Producer Spotlight: Superior

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Germany’s Superior is no stranger to putting together full, cohesive projects. His debut Scenes explores many sound scapes, using only one vocal feature for the entire album. That was followed up by a joint album with Ugly Heroes’ Verbal Kent, Half My Life, which was met with much critical acclaim. It was his third project The Journey that really sparked my interest, the album is packed with talented lyricists like Blu, Edo G, Lil Fame and features excellent cuts from the legendary DJ Grazzhoppa. His latest project is Long Story Short, a full length masterwork with one of Respect Due’s absolute favorites: Eto aka the hardest working man in show business.

RD: Talk to us about your debut project Scenes, how long did it take to complete, and how long had you been preparing it leading up to it’s release?

S: It was about 5 or 6 months to get the Scenes album ready. It was my first release. So everything was a little bit slower.

RD: The lone feature is Declaime, what made you select him?

S: I’m a fan of Declaime’s music. His mix between singing and rapping is awesome. He is one of the best to do that. Plus I love his album Andsoitsaid. He’s a real artist.

RD: Shortly after you produced the Half My Life project with Verbal Kent. What differences were there producing in collaboration with an emcee for a whole project compared to prepping one of your own?

S: Producing a project such as Half My Life is easier than a collaboration album with many different MC’s. For the project we had one concept that Verbal Kent and I both followed to make a dope album. For the collaboration I had more work to do. It started by selecting the matching artist for the beats. I had to run after 20 people to get their vocals. Sending emails, uploading and downloading files. It was crazy. The album turned out dope, but I think the next time I do an album similar to The Journey I will decrease the amount of features.

RD: What changes, if any, have been made to your gear since you first started out? Is there any piece your dying to add to it?

S: Man I have been around for a minute. I went from a 2 Megabyte Sampler and Atari computer to a fully loaded PC with many plug-ins driven by The Maschine controller. At the moment I don’t have the need to add anything.

RD: You use the very skilled DJ Grazzhoppa regularly, how important is the DJ in your music?

S: I used to be a DJ for a long time. DJ’ing is one of the four elements of Hip Hop. Unfortunately in this day and age rappers don’t seem to have the need for scratches on their songs, which is sad to see.

It’s surely important to build in scratches but not a must for every track. If a DJ has a show or spins at an event of any type, I expect to see some juggles , scratches, and the whole works.

RD: After Half My Life you did a full producer album The Journey. What went into the selection process for the guests?

S: From the guest artist that I know, the ones selected I thought would fit well with the beat that I produced. So you can say I individually hand picked each artist.

RD: Did you experience any setbacks getting vocals? I know that can sometimes be a challenge.

S: Oh yeah, MCs will say: “ I promise to send you the vocals later” and I wind up waiting a whole month. If you promise something then keep your word, or tell me when you will be able to make it happen so I can focus on other moves.

RD: You’re a German native, what would you like Americans to know about German hip hop culture?

S: My parents are from Spain, but yes, I grew up in Germany. German Hip Hop culture in the 90s was pretty dope. There were tons of Hip Hop jams. B-Boys, MC’s, DJ’s and Graffiti Artists coming together united it was awesome. It was no different than in the U.S. around the beginning of 2000 things changed. The focus was more on rap music. I would say that momentarily the culture is the same as in the states. At the moment charts are dominated by German MC’s.

RD: Do you feel your location hurts your career, or have you found the internet makes things possible?

S: Absolutely not if I search for something, or somebody I will find them. So indeed the internet (mainly social media) helps connecting to the world much easier.

RD: The latest project is Long Story Short with ETO? Talk to us about making the project and what it was like to work with him.

S: ETO is one of my favorite MCs right now. I met him on Soundcloud a few years ago. We both became a fan of each others work and after exchanging thoughts we decided to do a project together. The project has incredible beats and rhymes. The sound and vibe is much different than my previous work.

RD: Any other plans for 2019?

S: A project with Estee Nack, Andale’!

RD: Any shouts?

S: Shoutout to all the fans that keep real hip hop alive.

Follow Superior on Twitter @Superior_Prod and on IG @Superior27

Long Story Short digital/CD is out on Below System Records https://belowsystem.bandcamp.com/album/long-story-short

Vinyl is on Tuff Kong https://www.tuffkongrecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/long-story-short-lp

Artist Spotlight: Fortes

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New York’s own Fortes is a busy man. You can usually catch him cranking out constant hours in the lab, writing rhymes and building his Classy Boys brand. A year removed from his official debut Shadow Of A Ghost, which boasts two features from mentor Styles P. we catch up on what to expect and how he got to this point.

RD: The first thing we think of regarding you is hard work. Your constantly posting beat videos and releasing new material. How many hours a day do you put in?

F: I usually put in a good 16 hours a day. I might be listening for half of that time and making beats with the rest. I’ve been doing that for about seven years now. Most musicians get four hours of sleep anyway and I operate just fine. I just want to be prolific as I can. Music releases dopamine and serotonin.

RD: Do you feel your work ethic gives you a competitive advantage, or is that just how you operate regardless?

F: I guess naturally it becomes a competitive advantage, but it’s just what works best for me. I make anywhere from 10-20 quality beats a day, and whatever I like best I usually record on or send it to an artist. I make a lot of music I just create for myself and simply have a lot of music that won’t see the light of day. One thing I always try to do is out-do myself. I just want to keep pushing the envelope forward.

RD: You have a very active working relationship with Styles, how did that come about?

F: I met Styles when I was 20 working at a liquor store. A sequence of crazy events occurred and he’s been my mentor and family ever since. It’s kind of surreal having your favorite rapper somehow become this close figure to you in your life. He has taught me many things and continues to inspire me. I’m thankful for him as a mentor and wouldn’t want anyone else to have that role in my career.

RD: One of your more noteworthy placements is That One for Casanova. I assume you had to go through management, or do you know him personally?

F: I actually got that opportunity through Taxstone. I met Taxstone for the second time at the D-Block studio and he heard I had beats so he took my number. When we first got into sessions with Casanova they were playing the first beat I played for hours. I remember Tax telling me initially I was the only producer he wanted to work with. I know we have some unreleased stuff that may never be heard but you never know. Much respect to Casanova and his well earned success.

RD: What is Classy Boys?

F: The Classy Boys is simply my brand for my supporters and creators. The Classy Boys mantra is “We Don’t Know What Yes Men Are”. Anybody who truly messes with the movement is a class act. The other member is @Smokebandz, a young producer with mad mystique and versatility. He is an artist as well, be on the lookout for him.

RD: You rhyme as well as produce. What came first? And do you always write to your own instrumentals?

F: I was an MC first, I use to rap everywhere I went. I’d  freestyle non-stop when I was around 13. Then I started recording on an 8-Track when I was 15 and bought myself a MPC. During this time I never stopped recording, but I got skilled at production around 20 years old. I’ll say it takes an amount of studying that I still do to become a great producer in my opinion. I’ll rap over any beat that inspires me but since I’m creating all day I end up recording to the rare instrumentals I make.

RD: Let’s talk about your project Shadow of A Ghost. How long did it take to complete? Are you happy with the feedback you’ve gotten thus far?

F: I’m more than happy with the feedback I got, even if it touched a few souls then it is golden and some people have said really nice things. I simply just wanted to make a beautiful album that you could listen to, and also have the ability to listen to all of the production after you heard it.

I was in LA for a few months and I created and cohesively chose ten beats out of 5000 for an album that turned out to be my debut album Shadow Of A Ghost. As soon as I got back to New York, I finished the album in about two weeks. I listened to it for the next year and released it. I was blessed to have Styles P, who I was paying homage to in a song like Mentor feature on two tracks. I pressed the vinyl myself with the instrumentals included on B side and released it entirely independently. It was a crazy feeling as a musician holding a piece of art that you created in the physical form for the first time. I’ll be re-releasing vinyl of Shadow Of A Ghost soon.

RD: Plans for the rest of the year?

F: Producing EPs and songs for a bunch of people. Preparing my sophomore album, more instrumental albums, living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying my life and loved ones.

Editors Note: Since we did this interview Fortes and Lord Juco joined forces for the Lord Classy EP, Bandcamp link can be found below.

RD: What is your ultimate goal as an artist, on both the production end as well as an emcee?

F: I just want to be known as the greatest sample based producer of all time. I will always rap whenever the spirit hits me. I simply to be recognized and respected by my peers and supporters. I never want too much attention or sought fame so I am just happy to inspire and help through my music. I shall continue to create as much content as I can while I am living and I can’t wait for the world to enjoy in due time.

Follow Fortes on IG and Twitter @RealFortes

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/realfortes

Bandcamp: https://realfortes.bandcamp.com

Lord Classy Bandcamp: https://lordjuco.bandcamp.com/album/lord-classy

Producer Spotlight: Free Mind

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California’s Free Mind does not lack for soul. Whether he is producing for Westside Gunn, Vic Spencer or Killy Shoot, he maintains a signature sound that sticks to your ribs long after you listen. A proud student of Dilla, Free just blessed us with his Donut Of The Soul beat tape that would be sure to make Mr. Yancey proud. He just released The Soul Section, his debut vocal project featuring Jamil Honesty, Josiah The Gift and many more. As if that wasn’t enough, he also produced all of Killy Shoot’s Balance of Man EP which contains some of both parties best work to date.

RD: How long have you been making beats?

FM: I started making beats in 2002, when I was a junior in high school on a Casio keyboard that my dad bought for me. It wasn’t until 2011 when I began to take it seriously, though.

RD: Listening to your work, it’s pretty apparent that Dilla and 9th Wonder are big influences. Is there any particular body of work from them that inspired you?

FM: Those two are definitely huge influences for me. There isn’t any particular body of work that inspired me, though. It’s their complete body of work that inspired me and continues to inspire me. I’m a fan of their music. It’s timeless.

RD: You made Hitler Wears Hermes 6, how did that happen? Were you surprised when you got word that Gunn would be using your work for the project?

FM: That was actually crazy how that whole thing happened. I posted a beat video on Instagram and someone tagged WestSide Gunn in it. He reached out to me after that and had me send him beats.

RD: Let’s talk about working with Killy Shoot on The Balance of Man. I recently started to get into Killy’s stuff heavy and this is some standout material.

FM: Killy is my brotha. We started working together in early 2018. I presented the idea for us to do a project together and he was with it. The rest is history.

RD: Personal favorite vocal track you’ve produced thus far?

FM: Soul Glow with Supreme Cerebral is my favorite thus far. Everything about that track is flawless.

RD: The Soul Section just dropped, can you take us behind the scenes on the project? How long did it take to put together?

FM: It took me a year to put it together. I had a lot of songs but none fit what I was trying to do. Track number one with Definite Mass was the very first song that I had for the project, that’s why I used it as the opener. Over time I built relationships with the other emcees, but none of them were the original emcees who were supposed to be on the project. Jamil Honesty is the only exception to that. The song with I.E. MOE was recorded back in 2012. I had him record it again and send it to me so I can mix it for the Soul Section. On the last joint with Killy Shoot I sent him the beat and told him to bless it for me. It’s always easy working with Killy because he gets me. He knows what I’m looking for. We have good chemistry.

RD: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

FM: I see myself making great music still. A lot of great musicians will have a Free Mind track in their catalog.

RD: What do you want listeners to feel when they hear Free Mind production?

FM: When someone hears my music, I want them to feel exactly what it is that I felt at the time I created it. That’s always my goal. I don’t make beats, I tell stories.

RD: Plans for the rest of 2019?

FM: 2019 will be even better than 2018, and 2018 was great. I plan on releasing my tribute to Dilla and my compilation album in the summer. Later on this year, I’ll be releasing an album with O the Great.

Follow Free on IG and Twitter @3rdEyeFree

Bandcamp: https://freemindsoul7.bandcamp.com/album/the-soul-section

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/free-mind-soul-7

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-iXPriyQAwHJB1SjvtDTUg