Since the inception of Hip-Hop and Electronic music, the producer has played one of the most important roles in the music creation process. Once a role that received very little notoriety, the producer now is revered as one of the most important aspects of music. With the rise of electronic music and collectives such as Brainfeeder and Soulection, and the availability of music production software like FL Studio and Ableton, producers everywhere are now receiving the spotlight and attention that they deserve.
We here at The Juice Daily feel it’s about time to put the spotlight on the role of the producer. In The Loop is our new re-occurring column in which we talk with some of the most talented producers in music today about the craft of beatmaking. Come learn more about your new favorite producers in the first edition of In The Loop.
Coming from the dynasty era of Hip-Hop, Just Blaze has crafted hits for some of Rap music’s biggest names: Jay Z, Kanye West, DMX, Prodigy, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar; just to name a few. Now, the New Jersey producer is showing the world he’s much more than just a Hip-Hop producer, crafting electronic hits such as his “Higher” collaboration with electronic producer Baauer.
As a student of golden age hip-hop, TOKiMONSTA has taken electronic music production to a whole other level. A key player in the rising LA Beat Scene, TOKi’s production blends together elements from genres such as R&B and Old-school Hip Hop along with her own electronic flavorings. With two stellar albums under her belt and a new mini- album called “Desiderium” on the way, TOKiMONSTA is sure to be one of the biggest names in Electronic music.
Q:Whats your JUICE?
Just Blaze : Just being inspired and constantly getting better and evolving. You know if you listen to stuff I made in 99 or 2000 it sounds like nothing I made in 2002 or 2007 , I like the path of evolution that my career has taken . I just like to be inspired also just being grateful I’m living a dream that very few people ever get to. Sometimes it gets a little rough. You get tired you get aggravated but you have to remember “I’m blessed.” I don’t have to wake up in the morning and go answer to somebody and sit behind a desk and make somebody else rich. I try to never forget that. It’s what keeps me going.
TOKiMONSTA: I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t make beats because sometimes I just need to sit sown to work on music to get something out. I don’t know what I ‘d do on airplanes. I don’t know what I would do at home. I would probably just watch a lot of tv, but there are moments where I just need to get into the studio. I need to make this idea I thought of something and it sounds really great in my head. Also the same as Justin (Just Blaze) this idea of watching yourself improve and I mean on so many levels… I mean I’m already over the album I put out last year. I don’t even want to hear it anymore. I’m always focusing on the next thing. It’s really exciting to see yourself change directions and to have a history with that because you’ll always have your beats dated and arbitrarily named really dumb.
Q: In terms of sampling, what do you guys look for like when you go digging for crates?
Just Blaze: What ever sounds good. There’s no rule. You know some people will say sampling isn’t true musicianship or it’s not creative because someone just took 4 bars of a song and looped it. My thing is it takes a certain amount of genius to know which 4 bars of that record to take and loop. To me it’s just as creative as me taking sounds from 20 different places of 20 different pieces of a record and rearranging a whole new thing. But all this creativity there is genius in that. There’s also genius in hearing the first 2 opening bars of a record. There’s genius in knowing in out of this 4 minute song you’ve found 4 seconds that appealed to your ear and you knew that you could bring the masses in and attract the masses with just those four bars. I just like what ever strikes me. Whether it’s a sound effect an entire loop it could just be a snare…whatever strikes a chord no pun intended.
Q:Do you both reflect back on your old work?
TOKiMONSTA: I have to revisit things that I play live a lot because people want to hear you play your own music but generally I don’t look to the past too much because I’m always progressing forward. I kind of like if your like that because it makes everything gradual too… if your just slowly making little changes you know and then from this point to that point it’s a big change . I’m still very proud of my older stuff but I’m always just never fully happy you know. I think half of it is never being fully satisfied because it keeps you hungry it keeps you going like when will I reach that point and I hope I’ll reach the point of satisfaction because I always want to be kinda of satisfied and kind of dissatisfied so I always want to improve so I make something more poignant or important to me.
Just Blaze: Well we are always our own worst critics though because like there are records that I could listen to every record I’ve ever done and say “I’ve could of done that or fix that or change that” but there’s a million people out there who loved and bought the record you know and they don’t really care that that snare was panned too much to the right or whatever. They just love the song but at a certain point I had to just know when to walk away from a song like “It’s done, It’s great.” In the end it’s a good song and that’s what matters the most.
Q:What was your first experiencing producing?
Just Blaze : My father was a jazz organist so he used to have Casio keyboard and Yamaha keyboards all over the house since I was born so there was always some kind of thing around the house and when I used to DJ you would get like 4 pads and you would put like 2 seconds on each pad. I would say that the first real piece of gear that I had was an ASR-10 which is what RZA from Wu-Tang used and I wanted to be the RZA when I was kid so I conned my aunt into spending $2500 on this keyboard. I was fortunate. My family was always very supportive of my musical abilities you know some parents shy away from that say go to school, be a doctor or lawyer… I come from a family of educators you know they’re all teachers high school principals doctors and what not. So when I made a decision to leave college or to ask to leave college… my mother being a high school principal at the time I used to expect her to be like “Hell no”. Well she was like “Is this what you want to do? Will this make you happy?” I was like “yeah” and she’s like “Alright as long as your happy, healthy, and respectful of others do what you got to do. You got a year.” They were all very supportive. We didn’t come from a lot of money so they would pull all their money together to help out, buy me turn tables and speakers. So I got the ASR-10 that was the first piece of real gear that I had and I sat there like I’m going to make beats like RZA now and then I started making beats and they did not sound like RZA and that’s when I realized its not the machine it’s the man or the mind rather.
TOKiMONSTA: I was the same. I also wanted to be the RZA but I’m also quite very different. My first piece of equipment was having a computer and downloading fruity loops. My first actual piece of hardware was a SP404 – the silver ones… They’re like really gritty and sound really dope. The reality is that I’m so into doing a lot of things that I felt like using hardware is a really slow process so I basically use mainly software. I would just do drums through that or sample in there and then sample back out. The real piece of gear that I was using that was useful was fruity loops and then upping it with a midi keyboard. But I too wanted to be a young RZA.
Q: If you could challenge anyone to a beat battle that would it be?
TOKiMONSTA: Not this guy. I’ve done many beat battles and I do not do well in them for whatever reason.
Just Blaze: I’m not really interested in beat battles. I’ve been challenged once or twice and I’m just like for what. It’s like I battle you and lose for whatever reason and I lost. If I battle you and even if I win I’m putting you on a platform and giving you a spotlight so I’m just kind of like… I’m more of a person who appreciates and respects other peoples work. I don’t feel the need to beat them I rather just appreciate them.
Q:What are your favorite albums?
TOKiMONSTA: I like Wu-Tang 36 Chambers that’s like my favorite.
Just Blaze : 36 Chambers, Tribe – Midnight Marauders, The Roots and then a bunch of techno albums that probably people have never even heard of probably. Then that also changes everyday. I feel like I’m in this mode on Monday but by Wednesday I’m in a completely different mode of my favorite list of songs or albums but I think we can all agree on 36 chambers constantly being in that rotation.
Q:Is there a person that your listening to that you feel like no one knows and you just know that they’re are about to break into the scene
TOKiMONSTA: There’s so many.
Just Blaze: There’s too many, but I think the 1st time I had that lightbulb moment was KAYTRANADA. Someone from BBC tweeted me that they were playing a couple of my new records a few months back so I was like “Oh Cool” I wonder who I’ll check it out. I started listening to BBC and right after my record they played “KAYTRANADA – At All” and I was like “what in the hell is this?” So I tweeted the dude back and was like “what is this record your playing” and he tells me. So I go to iTunes and buy it. And then the next day I forget where I am some festival maybe in Europe somewhere literally the next day. The funny thing is I bought it and I’m listening to it the entire 8 hour plane ride. “At All” is just on loop the entire time. I go to sleep, wake up it’s still playing. We get off the plane it’s still playing we get on the shuttle to go to the hotel and were sitting there for like ten minutes and I’m like “what are we waiting for?” They’re like “oh we got one more pick up…some kid named KAYTRANADA” and I’m like “Oh Shit.” It was just this weird moment I’ve been listening to his song for like 10 hour straight and now he’s jumping on a van with me. So I’m sitting there like “yo I love your music”. I think he thought I was just trying to be nice at first but then I had to show him the amount of plays.
TOKiMONSTA: KAYTRANADA is already on the blow up. He has some really big things in the works. There is some chick that my agent just signed. Her name is TALA. She’s from London and I think she has a lot of Iranian influences so I think she has a lot of potential and I think she’s really cool. I’ve only listened to a handful of her work . And then there’s so many like Made In Heights. Anyone from Team Supreme or Soulection they’re all doing really well. (Mr.) Carmack is really dope.
Just Blaze: Yes, that was probably the one before Kaytranada, it was (Mr.) Carmack. It was when I first heard Birth Control. We ended randomly playing during Ultra (Music Festival) and he’s dope.
Q: Do you think they’re(Soulection) making the sound of tomorrow and is their music changing into the sound of tomorrow?
TOKiMONSTA: it not just their sound that’s the sound of tomorrow. From my background these are like the kids from LA and I’m from LA so they all came from a similar scene from me so I feel like they’re the next generation of beat makers making stuff like…I don’t know I like going to their parties and I feel like people have a lot of fun but it’s not belligerent. Like everyone might be drunk but there music is… I don’t know I like what they’re doing. I’m really supportive of them but I don’t think they’re the only sound of tomorrow. They’re many sounds of tomorrow.
Q:Is there a gender gap when it comes to being a DJ or producing?
Just Blaze: I feel like there are actually more (female producers) than people realize but obviously there’s a clear divide between male and female. But I think it’s awesome I think people like TOKi…It’s the same thing for me being like 10 years old or 11 years and seeing Jazzy Jeff DJ or whatever and I want to be that and I feel like what was missing for a long time on a major level… Were girls putting that same work in. Being able to inspire other young girls to say I want to do that or even feel that they can do that because it’s always been a traditionally male dominated field. So you know it’s dope.
TOKiMONSTA: It’s changing a lot over these past few years. It’s significant the number of female producers there are. I mean there are definitely a lot in varying forms. There’s a lot of up and coming ones and I think that for me the main quality that I find will make a difference for those up and coming female producers is the quality of their music. Because the only reason that I am as successful as I am at this point is because I never tried to separate my self like “oh I’m the girl make it easier for me” which is a really stupid thing. I never took my clothes off that’s also another stupid thing which some women feel complete to do which they don’t have to. And now I think girls know like oh just be in it. I can download this piece of software and try to make beats. Go on YouTube and watch tutorials which is how I leeward it to. And make sure your music isn’t just good for a girl and it can stand alone regardless of your gender and that’s the most important thing is having memorable music that people love read less of who you are what kind of person you are. And with me inspiring people like that which is crazy that I inspire anyone like that and that’s really amazing and I’m down to support any female producer that’s upcoming as long as they believe in their music, because I’m not just going to support them because they’re a girl. They have to really make quality music if they want to be a good musician.
(photo credit: MTV Hive)