You’re making a name for yourself with The Root’s “Get Busy.” Are you happy with the response you’ve gotten to the single?
Yeah. You know, it’s funny with it being one of the first major placements that I’ve had, I was kind of obsessively reading message boards and reviews on OkayPlayer and throughout the ‘net. It was just like an overwhelming response of positivity. Honestly, I couldn’t have been happier with the response, especially with a joint like that. It was planned as the lead joint for the Fall Out Boy single. It was for the real hip-hop head crowd. Ultimately we put it out and it did what we designed it to. It had the hard beat and it was designed basically for that crowd.
When you made that beat, did you have The Roots in mind?
Yeah. Actually, that’s one of probably 20 beats that I made with the same elements. Rich Nichols, The Roots’ manager, he’s a part of their creative core as far as their albums go. And he had a really specific sound in mind. He wanted it mid-tempo and with hard drums and a synth line. I actually had 15 or 20 of these joints along these same lines. This was actually one of the last joints that I submitted. With the exception of “75 Bars,” this was the last joint that we did for the album. It was done at 1 in the morning on a Friday night. Rich told me to bring the tracks by Monday. Peedi laid his verse down later and they already had Jazzy Jeff in mind as far as cutting it up. Everything came together really quickly.
When you’re producing for The Roots, how involved does ?uestlove get?
Most of the time, how it works, it’s Ahmir putting the stuff together. In this case, I just submitted the base track and they’ll maybe add stuff here and there. Ultimately there’s like a certain vibe, so there’s no need to fix it if it’s not broke. As far as building with those cats, for the most part I’m working out of my own studio and we just build from there.
And for the most part, as far as The Roots family is concerned, if you get in with them, there’s a certain level of quality and a certain skill level they expect. Everyone is on their shit and they’re working. I think when I bring them joints they respect them for what they are. With a group like The Roots, they’ve been around for a minute and they’re so good at making records that they can pretty much do whatever they want. There’s a couple of producers from Philly who they have in their extended family. Another thing is that The Roots are on the road so much and in order to be as dynamic as possible, they actually have to have some people backing them and just working on the album constantly.
Can you take us through the making of “Get Busy”?
I actually worked on that with my man Charles on that. He’s a drummer. We had the tempo in mind. It was going to be mid-tempo and be a hard hip-hop joint. It was going to be roughly 90 bpms. Charlie did some drumming and I threw in an effect, a distortion, on that. We’ll record live musicians right into Pro Tools and just edit it afterwards. We try to keep as much of that live feeling as possible. So we got the drums and we just had that mean, hard sound in mind. We moved from that to the bassline and everything else just kind of fell into place. It was kind of a quick joint that I did. I had just literally finished that track before they started working on it. Everything came together with that track.
You also did the original version of “75 Bars.” Why wasn’t the original version used on The Roots’ new album Rising Down?
?uest got a hold of the vocals. Our track was hot, but he made it more into a Roots track that would fit with the album better. It’s crazy what he did to it. It’s a lot slower. He killed them on that breakbeat shit. I can’t be mad at that. The shit is crazy. Maybe one day in the future we’ll release that original version, but for now it’s going to stay in the vault.
Will you work more with Black Thought in the future?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve been building with them and whatever. I did some joints with him on the side with his Money Making Jam Boys. At this point, just being from Philly and working on this Roots shit, I can give Thought tracks whenever. I’m actually in the process of wrapping up some joints for him right now. I would definitely think that we would get some stuff popping. And we got stuff that we’ve done that hasn’t yet come out. There’s another Peedi track that we did with The Roots called “Hot Shit” that isn’t on the album because sonically, it didn’t fit with the rest of them, but that joint is crazy. I’m sure we’ll put it out at some point. But as far as the Black Thought and Peedi joints, I actually did a track for Peedi’s album. Peedi had label complications or whatever.
What exactly are you doing with The Money Making Jam Boys?
It’s kind of been moving slowly because Dice Raw is working on his solo album and with The Roots album dropping, we don’t want to just hit people over the head with too much stuff. I think right now we got some crazy joints and we’re just going to sit on it. The Money Making Jam Boys project will drop when it’s ready.
You’re still relatively unknown as a producer today. How much more work do you have to put in so people recognize you?
It’s funny, man. I’ve been doing music full-time for almost a year now and I would say that every day I try to work a little bit harder. But I’ve been going pretty hard for over a minute now. Even with “Get Busy” coming out and the little placements that I’m working on now, I’m kind of unfazed by it. I just want to keep working and making a lot of music. Being a household name would be nice, but that’s not my ultimate goal. I want to get as many credits and placements as possible and that includes pop artists. I’m trying to work with the A-list pop names. I’m trying to ultimately make a lot of good music and stylistically do as much as possible. I want to look back 20 years from now and have a Rick Rubin-like discography. I want to do me, but he worked with LL Cool J, Johnny Cash and metal bands. I want to do a little bit of everything. I want to have a comfortable life and focus on music. I think that’s the main goal for a lot of people. All of the other shit is just extra and it would be nice. At the same time, being a household name brings other pressures. I think I would be able to stand that, but I don’t know, man, when you got all these big artists calling you up, it’s not what a lot of cats think it is.
You dropped out of college to focus on music. Was that a tough decision for you to make?
Not really because it was just kind of like a gradual process. Ultimately I knew that this was my goal. I made that call kind of early on that I felt like I could do it. There’s a lot of work that you have to put in and you have to do research and listen to a lot of music from the past and present. And there are a lot of young cats coming up doing their thing. I knew this is what I wanted to do and to be honest, in college, I was kind of falling off a little bit. I was missing a class here and there and was putting more and more into my music. It’s not out of the question that I might go back a year from now or 10 years from now. I might want to go back. I got through a few years or whatever and I just had to put that on pause for the moment. And I think it’s important too that people who are serious about their music, you really gotta put a lot of time into it, even if that means working part-time or not even working at all. So be it. That’s not always the easiest call financially and you might have to suffer for a little bit, but if you want to have a career in this shit, you have to be willing to do anything. There’s a lot of competition out there and I just try to be versatile. You just kind of have to be able to do it all and just go for it.
You’ve also been doing some work with Nikki Jean. How’s your work going with her?
That’s actually more of a recent thing. I mean, she’s really dope. She’s really talented and she’s really quick in the studio. She actually writes all of her own shit. She’s on one of the main joints I did with Tuphace from Philly. We’re kind of wrapping it up right now. She was in the studio last week laying some extra vocals on the songs she had. We’re trying to get that buzz up along with Tuphace. Honestly, he’s one of the most talented people that I’ve ever known or heard about. We’re all trying to come up together and kill it on this different shit. We’re all grinding artists. We’re doing shit that’s hot but at the same time, we’re trying to bring something a little bit different to the table.
What are your goals as a producer today?
Trying to get more placements. One of my main focuses is trying to establish real relationships instead of just blindly sending out beat CDs. I’ve been in the studio with everyone I’ve worked with. So instead of getting one joint on an artist’s album I’ve never heard of, maybe we do three or four joints or we do a whole album together. I think a problem is that you have all of these different producers on one album and it’s disconnected. I’m working on a lot of stuff right now and I’m just trying to get as many placements as possible.
What equipment are you using?
I’m actually in a transition period. I’m trying to get into the software like Logic. I’m using the MP and the Motif and I got the Pro Tools setup and whatever and I do a lot of live stuff, whether it’s me playing a lot of the percussion or other musicians. I’ve had everything. With certain stuff, keyboard patches aren’t going to be able to encompass that same feel that live music does and of course every track calls for something different. I try to do a lot of live stuff and I also sample. With the sampling laws, it’s crazy how it is. The publishing forces cats to do something else. I like doing it live too because you have more control over the tracks. When you’re sampling stuff, there’s 10 different sounds on there and you can’t say, “I wish that violin wasn’t in there” where if you’re doing it on your own, you kind of have that control.
How important is live instrumentation in today’s music?
I think it’s kind of the natural progression. The hip-hop world has kind of been forced to do that because of how expensive sampling can be at times. I think it’s in pretty much full swing right now. A lot of producers are doing that now. I know a lot of cats will get musicians to just replay samples. But sampling is one of those things that kind of gives hip-hop its character, so I don’t think that we should ever lose sight of that. You don’t want to be close-minded and you don’t want to limit yourself musically. I think as a producer coming out, you want to combine everything. Hopefully a lot of people will grow with it.
What’s the next move for Ritz?
Right now, I’m just working on a lot of stuff. I’m working on a lot of stuff with Young Chris. His solo album is going to be crazy. We’re just kind of finishing that up. We’re working on some new joints with him. I’m also working with Young Steff. I’m doing some joints with him and I’ll have some joints with him. I’m working with a lot of Philly artists. I’m finishing up Tuphace’s album. I’m even doing some pop stuff on the side with this cat Dirty Harry. I’m doing some straight up pop shit. I’m working on joints for Beyonce, Rihanna and Lindsay Lohan. That’s actually something recently that I’ve been doing. I try to be all over the place with it. That’s my style. I can work on some raw “Get Busy”-type shit and then do some super-radio shit. And everything is dope.
I’m in the studio every day just working. I’m trying to make a lot of good music and I’m not trying to meet any quotas. There are a lot of producers who brag that they can make 25 beats a day. No disrespect to them, but that’s not the type of shit that I’m in. With some stuff, I might spend a week working on it. So yeah, man, I’m just working and trying to not get caught up in the bullshit and just trying to stay afloat.