Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The rules of production...

I know bugger all about producing music, but I do know quite a few producers. Due to that fact I'm going to be very careful what I say in case I wake up smothered.
The other day I noticed on Hip Hop Is Read numerous Sample CDs and 'Production Kits' popping up - everyone's tools are on there from Dilla to Swizz Beats to Kanye to Timbaland to the Neptunes to Dre. Kicks, snares, synths, horns, piano sounds - you name it. "Amazing, I'm there!" I hear you cry. You've probably even stopped reading what I'm writing and are busy downloading it all now. If you're still here but planning on copping all that stuff, budding producer types, what exactly are you going to do with it? (*Don't get me wrong by the way, it's a dope blog)
Here's what I'm trying to say. I played Sticks and Stones by Morgan Zarate ft Eska to a friend (because I LOVE that tune), and he instantly stuck his nose up at it and asked me to turn it off, claiming the drums were Dilla's and that's breaking the golden producers rule. He played me the two clips together and to be honest I still don't hear it - must be a producer thing. I still think Zarate is a huge name to watch out for in future (with a serious arsenal already). It would be so easy though - just to cherry pick from all of your favourite producers - surely you couldn't fail to come up with something amazing? Thing is, no one really wants to hear a raft of music that 'sounds a bit like'. Everyone and their cat has been hailed as the 'new Dilla' lately - because we're desperately hoping and searching for someone who will have the kind of talent and originality to create amazing music for every occasion we're almost guaranteed to like for years and years. I'm not expecting there to be a new Dilla - and I can't imagine anyone would want to be described as that (poor Samon Kawamura - no pressure love). Surely the goal is to be the first "you"? That's why I don't understand what the production kits are for.

*What would have happened if...?
On the flip side of that however - I come from a dance background and fully understood that learning techniques (ballet, Graham, Humphrey, Cunningham etc) set you free to develop your own highly informed movement language. I imagine studying some of the masters of hip hop production is important to upcoming producers too - maybe having the sounds broken down will help with that? But then, who did the 'masters' study? Hip Hop has only been around 30 odd years and is based on samples so surely it's about finding great samples, studying a wide range of music, and learning to work with live instrumentation to add that original element to your work?
I don't know, there are a million arguments in there, but all I have to say is cue FLOATING POINTS. Whilst everyone else is on video game samples, re-mixing Dilla and trying to be the most glitched out mofo on the block this man is on Bartok & Stravinsky whilst doing a PHd in Neuro Science. 10 points for originality, and 11 out of 10 for quality. Trust me I'll be seeing what treats I can garner for you asap from this gargantuan in the making...


  1. Interesting musings.

    I think it all comes down to the individual. Everyone has their own thoughts, concepts, agendas, plans etc...

    One person might just want to hear or experiment with these samples, but another is prob gonna try make a hit with them. Horses for courses. Personally I'm still a fan of old fashioned beat digging. Is that a lost art now? Surely it would feel a lot more satisfying to find a break on some obscure record and work that into your own piece, rather than sample from a sample (effectively).

    I had a similar discussion with a friend that runs a record shop a few years back. We were saying it is sad that now when a young person hears a recognisable beat they are recognising it from the track that used the sample, rather than the original track itself. But who is meant to be educating these people, do they give a shit and does anyone give a shit? What really matters anymore? I don't even know the right answers to those questions... if there are any right answers.

    It takes all sorts I suppose. I knew a guy that sampled from 96kbps snippets off websites - another friend of mine nearly choked on his cereal at his revelation, cos he was a bit of a perfectionist and would never dream of touching source material with such a shitty quality himself.

    Still, with Soulja Boy crankin' that shit etc... nothing surprises me these days.

  2. doesnt matter what you use as long as the music is dope and coming from a good place!

  3. there's unwritten rules though.

    don't f**k with the same drum loop twice. to the trained ear it's just... bait. and producers do get aired out.

    those beat CDs are the devil's droppings, and an excuse for shit producers. i knew this dude that was using (classic ASR-10) Neptunes drum patterns and even their Korg and Moog synth sounds. it made my skin crawl- you don't urinate on someone else's signature (unless you can GENUINELY do it justice or it's a clearly acknowledged homage).

    still the upcoming generation is Dilla-affected as much as it is Madlib-inspired (Quasimoto- Greenery anyone?). these patriachs have become the Primo and Pete Rock to this next breed.

    and i'm enjoying this phase, it'll pass or perhaps morph into a new creature entirely, but atleast it keeps the culture alive and gives new flesh to it's already calcium-deficient bones.

  4. Hmmm, Eric, I know you're very lovely but I must admit I quite like a lot of music that's not particularly dope and is coming from a very bad place, haha...

  5. there are no rules.... thats what makes art and music so great... infact, the ones that break the rules are more often than not the most exciting...


    Who ever said that about Morgan is a dummy too...
    Eve remix anyone?
    Morgan was the drummer for Spacek? Jay Dee remixed Morgans work? Worked with Steve etc. Dilla was a fan of Morgans.

    Who ever turned there nose up at Morgans music is a dummy,,, Alex Nut said so!

    As for rules...

    Rules are for maths and science,,, and even then they get broken... just ask Floating Points!

    ....dammm, you got me commenting on blogs, times must be hard.

  6. i think it's too whimsical to say there are no rules (dependent on context of course).

    i agree there's no rules on how many boundaries are pushed or conventions completely obliterated. indeed there's should be no bar too high or rules too rigid concerning how far you can progress with a sound. that's more than acceptable as the beauty of 'art', to bloom.

    there should however be rules laid down to prevent regression. i.e. when it comes in the form of blatant biting- as in to emulate yet not better upon nor evolve; merely compensating for a bankrupt style or musical ineptitude.

    still the Morgan Zarate track is huge, not one to be fronted on, and perhaps sometimes cats do get a little overzealous and puritanical about certain things (trivialities in the grand scheme) and forget to just let that shit run (cos Eska sings the ass off any drums like a Queen).

    if anything ya boy shoulda' felt chiefed about is the fact there weren't fresh Ghost verses but the ones off Milk 'Em (which did annoy me a bit aswell).

  7. Hm, feeling sorry for said subject of Morgan Zarate example - I didn't give out crib notes about Morgan's production credits before playing it, and he did like the song. I think an instantaneous reaction is a valid one and doesn't make you a dummy if you don't have the benefit of 'nerdsite'. I was merely using it as an example of one of the 'producer rules' that remain a mystery to me as a non-producer. Whether or not we think there are rules or not - plenty of the successful producers out there would say there are and I imagine in terms of making credible (& successful) music it's useful to know what they are. Surely there's too many nerds watching not to?

  8. this & Oddisee's post are excellent. morgan z's beat are next level brilliance. as are floatingpoints, his recent mix for nobodydancenomore has left me clobbered.



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