Although hip-hop fans may not be as familiar with his name as some of the other contributors to Kanye West’s Graduation LP, musician and producer Eric Hudson quietly crafted one of the album’s biggest hits- “Flashing Lights.” Placing the record could be looked at in two ways for the 21-year old New Jersey native; either it’s a crowning achievement or just another notch on his belt. Because in reality Hudson’s racked up a laundry list of credits over the past few years, producing for likes of John Legend (“P.D.A.”), Neyo (“Can We Chill”), Omarion (“Entourage”), Beanie Sigel (“Go Low”),and contributing as a musician (playing keyboards and bass guitar) on albums from The Game (The Documentary), 50 Cent (The Massacre) and Nas (Street’s Disciple). We caught up with the jazz musician-turned-hip-hop producer for a few questions.
Q: Even before it became a single, “Flashing Lights” was being heralded as one of the best songs of Kanye’s career, and clearly the best track on Graduation. Was there an added sense of satisfaction in knowing that not just the music industry- but the people at large the masses- were embracing something you had a hand in creating?
A: It was a great feeling; I want 10 more just like it (laughs). When I did the record I wasn’t expecting it to be as big as it was, it really didn’t hit me until the song was released and I could listen back, like damn, that’s a hot record.
Q: How complete were the actual beat and arrangement for “Flashing Lights” when it was played for Kanye? What were some things that were done to the song in post-production?
A: The entire beat was complete when I played the track for him. All that we added to the track was a live string section on top of the synth strings. He ended up writing the song the same night I played the track for him.
Q: Walk me through the actual process for putting together the beat, in terms of how the melody for the strings came together, what you used to sequence, what type of synth patch was used, the drums, gear you used…etc.
A: I started with the strings…. Then I used the mpc to sequence the drums. Once I had that I was just playing around with the loop, the strings and drums and it was sounding boring. As soon as I threw in that bass line though, I knew I was creating something crazy.
Q: How have things changed for you, if at all, since the song became such a big hit?
A: All of a sudden more people were interested in me. More calls came; more people hit me up asking for tracks. But what was most incredible about this opportunity was that I was given the opportunity to play beats for people I couldn’t before, like Jay Z.
Q: Why do you think the other producers who contributed to the album initially got more attention than you did, and were you at all bothered by that fact?
A: A lot of people felt like because Kanye would say a producers name on the track that they were getting more shine, but I don’t see it that way at all. Not every track has the same mood or a feeling where the artist could say the producer’s name. Imagine how the feeling of “Flashing Lights” would be different if Kanye threw my name at the beginning or end?
Q: Coming from a more musical background than most hip-hop producers, how important do you think it is for guys who make hip-hop tracks to broaden their horizons and learn how to play an instrument?
A: Very important, crucially important because it gives you another avenue to present your music. It doesn’t limit you to one genre; I have been able to produce not only hip hop tracks but R&B, pop and even rock tracks as well.
Q: Does the simple nature of what often constitutes a hip-hop track at all bore you, that whole idea of knowing that you can sit down and really get busy playing an instrument on top of a beat. How do you try keep things interesting from a musical standpoint with making hip-hop tracks?
A: Well I think that having a musical background has really helped me, I grew up playing the piano, bass, guitar, drums, and organ. I know what instruments mesh well with others and it allows me to experiment. I’m not afraid to play with different sounds and test things out.
Q: Do you find that people are coming to you asking for another “Flashing Lights” type of track now, or have artists, executives, and publishers been willing to embrace your creativity and ask you for something different?
A: A lot of people have asked for something with the “Flashing Lights” feel and I try to stray away. While that was a huge hit I don’t want to over saturate and duplicate any sound I produce to put myself in a box.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you, what songs or projects are you working on and what is in the pipeline as far as music that will actually make it out into the marketplace?
A: Some of the artists about to drop that I’m really excited about are John legend, Lloyd, NeYo, Whitney Houston and Nas.
Q: What else do you want people to know about Eric Hudson?
A: Eric Hudson is a jazz musician at heart.