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Issue No. 1: Humble Beginnings

i feel like the ONLY way to be a better beat maker is to master someone else’s beat. figure how they did some shit. and if you REALLY in love with your new found craft (see Dilla) you will find ways to improve on it….and THEN you can call it your own.

Ahmir “?uestlove” Thomspon, drummer for The Roots

It all started with a laptop, sample compilations from Kevin Nottingham and Hip-Hop Is Read*, the demo version of FL Studio 7 and a bunch of free time.

It was frustrating, to say the least. I wanted to start chopping samples up in a way that I had (sonically) witnessed DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, J Dilla and Madlib do. Making matters worse was that I was unable to save any projects on the demo version of FL Studio, so whatever I made had to bang, or else the whole project would have to get scrapped. So I spent most of my time trying to figure out how so-and-so managed to work this sample into something that infiltrated my headphones.

So when I read ?uestlove saying that “9 times outta 10…the first beat you ever made was someone else’s beat. No lie,” I felt a little bit better about recreating other people’s beats.

But not a whole lot better.

A lot of the times, I found it was loops, as they were easiest. I found myself recreating a lot of Preemo. The first three Preemo joints I found myself recreating were “New York State of Mind,” “Sittin’ In Da Park (Memory Lane),” and “Represent.” (Side note: What do those three records have in common?) I also found myself re-chopping “The Bodega” from Skyzoo & 9th Wonder’s Cloud 9: The 3 Day High, and “Lovin’ It” and “Watch Me” from Little Brother’s second album (first on Atlantic Records) The Minstrel Show.

Even then, I knew that at some point, I would have to stop making other people’s beats. Those beats were other people’s beats for a reason; they made them first. They spent hours upon hours listening to the music, looking for tricks to get long sample times on their drum machines, equalizing and filtering, laying down the drums. They cooked the food, all I was doing was microwaving the leftovers.

Thanks to iTunes Genius program, I would look at recommended songs and that was my crate-digging starting point. Once they were stashed, I started out looking for loops, because why not? Loops are an integral part of the Hip-Hop community; the term beat is derived from “breakbeat” which is simply a loop. Plus, they were easiest.

This led to one of the first beats I felt comfortable with: an ode to some New York City block party circa 1992:

It wasn’t a Preemo beat, but it was my beat, a Spider-Web.

*These sites no longer have their sample sets up.

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Moneyball and the Art of Innovation

It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy.

– John Henry, Moneyball

Read more…

A Letter From The Human Spider

To whom it may concern:

Happy New Year. It was an interesting year (at least for me), to say the least. How about you rap dude; did you enjoy 2012? No? Remember when you said 2012 was gonna be your year? No? Well it was a year ago. Try again in 2014.

No, I didn’t skip a year. I gave you 2012 for a reason: 13 is my favorite number. This year, I will be looking to do as much damage musically as I can. Didn’t get to do everything you wanted to do last year? Tough break, duke. Go back to the lab. Stay there until the calendar date reads January 1, 2014. By then, the dust should settle. It’ll be safe then. Maybe even a little early. Hopefully, we can learn to co-exist.

If not, then I ask (kindly, I might add) that you get the fuck out of my way.

Sincerely,

The Human Spider

Aside

A Letter to Pots and Kettles

To whom this may concern:

There is a divide happening within the Hip Hop media. There is also an ungodly amount of hypocrisy currently going on during this divide. Take, for example, the back-and-forth between the pot and the kettle B.Dot of Rap Radar and (well known) New York radio station Hot 97.

Read more…

Link

The Joys of Relocation

Moving to a new place is great. Moving your stuff to a new place is not great. It stinks. For a variety of reasons. Here’s why.

The Joys of Relocation

Chat

The Joys of Relocation

I hate stickers (particularly, the small circular kind), hand-me downs and people.

Not necessarily in that order, but that’s the order they fall when being ranked on my “Shit-That-Annoys-Me”/”Shit-That-Irks-Me” list. Recently, I’ve had to deal with all three, as I just finished scraping stickers off of our new bathtubs.

A month ago, my grandmother moved from her palatial house in the cul-de-sac of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey to a smaller living quarter in a senior citizen area in Absecon, New Jersey. As of this post, my mom is relocating her stuff from one block to another. I wish I was exaggerating… Read more…

Goodbye Sandy…

I was in a storm.

I know it sounds redundant, but the storm in question, Hurricane Sandy, was a really bad storm. How bad? More than 6 million people in the Northeast are without power, and at least 39 people have been killed during Sandy’s warpath.

As much as I joke around about being “in a storm”, the truth is, I was as worried as anybody else. I’m also one of the blessed ones; me and my mom managed to stay out of Atlantic City during Sandy’s temper tantrum. Others were not as lucky; a text from one of my co-workers that stayed in Atlantic City stated that heat and electricity is nonexistent.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic City area (including Brigantine, Ventnor, Margate and Longport) has been blocked off to those that are not working for the electric company. Roads were flooded. A part of the boardwalk fell apart [Note: the part of the Boardwalk that fell apart has been falling apart since 2009, Sandy just laid it to waste.].

Hopefully, everybody that dealt with Hurricane Sandy is doing well, and that power and water returns to those that lost it. Hopefully, we can get some semblance of normalcy that was apparent prior to Sandy’s wreckage.

Link

Touch the Sky [The Human Spider’s Skywalking Remix]

Spider-Web: Touch the Sky by Kanye West featuring Lupe Fiasco, remixed by The Human Spider

Touch the Sky [The Human Spider’s Skywalking Remix]

Link

U.N.I.T.Y. [The Human Spider Remix]

Spider-Webs: U.N.I.T.Y. by Queen Latifah, remixed by The Human Spider

U.N.I.T.Y. [The Human Spider Remix]

Journal Entry #1: The Underdog Story (The Director’s Cut)

I hate the underdog story.

Underdog stories tend to gloss over the good parts, the parts people want to hear. No one ever wants to hear about the work and the blood, sweat and tears. It’s too damn long, too damn boring, and not even close to entertaining.

No one wants to know that Kurt Warner bounced around from practice squad to practice squad, played for the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League, and played in the short-lived NFL Europe before winning a spot as a back-up quarterback for the St. Louis Rams. That’s too much work. Too long. Anyone could have done that.

There’s always Michael Jordan’s story about how he got cut from his varsity team as a sophomore in high school. Only thing was, he was dominant in the junior varsity level and earned a spot in varsity the very next year. He worked his ass off to prove his worth, lack of height be damned. Of course, you’d get looked at funny, because Mike was a talented athlete and he dominated the scene and hadn’t looked back since that minor setback.

For every underdog story, you get two people warning you to have a back-up plan in case something happens. You see others making moves, while it feels like you’re stuck in the same area. Then you gotta look at others in the face, as you’re still there.

I’ve been trying to make a dent since I started making beats back in 2009. I’ve taken small steps and have slid further backwards since that time.

Compounding matters is that I don’t do what everyone else does. I’ve been told (numerous times) that I shouldn’t sample. I’ve been told that I should focus on making club bangers. I’ve been told that I should change my name.

People have laughed at my name. Questioned Mini-Spidey (Who wouldn’t?), as well as my age. Just nodded my head as I was talking, possibly speaking a foreign-fucking-language but too afraid to look like assholes to tell me.

There’s no love for losers.

Some people have heard my beats. A select few liked them. The ones that rap and shit want them for free. 80% of those freebie seekers better come back to reality.

Someone dear to me told me that my shit is dope and that things will look up. I won’t dispute that, but some days it’s disappointing, because I know better. I think.

Sometimes, you need to hear it from somebody who’s known. Someone established, with a good fanbase. By a good fanbase, I mean one with 40,000 followers and 15,000+ buy their album. A true fanbase.

Me, I needed to hear it from a producer that I was inspired by. I needed to hear it from 9th Wonder.

I needed to hear about how he slept in a two-bedroom apartment with 5 other people while making beats. I needed to know that he worked at a UPS Call Center, as well as a Planet Smoothie while making beats in 2001, because I thought I was alone doing the sampling thing while working. I’m glad I’m not the only person that had to deal with the disappointing look from family as I quit school to make music.

Because it makes the damage I’m looking to do more gratifying. Because I can continue to do damage and not constantly have to complain about bullshit. Once in a blue moon sounds better.

Because it makes the underdog story more realistic. Because losers need love, too.