A Goldmine for Crate Diggers, Volume 1

Posted by Justin Boland on Aug 14, 2009 | 0 Comments

Goldmine for Crate Diggers

This is the first part of a series collecting music and business advice from some of the best hip hop producers of all time.  Please leave a comment if you’ve got suggestions on interviews and artists I should be including in future installments.

RZA on Vinyl


Source: Hip Hop Core

Tell us about your vinyl collection. Do you still dig in the crates?

RZA: Superduperly. I have boxes I haven’t opened yet. I’ve bought vinyl from many countries. One time I spent 10 grand for records in Italy . I bought 8 boxes and I’ve only opened one. But from the one I opened, I sampled stuff for “The World According To RZA” and for “Iron Flag”.

I love vinyl, you know? To me it has depth, warmth, it’s the best way to really sample. CD’s easier to carry, then you have these websites with thousands and thousands of stuff that you’re lookin’ for and they got it.

Large Professor’s Small Piece of Advice

Large Professor home studio

Source: Junkmedia

So what have you been doing for these younger artists who haven’t spent as much time as you?

I tell them, “First, this is business. Hip hop, you know, we might love it as a music, but when you’re making a record, sales matter. All of these things matter. Don’t wholeheartedly think of it as business, but always remember that, when it all boils down, it’s business. Let your creativity shine, but always remember that it’s business.”

Kutmasta Kurt Dismantling the Crates

Kutmasta Kurt Hip Hop Producer

Q:It seems like today producers are getting more props than ever before, as somebody whose been making beats for a long time now - what advice would you give to all the younger cats just starting out, getting their first Pro Tools or MPC or whatever?

Kutmasta Kurt: Well, the first thing I would say is be prepared to be persistent, because it’s probably pretty easy to be discouraged. It’s also probably pretty easy to think you know what you’re doing. Just because you have a computer or a keyboard or whatever, doesn’t qualify you as a producer. You need to learn about the history of the music, and learn about how to work with people. You need to understand what producing is. Producing is not just making beats, but that’s what it’s become.

Thes One on Making a Living with Independent Hip Hop

Thes One Hip Hop Beats

Source: Remix

What’s your advice to people trying to figure out how to supplement their music income without resorting to the 9-to-5 grind?

Thes One: I have been a full-time musician with expensive taste in records and gear for a long time, and believe me, it gets tough. A few things I have learned keep me stable and successful: 1. Gear: Nothing beyond the simplest setup is actually necessary. All the gear in the world is nice but not necessary - a good song or content and soul trumps everything in the end. The sound is just a very small component. It’s just the icing on the cake. 2. Industry: Everything has changed, and any musician is capable - and should attempt to - handle their own business; that way, you are in charge of where your art ends up. Look for cracks in the system and ask yourself how the old school got paid. When I did this, I realized I needed to be more involved in ASCAP - keeping things registered and carefully placing songs can keep everything financially afloat. 3. Career: Time is the greatest commodity in this industry, and staying afloat for even another year as an independent musician is worth more than any lump sum of money in the long run. Stick with it and chase your dream. Don’t be blinded by the flash-in-the-pan success that surrounds.

Prince Paul Says: “KEEP IT MOVING”

Prince Paul Hip Hop Production

Source: Modern Fix

I’m all over the place. For example, people are like “Man, what have you been doing? I haven’t seen you in a while,” because usually people focus on one thing. Like they’ll either listen to all the alternative magazines, but fail to realize that I just put out the Chris Rock record, which is another genre. Or people look at Handsome Boy which is kinda called like alternative type hip hop stuff, and then fail to realize that I did a Sponge Bob record that the kids will know or maybe I did something more in the hip hop realm. My whole business is pretty secular so when people think I’m down it’s usually in a genre or something where they have no clue what I’m doing. I’m always working and I work under the radio. My quest for being famous, that’s done, you have to sell your soul which is”¦ I don’t have time for that. You have to be at every club, “Hey man, how you doin?” Talk all the game. I like to do my work and go home. It’s very simple. It’s like punching a clock. Man, it’s fun to go home and be normal, whatever that is.

Madlib: Blunted in the Bomb Shelter

Madlib Crate Digging

Source: Urban Smarts

Tell me about your studio! How is it equipped?

The studio’s very basic; mad records. I don’t have no computers, I don’t have any big setups people have. I just have my 303 sampler, or SP 12, or whatever I use and just records. And a little eight digital board. That’s all I need. That’s how I did all my records: Madvillain, Jaylib and all of that.

Doesn’t that limit your possibilities?

It doesn’t limit my possibilities. People just think they need computers and things to do the work for them, but I do my stuff the old school way, the hard way, you know what I’m sayin?

Who taught you to use this equipment?

Me. I just taught myself. Just messing with things.

Reading the manuals.

No (laughs). Just messing with things. You read how to start, and that’s it. Basic. Cause all those machines are the same. It’s what you put into it.

Hank Shocklee: Less is More, More or Less

Hank Shocklee Hip Hop Production

Source: Village Voice

“They’ve mastered the computer to the point it does things the SP-1200 can’t do.But we would have better records today if people said, “Look, you’ve got five hours to make a record.” The problem is that people got all day. They got all week. They got all month. They got all year. So thus, you in there second-guessing yourself. With the 1200, you can’t second-guess yourself, man. You got 2.5 seconds a pad, man… . Till this day, nobody has understood and created a machine that can best it.”

Exile: One of LA’s Dopest


Source: Vapors

“I’m willing to make beats for major labels and artists, but the only thing I’m afraid of is my sound changing. When I got my beat on the Mobb Deep album, I was getting my beats pitched to a bunch of places and I started to cater to them. I had to catch myself and I promised that if I do it, I have to make the beats the way that I want to.

I still wish we were still rocking tapes and vinyl. There’s something special about it. Back in the days you got props for having the dope tape with shit on there nobody else had. Now, with the internet, even though it opened the door for everybody to get some recognition, the mystery was lost. With this new stuff I’m doing, that’s something I want to bring back.”

Nicolay: Don’t Sweat the Technology

Nicolay Live Onstage

Source: Nicolay’s blog

It doesn’t really matter what you use, as long as you use it well.

That has been my motto throughout the years that I have been into making music. I have never been a purist or even a “gearslut”, and I really don’t believe that it matters much whether you use an MPC, an ASR10 or Fruity Loops to make your beats, or at this point, whether you run a laptop or a $100,000 studio. What matters only are the results, and you generally get the best results by using something that you are very familiar with.

My main reason for choosing the computer as a beatmaking machine was that I already owned one, and the music program that I knew how to use on it, called Modplug, was (and still is) free. Besides that I had a turntable, a CD player and a bass and some keyboards and at the time, it was all that I needed to get going. Over the years I have been able to slowly but steadily upgrade my setup, but at the center of it all there’s still a computer running the same free program that I started out with.

J Dilla: Think Globally

J Dilla hip hop production

Source: Thick

People have to understand when it gets to the label side of the politics, the labels don’t wanna hear nothing. There’s no more concept albums coming out, people don’t do that shit. Like I mentioned the Musiq shit, Def Jam is taking a chance on that to me because people ain’t doing concept albums. They worried about the record sales and what’s the hottest single.

We always been on some going against the grain shit but it’s like they forced to do that shit or they’ll be fucked. They won’t have a deal next year or there won’t be another album if they don’t get some singles out and get some sales and shit. The internet and a lot of the crazy technology shit plays a big part on that tip as far as artist being able to do what they wants do. Thats why I’m fucking with these little independent labels, Stones Throw and BBE, they give a nigga a little creative freedom even though the numbers ain’t the same.

But cats don’t really understand they can live off of that shit. I can go overseas and live like a king right now. Ain’t shit popping off in the States. I mean it’s a total different world over there. I tell people this ain’t it, you ain’t just gotta try to get your shit on 106 & Park. You go over seas you can do that shit, you can do what you wanna do. I’m just trying to get my foot in the door get on this 50 shit or whatever I gotta do to change shit. I give thanks to Kanye and niggas that take chances, like Nas picking underground niggas for beats and even G-Unit fucking with Nottz and just crazy niggas. It ain’t gotta be the regular shit. It’s time for the underdog to really come up.

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Music by Justin Boland