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Issue No. 1: Humble Beginnings

January 10, 2013

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.


From → Beats, Spider-Webs

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