During Pt. 1 of our interview, Nick Tha 1da talked about Roland SP live performance, micro-chopping samples, and the need to limit quantization while making beats. For Pt. 2 of 303s and 404s, Nick talks about the special bond shared by DMV producers, not pitching up records for sampling, and his love of records with "that grimy" sound.
DJ Sorce-1: I like when producers have the attitude that it’s OK to learn the new equipment, but it’s also OK to keep your go-to method that you are most comfortable with. Sticking with what you know can help you maintain your signature sound.
Nick Tha 1da: The beautiful thing about programs these days is that they have the capability to produce sounds that you wouldn’t normally find on a record. But, as you said, analog all day. There’s something about physically touching the pads and making music.
DJ Sorce-1: I think there is definitely something about the actual touching of pads and pressing buttons that makes people feel something. I showed a friend of mine one of your videos and he said, “That guy is playing the 303 like it’s an instrument.” I told him, “It is an instrument.”
Nick Tha 1da: That was my intention all along. At the time when I was getting interested in making beats you had Qbert and Roc Raida taking turntablism through the roof. Before, you just had DJs rocking parties. I wondered why nobody was taking that approach with samplers and beat machines. Now you got AraabMuzik and Exile doing killer live performances on the MPC. It’s actually here now and it has arrived.
(Via Pigeons & Planes)
DJ Sorce-1: It seems like the live beat thing has really blown up. You have guys in LA like Dibia$e, Samiyam, and Ras G killing live shows and making a name for themselves. It’s crazy, because I religiously listen to rap music and have always been into DJ culture and production, and I really didn’t know about a lot of this stuff until a year or two ago.
Nick Tha 1da: Oh man, the rap world goes hella deep. That’s what I love about being a crate digger. Just when you think you’ve scratched the surface there is so much more in the culture that you can experiment with and learn about.
DJ Sorce-1: You recently started rocking the 404 as well as the 303. I’m curious what your opinion is of the different effects and features of the 303 and 404. Sometimes a feature that people love will be removed from an upgraded SP.
Nick Tha 1da: Well, going from the 303 to the 404, Roland did make improvements, and that’s what it’s all about. For instance, I really like the pitch adjuster of the 404 over the 303. The 303’s is absolute hot garbage. It makes it sound like you’re playing samples in a metal trash can. With the 404, if you mess with the knobs and adjust the drive and the resonance correctly; it’s the same exact sample, just in a different pitch. It doesn’t change any of the time stretching or any of that. I love that effect on the 404.
I never looked at the machines from a DJ point of view; I looked at them from more of a producer point of view. I was always more concerned with sequencing beats and how to clean up my chops so they cut off at the correct time. After I construct the beat, then I worry about the effects and all of that. The effects are awesome for doing live shows. That’s really relevant when you’re looking at the LA beat scene. That’s one thing we don’t have over here. People in the clubs in DC, New York, and Philly, they don’t want to start around for 30 minutes hearing a set of me just playing beats. They need some type of singers or open mic. That’s all cool, but like I said, I really respect the LA beat scene for what they are doing with bringing the producer to the forefront.
I have a couple of beat homies who are originally from the East Coast, same as my side, and now they’re over there in L.A. doing their thing. My homie MNDSGN is definitely a favorite of mine on the producer tip. Mind Design uses a few different things, he has a good ear, and he can play a lot of stuff out. Ohbliv uses the 404 and he does his thing with it.
(Ohbliv Live Via Ohbliv's Facebook Page)
DJ Sorce-1: You seem to be friendly with a lot of the DMV producers. How did you get involved in that scene?
Nick Tha 1da: I feel like Kev Brown, Roddy Rod, and Street Orchestra really influenced me to keep moving on my journey as a producer. I remember when I was getting into it seriously and there was a Beat Society producer showcase. Beat Society was brand new; I mean it hadn’t been out a year. At the time I was only 20 and the event was 21 and up, so I couldn’t even get in. I was like, “Damn yo, this is what my life is about right now. I totally want to check this out but I can’t get in.” I saw Roddy Rod and he said, “That beat CD you sent me was good. You had some joints on there.” I told him, “Yo, I appreciate it, but I really want to see the show.” Sure enough, Roddy Rod gets me in.
The show that night was Raheem Devaughn, Kev Brown, Street Orchestra, and another producer who I can’t remember right now. They had SP-1200s, the MPC-2000, and everything else sitting on the stage. People were going nuts. They were doing their beats live and Kev probably rocked Albany. At that moment I was like, “Personal goal. I gotta get on stage and play my junk.” It was pretty much after that time that I got to know people. I’m a pretty open, talkative guy. We were already here and we were already bubblin’ on the open mic and beat scene. It just blossomed into watching each other evolve into the producers we are today.
(Via Ticket Fly)
DJ Sorce-1: I like the community vibe. When I watch the behind the Behind the Beats series or Scratch Magazine TV, I can tell that people legitimately respect each other when there are a group of producers in the same room.
Nick Tha 1da: It’s no secret now that sometimes you can get more satisfaction if you’re part of a movement. Look at Wu-Tang and even 9th Wonder and his SOUL Council. If you get a lot of like minded individuals together, it gives you more of a push in the direction that you want to go.
(Via The Real Producers of the DMV Video)
DJ Sorce-1: Earlier in the interview we discussed sampling off of vinyl. I saw in the Behind the Beats interview that you don’t pitch your records down when you are sampling them. Is that still the case?
Nick Tha 1da: I’d say 75% of the time they are the exact same speed that was played on the turntable. That’s for the simple fact that at one point, I wanted people to figure out what I was sampling. This was early on. I thought, “If I can keep it the same pitch they’ll be like, ‘That could be Bobby Womack, but I’m not sure. He just killed it’.” You have to remember in the late '90s and early 2000s everybody was pitching up records. There’s nothing wrong with that; I’ve made plenty of beats like that too, but at the time I wasn’t putting these releases out, so I wasn’t worrying about sample clearances. I just kept it at the original tempo. I also found it easier to be able to have a portable turntable with the sampler and make beats while traveling. I could immediately make a beat as opposed to saying, “Oh man, I could change this pitch. I gotta go home and throw this on the computer and do this and do that.” There would be too much hesitation as opposed to actually getting a track completed.
DJ Sorce-1: I’ve heard several producers talking about having a preference with sampling a 45 or a 12” versus sampling off of a LP because of the difference in sound quality. Do you have any preference, or is it just whatever song catches your fancy?
Nick Tha 1da: Strictly albums. I like to play albums all the way through. Sometimes you find your best stuff in the middle of the song or at the end of the song. Songs are always hot when they have the sample straight in the front, but a lot of people miss out because they are just looking for samples instead of actually appreciating music. The way you’re sitting at home trying to make music, you gotta remember that somebody thirty years ago was in the same position. They wanted people to hear their music, not just skip through it. I don’t put out a beat CD for you to listen to the first three seconds of each track. I want you to listen to it.
DJ Sorce-1: That’s a great point and I think you’re the first person I’ve ever interviewed about sampling to make that point. The people that we are sampling from had the same dreams as us.
Nick Tha 1da: There is a group called 21st Century. If you’re not familiar with them, as soon as you look it up you’re going to be like, “Oh, this person and this person sampled them.” I remember one time I was talking to a friend who is in the industry now. I was like, “Yo, check out this beat I just made.” It sampled 21st Century and I thought the beat was fire. He said, “Yeah, the beats alright.” I was like, “Just alright?!” He said, “That’s my father singing on the track. It’s cool, but I talk to him all the time, and he’s always questioning, ‘What if this had happened differently with my group?’”
Musicians then had the same struggles that we go through today as an artist. I feel like once you have that real mutual respect and you can see where an individual is coming from, it translates in your music and it’s more organic. Know something about the artist, as opposed to saying, “I’m taking this Bob James” and you don’t even know who Bob James is or what groups he played in. I’m not saying you have to do that for everything you sample, but at least be knowledgeable. Show respect, the same way you want that respect.
(Via Nothing Can Save You)
DJ Sorce-1: I think that’s a great point, especially in the digital era. It’s still important to listen to things carefully. Do you have a favorite digging city or town?
Nick Tha 1da: I don’t have a favorite city; I just make a point to dig wherever I go. Actually, to be honest, my favorite place to dig is overseas. Everywhere I’ve been overseas they have 50 cent records. With the conversion of American money it comes out even cheaper. The whole issue with digging overseas is shipping it back, unless you have some crazy DJ bags.
You know what I think is the best kept secret here in the states? A lot of people turn their noses up at it, but Goodwill and the thrift shops. Don’t sleep because a lot of people are loading off records they inherited. The records just don’t have value to them that it did to the person in their family who was collecting them. Here in Maryland we got a place called Langley Park. It’s basically a Latino community, and if you go to the thrift shops there it’s all salsa, meringue, bossa nova, and stuff that you wouldn’t find at a normal record store for those prices. You gotta always keep your eyes peeled.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you have any dollar bin miracles or expensive records that you’ve found for cheap?
Nick Tha 1da: I have a lot of friends who are DJs and producers and they’ll say, “Yeah man, I saw that Cortex record, but it’s all scratched up so I didn’t get it.” When I ask them how much it was they’ll say, “99 cents.” If you’re making beats it shouldn’t matter if it has scratches or anything on it. If you’re a DJ, I can understand because you don’t want the record the jump, but I like that grimy.
The one I just mentioned, Cortex, was a good find. It’s a French record and it’s hella rare. The famous sample on it is MF Doom’s “One Beer”. It was also used on Jaylib for the song “No Games”. That record normally goes for all types of money because it’s no longer pressed and it’s French so it’s hard to find here. I found it for $10 and that’s way outta my budget. I probably have dozen records that I paid $10 for. Everything else is a dollar or less.
(Via The Weekly Beat Sessions)
DJ Sorce-1: I haven’t heard of it before. I didn’t get into trying to produce until two or three years ago, so I wasn’t really digging that hard for samples before that. I was trying to pick up 12 inches and stuff that I would actually play out.
Nick Tha 1da: I’m the complete opposite. I like buying stuff that’s not even danceable. I found another good rare record for a dollar, the Lyman Woodard Organization. That’s a fire album. It’s been sampled a couple of times. I notice that when people sample records they take the easiest song that is sample-able as opposed to listening to the whole track. If I find a good record; I’ll go ahead and sample the entire album.