CLICK HERE TO READ Part 1
How has your sound changed since working with L.E.S. and Nas?
Everything with Nas has to be correct. I remember this one song where the sample was clearly running. I didn’t hear it. It was a four-bar sample. L was like, ‘Nas hears that and he wants you to clear that up.’ He taught me how to cut samples better. He gave me points on how to better cut a sample. I definitely do that better now. Now when I sample, it comes out cleaner. He has songs that he chops into so many pieces and when he puts it back together, it sounds so clean that it sounds like a loop. I’ve been working on that. I always try to come correct with the drums. My homeboy Chris Clark pointed out to me that I needed to improve my drums and L.E.S. helped me with stacking my drums. L.E.S. has definitely improved my sound.
How important has St. Nick been to your development as a producer?
Oh, man. St. Nick taught me how to be a producer, not just a beatmaker. He heard my demo and brought me in off the potential in the talent. He flew me out to LA on that and we were working with Toni Braxton and other artists signed to Blackout Records. This is in ’05. I was watching him in the sessions. Cats can mail out beats, but when you go to a session, you have to know how to bring the best out of an artist. To be able to do that, you know it’s going to be long hours. St. Nick taught me how to make the artists comfortable. He definitely taught me how to be a producer.
You did “Time and Time Again” with Missy Elliott when you were working with St. Nick. What was that experience like?
That was so cool. St. Nick pulled me in and I did some extra stuff over the beat. I was adding stuff with the guitar and he liked it. He played around with that and I think that’s why she liked it. She actually went with the original version of the song without the guitars, so I just got the engineering credit, but Missy is so cool.
You’ve moved around in your lot in your life. How has living in different regions of the U.S. affected your sound?
Big time. My parents moved back and forth between South Jersey and Philly. I went to college. I started at Hampton University in Virginia for three years, plus I have mad family in Virginia. Then I transferred to Morehouse and got a chemistry degree and chemical engineering from
Georgia Tech. Philly, Virginia and Atlanta are three different sounds and cultures. From moving all around, I think that’s why my sound is so diverse. I think you can hear that in my sound.
With a degree in Chemical Engineering, what would you be doing if you weren’t producing?
(laughs) If I wasn’t making beats, I would probably be working on my Master’s, trying to be someone’s boss. I secretly want to teach. The toughest classes in college had teachers who could speak English the least. I have a secret ambition to go back and teach at college. If I wasn’t making beats, I’d probably be working at somebody’s power plant, working on my Master’s and getting into teaching.
You’re also working with your own artist, Chriz Clark. How’s that coming?
My No. 1 dude right now on the hip-hop side of things is Chriz Clark. Right now we’re developing him. He’s a banging MC who’s put some great songs together. We’ve decided to take it a different direction lately with Imus and hip-hop getting a bad rap. We’ve come to the conclusion that 90% of the ‘hood isn’t out selling drugs and killing people. Somebody’s got to start speaking from that perspective, not from the perspective of “’hood stars.”
Somebody’s got to speak for the cats who can’t get out and don’t know how to get out and think they’re stuck there. You’re very fortunate when you can go to college and you have people coming to you and telling you how to better yourself. You don’t have that in the ‘hood. That’s Chriz Clark’s goal, to give back to that. He wants to enlighten people in the ‘hood and the suburbs on how to be better. “Be you” is the key point. That, right now, is probably the title. It’s going to be about who he is. Hopefully there are people who will appreciate that. You just have to be you and do what you do.
I also have my man Cyance. Cyance is an ill MC out of Minnesota. Right now, he’s establishing his sound. He reminds me of Mobb Deep which is crazy, because he’s from Minnesota. The three of us together have a project called Throwback City where we’re going to be rapping on old beats. I rap, but you’re not going to hear me rapping. I don’t have anything to say. But you’ll hear them over A Tribe Called Quest beat or I might recreate a beat.
On the flip side, we have a label Big Boss Entertainment with my cousin Jacobi. As a matter of fact, we have an act named South and Crook who just signed to Rowdy Records. Those dudes are crazy. They’re probably the dopest writers I’ve ever worked with. They’re on the Dirty South tip, but they’re on the Dirty South-soul tip. They came in and did a song and then did a completely new song over the same beat and they were both great. They have too many songs and not enough beats.
You’ve also got some work coming up with Saigon. What are you guys doing?
That’s through L.E.S. A lot of the New York cats are through L.E.S. because he has connects to them. I’m supposed to be working with Saigon, Tru Life and Memphis Bleek. I’m working on something with Cassidy. I’m not sure about Papoose just yet. I personally want to work with Papoose and all those young cats that have a buzz. Him and Saigon have something to say. They’re not going to get on the record and just talk ignorance. L calls me every day and that’s the advantage to working with him. He knows these cats personally. He has something coming up every day and I’m just going along for the ride, making the beats and making them bang.
What do you want to accomplish in the next few months as a producer?
I want people to know about me and I want people to realize that you can take over the industry just by doing you with your sound. I’m now working on a new sound. I haven’t perfected it yet, but when I do, I’m going to be putting it out. I want people to think “Black Republican” is cool, but I have a connect through Grand Hustle and I want to show people another sound. I want people to not believe that I could do both sounds and be so diverse. I think the only way for you to stay relevant is to be diverse because you can have your sound and they’ll love it, but then they’ll leave. Then you have to recreate your sound. I don’t ever want the fans to leave. I want to be there for cats making songs and have them not even know I did it because my sound is so diverse.
Did you ever feel like you got stuck in a rut?
Probably with the “Black Republican” song because everybody started asking L.E.S. for “Black Republican. I probably made four or five beats to that but we’re not giving that out to anybody. That’s Nas and Jay’s sound. If another beat sounds like “Black Republican,” that’s taking away from the original “Black Republican.” L’s a real producer and we’re trying to make other artists come up with their own sound. I’m not going to give artists a beat that sounds like “Black Republican” because that will take away from the original. I’m not going to take money to sell out my sound. I just won’t do it.
If you listen to Rick Ross’ Port of Miami, you can tell all the tracks the Runners dud because they all have similar elements. It’s good to have that brand recognition, but it’s also predictable. How do you wan to balance that to where you can also capitalize off the success of “Black Republican”?
That’s a good question. I used to hate, like, ‘Man, these cats, not the Runners in particular, sound the same.’ See, you never know what the artist requests. The Runners might come in with beats that sound differently and the artist might pick the beats that all sound the same. Producers can get a bad rap because of what the artist is asking for. A lot of producers will give the artist what they want because that’s what they’re asking for. But there’s also producers pushing all the same beats at one time.
I see myself as an album producer, which is why I put my album together the way I did in 2004. That’s special to have cats not realize you did the whole album but it’s still hot. That’s a blessing right there. I would like to see more producers doing more songs that sound different. You might hear the slowed-down sample all the time from the Runners and it’s like, ‘We’ve already heard that before.’ I read their interview in Scratch and Jeezy really challenged them to come up with something different. You have to give Jeezy some credit for that too.
It’s a challenge for me to come up with something hot that sounds different. I’m definitely up to it. If I pull it off, it can only be good for me in the end, especially since I live in Atlanta. How many cats in Atlanta want to rock over “Black Republican”? Down here it’s about how you ride the beat and how the 808 drum sounds. I have some beats for artists down here. You just have to do what you have to do in each instance.
What equipment do you use today?
I use everything, honestly. I use the MPC 2000XL. I have Reason. I did one beat on Reason. I have FL Studio. It really depends on my mood. I’m going to try to work on a couple more tracks to send to Dr. Dre for Detox. L.E.S. set that up. I’m going to do those on the MPC and make them really, really bang. Other days I won’t want to sit at the MPC so I’ll use the computer programs. It really depends on my mood.
You’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. What advice do you have for up-and-coming producers?
Do you. You have to create your own sound and you have to stick with it and market that because you might get a placement here or there by doing a sound that’s already out, but as far as longevity, the ones that I’ve observed who have careers as great producers, they’ve all had their own sound. They’ve also recreated it which is why they stayed relevant. You have to really stand out when you’re sending out these beat-CDs or by playing beats for A&R’s. The only way that you’re going to stand out is by having your own sound. Everybody’s not going to make it, unfortunately. You have to wait until you’re ready. You can’t just make a beat and send it out to everybody. You have to just do you and when in doubt, make your drums bang hard.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Keep God first. I’m living proof that a regular cat can make it. There’s no Hollywood Wyldfyer, for real. Keep God first and stay original, because you won’t stay here if you copy. Holler at me. I holler at everybody. Anybody who hits me up, I hit you back. You may not hear what you want to hear, but I’ll hit you back and I keep it real like that.