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HISTORY OF BEAT MAKING - FUTURE MUSIC BY DANIEL LEE HARVEY (INTERVIEWS WITH NEGROSAKI)

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HISTORY OF BEAT MAKING - FUTURE MUSIC BY DANIEL LEE HARVEY (INTERVIEWS WITH NEGROSAKI)

What is your first thought when I mention beat maker?

Someone who sits in their bedroom getting intoxicated on a conjunction of weed and sushi, someone who respects music for what it is or someone who feels the need to deconstruct tracks into something else, in fact the beat maker has many identities; there is no need for labelling as everyone is entitled and able to do it. The thing I love most about it is though… there are no limitations; you as the conjurer are able to piece together a delicacy from a sample that has been lost for years or is fresh from release. So when did beat making start up? There is no answer, beat making could be a clap, a vocal or an instrumental, it transpires through history to the earliest of musicians, but that doesn’t have the elements of how a beat is done today.

In the 1980’s, individuals like Kurt Blow and Afrika Bambaataa pioneered the notion. Kurtis Blow’s ‘‘If I Ruled the World’’ used the first sample loop; it was from a record by the Trouble Funk called ‘‘Pump Me Up’’. With the help of hip hop producers, J.B Moore and Robert Ford, he was able to slice it into a continuous loop which repeated through different sectors of the song. The 80’s on a whole mothered many beat-making contraptions, the Fairlight CMI, a digital sampler released in 1979 continued to be one of the main parts of any studio set up within the decade. Another is the Roland TR-808 which was used heavily by Bambaataa. His album Planet Rock was unlike any of before, it didn’t contain samples, it contained instrumentals. ‘‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’’ is a great example of this and shows how the use of vocal and synth can harmonise each other through a 4 by 4 beat sequence.
Juan Atkins was another who experimented through futuristic motherboards and sequencers. His track ‘‘Cybrotron Clear’’ is noted for pioneering techno.

All of these I speak of from your Blow’s to your Bambaataa’s are the nitty-gritty to beat making. I say nitty-gritty because they are some of the first, they created something that embellishes samples from their production into something alot more retrospective. Alot of people will find a track memorable due to a rhyme in lines or how a bass, guitar, synth or drum can keep it locked in a small department in the back of our minds. With Beat-making, a producer will find this part that makes us remember it and turn it into something we did not think could be achieved. 
When the 90’s rolled in, beat-making became concentrated in hop-hop and also the rate of samples being used in tracks multiplied.

Your basic structure would be the sample and then a drum machine that would divide it through breaks. The one thing that is almost visible in any 90’s hip hop track is an intro which is usually 1 to 8 bars. This is a portal to the listener ears, I know I do and probably alot of others will determine the rest of the song due to the quality of its start. Take Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s ‘‘They Reminisce Over You’’, the intro is a minimalistic soul sample which features a strumming guitar and a drum line that amplifies every bar. This in itself just shows how an intro can intricate the theme, ‘‘They Reminisce Over You’’ was a track dedicated to TROY better known out of Heavy D & the Boyz. Pete Rock sampled a Tom Scott cover of Jefferson’s Airplane Today. This song focuses on the feeling of desperation, self-denial and pain bought on by love. He wanted the track to be in shadow with his emotions on his loss and it worked incredibly. I find that many in the 90’s focused upon subjects that related to society, cultural discrimination and one’s thought on relationships and life ambitions, these days that innovation has changed.

But there was someone that made the 90’s definable in beat making, it was a dude known to his artists and fans as J Dilla, but what made him so special?

For Starters, J Dilla made an angelic difference to the hip hop scene, especially in America in the heart of Detroit. Having produced albums to some of the biggest names in the game, J Dilla progressively became more and more dominant and it wasn’t until I heard his solo material, I found how much skill and creativity a human being of his stance could possess. For any fellow J Dilla fan out there I can whole-heartedly say that his 2006 instrumental album ‘‘Donuts’’ was the perfect showcase for his talent. Every song on this album is crafted to the point, the samples, the instrumentals and authentic scratches emulated to what I like to call salvation through music.

J Dilla would search through the most transcendent of record stores in order to find that perfect sample. He didn’t just crack it in two and give it away to some languid mc to record over. He was very humble about his work. Take the Slum Village’s ‘‘I Don’t Know’’, it flips the James Brown vocals from ‘‘Make It Funky’’. Just by hearing it, you can tell J Dilla spent time perfecting when the sample would enter during the lyrics.

J Dilla unfortunately passed away on 10 February 2006, just 3 days after his 32nd birthday and the release of his final album ‘‘Donuts’’. However upon his death, his legacy continues, many artists made tributes, many wear t-shirts saying ‘‘J Dilla Changed My Life’’, a foundation was made in his name that will help to cure children affected by lupus and a number of projects developed that aim to source the future generations of aspiring beat makers and producers.

From this, I decided to speak to someone who creates beats on a regular basis. He goes by the name of Handbook. Handbook has been someone who I’ve known for a couple of months but during that period it feels like I’ve known him for years due to the supremacy of his music making. Handbook originates from the ever-so-lovely York and creates his sounds through a home studio.

I asked Handbook one simple question ‘‘why did you start beat making?’’ and this was his explanation.
‘‘Beat makers such as J Dilla and Flying Lotus paved the way for a new generation of people who wanted to get involved in making their own music. After I discovered these guys a couple of years ago, the desire to make music of my own really took a grip of me and I had to work out how I was going to start producing my own music. I bought an MPC1000 from a friend and that was it. Sampling, making beats and constructing my own pieces of music, I loved it. I felt liberated and found myself devoting hours and hours of my life to making music that I wanted to hear, but felt wasn’t being made or more closer to the point, not in the volumes that I wanted to hear it. I spent most of summer 2010 making a couple of tracks a day and it finally felt as though I was making something worthwhile. Thanks to guys like Flying Lotus, I felt it possible to make my own music.’’

Handbook has just released an album called ‘‘Celebriteeth’’ and to anyone who is already familiar with his work, you know it’s his best by far; he just grows and improves every time he produces something new. With this album in particular, Handbook focuses upon the iconic actors and actresses of the past and gives life to their traits through slick cuts, slices and dices. One key element that has been made apparent through alot of his work is the way he handles percussion. It isn’t too noticeable yet it manages to intensify the uncooked flavours of the sample involved. Handbook has done greater glory on this one and when listening to it, you can begin to visage a 1950’s Hollywood with blue skies and bustling film studios.

TO HEAR CELEBRITEETH, CHECK OUT HANDBOOK’S BANDCAMP:
http://handbook.bandcamp.com/

Beat maker Marcell James who goes under the name of Negrosaki is continuously pulling out interesting and innovative projects; Marcus Kuzvinwa, one of our fellow seven shades of black writers explores deeper into his sound, his influences and future. 

1. NEGROSAKI. AS A CHILD WHICH MUSIC WERE YOU EXPOSED TO AND WOULD YOU SAY THIS HAS INFLUENCED YOUR MUSIC AND THE WAY YOU CREATE IT?

As a child, I was exposed to R&B (from the 70s to the 90s era), New Jack Swing, Gospel, Hip Hop (late 80s to early 90s), and even video game soundtracks that I would listen to after I played each game. I was most influenced by 90s R&B, and it’s reflected in much of my own music today.

2. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR NAME?

I went through a bunch of aliases before I got to NegroSaki. I used to rhyme before I made beats, so I went by the name Kin Jazama (play of the name Jin Kazama from Tekken) for a while, and then Shogun. The name NegroSaki is open to many interpretations, but I mainly chose it because it sounds cool, and it’s a play of “NagaSaki” in Japan.

3. HOW DID YOU ACTUALLY START MAKING MUSIC?

Since I was at least 7, I’ve always had some kinda desire to create music. I would copy songs on the piano by ear. I officially started making beats in 2007. One day I started messing around in FL Studio 4, and had so much fun that I made multiple songs for the heck of it. After showing people the beats and seeing their positive reactions, I decided to keep going with it.

4. IN TERMS OF YOUR SOUND, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT AND WHAT GENRE WOULD YOU PUT IT IN?

It’s kinda difficult for me to describe, but if I had to put it in a genre, I’d put it in the “Neck Breakery” genre. It’s a mix of R&B, Hip Hop, video games, and some occasional glitches.

5. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO COOK UP YOUR BEATS? ALSO WHY DO YOU USE THESE IN PARTICULAR?

FL Studio 9. I’m used to how FL Studio is organized, and SO MUCH can be done with it, more than many people realize. Many people don’t know what I use, even after hearing like 10 of my beats. That just goes to show FL Studio haters out there that it’s the PRODUCER that makes the music, not the equipment.

6. LOOKING AT YOUR EARLIER COMPILATIONS WITH ‘‘NEGROSAKI REMIXES THE 90’S’’ AND ‘‘NEGROSAKI READJUSTMENT’’ WHICH BOTH INCORPORATE MANY DIFFERENT STYLES, BUT YOUR LATEST ‘‘NEGROSAKI FROM SCRATCH’’ TRACK SEEMS TO STRUT INTO MORE OF THE FUNK REALM, IS THIS A GENRE YOU DELVE ALOT INTO FOR INSPIRATION?

Yes indeed. A big inspiration of mine is Roy Ayers. His use of synth is masterful. I noticed how many producers on soundcloud have incorporated such a style of funk too, and it really made me wanna try it myself.

7. IN YOUR NEWEST RELEASE NEGROSAKI FROM SCRATCH, TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU WANTED IT TO SOUND?

I wanted folks to know that I’m more than just a remixer who can sample. I have my own sound too. That being said, I wanted folks to hear how my music would sound if it was to be in a video game of any sort. I recently graduated college and my major was Game Art & Design. In many video game projects that I’ve worked on in school, I was the official go-to guy for music.

8. IN YOUR SHORT BUMP VIDEOS, WE NOTICED THAT YOU USE AN ARRAY OF VIDEOS TO ACCOMPANNY YOUR SONGS. WE’D ALSO LIKE TO ASK HOW YOU CAME UP WITH YOUR CALLOUT, ‘NEGROSAKI’?

I came up with it in late 2007. I’ve always liked to let folks know whenever they heard something that was mine. I felt it was a nice touch. Though recently, my tagging techniques have changed a bit, and are less robotic and distracting.

9. WE’VE NOTICED THAT YOUR’E NOT CURRENTLY ON A RECORD LABEL. WHATS IS YOUR REASON FOR THIS?
Ever since starting college, my main focus was just school and expressing myself. I never gave joining a record label much thought. I mean, yeah, I’m part of music groups like KC.93 Records, but that’s still developing.

10. IT SEEMS THAT ARTISTS HAVE CERTAIN INTEGRAL PIECES THAT ACT AS A CATALYST TO THEIR CREATIVE PROCCESS, FOR EXAMPLE ERYKAH BADU AND FLYING LOTUS WITH THEIR JEWELERY. DO YOU HAVE ONE?
Hmmm…nothing like that comes to mind for me. All I have is my mind.

11. IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ANY THREE VISUAL, MUSICAL OR ANY OTHER TYPE ARTISTS FROM THE PAST OR PRESENT WHO WOULD THEY BE?
I’d love to collaborate with Madlib, Pharrell Williams, or Roy Ayers.

12. AND LAST OF ALL, FAVOURITE RECORD OF ALL TIME?
That’s an extremely tough one. But I’ll probably have to go with “I Can’t Help It” by Michael Jackson.

WISH YOU ALL THE BEST FOR THE FUTURE AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME

Thanks a bunch for interviewing me. Shalom.

INTERPLANETARY MUSIC

Now in the 2000’s, beat making has turned a corner and has become more in tune with space, there are so many mimics within the industry who do it for all the wrong reasons but in order to be a true beat maker, you have to be able to hear what other people cannot hear within them. They are the inner-voice and as the inner-voice, they have to communicate to others what they are distinguishing off the sample they find.

Flying Lotus will have to be one of the key contributors to this style. His albums, solo works and collaborations all have a unique style to them. I call it future music. It just cannot be labelled; there are so many different approaches that it is almost offensive to label it as a genre. He draws on a wide-range musical palette and learns to focus it into a muse of low bass-lines and distortion.

Others like Erykah Badu channel this future thesis through their appearance. The jewellery, the tattoos and the clothing pieces all seem to dock a specific message. At her latest festival appearance, Erykah was fashioning an Indian black sarees and several tribal tattoos along with her usual line up of rings. Erykah is a massive believer on how humans are continuously evolving and I think this is the way she expresses it. Her ankh ring is a piece of Egyptian symbolism which means new life. The cuffs on her arm represent freedom and most of the clothing she wears contains traces of sentimental history. She sews it all together into a character and changes it per project she is involved in.

There are so many artists I can label and say beautiful words about but the point I am trying to put across is that something different is happening and it’s a movement we will be lucky enough to see. Beat making has made some dramatic changes and through time, producers have advanced their senses. With people like Negrosaki and Handbook, they are both from normal backgrounds; they both make it from home and both do it because they enjoy it. It isn’t about the equipment but the person behind it.
We can all focus on receiving samples but do we all have the ear and the ability to pick up a piece of a equipment to create something that is innovative and unique?

No, it all depends on yourself; you cannot seek the help of others but yet yourself. It’s the same with any genre of music out there, what is the point of emulating when you can create something that is opposing others? We all sit and question, why are the charts continuously sprawling the same sort of material? It’s because they know its successful, commercial producers follow trends and will seek an opportunity if it means they can get large sums of money out of it.

With underground genres like trip hop, they earn to seek the help of the internet. There are so many different forums and projects that people are free to collaborate in and it’s a massive boost to promoting upcoming producers as well. Trip hop is massive in the U.S but in the U.K, the genre has the slightest of being seen.  It’s formulates around the inner circles of the underground but won’t brace the surface until the next couple of millenniums.
This is simply the music people will be playing in their spacecraft in the year 3015.

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