If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been accused of blogging because I'm a failed, wannabe rapper, I’d have enough money to buy some extra guac at Chipotle, but the honest truth is that I’ve never once wanted to be a rapper. Not once.
Being a producer, though? That’s an entirely different story.
I would LOVE to be a producer. I wish I could Space Jam 9th Wonder or Just Blaze, trapping their skills in a haunted 1s and 2s. I dream of being able to hear something, flip it, turn it into the next huge beat and never get credit; it’s every producer's dream. Though I collect records, obsess over beats and have a borderline unhealthy obsession with sampling, I have no idea how to actually make a beat.
Still, the process fascinates me. What is it about a piece of a song that a producer hears when they identify a sample? How do they go from hearing a sample to making the beat? How much do they have to change the original sample to fit their own style? I’ve asked these questions to countless producers but never gotten a satisfactory answer; it’s kind of like asking someone what chicken tastes like. Lately, I’ve been dying to make my own beats, but as I said I have no skills. Luckily, I’ve gotten to know now a few cats who do.
One of those cats is EOM.
For those who don’t know Elements of Music allow me to introduce you. EOM got his start working with DJBooth-favorite Wax, but that’s just the beginning. In addition to a few albums, including his most recent project, Sunrain, he has worked with the likes of Asher Roth, Blu, and Chuuwee. He even had a beat stolen by Chamillionaire one time, so that's a thing.
Basically, EOM flips shit like Dominique Dawes making pancakes. So I thought he would be an excellent person to help me make my producer dreams vicariously come true. The plan was that I'd send him a few songs I thought would be flippable, then he'd pick one and turn it into a beat of epic proportions. In doing this, I hoped to get a little insight into how the mind of a producer works and how a sample goes from the original to a song to a giant lawsuit. Much to my shock, that plan actually worked.
As you may know, I fuck with Glass Animals heavy, partly because they are super unique and partly because I think they have a ton of music just begging to be sampled. Turns out I was right. Out of all the potential samples I sent EOM, Glass Animals’ “Black Mambo” stood out to him the most.
I'll let EOM and his co-producer Duke explain what happened next:
"We got this the Glass Animals - Black Mambo joint in a folder from Lucas and it was the main track that stood out to sample. About 1 minute into the song, we heard that piano/marimba sound with no drums.
We started chopping each individual hit so that we could play it in our own way instead of looping that part. It started off low key and got faster and more lounge-y sounding. At this point, we knew the drop had to be more explosive to counter the build up. Duke played a synth melody line that acted as the main motif and arranged the drop around that.
We both chopped up the same percussive/mallet sound from the original, but then found a bass patch that sounded very similar when pitched all the way up so we used that to accompany certain sections. Overall, the combination of both of our takes on the sample provided for a really interesting dynamic.
We're not exactly sure who we would shop this track to because the energy swing is pretty drastic. We'd probably go with Kendrick Lamaer, Dizee Rascal or a Tinie Tempah type of UK rapper."
Truthfully, I didn’t really know what to expect. First, I didn't know if my samples were, in fact, sample-able, so its good to know I’m not crazy. Second, it’s nothing like what I expected. EOM and Duke really took it to the next level, they had to consider melodies, pitch, pace, all these other factors I didn't even think of. A sample doesn’t just make itself, it’s up to the producer to not only find something to chop but fit and morph that section into a larger vision. You don’t just put some dough in the oven and hope a pizza comes out. You compliment it with other ingredients and try to craft a coherent meal. And I didn’t even think about who this beat would be best suited for, but a few names have come to mind in my countless listens, primarily GoldLink, Vic Mensa, and Anderson .Paak.
Well, this was fun as shit. It's nice to finally have some (very) small role in actually making music, not just listening to it. I'm not sure if I'll ever do this again, I could turn it into a regular series or just let it be the one time I suggested a sample to EOM and he nailed it, but I know I'm going to keep loving production and samples until the day I die.
Today I “made” a beat for work. How was your day?