Producer Spotlight: Roper Williams

Roper Williams Interview:

RD: Jersey has a rich history in hip hop, but sometimes we get overlooked. Who were some local favorites of yours growing up?

RW: Albee Al was someone everyone listened to growing up around here. Of course Ms. Lauryn Hill, I think the Mystery of Iniquity verse might be the greatest verse of all time..

RD: One thing that stands out among your earlier work is a placement on The Underachiever’s Renaissance album. How did that come about?

RW: AK is a cool dude. Giani was talking to YL about how AK was working on his solo tape, Blessings in the Grey 2, so I told him I had beats for him, even though I probably didn’t at the time. I always feel I can make something for anyone, with any style tho. Giani got us in the studio together and we made some songs on the spot we’ve been cool since then. AK is one of the most talented MCs I’ve worked with to this day.

RD: You have a long-standing working relationship with YL, and a good amount of work together. From your perspective, what makes it work so well?

RW: Y is a great collaborator. At this point we’ve done so many songs I already know what he’s gonna like when I’m playing him beats. We abide by similar codes. Most importantly there’s a certain type of respect between us, and when you have that it makes communicating much simpler.

RD: Juices features a few vocal guests alongside a bed of instrumentals, including Pink Siifu and Wiardon. Were the guests able to select from a pack, or did you have those specific beats in mind for them?

RW: Some of the songs from Juices are from sessions with people where we made a lot of songs in-person and they let me keep some. With Siifu and Wiardon, every time we get up it seems like it’s at least 5 songs getting made. I love every single person that’s on Juices, by the way.

RD: Do you actively shop your work, or collab organically?

RW: I only push my music to artists I really want to work with, like I just hit Navy Blue up and sent him a bunch of beats, hopefully he uses some. I have a decent amount of beats out now so the music shops itself at this point, and I let people hit me up. I’m always open to working with new people.

RD: What can listeners look for this year?

RW: Gandhi Loves Children with Fatboi Sharif. It’s a different sound than what people are used to hearing from me but I think it’s a sound that’s very true to who I am as a human, and to where I was mentally while making it. I think my production discography for 2020 will reflect the year 2020 and everything that’s happened better than any other producer out. Also working on the Roper album, it’s a straight up rap album, not a beat tape. A couple other projects I can’t even comment on right now too. We’re not rushing anything though.

RD: In your opinion, who is the next great rapper out of NJ?

RW: Pootie and Fatboi Sharif for sure, but there’s a lot of great artists coming up in Jersey.

RD: If you could add any piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?

RW: I’d get that robot with a soul from iRobot, he can engineer the sessions too. That or I’d want some type of synth like a Moog Voyager.

RD: A lot of your work gives a relaxing, soothing feeling, do you feel that while making it? Do you need to be in a certain mindset to create?

RW: I always make music based off how I feel in the moment. I wasn’t gonna make dance songs after Kobe just died, I made some sad ass music cause that’s how I felt. The relaxing sounding stuff just tends to be the stuff that gets released a lot of the times, for whatever reason. GLC shows the whole other side though.

RD: Do you have any Shouts?

RW: Shout out to Boog, GianiNYC, Seicho Blossom, Derek Balarezo, Ben Hixon, BSTFRND, Driveby and let us also take a moment to appreciate Whoopi Goldberg.

Since Fatboi Sharif and Roper’s collaborative album Gandhi Loves Children just dropped, we thought we would tap in with Sharif as well.

Fatboi Sharif Interview:

RD: For anyone unfamiliar with your work what could you share about yourself ?

FS: Peace world, I go by Fatboi Sharif, lyricist, visionary and lover of chinese food. Of all things creative, my love of the written word has always pushed me since a kid. In 2nd grade I began doing poetry, and by 4th I had won numerous competitions. With time it transitioned over to writing rhymes. Luckily I’ve always took what I felt was the power of word placement and always layered meanings to pull the observer in many directions. I worked on FM radio for some years with Strangers With Hip Hop at Kean University on 90.3 in Union, NJ. Which gave me skills that I’ll forever use. When it comes to being a musician such as structure of content and setting a tone of conscious transferred thought to keep the listener involved, SOME OF THE BEST TIMES OF MY LIFE.

RD: Walk us through the making of GLC.

FS: The making of Gandhi Loves Children was a experience unlike any other I’ve had recording. It was a 3+ year journey that myself and Roper both knew we had a lot riding on. We went into making the best possible product we could. It was also a project we started 2 times before. We would come back to the drawing board to push boundaries until we finally got it where we knew we had something that was truly special. The creation was ill because there was lots of reflection. We had conversations about happenings in the world and the overall state of craziness that we all surviving in day-to-day. We call it a timepiece project of the last few years of chaos, undertones from greedy political power structure, as well as this generations fear of filth as I call it. The majority of everything was created with us together from going to record store, going thru samples, and building on ideas. Personally my favorite part of the process was taking real life situations with a sick twist that in our minds make complete sense.

RD: There are a number of Jersey acts making waves right now, how strong do you feel the scene is in our state?

FS: Right now the state of the scene in NJ is super strong and in a wonderful place. There’s lots of creativity running rapid right now from musicians, clothing brands and all different areas of the arts. We’ve been an area where we started a lot of different things, but I feel at the moment we have a huge spotlight shinning that will continue to bring opportunities.

RD: Your style is unorthodox and unique, how did you get to this point stylistically?

FS: Honestly my brain has always been altered. Style wise I always wanted to push boundaries for the listener. I never wanted to be the artist that you hear his music and all the questions are answered, what fun is that? To me a true artists work is never fully understood by the masses as a whole. It should always be a level of mystery that intrigues conversations and different perspectives. My favorite sort of entertainment has always been off kilter content that you will either love or hate, but in hindsight will be celebrated for it’s individuality. That’s how I’ve always approached my style of making music. I want you to hear me and instantly get drawn in for more. Much love to inspirations Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Stephen King, William Cooper, Prince Paul.

RD: Thoughts on Roper as a musical talent and collaborator.

FS: Roper to me is my favorite and one of the greatest producers of this generation. His style and work ethnic is top notch. Just watching him work in the studio, from records he chooses to samples and the way he does it with such a attention to detail is always captivating to see. Whenever we collab we shock each other with the direction we go. It’s always fun experience pushing the limit of what we’ve done before. We both know that when it’s time for us to bring a whole new perspective to what each other has created there’s no second guessing. We have complete confidence that when the final picture is revealed it will make all the dots connect. 

RD: Shouts, message to the supporters?

FS: Just wanna end it off by saying much love to Respect Due for always supporting us and showing that love, keep being amazing. Shout out everybody who’s been showing love to GLC thus far, the feedback, reviews and all the love we’ve been getting has been nothing short of amazing. We knew we had something special in all aspects of it and we just blessed that it’s connecting, couldn’t ask for anything more. Stay tuned for everything coming down the pipeline as well from me and Roper Williams. I’ll tell you this, THE NEW PROJECT WE’RE COOKING UP RIGHT NOW IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE, SHOUT OUT MY FAMILY BOOG, POOTIE AND DRIVE BY. PEACE LOVE AND GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN.

Support GLC here https://fatboisharif.bandcamp.com

Twitter=fatboyprospect/roper_williams

IG=fatboy_sharif/roper_williams

Producer Spotlight ManZu Beatz

RD – Who comprises ManZu Beats?

ManZu – Me, DBTZ and my bro Divine The Architect, I’m ManZu, he is ManZu from day one.

RD – Is there a certain formula when making beats as a crew? Does one member do one aspect of a beat, or can it vary song-to-song?

ManZu – Now that I live far from Italy normally everyone works on their own instrumental. When we’re in the studio we work together, one will work on the sample, one on the drums, and one on the bass.  Again, normally that doesn’t happen, I do my thing and he does his thing.

RD – You introduced yourselves to the American market with ‘Jamal Gasol is the Future’, what can you share about how the project was released?

ManZu – We received much warm feedback from all the heads who listened to it, and we were happy to work with Jamal. We like to work 360 degrees, where it is possible and take care of everything. We discuss then compare with each other working together. The project has to be built together as a team, performer and producer. He was very helpful and we built a dope visionary project, projecting Jamal into the future.

RD – There are two new EP’s out, Universal Tongues with M-Doc Diego and Golden Bars with YNX716. They’re new names to the scene, tell us what listeners can expect from them as emcees and what to expect sonically from each project?

ManZu – They are two different projects, just as the two artists are different from each other.

YNX716 with his unique calm behavior style and intense delivery.

Doc Diego is rough with a sharp gravelly voice and heavy bars, you have to expect exactly this, the two projects reflect very much the style of each artist.

RD – DBTZ you started out as a rapper before switching over to the production side of things. What made you make that change?

ManZu – My love for the culture and for all the disciplines started many years ago, in the 90s.

I started as an MC because I love “RAP” as part of HipHop music and to make rap music, means to express this passion.

I always loved productions. It was a constant reminder, when I did rap I went crazy when I felt the instrumental that overstimulated me. Making me travel within my mind and igniting my desire to create. I’ve always admired the figure of the producer, with time and maturity. I wanted to comply with that calling and I started to produce. I completely fell in love with the production, and can say I should’ve listened to that call first. I love making music now it’s my dimension, I would’nt do anything else, I love the creative part, it’s art.

RD – What piece of gear would you love to add to your setup?

ManZu – Honestly, I’m happy with my studio. With time I’ve equipped it very well and now it has everything I need. Let’s see in the future, I just need to do more projects and make dope music.

RD – Given your diverse backgrounds, will you be working with any international emcees?

ManZu – Music must have no barriers, Art must have no barriers. I’m working mainly with American artists, but I am also working on a project with one of the most famous rappers in Spain. In collaboration with my Spanish partner with whom I share the LAB with where I live and work from now.

RD – Where do you see ManZu Beats in the next few years?

ManZu – I didn’t think about it, I live the present. I hope to have produced many projects and have created a lot of good music. For the culture, to continue to pass on the love for the HIP HOP culture.

RD – If you could have any 5 guests on a producer project, who would you pick?

ManZu – I admire all the artists I’ve worked with. Out there is full of big lyrical champions more or less known, so I’ll notably mention some high-sounding names of today.

GHOSTFACE KILLAH 

BENNY THE BUTCHER

MEYHEM LAUREN

PHAROAHE MONCH

ROC MARCIANO

Follow ManZu Beatz

IG @manzubeatz

Twitter @MANZUBEATZ

Producer Spotlight: Timepiece

This Producer Spotlight interview highlights Timepiece’s latest project with ProZay. Timepiece breaks down the album track by track. Be sure to click on the link to the much anticipated project Alley Muzik.

RD: Give us a little history on yourself and your background in making music.

T: I came up in a house full of music. I latched onto hip hop in the mid 80’s and never looked back. I always wanted to be involved in the music side of it, but never knew how it was done until I saw music videos with DJ’s scratching. I copped my first shitty DJ set up from Radio Shack at a young age. I soon started to figure out what sampling was via my dad’s record collection and started putting beats together using Windows 3.1 Wav Editor. I was hungry.

RD: It’s always fascinating to hear about how fans from far locales got into hip hop. What were some titles that got you hooked as a fan, and secondly which ones made you want to venture into beat-making?

T: I found out about the Def Jam era stuff from my older brother’s friend giving me a tape that had Run DMC on one side, and the Beasties on the other. I think De La’s 3 Feet High & Rising was the one that caught my imagination as far as sampling goes, and then Black Sheep’s debut album. These albums taught me about layering multiple samples which I still do a lot to this day. It’s a lost art.

RD: Talk about the evolution of your setup. Many guys master a certain piece and/or program and stick with it, others venture out. What did you start on, and what are you currently into?

T: When I started it was the waveform editor that came with Windows 3.1 Then when I figured out what a sequencer was I started using ‘Fast Tracker’ which was a DOS based sequencer that you could load samples into. In 97′ Fruity Loops came out, and I used that for a couple of years until I copped my first piece of hardware which was the Akai MPC2000. I used that forever until I transitioned to Logic and then in about 2010 I switched to Ableton. I’ve owned a bunch of other gear along the way like the ASR and the SP’s but I always find software the fastest.

RD: What led to you and Pro linking up for Alley Muzik?

T: When I initially heard Pro Zay rhyme it was on the NCL-TM track titled Four Horsemen. I didn’t completely know what to think at first but I really liked the fact that someone had the balls to rhyme like that. It has a wild energy to it. I approached him to do one track and it turned out cool so we decided to do more. I really like the way he does his background vocals too with the opposing style. Then there are tracks where he rhymes in a completely different tone all together.

Alley Muzik

01 – CHECKLIST

This is the first piece that Zay and I did together to see if it’d work out. Be both agreed we worked well together and decided this would make a good intro because it’s got some energy.

02 – PEDIGREE ft. Lord Juco

My love of old TV and movies comes through on this one because that is where it’s all sampled from. I’d been wanting to work with Juco for a long while so I was real happy when he agreed to jump on board.

03 – COCAINE CORRAL

I’d had this beat for a while but I am glad Zay made it work the way he did. I’d heard him rap on swing rhythm before so I knew he could do it. I like the story in this one. The horns make it feel like an old spaghetti western movie or something so I took the liberty of taking it in that direction.

04 – 25

This was another beat from the vault that Zay made work. He understood the concept that the opening sample sets from the get go so the theme wrote itself.

05 – KNOWLEDGE ft. Tony Tone

I had a different beat originally for this track and I am glad I came up with another one because this one smokes the old one and it’s more effective at carrying the narrative. I wasn’t too familiar with Tone’s work before but he’s one of Zay’s homies and he’s nice.

06 – CONNECT ft. Killy Shoot

I like working with Killy because we see eye to eye on a lot of things when it comes to music and also other popular culture. I had a strong feeling that his style would compliment Zay’s and I think I was right. Adding all the telephone stuff in here was a last minute thing but I am glad I think it ties it all together nicely.

07 – HOMETEAM/NOSEBLEED

I love two part songs and have never tried doing one before so I was glad when Zay had the vision to put these two beats together. It was a nightmare to mix but it turned out to be hard.

8 – SLEEPING GAS ft. Scvtterbrvin

I knew if Scvtterbrvin was going to feature on here I would want to have some psychedelic sounding stuff to match his lyrics. Again, another team up that came together as I have worked with Scvtterbrvin before and I know we quickly and effectively he works so it was a no brainer.

09 – TONY’S OUTRO PT.2 ft. Tony Tone

I had to go back and listen to TONY’S OUTRO PT.1 to figure out what was going on with the title! I wanted a beat change up for when Tony comes in to take out the album and it really worked and picked up the energy. I like intros and outros that are short tracks.

Follow Time on Twitter and IG @timepiecetracks

Support Alley Muzik here

https://prozay.bandcamp.com/album/alley-muzik-2

Producer Spotlight: Tone Beatz

Tone Beatz has been a favorite the past few years, producing two amazing projects with All Hail Y.T. and killing every placement he gets. His story working in music goes back a decade. He has worked with Working Class Music Group putting out instrumental projects, and shows no plans on slowing down.

RD: How long have you been involved in production?

TB: Since I was about 12. I stole my cousin’s keyboard (Casio Sk5) back then and started teaching myself how to chop samples.

RD: Some of your early work is Hustler’s Science an instrumental album with a theme. Would you consider that your first body of work?

TB: Yeah it was, big shout out to Illastrate for helping me put it altogether. Real talk I really want to do a sequel with All Hail Y.T. & Left Lane Didon.

RD: Looking back to 2014-15, what area would you say you evolved at the most in your music?

TB: Digging, and studying my art! Summer of 2016 I studied Quincy Jones film scores like The Anderson Tapes, and old southern Gospel albums like The Violinaires. Then I’d study some Dilla or Madlib and observe their freedom of creativity.

RD: A few years after the Working Class Music material, you linked up with one of our favorites; All Hail Y.T. You did Street Poisoned last January, and a year later struck again with The Spoils of Babylon. Talk to us about the working relationship with him, and how you guys initially linked.

TB: That’s the homie, we met through a mutual friend about 15 years ago and vibed ever since. This dude is meticulous, when he approached me about doing Street Poisoned we were just doing jawns. When the time came to do Spoils Of Babylon he had everything in place. His vision was clear, this dude is my favorite artist I ever worked with period.

RD: What kind of relationship has to be established in order to fully produce a project?

TB: The Vibe! I gotta feel your vibe and your vision gotta be clear. Last but most importantly you gotta be dope!

RD: In March you were able to lend some of your talents to Y.T. and GeneralBackPain’s collaborative effort Classic Villains. Heath Ledger As Joker will go down in infamy, monster cut. Take us into creating that record.

TB: Y.T. hit me up asking me for some grimy beat, just before he call I was digging thru horror movie soundtracks. Right after that call, I grab a record. and say ‘let me vibe to this’. No lie right when the needle hit the groove that horn stab came blaring through the speakers. I said ‘that’s it!’. After I finished the beat and sent it he hit me back five minutes later saying that’s the one.

RD: We feel Killy Shoot and GeneralBackPain are two of the finest up and comers in Underground Hip Hop. Killy Shoot is readying his next project These Violent Delights fully produced by you. How did that relationship develop?

TB: I agree! When I heard Arm & Hammer I became a fan. Killy Shoot’s flow and delivery are so unique. I sent him a DM and we started building.

RD: In a world full of gear and equipment, what are some pieces that you have had your eye on?

TB: Right now I’m eyeing the MPC One, and I’m very curious about the SP 2400. Grew up watching Pete Rock make beats on the SP 1200, that might be my next machine!

RD: If you could enlist any five talents for a Tone Beatz album, who are you calling?

TB: Besides the homies All Hail Y.T. , Left Lane,Jay Nice, & Chris Skillz. I would love to rock out with Rome Streetz, Ransom, Tha God Fahim, Planet Asia, Benny.

Support Spoils here

https://allhailyt.bandcamp.com/album/the-spoils-of-babylon

Hustler’s Science

https://workingclassmusicgroup.bandcamp.com/album/tone-beatz-hustlers-science

Top Illin, the first single from My Violent Delights is on Killy’s BC. Project coming soon

https://killyshoot.bandcamp.com/track/top-illin-prod-tone-beatz

Follow the man on Twitter and IG @ToneBeatz

Producer Spotlight: Widowmaker

RD: For those unfamiliar, who comprises Widowmaker and how long have you been active under that moniker?

W: Widowmaker is composed of Grant Burgess and Guttah Grey. In 2014 we started collaborating as Widowmaker. We began working in our home studios, which were a block away from each other. The last record produced in these studios was Lamy

RD: Is there a particular division of labor when creating? 

W: As Widowmaker, we almost always work together at our studio.  We dig from our collection of rare shit, and go digging often with a concept in mind. Our process is time consuming. Lots of setting up and tearing down analog gear, live instruments, and media sources. We run a lot of our samples and our recordings of instruments reel to reel. We dig the natural compression that tape offers, although we have and use some very nice analog compressors. We talk, think, build and just take our time no matter what.  I think it’s why we’ve managed to make our own sound in a genre that has a lot of material that sounds the same. As far as division, (Guttah speaking now) Grant Burgess is a monster born among mere mortal men. We usually build from his station, but we have 2x stations on a massive “L” shaped desk, and utilize both often during Widowmaker productions.  Grant’s one of those dudes that can do anything musically, it’s a true honor to work with him.

RD: In 2015 you guys teamed up with Ayatollah to form Colossus, releasing a full-length instrumental album with him. How did that come about?

W: Strangely enough, Ayatollah was living in our hometown. Guttah was referred to him by a friend to help him record some material. Tollah came to Guttah’s house and was surprised to see a full production studio. After hearing our early Widowmaker material, he said, “Oh shit. You make beats? Let’s make some beats.” Over the next six months, we worked together to create Colossus–Widowmaker’s first vinyl release.

RD: Fast forward to 2018 and we have the Lamy/Stay Awake drop under Trevor Lang’s imprint. You would go on to do your latest venture with him as well, tell us how that relationship formed.

W: We had been following Trevor Lang’s work since 2016. His immaculate releases and visionary art and design appealed to us. We reached out to Trevor to talk about releasing the Colossus record on cassette under the Trevor Lang imprint. Although the cassette never came to fruition, we stayed in touch and conceptualized future collaborative projects with him. We had been looking for the right way to release a track that we had produced that featured Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, and Trevor imagined a more ambitious release. Trevor recommended adding Sauce Heist and Al Divino to the track, and we agreed. As fans of both rappers, we thought it would work great. We worked with him over the next few months finalizing the audio while Trevor designed the artwork.  We then got permission from our family Hell Razah to release Stay Awake on the same 7”.  We produced a full length for Razah that will see the light of day sometime soon we hope.  Peace and love to our brother Hell Razah.

After LAMY, we started talks with Trevor about starting a label, although the label wasn’t created until OTEC was finished. Golden Analogue was born. Right now Golden Analogue operates out of Oregon (Widowmaker) and New Jersey (Trevor). Widowmaker handles the fulfillment from our studio, and it functions like a Swiss watch. OTEC orders shipped out with a quickness; we have 36 records left right now. Shout out Trevor Lang as always. We saw something special in him from the get go, and it’s a true honor to be partners in Golden Analogue with him.  We’ve set a new standard in physical media creation, and we’re very proud of that. 180g gatefold wax, in hand and ready to ship, is the standard.  It is very expensive to manufacture, which lessens our profit margins, but what’s really important here is giving the buyer an experience.  That being said, we still buy a lot of $40-$60 dollar records from the genre because we view it as supporting artists we care about. Almost all of these genre records are standard wax, standard jacket. Please keep buying these records and supporting all the renaissance cats, just include Golden Analogue on your shopping list and you’ll be happy ya did so.  

RD: The brand new work is An Open Tomb… An Empty Casket. A unique offering where you guys produce Side B of another full-length instrumental album while Big Ghost LTD handles Side A. What was the process like developing this?

W: We had been speaking with Big Ghost LTD shortly after dropping LAMY.  After corresponding for months and getting acquainted, we knew we had to just ask the big homie. Big Ghost maneuvers with integrity and honor 100% of the time. We then reached out to our relatively new friend and hit him with the idea of releasing a split instrumental LP on 180g vinyl. He said that he was down and recommended we house the record in a gatefold jacket. Both camps then started building. This record took about a year from first sample to a purchasable product. We dug our entire side along the way, taking our time and layering strange instruments we have at our studio.  The process was the same way we approach most Widowmaker production: meet up at the studio, dig together or review samples we found individually, sit at our stations, and just take our time with it. We’re never in a hurry to finish a product, that’s why we don’t set release dates until we have a product worth selling in our hands. Big Ghost is plainly and simply a fucking monstrous genius. He hit us with his amazing arrangement at the perfect time along the project. We have a lot of respect for him as an artist and a friend. Shout out Coke Ceps!

RD: Is there a certain freedom in the instrumental realm? 

W: Most definitely. We have the freedom to explore whatever sound we want. We both bring very different things to the table when we’re working on Widowmaker material. It just sounds different than our solo material, but also different from a lot of production that we listen to. We just love to experiment musically and our studio is like a 2nd home to us. Making purely instrumental records forces us to do what we really love: paying close attention to every measure, every note, every sound. Our records aren’t simply accompaniments to rappers, although they are that as well. They’re pieces that stand alone. We design our records with the listener in mind and work to make each production engaging and intricate.

RD: Will you guys ever fully produce a vocal album?

W: Absolutely!  We just wanted to sharpen our swords, build our name, and put out some crazy music to show we can handle a full length rap record.  We will wait until we’re blue in the face to find the right cat to do this with.  We simply will not work with some shitty rapper. This is why we don’t sell beats, we trade beats.  Now and then we make 2x beats and send them to a rapper. These are dudes we hand pick and who agree to work with us.  They pick one beat to keep and send us back the other with rhymes for our stash. Expect to see some of these released as singles, possibly on wax.  You’ll also see “Prod by Widowmaker” popping up on some releases soon There’s some epic material in there, we’re simply never in a hurry.  When the time is right, it will be right.

RD: What is the next move?

W: Man, so many. Build Golden Analogue, Grant has next level solo material coming, keep teaching music production, there’s always a Widowmaker solo record being slowly built along the way at any given point, to keep conceptualizing and implementing our strategies to move forward.

RD: If you could pick any five vocal talents to hop on a WM album, who are you calling?

W: No real order to this, but DOOM, Con & West would be dope to do a LAMY part 2. Daniel Son, Rigz, and Mooch are very dope. We’re very content doing instrumental albums right now, we’d love to do some more concept split LPs with some producers that we feel would fit well. I don’t want to say their names, as we will be reaching out to them.

Their BC https://widowmakerbeats.bandcamp.com

Golden Analogue https://goldenanalogue2.bandcamp.com

Follow them on IG @widowmaker_beats

Twitter: @statwallybeats

Producer Spotlight: Zain

RD: You are a relative newcomer to the scene, what can you tell people about yourself and your approach to music making?

Z: I’m a London-based producer heavily inspired by the greats growing up (Pete Rock, Premo, Alc, Muggs, RZA, Dilla, etc.). I started off on FL Studio and for 10 years I was hooked on that until I copped the Maschine Studio. Some of my FL beats were trash! Glad I stuck at it. Everything I do is sample based, but I definitely like adding instruments and playing keys. I’ve recently discovered a studio which costs like $5 an hour so I’ll sketch a few ideas at home and take it to the studio to finish it off when I get time.

RD: Together with Dani you produced the Left Field EP for Left Lane Didon. Talk to us about helping create that project.

Z: Me and my lil bro Dani are real like minded when it comes to beats. He’s basically my second ear. Since we heard Current Mood, we both wanted to work with Left so it was a blessing to be able to do that. We had a beat pack stored for Left and as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I was real happy with how Left Field turned out. Doing a full project with a rapper is always the goal. Especially when you work with someone of Lefty’s caliber.

RD: How does the process differ when collaborating with another producer as opposed to working solo?

Z: It doesn’t change too much. I can still execute my ideas, but when I collab with another producer its dope to be able to take on more ideas.

RD: Olvido with Chris Skillz just dropped. Chris and Left Lane are apart of a renaissance happening in Delaware, how were you able to connect with that group of guys?

Z: I got to put this down to timing man. For 10 years I was creating and not doing much with the music. Rappers weren’t as accessible when I first started but its a trip now. My lil bro Dani was the one who told me to get my music out there.

Since doing ‘Current Mood’ on Strictly 4 my Dumperz, I had already knew about Fahim through Dani connecting with him over art and music, but it was my first time hearing Left and Nice. I went through the whole catalogue and it inspired me to reach out to these guys. Whole camp always showing love. Definitely something in the water over in Delaware.

RD: Is there anything on the horizon you can share with us?

Z: Got a new project with Nowaah the Flood in the works alongside my brother Dani. On top of that got a second project lined up with Chris Skillz. Super hyped for both and I can’t wait for the people to hear it. The new Skillz joint is probably some of my best work. God willing it comes to light soon. 

I’m lining up a couple other rappers for projects, but nothing official yet. 

RD: Let’s talk gear. What are some of your weapons of choice, and what is on the wishlist to get?

Z: Maschine Studio. I was on the Maschine for a while but ended up selling it and upgrading to the studio. Never looked back since.

I also use the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 keyboard if I want to experiment with the Maschine plugins. My goal one day is to build a small studio room.

RD: If you could contact any five living artists to start your producer album, who would you get?

Z: Mos Def / Mach-Hommy / Nas / Evidence / Willie the Kid.

RD: Would you like to make any Shout Outs?

Z: Shout out to all the incredible producers out there. Especially J-Zak & Dani. Keep inspiring. No time for hate round here. Peace to anyone showing support!  

Appreciate you reaching out to me. Grateful for the opportunity for real.

Left Field https://phonicart.bandcamp.com/album/left-field-2

Olvido https://chrisskillz.bandcamp.com/album/olvido

Producer Spotlight: Nephew Hesh

Hesh has proven himself as one of the elite producers of the past two years. Utilizing a combo of hard-hitting drums and intricate melodies. He has shown the ability to produce full projects (Dap Zini’s Saga of the Swamp Thing and Pro Zay’s Powder Shoe Prints) collaborate with other producers (with Sadhugold they form the duo Deadstock) as well stand out on a single placement (the thunderous Funeral March for Your Old Droog).

RD: Our introduction to you was on Pro Zays stellar Powder Shoe Prints album. Was this the first full project you produced?

NH: I think so, I remember starting on it at around the same time I started on the beats for Saga of the Swamp Thing. I know for sure it was the first full project I produced to be released though. Shout to Zay, he killed it.

RD: Shortly after came another project with a Psych Ward Records member, Dap Zini. Can you take us through the making of Saga Of The Swamp Thing, and your thoughts on it over a year later.

NH: One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on. It’s always great working with Dap because I can just send him beats and trust that the final product will be top tier. A lot of the beats I was sending reminded him of the Swamp Thing comic, which is why we based the album on it. Swamp Thing and Powder Shoe prints were the two projects where I really started pushing myself.

RD: Yourself and Sadhugold form Deadstock, that is quite a partner to have while making beats. Is there a certain division of labor when you two link up, or does it vary beat-to-beat?

NH: Usually I’ll send Sadhu loops, and he’ll do the drums. His drums are crazy bro. When I first started working with Sadhu, I was still a senior in high school, so during lunch and even sometimes during class I’d go to the library with my laptop and a pair of shitty headphones and just crank out loops. Have a whole pack of them ready by the end of the day.

RD: Who are some veteran producers you look to for inspiration?

NH: Dilla, Madlib, Knxwledge, Alchemist, RZA. Also been listening to a lot of Mannie Fresh. He’s very underrated. 

RD: In summer 2018, the big call came. Westside Gunn has chosen not one, but two Sadhu & Hesh beats for his loaded Supreme Blientele album. How did you find out about the placement, and what was the feeling like?

NH: Oh actually he only picked one, the beat for Stefflon Don. The other one was all Sadhu. That was great, I was driving when Sadhu sent me a live audio recording of Westside Gunn rapping over it in the studio. Had to pull over and collect myself, it didn’t feel real. That was real life bucket list shit. Really grateful for that opportunity.

RD: Things seem to have moved along nicely since then, with you landing placements with Your Old Droog and Mavi. Do you actively shop production? What is the ideal situation to collaborate?

NH: If I have the artist’s number I’ll text them beats right when I’m done with them. I usually prefer to send out beats via text/email and let the rapper do their thing that means I have more time to make more beats. If its a full project that I’m producing though I definitely wanna be working in person.

RD: Selflove by Mavi has hit 1 million streams, that is a huge milestone. The song has an endearing, charming quality to it. 2+ years in, what are some of your favorite productions?

NH: Self Love is one of my favorite beats, for sure. I really like the two beats I got on Ankhlejohn’s new album, they have a lot of texture and that’s an aspect of my style that I’ve always been proud of. Its hard choosing, though, because if it’s out, it’s already a favorite.

RD: In an era of loops and drumless beats, your drums tend to hit hard. Do you start your process with drums/programming?

NH: It changes from beat to beat. I’ll start by making a loop, but if I’m not feeling it I’ll scratch it and work on drums. If the drums hit, I’ll try to find a sample that works. If I’m not fuckin with the drums then it’s back to the samples. Repeat that til something clicks.

RD: You have not produced a full project since Deadstock handled Doofs Tried Bring Sober album. Is there anything on the horizon you can tell us about?

NH: Yup, got 2 full albums produced by me ready to drop. I prefer to keep things under wraps, but trust me when I say everybody went all out. Seriously some of my favorite music I’ve worked on. Sadhu and I just finished up our beat tape, so be on the look out for that too. Very fire.

RD: If you could enlist any 5 talents for a Hesh studio album, who are you calling?

NH: Mavi, Mach Hommy, Alchemist, Madlib, Mannie Fresh, and Bob Power is gonna mix and master it.

Shouts out to all my friends and everybody who’s given my music a chance. We’re only going up from here. Thanks you Respect Due for fuckin with the kid! Much love

Photo courtesy of @ahotelparty

Powder and Saga are available here

https://psychwardrecords.bandcamp.com/music

Hesh’s personal BC

https://nephewhesh.bandcamp.com

Producer Spotlight: Grubby Pawz

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RD: You & Haze play a role of this renaissance of Underground Hip Hop with dropping the critically acclaimed The Failures, and The Glory. How do you feel the Boston and national scenes have unfolded in the two and a half years since its release?

GP: It’s been dope to see it unfold. There’s a lot of dope artists and music out right now and getting to work with a lot of these artists has been a blessing. Massachusetts has been putting out quality for a minute, but now the past few years more people are getting to see that.

RD: Lets talk about the brand new project with Estee, IWANNAFXCKJADAFIRE. You have linked with him many times before, but this is the first full body of work. Can you talk to us about the sessions and what its like to lock in with such an elite talent for a full length?

GP: Nack is my brother. So when it comes to us working on something its effortless. We just have fun with it. I’d have a beat going or be cooking up something and he’ll just be like “let’s go.” It’s always dope to be in a studio with Nack because it’s just a party and making music without overthinking it. We got more heat in the stash! ADLIB!

RD: City Yard Music has rolled out a number of dope releases in a short amount of time. Many of them are your projects, but some in the store are not. What standards does a title have to have for you to develop and sell it?

GP: I started City Yard as a way to release cassettes for artists based out of Massachusetts. So either the rapper or producer has to be from out here. I just started with hitting up friends and asking them if they’d be down to let me put out their cassette.

RD: In The Field featured a Boston All-Stars lineup, what was the selection process like for the guests?

GP: Well first off 90 East BMX is owned and operated by my boy Lino Gonzalez. Shout out to him, and the 90 East team. Before I met Lino I knew of the company and what they had been doing in the BMX scene for a minute and  it’s always been quality. I linked up with Lino through Haze because they grew up together. I told Haze I wanted to shop this idea to Lino originally of like a piece of music, some type of physical merch. We built on the idea and at first it was going to be a video with just the instrumentals, but then I said nah I have to get all my friends on this shit. I put the calls in and they didn’t hesitate at all. Salute to all of them, they came through and killed shit. Appreciate you!

RD: KRUDEBRICK saw you leave town for some guests, including Lord Juco/Sekwence and Sully Nomad. Do you get all of your work done in-studio, or can exceptions be made?

GP: For this EP I just wanted to reach out to a few people I’ve been fans of and hadn’t really worked with. I try to get the artist to come to the studio if possible, but these dudes are all out of state so it was just easier to send the beat I had in mind and let them send the joint back.

RD: If you could add any one piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?

GP: 1970s Minimoog Model D or 1973 Fender Rhodes Mark III.

RD: Do you guys have a release schedule for City Yard, or does it vary as the projects come along?

GP: No schedule. Once the tapes are done we just pick a date and drop them.

RD: Do you pay attention to feedback on a higher profile drop like JADA, or block out the noise entirely?

GP: Yeah, kinda. I just put the music out and the people that fuck with it. They tag us in photos of the merch they got. I’ll share that on social media and all that, but I don’t go looking for peoples approval of the music or wait to see people’s opinions. Me and Nack love the album and that’s all that matters really.

RD: You are huge on the cassette format, which seems to have taken a bit of a hit lately. What is it about the format thats appealing to you as an artist and a vendor? Do you see sustainability in the cassette market?

GP: The cassettes just look dope and was a way for people to have a piece of art and physical merch with the digital audio. The market is kinda over saturated though. Everyone is doing tapes because they’re easy to do if you just google it, but I like that though. I like the fact artists are doing their own cassettes. There’s no need for someone else to do the work and take a cut if you can just do it yourself. I do still think there’s a demand out there for them. Maybe not like a year or 2 ago but they’re dope to have.

RD: If you get lock any 5 living artists into the lab with yourself, who are you calling?

GP: Nas, Ghostface, Mach, Roc Marc, Westside Gunn.

IWANNAFXCKJADAFIRE can be purchased here https://www.iwannafxckjadafire.com

City Yard Music Bandcamp https://cityyardmusic.bandcamp.com

Follow him on IG and Twitter @grubbypawz

Artist Spotlight: John Creasy

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John Creasy is a rising MC repping Niagara Falls. He has worked with a number of old friends of Respect Due, including Robert Deniro (who scored his entire Exodus album), Killy Shoot, Ol Man 80zz and other members of the growing Umbrella collective. His latest album is The Omen, a 9 track offering that takes you deeper into his thoughts.

RD: You rep Niagara Falls, while growing up did you have a music scene in your area?

C: I rep Niagara Falls NY all day, 716. Growing up in a small city the hip hop scene was limited you know the local shows, but overall it was very small.

RD: Has the rise of Upstate NY surprised you?

C: I wouldn’t say surprised, I would say it’s deserved. Upstate NY always gets the short end of the stick because we are not from NYC. New York is New York to me so surprised? No, more like about time.

RD: Would you consider Power your official debut?

C: Yea, Power was definitely my first official release.

RD: Last year you linked up with two old friends in OldMan80zz and Robert Deniro on the boards. What led you to working with each one of those guys?

C: I first linked with Deniro on the Mean Streetz compilation album. The connection was good, so we decided to do an EP together and Exodus was born. I loved Ol Man 80zz style of beats, so we linked and did the Teflon EP. Both are definitely talented and brought different versions of myself out. We all are part of the Umbrella movement, big shout out to my Gs.

RD: What are certain things you listen for when you’re picking beats?

C: I’m picky when it comes to beats, and I listen for everything. How the baseline rides the beat, how the snare hits, the melody, and the samples. I like to be different in my selection so anything that stands out, I’m on it.

RD: Some artists seem to be able to write under any circumstance, others need a specific setting. How would you describe your writing method?

C: I can write under any circumstance. Go off the top at any moment. I’m putting out versatile styles of music.

RD: Most important thing you learned about the game from 2018 until now?

C: Timing is everything. I feel like your start is not gonna be your finish, and when its time its your time. Stay true to yourself and your own craft.

RD: If you had to pick any one song to represent your body of work, which would you go with?

C: Unity Park off The Omen album, it gives an insight into how I grew up. People get blinded behind the Niagara Falls view itself, but once you cross over the Highland Bridge, you get my story of what Niagara Falls is about.

Cop The Omen and older works here https://johncreasy.bandcamp.com/album/the-omen

Follow him on IG @creasywwg and Twitter @Creasy_HO

Lamb Rabbit Interview

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RD : For those unfamiliar with your music what can you share with them?

LR : I am Lamb Rabbit. I am multi-faceted. I’m a singer. A record collector. A DJ. A producer. A radio host. Really it all just boils down to me being a giant music nerd. I’ve sung since I was little, at first soloing in choirs, then later on studying and competing classically. I also fell in love with what felt like this vast and hidden world of records and record collecting, which led to me stumbling into DJing by accident. Initially it was a means to showcase the gems I’d found that I’d grown to know and love— I wanted to share that knowledge and passion. These days I’m very grateful for DJing. It was unexpected, but it’s paid bills and enabled me to connect with a ton of fellow heads, expand my musical knowledge and further open up my ears and thus my own sound.

As a producer, I produce (or sometimes co-produce) a lot of my own music because I’m extremely particular as to the sort of sound that grabs my soul, and it can be simpler to feel that out on my own. I know my own ear (and my own heart; they’re intrinsically linked!) best, so it’s essential to me that I stay true to that.

Radio happened for all the same reasons. It was a solid platform for me to share music I was passionate about, and unlike most live DJ sets, radio mixes get archived, so that was very appealing to me. Radio mixes become historical artifacts; aural time capsules. I moved to New York about three years ago. I’m from Canada originally (although half of my family is from here: my grandfather is from East New York, my grandmother is from the LES, and my mom is from Queens). Not too long after moving here, I was guesting on friends’ radio shows, and soon a friend asked me to co-host a show with him. Having that platform was such a rewarding experience that it evolved from my wanting to share the music that I loved to wanting to extend the platform itself to the artists and producers creating it. I began inviting artists to come through and guest. Liv.e, Pink Siifu, Adé Hakim, AKAI SOLO, Caleb Giles, brainorchestra, Rast RFC & many more slid through. I’ve wound up making some really close friends and musical collaborators through radio. I’m more appreciative of that than I can put into words.

RD: You came to our attention hosting the ‘UPPERCUTS’ show series for Half Moon BK. There is quite a variety in the guests, from Dap Zini (Psych Ward Records) to Koncept Jack$on (ex-Mutant Academy). What are you looking for as a featured artist for these?

LR: There’s no hard and fast thing I’m looking for. Ultimately I feature artists whose music I feel is on a whole other caliber— a cut above. Hence, UPPERCUTS. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share a platform that I so cherish with the artists and producers that are creating the most meaningful, unique, and inspirational work right now. I’m really proud of what Uppercuts has blossomed into. The format isn’t set in stone, but typically I’ll DJ for about 20 minutes and then let a couple of guests perform live sets on air for the show’s remainder. Witnessing it in the studio, the energy is special. Community pulls up and the vibe is intimate. Each episode feels like a glimpse of a musical renaissance: snapshots of enlightened rap, sentient soul, and forward-thinking frequencies permeating New York City. It’s magical. I guess that’s what I’m looking for.

RD: The SP404 is the common thread we see in any event featuring producers and beatmakers. Why is the 404 so favored in a live performance setting?

LR: I think you see SP-404s a lot in live settings because they’re compact, feature-packed, have loads of storage banks, trigger pads, and memory (thanks to SD cards if we’re talking the SX or A models), plus they’re fairly intuitive and easy to use. And 404s are versatile; you can do everything straight off the SP or you can run your laptop or whatever else through it and just use it for the plethora of effects. It’s so small, so portable, so self-sufficient. 404s enable producers to do so much with so little; this is why they’ve changed the game for the scene.

But also I mentioned this question to my friend the other day when we were talking about beat sets and his response was, “I don’t know, that shit just slaps.” 100% valid.

RD: When at home creating, is this your personal weapon of choice?

LR: It definitely is. Because I come from a record background and I’ve always gravitated more towards the analogue side of things, I’ll typically sample straight from my collection and do the bulk of my production work on the 404. I don’t even get super technical or use the sequencer like that. I usually just wind up looping things that grab me or playing around with chops and maybe incorporating some subtle effects before either re-sampling or just recording straight into Ableton. A lot of my production feels really raw to me for this reason. It’s not quantized or perfect in any way. It’s almost a little lopsided, but that’s more human to me. It better resonates with my soul. My thoughts and feelings aren’t neat and symmetrical, so I don’t want my music to be.

RD : You have been rolling out a few singles on your Bandcamp, are these leading up to a full length project?

LR: Yes, definitely. On Valentine’s Day I dropped a 2-track EP called Strange Luh. Both tracks are hallucinatory lo-fi covers that call into question the effects that love can have on our mental. My vocals are pitched down on both joints so they feel a little like they’re off a Screw tape, except the beats are more contemporary so you get lost in time. It’s meant to feel displacing. It’s not for everyone, it’s super weird and oneiric. It’s gotten some play on WFMU, dublab, and on Canadian radio as well, so I’m happy it’s resonating with a few souls.

Last month I dropped another 2-track EP featuring AJ Suede. He’s based in Seattle but slid through my old spot while in town a little while back. I made both beats on the 404 while we were chilling and we wrote to them on the spot and recorded everything right then and there. I’m singing on both tracks, but AJ is front and center. His wordplay is immaculate. We’ve got a second EP in the works now.

A limited run of Strange Luh 45s came out last month and sold out, and the EP with AJ Suede should come out on vinyl shortly too. I’ve had work out on tapes before but never on vinyl, which is the format dearest to my heart, so this is an exceptionally special chapter for me.

I just released another single, Slide, with an accompanying music video— my first! Groovy lil boogie produced by my NC brother C.R.I.S.T.E.N. The video is super silly but I was just feeling like we needed a warm distraction from what we’ve all been going through with the Corona madness.

Hopefully very soon I’ll be able to release my full length debut, Heart True. It’s pretty much finished, it’s just in the process of mixing and mastering. Most of it is either produced or co-produced by myself, and it’s primarily sample-based, although there’s a lot of live instrumentation too. Upright and electric bass, sax, flute, drums, guitar, keys. There are features throughout from some of my favorite artists, who also happen to be some of my favorite people. My rule for the project was to disregard clout and only work with artists who to me are moral 10s; just really solid souls, through and through. I feel like I know a ton of extremely gifted artists, but not everyone is as equally gifted at being a decent human being. I really don’t care how talented you are or how much pull your name has. If you’re egotistical, if you’re a dick, if you’re inconsistent in just straight up treating others around you with kindness and respect—without ulterior motivation—you’re a dub. I feel like I see a lot more of those behaviors and attitudes than I would like to, but I refuse to let them into my own personal world. And that was this album. So it really is an accurate representation of my whole heart.

 I know it’s completely cliché to say, but it really doesn’t fit into any singular genre. It’s laced with an honest injection of rap from some real ones, but beyond that it weaves through terrains of spiritual jazz, psych folk, hymns, and weathered soul. There’s a cut that sounds like ambient reggae until a verse comes in. One friend recently described another track to me as feeling like equal parts RnB and shoegaze. Someone else told me that each song felt like a painting. I loved that. I was super vulnerable and bared my whole soul on the album; I’m glad the strokes came across.

RD : You’ve seen your share of performances/sets, does anyone stand alone as a favorite to watch?

LR :There’s definitely no one single person, but honestly a lot of the artists who’ve guested on my shows are my favorites to see do their thing live. AKAI SOLO’s freestyles are unmatched. Adé Hakim radiates infectious levels of positivity during his performances— I’m convinced he’s secretly a beacon of light in human form. When Stack Skrilla guested on Uppercuts he performed 1000 (shoutout JLVSN on production) in its entirety from front to back perched on a stool, and the studio was full but you could’ve heard a pin drop. That one was really special to me.

RD: As we know, anyone can be in NYC at any given time. Have you guys had any random, noteworthy guests at these functions?

LR :We don’t really get random guests because Half Moon is a closed studio, so anyone coming by needs to have a personal invitation. Also as far as I’m concerned, anyone who takes the time out of their day to come by to show love and be supportive of the underground is noteworthy.

That being said, quite a few people have slid through. Mndsgn came by when Malik Abdul-Rahmaan and I did a special two hour B2B vinyl freeform episode last year in celebration of Ramadan. Stack pulled up before he was on the show himself for JLVSN’s set. Many of the artists who have been featured guests have returned to later shows to show support. Tyron Perryman has dropped by, which means a lot to me because his Tea & Converse podcast really is so essential and beautiful, and I’d like to see more platforms bridging gaps and being supportive of one another the way that he is. Honestly, I’m honored anytime anyone pops in, because it all just boils down to showing love and support, and we all need more of that— in this community, and just in general, period.

Special shoutouts also go to Benji Socrate$, JLVSN, DFNS, Lungs, Phiik, JVH, Silence, Døøf, Keenyn Omari, Devoye, and akari, who have all pulled up time and time again. Makes my heart swell. Same goes for all of the guests who have travelled to be on Uppercuts. Pro Zay flew in from Texas. Murky came in from Akron. Last episode Jah-Monte Ogbon came in from Charlotte and Koncept Jack$on from Richmond. Elijah Bank$y and ZekeUltra are both pulling up from out of town for the next episode (whenever we’re able to normalize a bit again, looking past this pandemic). It’s an honor. And it demonstrates that what Uppercuts is doing is valued. That’s not lost on me.

RD : If you could enlist any 5 musical talents in the world for your full length debut, who would they be?

LR:The full length is already done, so they’re already on there! It’s more than 5, but Akeema-Zane, AKAI SOLO, DFNS, GyPzzy, Koncept Jack$on, Master Holy & Murky all kill their features on Heart True. akari, Devoye, Evan Lawrence, Furozh, Hajino, Keenyn Omari, Oluwaseun Odubiro, Syl DuBenion, and a few other friends also contributed incredible production and/or instrumentation to the album. And every single one of those souls are beautiful. We here.

RD: Shouts/special message for the people

LR: Holla literally every single person I listed above. Golden nuggets all of ’em. Thank you, honestly, to everyone in the scene who has been supportive of me, of my vision, of my musical journey. It’s still just the beginning but I already feel so fortunate to get to work with so many incredible people and have the support and encouragement of so many more.

Also I would be seriously lacking if I didn’t extend special thanks to my Half Moon family. Darian and Tyler have been present for almost every single episode of Uppercuts. Starr and Mel have both come through the station to support on days they’re not even working because they are both bb angels. Surf has been ridiculously enthusiastic about Uppercuts from the jump, which has meant the world to me. In February the station was closed and got opened up just so we could do the show. I felt that. And I’m hyper grateful to Gam, Matt Thompson & JVH for capturing more footage than anyone deserves, and to Gary Franks for being a design genius and bodying so many of my visuals. My team is undefeated.

Special message= STAY HEART TRUE! Extend kindness. Show love. Don’t get swept up in bitterness or feel like everything is a competition. Work together instead of trying to tear each other down. Follow your own unique vision, and be genuine. The right people will take note. And just let the rest roll off your back. We’ve all got this.

Track Lamb’s movements here https://www.lambrabbit.com