This is my third installment of 303s and 404s with Nick Tha 1da. Make sure to check out Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 if you haven't already.
DJ Sorce-1: What’s your favorite genre to sample?
Nick Tha 1da: I guess bossa nova. There are so many bossa nova songs that don’t even have a Latin flair but are more on the Jazz/soul side; almost like a funky aesthetic. The first genre is bossa nova and the second is American covers done by foreign artists. A lot of times you’ll have a Polish group doing an Al Green song and their take of “Still Here with You” or “Love and Happiness” is so much different, but it still has the same bass line or vibe. When people hear it they’re like, “It sounds like Al Green, but that ain’t what he sampled.” I can’t say I have a favorite genre because I like all styles.
DJ Sorce-1: How did you discover bossa nova?
Nick Tha 1da: When I first started collecting records, which was probably around ’97 or ’98. I went to visit my cousin Paul and Thea and they’re in Texas. My cousin thought I was only on the new stuff, but I was only listening to things from before I was born. They were heavy into jazz. They pulled out Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 and that was the first time I actually heard older Sergio Mendes. I was familiar with his more popular songs but once I heard the older stuff I was like, “Oh my goodness that’s a Dilla sample.”
Shortly after that I went to Brazil. I went to Rio for the first time and my mind was blown. What people fail to realize is that bossa nova is totally based on fusion. They took the cool jazz of the west coast and the east and mixed it with the samba rhythms. If you listen to a lot of Samba songs it’s heavy in African drumming. If you like heavy percussive stuff, all of those DJ breaks that you hear people play at break dances like “Soul Makossa” and “Mamma Say Mamma Saw Mamaco Saw” were in bossa nova too.
When I tried to come out with that first project, BossaBang!, which was all samples from Brazil with hip hop drums, that’s what sealed the deal. I was fortunate enough to go to Brazil a second time. I went to a couple of places, but in Rio I realized, “If I only scratched the surface before, now it’s really crazy.” I came prepared. The funny thing about that second BossaBang! is that I made a lot of those beats through the TV in the room I was staying in. I had no speakers, but I had my 303. I would hook the 303 outs into the TV that was in the apartment. I would listen to all of the music through the 303. If you go back and listen to some of the tracks you’re like, “Nick, why does that sound so murky and unmixed?” It’s because I did it in Brazil, in room, with some bossa nova records. I feel like a lot of projects now sounds too crispy and too professionally done, when all of the hip hop that we loved was straight grimy. Onyx? Grimy. Kool G Rap? All them joints was grimy. I feel like recently everyone is getting into this overproduced sound. Going to other countries and seeing stuff, I feel like everybody is like five or ten years behind in hip hop. They still like stuff sounding real dirty and they get crazy when 50 Cent’s “In the Club” comes on. (Laughs) They have a stronger respect for the culture, you know?
(Via Nick Tha 1da's Bandcamp)
DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, I agree with you though, they seem to appreciate the cultural aspects as much as the material parts of rap music. Have you ever ghost produced for anyone?
Nick Tha 1da: I’ve definitely done some ghost producing. The funny thing is that it’s no big names. If you hear my track record and know my songs and my beats, I pretty much stay within my own realm. Just like I was saying, as far as major labels go, it’s a little too overproduced for me. I’ve submitted several songs to major labels and the first thing they would tell me is, “Yo your mixing is ridiculous…in a bad way. What is this, it sounds like a two track.” I’d say, “It is a two track.’ I didn’t put drums on one track, hi hats on another and the baseline on another track. Nooo. You just got it straight out the machine. Like Dilla said, “Straight off of the motherfucking cassette.” More so than ghost producing I’ve supplied samples to the industry. I’ve been doing that for years now. I can say that with confidence.
(Via Paige in Full)
DJ Sorce-1: You said that the songs you submitted to labels were criticized for their sound quality. Would it be possible for a producer on a major label to use the 303 or 404 as their main mode of production?
Nick Tha 1da: Madlib is an inspiration. He used the 303 to create some tracks for Madvillian with MF Doom if I’m not mistaken. Madlib does production for major labels. He did some Erica Badu, he did some Kweli joints, and he did “Shopping Bags” by De La Soul. He made "Shopping Bags" on the MPC 2000, which he never does. I wonder if the label had anything to do with it. The projects where he is solely using the 303 were all released on Stones Throw. They’re more into the artistic side.
DJ Sorce-1: Right. They have a different mindset than a major and that’s why people like them. I read an interview with the engineer who mastered Quasimoto and it sounds like it took a lot to get the album from what Madlib made to being “studio” quality.
Nick Tha 1da: I can see that. I look at him as an inspiration, not only on the beat tip, but also for his aesthetic that you can create what you want and let the people accept it for what it is. People absolutely loved Dilla’s Donuts and the majority of it was made on the 303. I’ve even heard his mom mention that he was going through a phase; he called it the Dill Withers phase. That’s when he was straight up getting the records and chopping them. For anyone using a 303, it’s the simplest way to do that.
(Via Wu-Tang Corp)
DJ Sorce-1: While we’re talking about major label artists, I heard that your Katrina beat was almost used by Lil’ Wayne.
Nick Tha 1da: The vocal sample says, “I lost my man down in New Orleans.” You gotta remember at the time, the way people felt about Katrina left the same taste in our mouth as the whole Treyvon things. As soon as I made the track I was in two beat battles. In both beat battles I was in, people went nuts. I had somebody approach me like, “Yo, you need to get somebody from New Orleans on this.” At the time Wayne was going real hard with The Carter series. My ideal thing was to pitch it to him, but he never got back to me. From what I heard it did get down to their camp. To play it on the safe side, I only give them a snippet with tags on it just because I didn’t want them to pull a jack move. I wonder in retrospect if a jack move was what I needed. I love that I can still play that beat and people will go, “Yo, that still sounds fresh and relevant.”
DJ Sorce-1: How did you make “Fuel”?
Nick Tha 1da: I actually think I made it for a remix. To make sure that beats are spit-able I’ll freestyle over it myself or blend an a cappella over it. I think I did Royce’s “Boom” or something. I made that when I was hitting the battle circuit hard. People have told me that “Fuel” has a very Primoesque sound. To bring it back full circle, the sample to that beat is “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” by Ken Boothe. He’s a reggae artist from Jamaica and he did a cover of Bill Withers. That’s what I was saying when I said we gotta re-write these rules of hip-hop. I have no problem telling people my samples as long as you don’t come knocking on my door on some crazy stuff like, “We heard what you sampled. Now you gotta pay this check.”
(Via Nick Tha 1da's Bandcamp)
DJ Sorce-1: What is your favorite feature of the 303 and the 404?
Nick Tha 1da: Favorite is the battery power. I’ve never been able to make beats on the go. I always had to be in front of my computer or my sampler. Even with the 303, I would need electricity or something I could plug it into. With the 404…if I have six batteries and headphones, I’m on the airplane, I’m on the bus, I’m in a rice field in Cambodia, and it don’t matter. I’m making beats. Overall, I think the 303 is a beautiful machine. It has very warm sound, great pads, great effects, and great size.
(Via Paige in Full Facebook Page)
DJ Sorce-1: OK, final question. What’s the most limiting thing about the 303 and the 404?
Nick Tha 1da: With the 303 it’s those smart media cards. They’re expensive and I can’t go into Office Depot or Best Buy and buy those. So it’s at an extreme disadvantage, especially when you fill up cards with the quickness. The 404 sounds crunchier to me, like the highs are a little bit louder on it. Whenever I want some low end bottom, I need some 808s on deck to play on top of the beat because the highs and the mids are really up there. I would look at that like a disadvantage. I’ll play a record and the record will be real warm and fuzzy. Then, by the time I throw it in the 404, it already went up a couple of notches, even if I didn’t do anything.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s interesting, Dibia$e said that some people like the sound of the 303 so much that they’ll do part of the beat in the 303 and then dump it into the 404.
Nick Tha 1da: I have no idea, we’d have to talk to Roland, but I think when they were making the 404 they said, “Let’s give the 404 more effects and let it do more.” I don’t think they said, “Let’s keep the sound the same”, so they ended up switching that too. But the sound on the 303 was just perfect.
(Via Behind the Beats)
Many thanks to Nick Tha 1da for inspiring me to start this series. His YouTube videos showcasing his talents on both the 303 and 404 are some of the best on the internet. They are essential viewing if you like this sort of thing. Also make sure to check out his Bandcamp page and his Behind the Beats interview.