking class seriously when you were making songs with Cam’ron on the side?
Nah. Everything was cool. I had built a lot of fans and people knowing who I was because the name was just bouncing everywhere. I’m from a small state (Rhode Island), so obviously if a big thing like that comes about, everyone’s going to know about it. I told one person at my school and then the whole school knew and then the other schools knew and then the whole city of Prov knew. Everywhere I went everyone was like, Yo, Araab! When I graduated Duke Da God actually came down to my graduation and I had got my gown specially done with the Dipset bird on the back. I graduated with some swag! (laughs)
What kind of beats do want to give Cam?
Personally, I don’t really just make a certain type of genre. He’s open to all types of beats and if it’s hot, he’s going to get on it. He don’t really look for specific types of beats. I just make all types of beats and I just send it to him if I’m not in New York or whatever. But most of the time I’m in the studio with him and I give him all the beats right then. That’s when he picks what he wants and that’s when he just gets on them.
You and Cam have recorded a lot of songs together. Does he like everything you make or do you just have a ton of beats?
He likes everything I make. Everything. There’s not one beat that he won’t like. Some, he’ll be like, They’re hot but I don’t want to get on. But whatever he doesn’t use, other people will use. It’s not like it won’t get used. But I’m not a Diplomat producer where I only make beats for Cam and Vado. Me and Duke are running around to different labels and to different artists right now. I got a track on T.I.’s new album. I also do a lot of live shows with the MPC. I got a show in France next month with 9th Wonder. I hooked up with Alchemist. A lot of people are reaching out so it’s not like I’m just a producer in just one category. I’m definitely branching out and working with a lot of different artists and working on a lot of different projects.
How important is that versatility to you?
It’s very important to not stay in one category. That’s wack. Nobody wants beats in one box and they can’t do nothing else, whether they’re in any group. It’s not like I’m signed to Dipset. I’m not signed like an artist. It’s different with an artist than a producer. If an artist signs to a label, he can’t just work with everyone freely like a producer can. I can do whatever I want and get placements.
How has working with Cam made you a better producer?
He didn’t really make me a better producer. He pretty much got on everything that I make. I’ve been producing for 11 years. I’ve been producing since I was 10. I'm a musician as well. I don’t just make beats. I don’t just wake up in the morning and make beats. I’ve been drumming since I was three years-old. That’s my talent. I started off playing the drums when I was three. It’s a natural gift. I’ve been doing that for years. I won competitions with other drummers and I’ve been sponsored by Citizen’s Bank. I played for the mayor out here and I’ve been in a few college bands when I was still in elementary school. That tells you that I was kind of crazy on the drums and then I started getting into the piano and playing my own stuff on the keys and then from there, I’ve just been making my own beats and I’ve been producing for years now. I got my keyboard for a long time and I’ve been recording a lot of my beats on tapes. I filled those tapes up like nothing. Then from there, a friend of mine had introduced me to a program on the computer. It’s not Fruity Loops or Reason. Everybody thinks it is but it’s some other type of program. It only has eight tracks. I’d been producing on that and making my own stuff on there. I was introduced to sampling and flipping my own stuff. And then from there, I didn’t know what an MPC was until a friend of mine introduced me to one. He told me I needed to get one of these and that they were more better and hands-on and that I could do more with that. I got the MPC 1000 and then from there I had gotten the 2500, which came out a year after, and I’ve been making beats like crazy on that. I was self-taught. I never read the manuals or nothing. At that period of time I was in high school. It was never no sleep for me. I was always just banging beats out on the MP. My mom would have to hide it from me (laughs) because I wasn’t really focused in school. It was just beats, beats, beats every day. I was music first, school second, but I finally graduated and ever since then, I’ve still been doing my thing but I have more freedom and time to do what I’m doing now. That’s pretty much how it all came about with the beat situation and stuff.
When you first got the MPC, did you want to play it live or did it just happen?
All that stuff was just spontaneous. It wasn’t planned or none of that. I don’t know. It was pretty much like playing the drums but just with your fingertips. I was just naturally nice with the MP playing lit live. I just loaded a bunch of drums and sounds in it and I started playing around with it. My timing from all the drums was pretty much the same thing, it was just on pads. I mean, at the time I was a little rusty but after years of doing it consistently, it got me to where I am now with the live playing and all of that with the speed and all of that. I never thought I was going to be where I am now back then. I thought I was going to be good at what I do but now I’m doing live shows and working with people like Cam’ron and a lot of artists in the game. I had a lot of influences too when I was making beats. That’s what made me get the types of styles that I have now.
I’ve been influenced by Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Alchemist, DJ Premier, Hi-Tek, DJ Khalil, Swizz Beatz, J Dilla, 9th Wonder, the Heatmakerz…People like that. With me, I always listened to the beats. I never listened to the lyrics. If the beat was hot, I would look for the instrumental and get inspired with what I hear. That’s how I get inspired to make beats. I hear other people’s beats who are hot and then I just come up with something better. I don’t sit at home and try and think. I just go ahead and do it. I don’t sit there and try and come up with stuff. I just turn the keyboard on and play whatever and just go from there. I knock out at least 11 beats a day, every day. I’ve always been like that ever since I started. Just on the program alone on the computer, I made about 5-6,000 beats alone. Just on the keyboard, I can’t count how many that is and making beats on the MPC, I can’t tell how many beats that is. People always ask me how many beats I think I have. It’s definitely in the thousands, double digits, but that’s like asking how much sand is in the beach. A lot.
If you’re making 11 beats a day, does the quality ever get compromised for quantity?
Nah, never. Every beat is pretty much always just like the last one, crazy. Every beat is always just crazy with different sounds and different melodies and different tempos. The quality of my beats, I have the ear for EQing and just messing around with the mixes and stuff like that. Everything I do is on the MPC. I don’t mix down on a Pro Tools or on any other program like other people do. Everything is all done on the MP and exported out. That’s why a lot of people always ask me why do my beats always bang and sound the way they do? That’s because I know how to mix and I have the ear for all of that. I’ve been doing it for awhile and a lot of people always want to try and have that same sound that I do but you can’t. It’s the way I EQ the beats. I do it a certain way. It’s not just levels. It’s a lot of numbers I put into the machine to make it sound the way they do. It’s like the ingredients to make a Big Mac. A lot of people want to know but they can’t know about the secret sauce. They can’t tell you.
How do you approach a sample when you start to make a beat?
I mean, I don’t really look for a certain type of sample, but if the song is hot, I’ll browse through it and take little bits and pieces from it and I’ll just add a lot to it like basslines and keys and a whole bunch of extra stuff that will enhance the sample more. I add a lot more than what I hear in the sample and all of that. But I look for a lot of stuff. I do rock. I do soul. I do pop. I do it all. If the song catches my ear, I’ll look through it. But I know a lot of bands and groups and solo artists, so I’ll just type it in and download thousands of songs in one day.
I never sampled off vinyl. I’ve always been digital with it. MP3 quality. I’m not really with the cracks and the old-sounding, rough, rugged-type sound. I’m not really with that. I’m with the clear, quality sound. A lot of people always think I sample off records, whatever, whatever. But I just download everything. You just have to know the names. That’s it. Digging, I do whatever is best for whatever. If digging is best for you, go ahead and dig. If it’s downloading, go ahead. It’s whatever gets the job done.
Downloading music online is like the new digging for your generation.
Yeah. Even back then, I was still downloading and figuring names out from people that got good music. But you know, right now, everything’s just changed. Everything is digital. It’s all computers. Nothing is how it was before. Everybody DJs digitally with mp3s. There’s no more turntables and no more vinyl. The game changed.
What’s the most important element to you when you’re programming drums on a beat?
What I do is I have everything already laid out but I won’t sequence it until the beat is how I want it to sound. I’m figuring out the patterns I would want the beat to go. I’ll have the sounds already set. I’ll just play around with it and figure out how I would want the beat to sound with the sequence and all of that. Pretty much I just play around with the beat live until I find the way I want the beat to go and then I’ll sequence it.
You produced every song on all three Boss of All Bosses mixtapes. How involved did you get with the making of each track?
I would pretty much give them the beats and they would write. They would record a lot of songs and then they would just pick what they wanted to be on the mixtape. The beats were already done. I didn’t make them on the spot. Every beat that is on there was already made. I would just show them the beats. They would pick what they wanted to write to and that was pretty much it. And they would just pick from what songs they would want for the album or what they would want for other projects or mixtapes or whatever. For Boss of All Bosses 1, everybody was pretty much excited about that because that was the first Gangsta Grillz mixtape they had done and the second one was the same energy and 2.5 kind of died down to me because there was a lot of other stuff going on. It didn’t have as much energy to me but me, personally, my favorite ones are part one and two. I don’t know how part three is going to sound but it’s going to sound hot because everything that I make is going to catch someone’s attention.
What were your favorite songs off the Boss of All Bosses tapes?
“Ric Flair.” “Pop Off.” I don’t even remember the tracklisting. I have to look at the tracklisting. There’s a lot of songs on there. “Moving Raw.” I don’t know. I can’t say off the top because there’s so many songs. But you know, the majority like “Fed Story,” “La Bamba,” “Puffin’”…All like that, pretty much.
What did you think of The U.N. album?
To me, personally, it wasn’t promoted right. A lot of people didn’t really know it was dropping or when it was coming out like that. A lot of people are still finding out about it. You know how the Boss of All Bosses was always promoted by either Drama or Cam. I guess this was something that was already done. There wasn’t a lot of new songs. It was just songs done from Gangsta Grillz and they added maybe a few new ones but there were a lot of songs that were on the Gangsta Grillz without the DJ. But what’s new that’s dropping soon is Vado’s Swine Flu. I got a good amount of beats on there. Everybody’s looking forward to that.
How’s that project sounding?
It sounds real good. Definitely. I heard it the other day for the first time. It’s definitely something good though. They took some songs out because of the samples. It’s going to actually be in stores. Koch is distributing the album. It’s not a mixtape like Gangsta Grillz. They had to take a lot of songs out and replace them with songs that they won’t get in trouble for. There’s a lot of original beats on there and a lot of replayed stuff too. But overall it sounds good.
What kind of potential do you think Vado has?
He has a lot of potential. He has to keep grinding and keep recording. He’s definitely headed in the right direction, especially with Cam’ron and doing a lot of shows and being on a lot of songs with Cam. He definitely has New York on lock. He just needs to expand more. Definitely with the South. He definitely has to get the South with his music because, you know, it’s East Coast music, pretty much, but when he goes out to other places, you would definitely want a fanbase out there too and not just in New York. That’s important.
Do you think the Dipset reunion is going to really happen?
It’s possible. It’s definitely on the table right now. I’m working on the single for the reunion. It’s Cam, Jim Jones and Juelz. I got the call from Cam the other day to definitely make something crazy for the single because the money’s definitely on the table for that. But as far as an album, I’m not sure but I definitely know about the single. I heard that him and Jim performed in Miami. Juelz was out there but he didn’t show up so I’m not sure what’s going on with his situation. But Juelz is comfortable with where he’s at with what I’m seeing with “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” and other songs. Other than that, yeah, Jim and Cam are definitely back together and Freeky Zeeky has always been in the picture. I could say it’s them three this far. Juelz is a different story.
What would a Dipset reunion mean to hip-hop?
Real music, pretty much. It’s that real music that everybody wants to hear again. They’re definitely a group that’s been moving for years. The best groups were the Diplomats, D-Block, you know, The Lox and G-Unit, pretty much. They would definitely change the game again. That’s something that everybody wants to see, everybody else back together again. Jim Jones is by himself and everybody’s branching out to their own stuff and it’s not the same. Jim’s got Byrd Gang and Juelz got Skull Gang and Cam has The U.N. Everyone asks Cam about Dipset but it’s all about The U.N. with Cam right now. Everything’s in the works and he mentioned something about dropping in December but then again he has another U.N. album coming out and Killa Season 2 coming out, Killa Season 2: The Movie…He has a lot of stuff going on. But everybody definitely wants to see everybody else back together, especially with me in the picture because I’ll probably be the one supplying all of the beats. Of course everybody wants to hear Juelz and Jim and Cam on an AraabMUZIK beat.
Have you spoken to Juelz and Jim Jones yet?
Nah. I met them, but I haven’t really spoken to them and actually built with them. It was always just Cam, the boss. Other than that, we’ll see how everything goes.
How much do you think the videos of you playing the MPC live helped your credibility as a producer?
It definitely did because it’s something that nobody had ever seen before. That’s something new to the game. There’s nobody doing that and there’s nobody doing what I can do on an MPC like that. I’m the Floyd Mayweather on that. I’m the Muhammad Ali on that. I’m fast, on point, all of that. It’s like a real live drummer on that. Someone seeing that, it’s mind-blowing. I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life. And me just being my age, you know, 20 years-old and having talent like that, it’s something new to the world.
Has that led to interest from Akai in repping for the MPC?
Yeah. I got a few people that’s working with them out in Cali that does their promotion and all of that. The headquarters is actually based in Rhode Island, but they’re real corporate so I can’t just walk up in there and ask them to sponsor me. It takes a little time but I’m definitely on the right direction with them being behind me and sponsoring me or doing whatever it is they do. Alchemist is an Akai Pro artist, meaning that they ship him free equipment, but all that stuff has pretty much ended. They don’t send out equipment like that anymore, especially after Just Blaze completely trashed the MPC 5000. I don’t know how it is with things that Akai is doing.
What’s your favorite MPC?
The one I have, the 2500 LE, the Limited Edition. The reason why is because it’s limited. There’s only 500 in the world made. The color on there is different. It’s catchy. It’s white with the carbon fiber. It comes fully loaded with the 8 gig hard drive and the CD drive. But mine is even more custom made. That was always my favorite MPC, actually. I messed around with the older versions and they were wack. They weren’t really easy and all of that with the way the 2500 is.
Where do you see your sound evolving in the next year?
I can’t really say because my sound always changes monthly. I don’t really have one style. I have a lot of styles but my main style is having a lot sounds like the screams and a lot of sounds in there…You’ll just hear them on the beats. I have that sound already that once you hear the beat, you already know it’s something just because of the way it bangs and the sounds I put in it. Definitely. I already brought new sounds to the game. I’m definitely expanding and catching a lot of people’s attention. People want to hear new stuff. They don’t want to hear the same repetitive movement. Plus I have something new coming out soon. I just have to get the right artists on it. T.I. getting on a song, that’s going to change the game up. I don’t really want to speak too much on that because it’s not like it’s something that’s been out, but that’s coming though.
Who would you like to work with next?
I’d like to work with Drake, Wayne, Jeezy, Eminem, Ludacris…I don’t really listen to artists like that, truthfully. Pretty much industry people, mainstream artists like Jay-Z and Nas and people that have been in the game for years. Snoop Dogg. People like that.