I hope you all got a chance to read the feature my dude Will Johnson (who is a dope upcoming producer in his own right) wrote on Pete Rock in the new issue of Remix. If you haven’t, I implore you to do so.
In the article, there’s something that I feel is often overlooked in hip-hop production today. It’s one of the reasons why we regard people like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Jay Dee, and other folks of that ilk almost as beat scientists, rather than beatmakers or producers.
Quoting Young Guru, who mixed Pete’s new album, NY’s Finest:
“Watching Pete’s mind at work is crazy,” [Young Guru] says. “He would sample three different records and get it sounding like a mixed, single record. I’ve never really seen a producer do that and work so quickly. Sometimes he’d make beats on the spot, as many as three or four a day, and to his credit, each of them was already mixed within the machine.”
It’s this idea of pulling samples from multiple sources and crafting one singular piece of music out of it that makes folks like Pete Rock truly remarkable. These days, and I don’t want to harp on new producers or popular music, but I hear a lot of tracks and it’s just a loop with some drums behind it. Maybe there’s a 2nd loop that the producer uses for the hook. But it’s not distinctively chopped up and rearranged, there’s nothing added to the sample or done to the sample that would distinguish it as a unique piece of music.
Granted, in the history of hip-hop production you’ve got your loopers and your choppers. But you’ve got to keep in mind that if you were a producer who came up on an SP1200 and S950, you only had but so much sample time. You couldn’t necessarily grab a whole section of music and then another section to use for the hook and so on and so forth. You had to get by doing the little things, like sampling little stabs here and there and manipulating them with effects or by re-arranging them into some new type of melody. Now I think the technology, particularly having so much sample time in our gear, has made folks lazy. So you’ve got to appreciate someone like Pete Rock, who has switched to the Akai MPC2000, and now has the technology to sample damn near a whole song, and still works to create new pieces of music out of a bunch of different samples. That’s beatmaking for the art of it, just to see how creative you can get with some source material. I think there’s something to be said for that in ’08.
I think it beats looping up Lenny Williams “Cause I Love You” for the umpteenth time.