Producing 2Pac’s Classic “I Get Around”
"The ’I Get Around’ Story"
(this is an excerpt from the forthcoming book "Producing a Young Genius", coming in 2009)
The deep 808 kick-drum, the screeching percussion turntable part, the
"step-up" (james brown?) voice sample, and the triplet-snare pick-up
are all part of 1 sample; "Step into the Arena" by Gang Starr. I think
that was the title, but all I know for sure is that it was Gangstarr
and that it was a song from one of their first 2 albums.
The main kick, snare, & hats where all individual drum samples from
old james brown records, on an MPC disc full of drum sounds that Fuze
tailor made & truncated himself and then passed it on to me:
"Shock, your drums are gettin stale. You make good tracks, your beats
swing, but I’m gettin tired of those same ol’ drum sounds; here try
some of these."
Get Around was the first beat I made after Fuze slid me that disc at
a rehearsal. The drum pattern, the bassline, both piano tracks, the
chord change from those piano tracks, and the ultra-low tuning of the
hats where all original and were my doing. The layered cry-baby vocal
samples; "I been arounnnnn’ ooh oo-oo-oooh" (..yeah, it isn’t even
saying "get" around), and "you knoww I.." were both lifted from
Rogers’ "Computer Love" and I ran them through a DJ mixer and
transformed them as I sampled ’em. That’s what chopped it all up like
Pac heard the track for the 1st time almost five months after it was
made. It just missed becoming the theme music to an "Oz" type TV
series called "Angel Street", but the networks never picked it up
after the 3 pilot shows aired. After that, it was a popular 4-track
cassette instrumental that I used to carry around, and it served as a
backbeat to many freestyle sessions and rocked many parties. At one
outdoor picknic/video shoot (for the song "Spirit" by Force One
Network), repeated plays of that 4-track cassette I Get Around
instrumental slowly pulled 30 to 40 people (almost half the people
there) away from the set and over to the parking lot 200 yards away
where we were bumping it out of a friends droptop camaro. The crowd
kept insisting we play it again & again, over & over & over. It
sounded SO fresh & exciting that summer, a year before it came out.
After Angel Street got rejected by the networks, we decided to record
it as a d.u. song. But before we even began work on it, a call came in
that the director john singelton wanted a song with Pac & d.u.
together for the Poetic Justice soundtrack and that "Shock should make
the beat". So I mailed Pac a tape with 3 beats on it, the Get Around
beat first, and 2 other tracks I had made in case he didn’t like that
one. I was concerned that it was too pretty for Pac and he might not
of liked it. The Angel Street producers were concerned it wasn’t tough
enough for their street series, and another rap crew we used to run
with called "the Dungeon Squad" rejected it all together. (I never
told them the picnic story though, I felt the artist should always hear the magic themselves.) But don’t let 20/20 hindsight fool you, that beat wasn’t so obvious back then, most people thought it was too pretty & R&B souding for hip-hop believe it of not.
Anyway, when I sent it to Pacs’ cabin or trailer or whatever they had
him in on the "..Justice" set, he paused the tape after the first 2
bars of Get Around went by and left me this excited phone message:
"YES! YES NIGGA! BEAT ONE! I HAVEN’T EVEN LISTENED TO MORE THAN A FEW
SECONDS SO FAR, BUT YES, BEAT ONE! Okay, I’ma press play now and
listen to the rest of the tape."
About a week or 2 later, I was told by either Atron or someone at Interscope what time Pac would be in town, and we figured out the best time for the session. It took place at Starlight Sound in Richmond California, and here’s what happened:
I had been in the studio all night & day by the time Pac arrived. I had been dumping tracks for Raw Fusion, digital underground, and adding vocals to Gold Money’s album the day before. All of Atrons acts where in the studio that week, the entire TNT label/roster, and we had Starlight Sound locked out the entire month. As one act was leaving, the next would be arriving, usually stopping in the booth to add their 2-cents to whoever elses album. Back then we didn’t have Pro-tools, Cubase, or Reason yet; so dumping tracks involved a shitload of changing disks, switching & re-plugging midi cables, repositioning keyboards & rackmounted gear, and re-directing quarter-inch cables to various outputs in the MPC60, the SP1200drum machine, or the various keyboards & rackmounts. By the time Pacs session rolled around I was exhausted from a day of the above, but Darrin & I managed to get the track recorded properly, and I even managed to add the little live piano bits with a little flavor & enthusiasm. As usual, Pac was either pacing back & forth impatiently as we layed the music, or leaving on missions across town to get more weed.
As we were finishing the music Pac stormed in and announced "We gotta finish it today. I want you & Mun ta put yall verses on it right now too."
I said.. "I’ll get a verse tagetha tanite when I get home, and come back 2morrow and lay it", as I started unplugging & tearing down my equipment rack. I was in the habit of splitting my brain into two different modes, either producer mode, or emcee mode, two totally different mindsets. Rarely did I ever do vocals and lay beats in the same session. One required a more detailed logical state of mind, the other required care-free spontaneity. As a producer, sobriety was best, but as a vocalist I always worked better with a buzz. But Pac replied.. "I ain’t got till 2morrow, their mastering it 2morrow. A messenger from Interscope is on his way here now to take the master and fly it back to LA with him tonight. We gotta finish it tonight".
Swear ta god, it was all rush-rush like that. But he musta seen the exhaustion in my eyes because before I could even respond, he picked up a pen & pad and started scribblin words as he paced around the room. Less then 2 minutes later he handed me the paper and said.. "Just say this."
Back then it was almost a crime ta say rimes that you yourself didn’t write, so I took the paper reluctantly and looked at it with a smirk, already ta say nay. But it was a tight verse I thought, so after fixing a word or two to be more my style, I went in the booth & tried it. I had to slow down a sentence or two, he had it too fast for my rimin style at first. It wasn’t that I couldn’t say fast raps, it was that I wasn’t known for it, so I figured it would be too obvious I didn’t write it if I suddenly started tongue-twistin outta the blue like that.
Another concern of mine was the title & concept of the song.. us braggin about how we get around wit the chicks n all. At the time I was in love and engaged to someone, so at the time I was not down to be a "player" on the song, and I thought forsure that Pac would overlook this. But he knew Melissa, and supported our relationship, and had me covered. When I read.. "just cause I’m a freak doesn’t mean that we can hit the sheets.." that’s when I decided it was appropriate for me to say.
The "satin on your panties" line was another cool sounding line but I really didn’t know what it meant when I was saying it, I just spit it confidently anyway, which is the rule when riming. Later, I imagined he meant that, before a girl was a fan of d.u., before she heard Sex Packets and Freaks of the Industry, and/or before she had sex with me personally, she wasn’t conscious of the fabric of her undergarments, or the sexiness-value of them, but ever since the "aftershock" she now wears satin panties regularly. (ha ha, Pac you a fool for that one!!)
So as it turns out, the most popular punch-line of my career was penned by Tupac. So too-shay 2Pac, "without you, there’d be no me" as well!
So after we all layed our verses, we left the 8-bar gaps where the hooks would go. Money-B by the way wrote his own verse, even though Pac rushingly wrote one for him as well, Mun didn’t like it and said his own instead. It was Pacs’ decision that I should sing the hook, and everyone agreed due to Kiss u Back being a big single out that year, with me doing the male singing parts. Pac didn’t have a melody idea, but he had the words.. "Round & round, round we go". When I asked him how he wanted me to say it, he said.. "You know, .. just put that Shock shit on it" ..which meant he didn’t have a musical idea for it, and was also his way of getting the best out of us, by boosting our egos & confidence. The way he said it translated: "you know, just do YO thing, I want YOUR thing on it" and it pumped us up before we added whatever we had.
So I went in the booth, walking slowly, rehearsing in my head different melodies & rythmic patterns to fit the words to. By the time I reached the mic & put the headphones on, I had 3 different ideas to audition for everyone in the control room, which consisted of Darrin Harris the engineer, Pac, Mun, and 2 or 3 other homies, I forget which ones. I said over the mic "Okay here’s one way I could say it" ..and I sung idea 1 of the three, expecting that they’d let me try all three. But when they stopped the tape, everyone was all jumpin around in the control room, and Pac said "Nigga! Do you know how good that sounds?? Listen!" ..and we played it back for that first check. It caused everyone to jump around again, and Pac & Darrin were both like.. "Just double that". So I scratched whatever the other 2 ideas were without even doing them.. (trust me, they were hotter than what we kept, I was saving the best for last!) ..and put an identical stereo double over the first track, and that became the hook.
Later when I rejoined Darrin at the board, Pac leaned over and said "Aight peace, make that shit sound fat!" and he bounced out the door as always, and left us to mix it down. He totally trusted our mixing ability and rarely even made a suggestion about the mix. I didn’t see Pac again till the video shoot weeks later. He never got invovled with the sound levels, the pans, the EQ, none of it.
For the record, we mixed 4 versions of I Get Around, 3 of which I never saw again once I turned them in. We did a 3 minute short radio edit, a 4 min album version, a 5 min or so extended club version, and a completely instrumental version. The 4 min became the album & video version. The little mini 3 min version I never heard again, but no big deal. The extended club version I also never heard again, but this was a major loss. We had lots of music drop-outs, long drums-only sections, delays & echoes on sound bites, different vocal effects, etc., it was a fun mix. I wish interscope would release it one day. And the instrumental was equally lost in the shuffle. I only saw it once, over in Australia in 05, this kid brought it in for us to sign, a vinyl version, to a d.u. instore we were doing in downtown Adelaide. Me & Mun freaked when we saw it! ..it was a 12-inch maxi single on some Australian label. We offered the dude big US bucks to buy it, but he wouldn’t sell it. I was like, "Man, we need this for live shows!".
Oh well, I shoulda kept copies of all that ish. Back then I didn’t bother makin copies of the stuff we were for sure would get put out by the labels. If it was hot and in-demand, which I Get Around fit the criteria, then we just waited to see the test-pressings and the final masters which they normally sent to us to approve the sound quality anyways. Or with Pacs stuff, I just waited to hear/see the finished manufactered/packaged version. If I woulda thought that those mixes would never see the public light, I woulda kept personal copies.
But anyone who’s at Interscope or diggin through the TNT crates, here’s what to look for:
2 ADAT copies of the entire playlist, which was..
"I Get Around"
1. Album mix
2. Radio mix
3. Club mix
I turned over the ADATs and the half-inch reels to the Interscope rep that night, who immediately flew back to Los Angeles to master the Strictly for my Niggaz album.
Anyone out there with a copy of the "club" or "instrumental" please hit me up, I’d love to hear those again, haven’t heard ’em since that night we made ’em.
(..from "Producing a Young Genius" a new full-length book I’m in the process of writing now)
The next chapter goes on to tell the story of the video, and the near-disaster of the small tour during the Jack the Rapper convention in Atlanta inwhich we attempted to perform the song together.
Other chapter titles are, "Rumble in the Jungle" (..the insane story of Pacs first solo live show in Marin County; 70 shots fired!), "Mansion Party; The ’Get Around’ Video Story", "So Many Tears; The Me Against The World Sessions", "The Rebel Arrives; The Early Sessions", including the studio storys of "Same Song", "Tha Lunatic", "Trapped", "Words of Wisdom", "Fuck the World", "Rebel of the Underground", "Wussup wit the Luv", "So Many Tears" and more. Also included will be chapters recalling our tour experiences during The d.u. Japan Tour, The Budwieser Superfest, The Public Enemy Tour, and the Heavy-D & the Boys Tour including Pacs’ reaction to losing his close tour pal "T-Roy" (R.I.P.), as well as the juicy details of his dramatic freestyle sessions with his girl YoYo, Flava-Flav, MC Serch, Ed Lover, and many others; I was on the piano at all of them.
The book will chronical my 6 years, 4 tours, 19 studio sessions, 7 video shoots, 13 house parties, 2 courtroom cases, 5 basketball games, 3 streetfights, 4 arrests/police run-ins, dozens of tag-team girl trade-off experiences inwhich I was side by side with Tupac, and what it was like to record the young genius in the early years of his career, a time that he himself called the best time of his life.
An oral/DVD version will also be available for those who prefer to just hear me/watch me tell it.
COMING SOON: 2009 !! Check for it Pac fans, it will be the deepest Pac biography yet! I promiss.
Out of every single Tupac book that has been written since his death, somehow this is the only one I have any interest in reading. If it's anything like the above excerpt, it'll be incredible.