Brooklyn-based producer Harry Fraud has come a long way in the past few years. After building upon a close working relationship and friendship with French Montana, Fraud has expanded his catalogue by working with everyone from potheads like Wiz and Curren$y to New York rap revivalists Action Bronson and Meyhem Lauren. He’s even done a still-in-the-works collaborative mixtape with Riff Raff, which he promises is “still gonna come out.”
As he continues to work on his debut album, he’s releasing a mixtape called Adrift later today, which he’s billing as a greatest hits compilation of tracks he’s been a part of, along with some unreleased songs for his die-hard fans. If his recently-released collaborations with Eddie B and Action Bronson are any indicator, Adrift is going to be pretty insane.
Fraud’s production leans heavily on samples, and he’s become famous for flipping some really obscure tracks into hard-knocking beats, so we talked to the young beatsmith about how he found the samples for five of the tracks off Adrift, and his five favorite samples ever.
You can download the mixtape here. Cheers, stoners.–Dan Buyanovsky
XXL: So tell me about your process of finding samples and chopping them up to create something new. What’s your approach? What’s the production process like?
Harry Fraud: I usually start with just listening to a bunch of music. At this point, my guy Red Walrus, he digs way more than I do. We used to dig a lot together but I don’t have as much time to actually dig. I dig for samples in a newer way where I’ll grab a fucking pile of CDs from fucking Goodwill. I’ll buy 10 CDs for 99 cents each and listen to them and find samples. But Walrus gets to go and dig now. I’ll either have some stuff or he’ll give me a folder of stuff cause we’ve been digging together for ten years and knows my taste very well. So we’ll sit there and I’ll just listen to a bunch of different music. I’ll usually key in on, if I listen to 20 songs, I’ll key in on two or three that I can be like, “Alright, I can hear the beat.” ‘Cause that’s when I know it’s good – when I hear it and then I can already hear the beat and how it’s going to shape up, kinda. From there, once I key in on a couple, I’ll go back and I’ll figure out, “Maybe I’ll put this one aside and I’ll do this now.” Whatever strikes me. Then I just pull the sample in and start pitch-shifting in all different types of ways. I might find a loop or I might find a hit or I might pitch shift the whole song. I’ll just pull it into Pro Tools and start pitch-shifting and stuff. Just playing with the sound until I feel like I caught something. Once I catch it, I go from there and just build on that and build on that. But for me, it’s important for me to keep the theory in tact. It makes it easier to layer stuff if you know how to put stuff in the same. So a lot of my more complex stuff is because I know how to keep a record and bring something else and keep it in key with the record.
So it’s not just throwing stuff together. There’s some knowledge behind it.
Fraud: Nah, I’m super fucking calculated in that respect. 100%. I’m sitting there doing math problems. [Laughs]
Tell me about your five favorite tracks from Adrift – the samples you used, how you found them, and how the song came together.
Rick Ross, Bun B, Slim Thug, and DJ Scream
Fraud: It’s got a Marvin Gaye sample. The beat came about from Juicy J hitting me up one day and he was like, “I got this sample that you will fucking kill.” I was like, “Yo, whatever. Let’s do it. Send it to me.” So he sent me the sample. It was some Marvin Gaye shit and I flipped it and sent him back the beat. I don’t know if he sent it to me to use it but I sent it back to him for him to use the beat, but he never really used it. Then I played it for Ross one day and I left it with Ross. He did what he did with it. Got Bun B on it. Got Slim Thug on it. Put DJ Scream on there. I think it was supposed to be a single for DJ Scream or something and they pushed it for a little while, but you know how stuff goes. So that’s one.
“Garbage Bag Money Freestyle”
Fraud: This one is a Bryan Adams sample. [laughs] He’s the guy that did the Robin Hood theme song. He’s like a 90’s rock and roll dude. He’s hilarious. I think we were kinda listening to his shit in the studio on a whim, like, “Oh, let’s just throw on Bryan Adams. There’ll definitely be something hot on there.” Kinda joking around, but kinda serious. And then that shit popped on, the sample, and I was just like, “Woah!” ‘Cause it’s like this crazy guitar thing and I was like, “Oh shit.” This driving guitar beat thing, you’ll hear it. I was like “Oh man. I’m flipping this.” So boom. Flipped that.
“Open Your Eyes”
Mac Miller and Chiddy (Chiddy Bang)
Fraud: That’s a sample of Asia’s song “Open Your Eyes.” I’m pretty sure it’s by the band Asia. When you go dig in New York, there are certain records that are in everybody’s dollar bin. Everybody’s dollar bin will have these certain records and that Asia record is definitely always in there. I’ve bought like four copies of it. I buy records off of covers a lot and that cover has some reptiles and fucking spaceships, some dragon shit and that’s in everybody’s dollar bin. So boom, copped that, flipped that. That one, you put the beat on, that sample was just layed out perfect. Sometimes you get a sample where it’s like they give you the sections and you’re like, “Wow, there’s two four-bar sections I could chop up or loop or interchange and then boom, there’s a 16-bar vocal section that I could chop up and make into a new hook.” That’s like my favorite shit to do. That was one of those where it was so light.
“I’m a Coke Boy (Remix)”
Chinx Drugz, Rick Ross, French Montana, and Diddy
Fraud: When we were working on Coke Boys 3, the mixtape, we had a studio booked out in Manhattan for me to sit and make beats in. We put that “Royal Flush” song on and I knew that I wanted to flip it and I flipped it right there. French, he knocked out the hook. Once we had the hook on it, I went back and at first it was just the sample with the “Impeach The President” drums on there, and then we went back and re-worked it and put the different drums and the drops and the bass on there.
Smoke DZA, A$AP Twelvy
Fraud: We were listening to Spanish records and there was this Spanish reggae record. It was crazy. In the song they were talking about “hora” like “hour,” in the song. And then we were sitting there, like me and DZA, we make shit there on the spot, I don’t usually have beats made. We’ll listen to the shit together, we’ll listen to the sample and I’ll make the beat in front of him. So we heard that and he was like playing with some shit and was like, “Yeah, we should do a song about auras. Because that’s some shit they say in Harlem – ‘my aura,’” and all this shit. Twelvy, I don’t know if he had gotten it yet or if he was on his way, but as soon as he said that, boom, we got it and we flipped it up. And you hear in the hook, we use the sample where it’s like, “Hora.” But they’re saying it in Spanish to say “hour” but we’re saying “aura.” Then the hook plays off that. So it comes in one the one, “Hora!” and then they play off it and it comes back in, “Aura!” and they play off it. I don’t know what the sample is though. You should say that in the article, “Harry Fraud does not remember any of his samples.”
What are your five favorite samples of all time?
Fraud: Five favorite samples of all time. Wow. I’ll just say five good beats, because five best beats is so hard.
Alchemist’s sample of “Ecstasy, Passion & Pain” by Born to Lose for Mobb Deep’s “The Realest.” That’s off the wally. That sample is off the wally.
Fucking Premier, for the sample of John Dankworth’s “Two Piece Flower” for Gang Starr’s “Above the Clouds.” That’s off the wally.
The sample of “I Choose You” by Willy Hutch, for both the Cormega song “Rap’s a Hustle” and “International Player’s Anthem” with Pimp C, Bun and Outkast.
The Enya sample (“Boadicea”) for The Fugees’ “Ready or Not” is sickening. That’s a sickening sample.
The sample of Sade’s “Kiss of Life” for “Doomsday” by MF Doom. He destroyed that.