I’ve been thinking about my college days a lot lately. I remember the summer before my freshman year, saving up all my money from my job working at a Sears store to buy an Ensoniq EPS 16 off ebay. I think I paid something like $550 for it, from some guy in Canada. How great it felt the day that board came in the mail. It was either that or an ASR X, and I went with the 16 even though it had less capabilities, mainly because I wanted those keys to play with.
In college I spent a quarter of my day in school, another quarter basically teaching myself how to make beats, and the other half sleeping. No, but seriously, it was a great time. I was buying all sorts of records, going digging every few weeks, copping vinyl off Ebay, and spending hours at night learning how to find the key to place the bass line of a sample in. It wasn’t about anything except learning and discovery. I remember this phase where I was on some DJ Shadow shit, trying to go through 26 different records just so I could make a beat completely out of samples. That was a challenge, and I think it was the most fun I had making beats. Then I had my Hi-Tek wannabee phase, where I was trying to play his wannabee-Dilla bass lines. Then the “trying to be like Just Blaze” phase, and so on and so forth.
Then somewhere down the line I started feeling like it was time to get my music out there, and I hit the ground running (there was no Myspace yet), linked with some folks, built a studio, put out some independent records (like an actual CD, not a slimline mixtape). And then it became less about making art and expressing myself as it did about just getting “work” done. My discography started becoming real important to me. It was as equally about having a career as it was about just making music.
And after that it became about strictly shopping tracks, not even making them anymore. I figured, I have enough beats, let me get them to as many rappers as possible and hopefully some of them will sell. And some of them did. Some ended up in 2track heaven and on fifty gazillion mixtapes and mix radio shows.
And then it just got ridiculous, waiting around for checks to come. Invoices go in, checks never go out. Artists get dropped from labels. Artists want you to hold beats for them, wait for their budgets to open back up. Then they want you to do some stuff for free, get your money on the back end, ride with their movement, blah blah blah.
What I’m describing is my own disillusionment with this whole beatmaking game, and how my interest in the creative process was somehow lost along the way. But the more I detach myself from the business side, the more my interest starts creeping back. And with that detachment comes a certain freedom, that ability to not have to rely on the industry for your income allows you to be as creative as you want to be. And then I turn the MPC back on….