X:144 “Presentation is Everything”

Posted by Justin Boland on Jan 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

X:144 is probably familiar to a lot of Audible Hype readers. The emcee / producer / entrepreneur has been an integral part of the Florida hip hop scene for years now, and he made national noise by winning the first Scribble Jam Beat Battle. As he gears up for his busiest year ever in 2011, I got to talk shop with him about presentation, the indie music business and why DIY is really all about teamwork…

AH: You’ve got your shit together online better than most major label artists do. What helps you stay organized? What are you favorite tools?

X:144 It’s like that sun? I look all crispidy? All clean? Ha ha…I don’t know if I would even consider myself organized because of the amount of roles I play in my own career, it tends to get overwhelming. I guess there is somewhat of a method to my madness…not sure how to define it.

Presentation is everything to me. A lot of artists out there don’t have the proper presentation. Whether it be album and promo art, sound selection in their beats, or just mixing. Presentation is the Achilles heel of all indie artists. But throughout the years I’ve observed the position I’m in, as well as the leverage that the major labels have over artists vs. what they really provide for them. When you’re not mega famous and struggling to get proper exposure, you have time to think a lot about these things!

One thing I did notice was a short list of stories of artists who were already running their own operation prior to getting signed to majors. And in the other hand I look at the relationship between the artist and the label as exactly that, a relationship. It’s more so like dating, when you (the label) looking for a wife (the artist), you want to make sure that the woman you date is not only appealing (marketable), but also has her priorities in order (organized), knows how to take care of herself (proof of units sold), and is willing to take care of you as well (i.e. sponsorship deals, give up publishing, commercials, tv, branding, etc…). It’s either that, or what we perceive as the most common equation, the pimp and hoe relationship, and we all know how that goes.

So in order to survive in this industry you have to operate as your own organization. The friends of mine that are signed to labels have to do all the leg work themselves anyway. Especially when they want their product pushed and presented in a certain way. This is the true meaning of being “independent”. I wish I had a dope organization, whether it be my own or another label COUGHrhymesayersCOUGH to represent me and help, not do things for me, but help me shape my career so it can expand further.

As far as tools…I’ve kinda been slacking and really haven’t been on top of twitter game lately, but I utilize whatever the masses flock to. Whether it be twitter, facebook, myspace, or whatever the next tool is. That and local guerrilla tactics…oh and most importantly, people. People are the most important part of any business, “it’s who you know, NOT what you know”. I need to step my rich people game up!

AH: I see a lot of talented artists who don’t match that with work ethic and responsibility. Does running a professional operation come naturally for you, or was there a moment of clarity where you decided to put the weight on your shoulders?

X:144 I think it’s always come natural to me. Everything I’ve ever done, I have mostly orchestrated myself, that’s a part of being a control freak with OCD. That’s not to say that I don’t have help: my fam is the greatest. Peeps like Kevin Beacham, Solillaquists of Sound, Qusai, Madd Illz, SPS, Alias da @dkt, 2nd Subject Recordings, Optiks, Grey Matter, Doxside, Kap Kallous, Drips, the whole GrindTime fam, and the rest of Ozone hold me down. They all have a hand in helping me whether it be directly or indirectly.

But running your own business isn’t easy, you really have to treat it like a full time job. You have to respect yourself like you respect that dead end job of yours. So taking on the weight wasn’t an option, it’s always been there. Even though I haven’t released any music in a few years, I’m still in full operational mode every day. From mixing and mastering other projects, or directing music videos (and hopefully films). Directing is my newest talent that I’m cultivating…so I make sure I put in work with dope results, otherwise you won’t see it. This goes back to presentation being everything.

Solillaquists of Sound “Marvel” Directed by X:144 - Shot on a 7D from X:144 on Vimeo.

AH: You’re doing production work all over the place — is that mostly through your own networking, or are you working with a company or agent to get more placements?

X:144 Shiiieeeeet, I wish I had an agent. It happens mostly through my own networking but again, my relationships with people is what gets me work, whether it be through fam or simply business associates. Currently, Kevin Beacham is playing an integral part in my career right now. He’s also the executive producer for my next album, which is in the production stages at the moment.

AH: Have you settled into a steady formula for your production, or do you make it a point to keep experimenting with new toys, tools and techniques?

X:144 Yeah man, change is good, it’s keeps things fresh for me. But for me personally I do it every couple of years or so. Through that process it subtly evolves. I’m a religious MPC user, but for a while now it’s Logic Pro for me all the way. It’s changed the way I write music. It’s funny that you ask that question because just recently I’ve added a new tool to my arsenal as a means for adding a twist to my process. But one thing stays consistent, the results I aim to achieve, which is always to be dope and to always grow.

Further Illumination

Check out X:144’s very detailed rundown of how he won the Scribble Jam Beat Battle via Remix Magazine. Anyone working in production will learn a thing or two from that there. He’s also been contributing to the excellent Big Quarters blog, Last of the Record Buyers.

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Music by Justin Boland