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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ASR-X Pro/Street Orchestra

The ASR-10 has been made famous over the years through high praise from producers such as Kanye West, Pharell, Timbaland, and The Alchemist.   While Ensoniq's ASR-X Pro doesn't have the same star studded list of users, there are some excellent videos of different producers putting this former competitor of the Akai MPC 3000 to good use.  I especially enjoyed this artistically shot tutorial video from Philadelphia Music Magazine featuring Sparrow the Movement producer Street Orchestra.  The shots of his massive, chaotic record collection alone are worth the watch.

It should be noted that this isn't just an ASR-X Pro video as the E-mu SP-1200 is also prominently featured.

Let The Beat Build w/Street Orchestra from Philadelphia Music Magazine on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Samiyam- Boiler Room SP-404 Set

This is without a doubt one of the most impressive live SP-404 performances that I've ever seen.  I like the way Samiyam continuously tweeks his music throughout.  He is a ridiculously talented human being and I can't imagine how many hours of practice it took to compose this set.  Make sure to check out more of his music here.  

KLC Talks Kanye

The Smoking Section just posted a cool video interview with KLC, a member of No Limit's former in-house production team Beats by the Pound.  His sound has influenced countless other producers and his massive back catalog  includes records with artists like David Banner, Ludacris, and Snoop.  In the video KLC talks about the making of his classic "Down 4 My N****z" and his reaction to Kayne sampling it on "Blood on the Leaves".  It's nice to see TSS paying tribute to someone who is far too often overlooked by music journalists.  Check out the interview by clicking here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sabzi Interview/Beat Making Video

I have a very personal connection to the music of Seattle group Blue Scholars.  My cousin raps and one of my favorite songs of his was done over the "Loyalty" beat.  I also took my fiance to a Blue Scholars/Bambu show in Northampton, MA on our second date.  For the record, both acts absolutely destroyed it.

I've always dug Sabzi's production and was curious about what equipment he uses to make beats.  A while back I found a great three part interview/beat making video where he explains why he chose Acid Pro for producing.  He also creates a beat live and breaks down his creative process.  Sabzi is part of a growing group of producers that I am learning about who use Acid Pro to make music.  After watching videos like this, I myself am revisiting my version of Acid 4.0 to see what I can do with it.

I am including the third video below.  Also make sure to check out the first two.    

"Rhythm Roulette" with Lee Bannon

Mass Appeal has done a great job with their "Rhythm Roulette" series.  The idea is simple: have a producer go to a nearby record store, throw on a blindfold, and randomly select three records.  The producer then has to construct a beat from the records selected.  Both the concept and the execution are flawless.  I hope Mass Appeal recognizes how stellar this idea is and continues to run with it.

While watching the Lee Bannon and Statik Selektah entries, I couldn't help but notice that Lee Bannon rocks an SP-404  with Ableton to make beats.  I have heard some of Bannon's tracks before but was not aware that he used a 404.  Hopefully I've discovered another dope producer who I can talk to for 303s and 404s.

14 KT- "Lady"

I became an instant fan of Detroit, MI producer 14KT after discovering him through Nick Tha 1nda a few weeks ago.  Lately I've been listening to anything and everything featuring his production and his talent is overwhelming.  The trailer for his upcoming instrumental album Nickel & Dimed sounds absolutely fucking insane and has me eagerly awaiting the release date (August 27th).  His "Single" instrumental, which serves as the perfect introduction to his catalog, also deserves your immediate attention.

Below is a video I found on YouTube today of him reworking the D'Angelo classic "Lady" on the Maschine.  A cool video for both casual fans and producers who enjoy watching other producers create.  Enjoy.

14KT Remakes D'Angelo's "Lady"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

DJ Pain 1

I first discovered DJ Pain 1 while looking for beatmaking tutorials on YouTube.  The first video I found was a great two part tutorial on Acid Pro, a program used by super producer Danger Mouse.  Since then I've become a fan of his video blog, free sample packs, and instructional videos.  After working with artists such as 50 Cent, Public Enemy, Young Buck, and Young Jeezy, Pain remains humble and approachable.  He also continues to create and share content that is useful for both veteran and new producers despite his busy schedule.  If you have any interest in producing rap music, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with his YouTube channel and his Twitter feed.  Also make sure to download the soul sample he is currently offering for free from one of his unfinished beats.        

DJ Pain 1 Chopping Samples with the ASR-10 and Making a Beat with Acid Pro

Friday, July 26, 2013

'Til My Tape Pop #3: DJ Geo Roc- Queens Get the Money

I discovered DJ Geo Roc through Tapemasta’s Pushin’ Tapes and Big Chew and Dimez’s Rapmullet websites.  I would like to personally thank them for opening my ears to countless tapes that have had a profound influence on me.    

I first posted something about DJ Geo Roc on my blog in February of 2008.  The post consisted of a download link for hismix tape To the Death Vol. 4: The Return.  It ended up being one of my most commented on posts of all-time.  All of my 90’s mix tape posts seemed to get a great response, so I decided to post a download link to his Queens Get theMoney tape in April of 2009.  Once again, the response was tremendous.  Lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find anything about him on the Internet, I wrote, “If anyone knows anything about him, or, better yet, Geo Roc, if you see this, hit me up! I'd love to write something of substance to go with this tape.

Not long after, Geo Roc did hit me up.  During my interview with Geo I learned about mix tape distribution in the late 90’s, his work with the Cold Cutz Crew, and some unbelievable behind the scenes stories.  Read on as DJ Geo Roc takes you back to the late 90’s in my third installment of ‘Til My Tape Pop.    

Downloads for Queens Get the Money and To the Death Vol. 4 are included at the bottom of the post.    

(Via Ebay)

DJ Sorce-1:  When did you first get into DJing?

DJ Geo Roc:  I was still in high school; I want to say it was ‘92 or ‘93.  I was listening to Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, MC Shan, EPMD, Redman, and KRS One.  I never had direct drive turntables and I didn’t come from a lot of money.  I remember one day my father was working an overnight at a venue.  The DJ that night left a handful of records and my father came home with them.  I think it was DJ Casanova, who was big at the time.  I had one of those belt drive turntables with an 8-track underneath.  I put a record on there and started cutting with the volume as my fader.  I’d turn it up a little and shut it all the way off to cut out the sound. 

A year later I got to mess around with real turntables.  One of my best friends was a DJ and I used to go to his house.  I remember one day he had doubles of Run DMC’s "Peter Piper" on the turntables.  He went to take a shower and I started cutting up, “You all know how the story goes”, slashing back and forth.  He came back into the room like, “That was you?  Oh shit.”  It took off from there.   

I remember listening to DJs like Scratch from EPMD cutting choruses on songs.  I remember DJ Evil Dee cutting up, “How many MCs must get dissed?”  I would sit in my homeroom class in ‘93, my senior year, and I’d have a piece of paper on the table.  I’d be cutting and making little scratch sounds.  I’d wonder if vinyl would make the same sound that I was making with the loose leaf paper.   In ’94, my freshmen year of college, I bought one turntable and a mixer.  A couple of months later I bought another turntable. 

Then, around ’95, I really started doing my thing.  I don’t remember how, but I linked up with Dirty Harry and his cousin Cage, and Cage became my manager.  He was my manager for two or three years, right up until I dropped Queens Get the Money.  He was managing me when I did To the Death and he did right by me.  He put my stuff out across the country.  They were selling my stuff in England, Germany, and Japan, but I wasn’t making as much money off of them as I wanted to.  Then we kind of drifted apart.  I linked up with this other kid who did my distribution for Queens Get the Money and we did really well on that.      

(Via Ebay)

DJ Sorce-1:  Were you from Queens originally?

DJ Geo Roc:  I live in Queens in a town called Middle Village.  My wife grew up here and we bought a house in her neighborhood.  I was born in New York and lived here until I was two.  We moved to Delaware and then in ‘86, when I was 10 years old, we moved back to New York.  We lived in Astoria for a year and then moved to Woodside in Queens.  I went to Bryant High School in Astoria and lived in Woodside.  I’m Greek and Astoria back then was all Greek.  All of my friends, cousins, and relatives were in Astoria.  Then we kind of migrated east to Whitestone, Bayside, and Long Island.  

DJ Sorce-1:  How many units did you move of Queens Get the Money?    

DJ Geo Roc:  There was no real way to track.  We sold them two different ways.  You could do it on consignment or you could sell your master to certain people.  I would sell my master to someone for $400 or $500.  They could press up a few thousand tapes and make as much money off of it as they could.  Or you could do it on consignment with the mom and pop stores and give them 100 tapes at a time.  Tapes sold for $10 back then, so they would keep $5 and we would keep $5.  The tapes were selling across the country and across the world.  Just to put it in perspective, in one record store in Corona, Queens I must have sold 3,000 tapes in one month.  To this day when I go into Numbers Records & Tapes, the owner will say, “Hey, I just had a customer come in and ask when you’re dropping another mix tape.”  (Laughs)

(Via Ebay)

DJ Sorce-1:  People like you, Spinbad, and the 1200 Hobos did some amazing things by utilizing 4-tracks to record complex and layered tapes.  Can you explain the process of recording with a 4-track?

DJ Geo Roc:  When you used a 4-track it was recording to tape.  I used to use those metal tapes because they sounded a little bit better.  Say you dropped the instrumental to Track 1.  You’d let it ride for a minute, then you’d have to rewind it and record you’re a cappella or cut to Track 2.  Then you could rewind it and record something to Track 3.  With the constant rewinding you would lose quality and there would be a hiss. 

The intros were the hardest.  Let’s say on Track 1 I’d record someone saying, “I’m from”.  On Track 2 I’d cut in, “Queens”.  On Track 4 I’d already have the instrumental, so that left me with Track 3 to cut something else in.  You had to bounce tracks to make it work.  It was hard man.  A lot of it was in my head already, but sometimes I’d have to look through hundreds of records for the right phrase.  I literally had a notebook of phrases and another separate notebook with different a cappellas that worked with different instrumentals.    

When I was done, I would take my tape to a friend’s studio and put the output from my 4-track through their board until it sounded decent.  You’d have to mix it down to a master tape and then duplicate it from there.  Everything was mixing down live; you couldn’t stop it.  He’d start recording and I’d hit play.  Then I had in my head, “Here I recorded an instrumental and it’s a little loud, so I have to turn Track 4 down at this point.  After this instrumental goes out, put Track 4 back up.   On Track 1 I have a drop of Lil’ Kim saying, ‘Yo this is Lil’ Kim chillin’ with Geo Roc’ and it came in low, so I have to remember to bring it up.”  It was all mental.

DJ Sorce-1:  You were doing the mixing and mastering through trial and error.

DJ Geo Roc:  Yeah.  As far as technology and recording, no one really showed me much.  But style wise, I used to practice with Spinbad, Slynkee, and all those kids.  So cutting and scratching came from those guys.  When I made the earlier tapes like To the Death, I hadn’t even been DJing for a year.  I listen to it now and kind of giggle.  Years later I was on a whole other level.  I always wanted to do something to showcase my skills now.  I picked up shit quick man.  

DJ Sorce-1:  Your mix tapes had drops from big time Queens rappers like Capone-N-Noreaga and Royal Flush.  How did you get in touch with those guys?

DJ Geo Roc:  Capone-N-Noreaga used to do autograph signings and in-store events.  Before they dropped an album, they promoted the hell out of it.  They would go to a big store and just sit there and sign autographs.  I would be there with two turntables playing hip-hop and I’d mostly play their shit.  I did a lot of autograph singing, open mic competitions, and freestyle battles.  All of those guys would be judges and people like KRS-One would also be judging.

DJ Sorce-1:  Do you have any crazy stories from the time you were meeting different Queens rappers and hanging out with them?

DJ Geo Roc:  Do you remember ACD?   They did a song called “Street Life” with Mobb Deep.  They were nice.  One of the kids from ACD free styled on Side A of Queens Get the Money with Royal Flush.  I had the Infamous Mobb and someone else on Side B.  I was already done with Side A and I’d started the intro for Side B.  I used to chill with Foxy Brown’s brother, the head A & R for The Trackmasters, and his name was Anton.  He used to roll with this kid Footy who was one of their main promotional dudes.  He loved my mix tapes.  Back then, it was all about hustling.  If you put out mix tapes or showed them your flyers for big clubs, they would hit you off with free vinyl.  I would go up there once a week, maybe more, and became pretty tight with Anton.  

One day he was like, “Geo, I know you’re doing Queens Get the Money.  I got this kid who’s out the lobby right now.  He’s form Queens and he’s dope.  Let him get on your mix tape.”  I was like, “Who is he?”  He said, “He goes by 50 Cent.”  I went out there and talked to him and gave him a pound.  I told him, “Maybe on the next mix tape.  I already have all of my freestyles.”  Two months later I heard “How to Rob” and I was like, “Oh, shit!”  He just blew up after that.  (Laughs)  That was my one chance.  I also went to the studio with Nature one time right before he blew up.  I was trying to get something from him.  I always liked Nature.  Over time I kind of lost touch with those guys.

DJ Sorce-1:  It seems like you made your mark quickly and then you left the mix tape game during its peak.  Why did you decide to quit?  

DJ Geo Roc:  I think it was in ’98.  I don’t know why.  I dropped To the Death chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4.  I did Queens Get the Money.  Then I started on another mix tape and I finished side one.  It was going to be called Show Me the Honeys because Jerry McGuire was big at the time.  I was gonna do an all R & B tape aimed at the females.  It sounded real dope; I wish I still had that master.  I finished side one and never got to continue with it.  My parents would move us apartment to apartment back then and it got hard.  I’m still DJing, I just never finished it.  And that’s the end.  I always wanted to put out another mix tape.  I’ve done a lot of mix tapes with remixes but I’ve never put them out.  I just did ‘em for myself and I’ll rock the remixes in the club.  I always feel like my mix tapes were a work of art in a way.  I put a lot of work into them.  

DJ Sorce-1:  Earlier you talked about learning from the other members of The Cold Cutz Crew.  They were highly respected and a lot of the members are still doing it.  What was it like being a member?

DJ Geo Roc:  I linked up with Spinbad, JS-1, Slynkee, and some other cats and became the Cold Cutz Crew.  We did some stuff on each other’s mix tapes and they helped me with some of my outros.  We battled together in ‘97 in the ITF.  It was me, Spinbad, and JS-1.  Craze jumped on with us.  I don’t want to say we didn’t get along with the X-Men, but they were judging, and we knew we weren’t going to win because they were judging.  He jumped on with us during JS-1’s set and started cutting just to show that he was down with us.  We didn’t plan it that way, he just got on.  The 5th Platoon beat us.  Craze wasn’t Craze yet.  He was blowing up at the time, but after that he really blew up.

DJ Sorce-1: What was your relationship with Spinbad and JS-1 like?

DJ Geo Roc: Me, Spinbad, and JS-1 would practice a lot.  That’s when I was really into it, during my college years.  I used to go practice with Spinbad and JS-1 at JS-1’s house and we’d have six turntables set up.  Someone would cut up a beat and someone cut a phrase.  I would go home after and be like, “Damn, Spinbad did this fucking cut.”  I would just practice it and get it.  And cutting, scratching, and DJing started going to a whole other level with turntablism stuff.  
A little while after we did the ITF we started to fade apart and do our own thing.  Around this time I did a party out in Waco, Texas.  After the club shut down I was driving to the after party with the promoters in their Mercedes Jeep and all of sudden people are shooting at us.  The promoters didn’t let these kids into the club that night, so they followed us.  Here I am sitting in the back of the jeep with my turntables, and they shot through the back window.  To this day I have little fragments of shattered glass in some of my record sleeves.  The day after we got shot at they found a bullet in head rest of the jeep.  I was like, “Oh shit man.  I can’t do this.”  

For me, it was a wakeup call.  I was starting to get older.  I had played soccer at Hofstra, broke both of my legs, and kind of dropped out.  I thought, “Where am I going in life?”  I wanted to keep DJing on the side, but I didn’t think it was going to be a career or a money maker.  That’s when I went back to school and got a job in television.  I work for CBS Sports now.  We produce the NFL today show.  I work with Marino, Boomer and all of those guys.  I stuck with DJing on the side but I DJ less now.  I would love to have time, the way Spinbad and JS-1 made it a career.  Spinbad is all over the radio and JS-1 travels with Rahzel and does a lot of other shit.     

(JS-1, Jazzy Jeff, and Spinbad Via DJ JS-1's Instagram)

DJ Sorce-1:  What’s the biggest adrenaline rush you’ve ever had during a live performance?

DJ Geo Roc:  I was doing an after prom party at the Roxy in Manhattan.  The place holds thousands of people.  I think Mobb Deep had just dropped "Shook Ones" so it must have been 95.  There must have been 20 high schools from all over Queens.  I dropped the "Shook Ones" a cappella over the "Mad Izm" instrumental.  The place just went bananas.  I can’t explain it.  Four thousand people just going, “Oh shit!!”  The feeling was crazy.        

DJ Sorce-1:  Looking back, do you regret your decision to not go further with DJing?  

DJ Geo Roc:  I’m upset at myself for not putting out any more mix tapes.  I could never find time.  I got married 10 years ago, I have two kids now, and it’s like, “Where am I going to find time to do this?”After I dropped Queens Get the Money, I was going across the country.  I was booked from the Hamptons to all the biggest clubs in Manhattan.  I’d be booked Monday nights here, Wednesday nights there, and Thursday nights at Cheetah.  Diddy used to be there every freaking Thursday and there were celebs everywhere.  I was doing good, but it slowly started to become just a side thing for me.  I couldn’t DJ that often anymore, but in a way, I left something unfinished.  

You can hear more DJ Geo Roc on his SoundCloud page.  Also make sure to like him on Facebook.

(Editors Note: If you have To The Death Vol. 1, 2, or 3, or the ITF footage Geo spoke of, please hit me up on Twitter.)  Download Queens Get the Money by clicking here.  Download To the Death Vol. 4: The Return by clicking here

Thursday, July 18, 2013

DJ Zimmie- You Gots to Grill #5: Steaks is High

Make sure to check out the new summertime mix tape from the homie DJ Zimmie.  Perfect music for hanging out on the porch and grilling with your friends.  I love the nod to De La Soul in the title and the introduction to the mix.  Zimmie takes the same format used for the intro in Stakes is High and mimics it using all audio of people talking about BBQs.  Very creative.

Friday, July 12, 2013

303s and 404s: Mr. Dibia$e Pt. 3

This is the third and final installment of 303s and 404s with Mr. Dibia$e.  Make sure to check out Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 if you haven't already.

DJ Sorce-1:  Besides the SP-303, 404, and MPC 2000, what other equipment stands out to you?

Mr. Dibia$e:  One homie just got an SP-1200 as a gift.  I need to make a beat on that in my lifetime.  I have the SP-12, but the 1200?  Never.  The homie had one and I thought I was gonna make a beat on it.  I turned it on and tried to sample with it, and it wasn’t sampling.  His shit was broke.  He just had it sitting.  I should have bought it from him regardless and had it repaired.       

DJ Sorce-1:  That’s expensive though.  A working SP-1200 goes for a lot of money on EBay.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  How I got The SP-12 is a funny story.  I had a friend who lived in Lancaster.  He was like, “Yeah, I got a homie with an SP-12.  It’s just sitting in his garage, collecting dust.”  I was like, “Damn, see if he wants to sell that shit.”  This dude with the SP was on that gangster shit.  He wasn’t tripping on SP-1200s and didn’t know the history.  So he was trying to sell his SP-12 for $150 because it was broken.  This was in 2001, and I was ready to spend $500.  I was like, “Man, I’ll have the money tomorrow.”  

When I went over there the next day to buy it, he was still talking $150.  His cousin walked in and saw the SP-12 out.  His cousin wasn’t a numbskull; he was a hip hop head.  He said, “Oh shit, you got an SP-12?  De La Soul made 3 Feet High off of this drum machine”, and started dropping all kind of knowledge.  I was like, “Shut the fuck up man.” (Laughs)  So they went in to the corner to talk some shit over and re-consult some shit.  He came back like, “Yo man, I gotta sell if for $250 dog.”  In my head I was like, “That’s it?  OK.”  But I was like, “Oh man, how you gonna bump the price up like that.”  The price was still low.  I was ready to spend $500, maybe even $700 if I had to.  But it was broke; it was missing a fuse on the back of it.  I was like, “Fuck it” and gave him the bread.  

I drove back to LA, took it to this spot, and they fixed it for $100.  So I basically spent like $350 on the SP-12.  I just run drums through it.  But years down the line it fucked up on me again.  So it was sitting for like three years.  I thought it was a simple fix, but it was way more serious than that.  It was like $600 to fix.  But yeah man, it’s crazy; I’m addicted to the equipment.         

(Via Red Bull)

DJ Sorce-1:  As much as you like equipment, you seem to be able to make do with anything. You were able to rock an 8 second sampler, tape deck, and Walkman.  Do you have any other interesting sampling methods that you’ve used over the years?     

Mr. Dibia$e:  In ‘95 I was sampling from the radio station.  My homie had the little receiver with the antenna on the back and I’d sample from the Jazz station or whatever.  Sometimes the reception was bad, so I’d hold the antenna with one hand and use the other hand to press the button to start and stop the sample.  You might hear a little buzz in it.  But fuck it, it gives it character.  Sometimes I’d just put a tape on and record the station all through the night.  I’d wake up the next morning, listen to the tape, and sample from the tape.  

DJ Sorce-1:  Do you have any of tapes from those sessions?

Mr. Dibia$e:  Oh man, that was before I had the 4-track.  A lot of those tapes, nah, I don’t have them.  I still have some tapes at my mom’s in the garage.  Every time I go, I be going through, finding tapes, and bringing ‘em back.  Some are 4-track tapes, some are regular tapes.  Some of the tapes from ‘90-something are all warped.   

(Limited Edition Dibia$e Tape Release Via Green Llama) 

DJ Sorce-1:  Earlier in the interview you mentioned being self-trained when it comes to drum machines and samplers.  How much of technical understanding did you have for music when you started?  

Mr. Dibia$e:  I don’t play cords or nothin’.  I don’t read music like that.  I just go off of the feeling man, pretty much.  I said something online once about how my whole sound is imperfections.  Something could be technically off, but I don’t know, that’s what I was feeling at the moment.  I don’t know how to play drums or nothing, but I kind of understand the pocket and velocity.  Like with hi-hats, sometimes certain hi-hats shouldn’t all be at the same volume, it should have a certain velocity like a real drummer.  A real drummer, when he’s hitting the drums, he’s not hitting it at the same volume every time.  So I just try to have that approach.  It’s a certain pocket man, I can’t even explain it.  I know cats that actually play the drums, and they can explain it.  They know all of the time signatures and all of that.  I don’t know.  I just hear it and...(Laughs)    

(Via ?)

DJ Sorce-1:  I feel like that’s inspiring for people who want to make music but don’t have classical training.    

Mr. Dibia$e:  I do want to learn though, definitely.  I want to learn the drums and piano, to understand the theory of it.  Once you know the rules, you can break the rules.  You know what you can get away with.  I’m not a purist, not at all.  I remember when I was rhyming; I wouldn’t even structure my beats.  I wasn’t tripping off of hooks or nothing.  Then I started structuring beats for the 16 bar and 8 bar hooks.  

When I started getting in beat battles, I started sequencing my beats a certain way to have different transitions.  I was trying to cram all of it into a minute.  In beat battles, you have a minute to play your beat, so I wasn’t trying to play a loop or nothin’.  I was trying to make certain transitions and have crazy change ups, like some surprise shit; some unconventional shit.  I don’t know.  It’s just experimenting, pretty much.   

DJ Sorce-1:  How do you think being from Watts/L.A. has influenced your music?  

Mr. Dibia$e:  When I was young, in elementary school, I was kind of the music dude.  One of my best friends, he had a brother who was way older than us, so he would dub all of the music for us.  I would have NWA, 2 Live Crew, and all of that controversial stuff on cassette in elementary school.  When the homies were dubbing all of those tapes for me I’d be sitting in the car with my moms listening to the tapes.  I’d have all of the tapes memorized and when the cuss word would come up, I would turn the volume down real quick, like a mute out.  It was like my signature mute out that I do now on the beat, but I was in 6th grade doing it on the car stereo. (Laughs)  At a certain point she wasn’t even tripping on the cuss words.  By junior high or high school it wasn’t no issue.  I remember when I went to YMCA summer camp in 6th grade.  Our councilors were in high school and they were coming to me and having me dub all the new music for them.  It was funny.  I was that dude back then.  A lot of that stuff was Geto Boys, X Clan, Ice Cube’s first solo album.

There are a lot of influences man.  My pops had a restaurant with a juke box.  Any time I would chill at the restaurant, I would be listening to the juke box.  A lot of times rappers would eat at that restaurant.  People like Ice Cube and Easy E would give him 45s to put in the juke box.  They would autograph them and all that.   

DJ Sorce-1:  Was he friends with those guys?

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah.  He knew a lot of them.  He had a restaurant by Freemont High in the 80s called McGary’s.  Basically every weekend, I’d either play arcade games at the Laundromat across the street or be inside the cafe listening to music on the jukebox.  I’d just be picking random stuff like Ray Parker’s "Ghostbusters", and of course I’d listen to the hip hop stuff that was in there all day.  There were also all kind of oldies, and as I got older and was familiar with that kind of music, I’d flip all of that stuff.  

(Via Amazon)

DJ Sorce-1:  You’re in Sacramento now.  It’s amazing how much the Internet has taught me about regional rap scene.  I check the website Rap Music Guide a lot and listen to the tapes put out by R8R & L-wood.  They had one tape that was all Sacramento rap.  I didn’t even realize people like Brotha Lynch Hung were from there.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah, that’s all I know about Sacramento rap pretty much, is Brotha Lynch Hung.  Back in the day I knew he was on that grimy stuff.  Odd Future before there was Odd Future.  Horrorcore.  I’m just super low key out here in Sactown.  I barely do anything out here besides making beats in the lab or going to work.  Most of the shows be out of town.  I don’t know what’s up with the beat scene out here, but they got some cats that rhyme.  Chuuwee is pretty sick.  I’m still adjusting to living out here and figuring out who’s who.

    (Via ?)

DJ Sorce-1:  Sometimes it’s good to move out of your comfort zone.   

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah.  It’s a mission though, sometimes.  I’m so used to LA.  Sacramento is cool; it’s slower paced out here.  I’m real laid back anyway, so I don’t like stuff to be too fast paced.  When LA got too fast paced, I’d just go in the lab.  There was a lot of inspiration in LA.  It’s tough to find inspiration out here, but we definitely try.  San Francisco is only 45 minutes away and it definitely be cracking there.   A lot of the homies that make beats live in San Fran and Oakland.  

DJ Sorce-1: Earlier in the interview we talked about having to give up doing music as a full time job.  Do you think you’ll be able to do it for a living again with all of the responsibilities you have and your new location?  

Mr. Dibia$e:  I was doing it full time until about eight months ago; from like 2008 until 2013.  That was a good run and I could live off of it for a time.  But the thing is; most of your money comes from touring.  I can’t be gone on tour for months at a time.  I have a lot of homies who just be gone for months in Europe and crazy shit like that.  The most I could do is tour for two, maybe three weeks.  When I went to Australia, we went for two weeks.  It was cool man. 

If I was younger...when the beat scene started for me, I had already been doing it since ‘95.  The beat scene started cracking ‘07 and ‘08, when cats was traveling off of this stuff and making beat albums, like the original back in the day beat albums, like DJ Shadow.  For a while cats wasn’t making instrumental concept albums like they doing now.  Cats is touring all over the world off of that shit.  When I decided I was rhyming, I was doing a lot of shows with my old crew.  We were opening for cats like Doom, GZA, and J-Zone.  I did like 400 shows rhyming from like ‘97 to 2005.  

Once I started doing the beats I had to start from ground zero.  A lot of cats is young so they can still tour.  I can’t really afford to tour for months.  If there was a beat scene back in the '90s, I definitely would have tried to be on the road a lot more.  But it’s cool.  I’m just happy to make beats and put some stuff online.  Get out a little bit.  Travel a little bit.  It doesn’t have to be aggressive.    

Many thanks to Mr. Dibia$e for helping me to kick off 303s and 404s.  His epic live performances have made me re-think the possibilities of both Roland machines.  He is a one of a kind talent.   

I am a big fan of several Dibia$e albums, including Swingology 101 and Collectin' Dust.  As with all artists I interview, I strongly encourage you to support his projects.

I also recommend checking out his crew, Green Llama.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

303s and 404s: Mr. Dibia$e Pt. 2

(Dibia$e and Elaquent via AmheilLaxama)

During Pt. 1 of our interview,  Mr. Dibia$e touched on topics such as his life/music/work balance and the benefits mixing hardware and software.  For Pt. 2 of 303s and 404s, he breaks down his sampling method with the 303 and 404, gives insight into the beat making process when he had limited equipment, and reveals how he purchased his first MPC.      

DJ Sorce-1:  The SP-303 isn’t the most advanced sampler, yet everyone from Madlib and Dilla to artists like Beck and Four Tet have used it for recording and performing.  I had heard about Madlib  and Dilla using the 303, but I had no idea so many people used it before I started researching for this piece.  Have most people abandoned it now that there are more advanced Roland SPs and other samplers?  Or do you still think a lot of people still use the 303s?

Mr. Dibia$e:  I know I keep the 303 because I like the sound quality of it.  The difference between the 303 and 404 is that the vinyl sound compression sounds way different in the 303.  It has a grittier sound.  I know a lot of homies might make their beats on the 404 and then double compress it by dumping it into the 303, and then dumping it back to the 404.  There be a lot of bouncing back and forth. I’ll do some of the effects the 303 doesn’t have on the 404, dump it into the 303, use the 303s compressor and vinyl sound compression, and then dump it back into the 404.  (Laughs)  It’s crazy man.  That’s what takes all the time, but it gets a good lo-fi sound.  The lo-fi on the 303 sounds different than the 404.

Another feature that I wish the 404 had is the one I use on the 303 when I’m re-sampling to make beats.  You know the external source button on the 303 and 404?  When the external source button is lit up, it’s sampling the record you got going through the sampler from your turntable.  On the 404, say you’re playing some drums that you already got on the drum pads.  The record is playing, and you want to sample it all at the same time.  You can’t do that on the 404, but on the 303 you can.

(Via Tae Beast)

DJ Sorce-1:  So with the 303 you can play sounds over a record playing on a turntable and sample it all at once?

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah.  Say you already have a kick and a snare on the 303 on button 1 and 2 and you're playing the pattern out, and you have a sample on the record playing from the turntable directly into the external source.  You just hit record and you can sample that all in and play a live drum pattern over the record playing.  So you sample that, and then you can chop that up.  

(Via The Gully Life)

DJ Sorce-1:  That’s crazy.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeaah.  But the 404 can’t do that shit and it’s supposed to be an upgrade. (Laughs)

(Via sunny_j

DJ Sorce-1:  It seems like whenever Roland made an upgrade to the SP series, they would drop some crucial features.

Mr. Dibia$e:   And that was the most gangster feature.  But that software Maschine has a feature like that.  I like Maschine because it does that.  If you have the beat playing in the 303 and you’re playing a bass line from an external keyboard, you can sample that on top of the beat live, but you can’t separate none of that stuff ‘cause it’s all on one pad.  That’s why you have to think about how to mix your stuff down all in one take and get a balanced mix.  Once you get it in there, there’s no lowering or raising the volumes up.  That’s why it sounds so raw.     

DJ Sorce-1:  Right.  The limitations of the machine force you to be creative.  I think a lot of people are surprised when they learn about who has used the 303 to make dope music.  And it definitely maintains a crazy, gritty sound.    

Mr. Dibia$e:  That’s my favorite stuff…some of my favorite to make.  A lot of people label me electronic, which is crazy.  I feel like I’m like a traditional boom bap head.      

DJ Sorce-1:  Do you think that’s because of the effects you put on some of your beats?

Mr. Dibia$e:  Maybe.  Some of the effects and some of the other albums I dropped like “Machines Hate Me” was more electronic.  Yeah, a lot of stuff gets put in that electronic category. 

DJ Sorce-1:  I would not classify Swingology 101 or Collectin’Dust as electronic.

Mr. Dibia$e:  Collectin’ Dust is a lot of my old MPC beats.

DJ Sorce-1:  To me, that sounds like vintage ‘90’s shit.

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah, that was close to ‘90s.  It ranged from 2000 to like ‘04.  My stuff from the ‘90s, those is on four track tapes.  I need to get a 4-track.  Matthewdavid digitized a few tapes for me.  Shit, I’m a little embarrassed to put those ‘90s tapes on the Soundcloud.  It sounds a little bugged out. 

DJ Sorce-1:  You had an eight second sampler back then, right? 

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah, I was using a yellow Sony Walkman and a single Realistic cassette deck that you can record on.  Basically, how I was making beats back then is how I make beats with the 404 and the 303.  It was a form of the same re-sampling method way back in ‘95 that I be using now on the 404.  The only thing with the 404 is, when you sample, you gotta do your drums for 2 or 3 minutes.  Then you loop the drums and add your sample on top of that for 3 minutes.  Then you go back and add a baseline and add mute outs.  You keep doing that and add it to a different button.  Instead of using the sequencer, that’s how I be making beats on the 404 or 303.  

When I was using the eight second sampler, I’d get a drum loop, record it to the tape deck, and let it ride for two minutes.  Then I’d take that tape out and put it in the walkman.  I’d sample some piano loop in the eight second sampler while the drums was playing in the walkman for two minutes and I’d play the piano on top of them drums.  Then I’d get another blank tape in that tape deck, and the piano and the drums would be going into the tape deck.  After that, I’d sample the piano and drums together into the sampler, and add something on top of that.  

Every time you layered something, you'd be getting extra air and tape hiss.  So I’d layer at least three times before the hiss was too damn crazy.  Back then, people were like, “Oh man, that hiss is killing me.”  Now they make drum machines that have that kind of hiss.  Now there are effects and plug-ins that do that kind of sound.      
DJ Sorce-1:  Right.  Now people crave that dirty, dusted sound.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah.  I was just happy it was a beat with no lyrics on top of it; just an instrumental.  I couldn’t even trip on the quality of it.  I was just getting the thoughts out.  Later on I got a four track and that made it easier to get the thoughts out and track stuff out.  I’d record drums on track one, put some piano on track two, bass on three, and then you have your fourth track and I’d put something on there.  I’d bounce that all out, record it to a tape, and put that all on one track.  Then I’d have three channels left for raps and adlibs.  I was doing that for a minute.  There were ways to get around things.  You had to get crafty with it.  It kept it fun.    

Hardware and software have a different sound, but it pretty much does the same thing.  At the end of the day, you’ll get the same result if you’re creative.  You’ll make it work.  It’s way easier to figure stuff out nowadays with tutorials and stuff.  With a sampler, it was a mission just to get that equipment man.  It wasn’t like you could get it free all the time.  I would get stuff from pawn shops sometimes.  I wouldn’t even have a manual.  So I would have to figure it out.  I’d be like, “I’m going to make something before I fall asleep on this thing.”  It wasn’t like you could look at the manual online.  People who had that equipment back then didn’t want to tell you how to use it.            

(Dibia$e and Sunclef Via AmheilLaxamana)

DJ Sorce-1:  Did you have a mentor or anyone showing you how to make beats or were you classically trained in music?

Mr. Dibia$e:  I just taught myself man.  It’s funny how I found out about MPCs.  Some of my boys, we would go to this one dude’s studio.  He had a 4-track and an MPC MIDI’d up to a keyboard.  I wasn’t understanding what MIDI was back then, but he was basically having the keyboard sounds going through the MPC.  I was like “Damn, I want to make some Premier type, chopping samples type shit.  What drum machine does that?”  I was having like these little Boss drum machines and Alesis drum machines that you couldn’t sample with.  I even had some Roland R8 drum machines.  With the eight second sampler you couldn’t micro chop nuthin’.  It was pretty much loops and that was it.  They had two second banks, like four two second banks.  It was crazy man. 

And those beats was sounding off because I was making stuff with swing back then.  When I had those drum machines, before I had the MPC, I didn’t know how to turn the swing feature off.  A lot of times I would do the drums live into the sampler instead of programming it.  I would sample it into the sampler with live timing and do the hi-hats live.  The homies was always trying to correct me.  This was in ‘95, before swing was a so-called Dilla thing.  The drum machine was sounding too mechanical to me.       

Anyway, I like my beats sounding like some Wu and shit; that grimy shit.  This dude was making these keyboard sounding beats and it wasn’t matching what I was rhyming.  So I was like, “Man, I need to start making some of my own beats.”  When I was seeing the MPC, I wasn’t sold on it.  It sounded like a keyboard, because he had keyboard sounds coming out of it.  I guess about a year down the line I went to one of the other homie’s house.  They was freestyling and this cat was playing some beats in the van.  The beats had samples and he was flipping some grimey, boom bap shit, and even some drum and base type shit.  I was like, “Damn, what are you using to make this?”  He said, “An MPC.”  I was like, “OK, I might need to do some research on this.”  This is around ‘97.  Then I went to another studio and this cat had a lot of vinyl in his garage.  He had an MPC and he was chopping up records.  Maybe a couple of months later I made a down payment on an MPC and my moms helped me get it from Guitar Center.  I was making payments on that shit forever.  This was even before I was working at the park.  Once I got the job I just started making payments on it forever.     


DJ Sorce-1:  MPCs are definitely not cheap.  Countless well known songs have made using the MPC.  Besides the obvious examples like Madlib, are you aware of any well known songs or albums that were done on the 303 or 404?  

Mr. Dibia$e:  Shit, pretty much all of the homies were the ones using the 303 at one time.  No cats like Premier or nothing.  I have seen some of them having a 404 in their studios.  They had it, but they were mainly using it for effects and running a CDJ or turntable through it or some shit.  They didn’t even know how powerful it was.  I even saw Just Blaze clowin’ the 404 on Twitter before.  He said something like, “Man, I’m trying to give this shit away.”  It was a picture of a 404.  I saw like, “Wow.”  But what they think is junk is another man’s gold.  Madlib was probably the first one that I know who was using the 303.  I remember going to certain stores and seeing a 303 with a sign next to it saying, “Madlib makes beats using this drum machine”, trying to use that as a way to get people to buy them.        

DJ Sorce-1:  I question why Roland has never reached out to you, Madlib, Ras G, Nick Tha 1nda, or anyone else who has utilized the 303 or 404 to do some kind of endorsement.  Other samplers like the MPC and Maschine go really hard at getting sponsored tutorials online with people showing what they can do with the equipment.  It seems like Roland has never co-signed videos showcasing the SP producers who seem to do the most with their product.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  I don’t know if they really know how crazy the movement is with the SPs.  They discontinued them, but they brought the 404SX back.  My wife actually got an email from one of the people at Roland.  I probably will get at them about something.  They should do videos like that.  I’d be down to do videos and tutorials on that shit.  

DJ Sorce-1:  I would love to see some Roland endorsed videos.  A lot of the stuff I’ve seen you do with the 404 in your live shows blows my mind.  I’d like to see a tutorial of you breaking it all down.  

Mr. Dibia$e:  Man, that shit was an accident.  The first beat set I did was Boombox in LA in ‘07.  I did a few little beat shows at Project Blowed with an MPC and 8-track, but Boombox was the first club.  One of my homies always said, “Make sure there is no dead space in your set, you want it a constant flow of beats.”  So I made a mix because the 303 couldn’t hold that much time.  I had a laptop and I ran it through the 303.  I was doing the effects live and I had certain sounds on the 303 that I was triggering over the mix I made.  It was a 15 minute set.  That night it was Flying Lotus, me, Exile, and Cook Classics.  That was pretty much the first set I did.  

I didn’t have the 404 then, so I was like, “Man, I need some more time.”  This one cat I knew wanted to buy some beats from me.  He came to the crib and he wanted some spaced out sounding shit.  I had made some beats and he was like, “That’s the shit I want.”  I think we were talking about equipment and I mentioned how I was looking into getting a 404.  He was like, “Yo, I actually got one.  I’ll trade you the 404 for this beat and $50.”  The only thing it needed was a memory card.  That’s how I got my 404.  And I still got it to this day.      

DJ Sorce-1:  Just one beat and $50?

Mr. Dibia$e:  Yeah, and once I started making beats on there I realized it could hold over an hour.  I was like, “I can do hour long sets just on this?  I’m good.”

DJ Sorce-1:  If I just gave you a 404 and a bunch of records to make a set, how much can you do with internal sequencing if you don’t have a laptop and software to help with multi-tracking?

Mr. Dibia$e:  There are different compact flashcards for the OG 404 that can hold one gig.  But the 404SX can do more than one gig.  One gig is quite a bit.  I’ve done over an hour before, and sometimes when I’ve had two 404s I was rocking two hour sets. 

Click here to read Pt. 3.