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Life As A Beat Maker
The Decision to Make Beats
A lot of times I am asked what got me into the business of making beats, especially hip hop beats and rap beats. The answer is usually one that I really don't know, because my orignal goals with music didn't start off with the goal of becoming a beat maker.
Back when I first started teaching myself to play the piano at age 11, I had one main goal in mind, and that was to create my own jazz instrumental CD and get it played on WNUA 95.5, a smooth jazz radio station in Chicago IL.
I grew up listening to jazz because my father played it all the time in the car. He had always wanted to play the piano growing up, but never learned. That desire carried on in me, and one day I just woke up with a burning desire to learn.
So after saving up money from my allowance and begging my parents to help me, I got my first (real) full-sized keyboard for $20.
To make a long story short, I met some people and ended up being a part of a band in the attic. We would sit around all day on saturdays and record on my friend's father's 8 track tape deck. The desire grew, and eventually I decided that I wanted to have my own studio where I could record my solo instrumental jazz projects when I wasn't with the band.
After enough years of saving and buying equipment piece by piece, I acquired enough equipment to record my songs to CD. I also had acquired other instruments and learned to play the guitar, saxaphone, drums, bass, and others in addition to the piano.
Around this same time we moved into a new neighborhood, and that was where my adventure into the world of hip hop beats and r&b beats would begin.
Intro to the world of Hip Hop Beats and Rap Beats
I hadn't previously been a huge fan of rap beats, and even though i dibbled and dabbled in creating them before I moved as a 15 year old, I didn't really hear many that really caught my ear, until I started hearing more of the hip hop and rap music in general.
I then heard beat makers such as Dr. Dre and Timbaland, as well as Darkchild, aka Rodney Jerkins. I liked these producers because they put more of the musicality that I was accustomed to creating into their hip hop beats and pop beats.
This, combined with the potential money to be made piqued my interest even more.
Even though I still don't really consider myself a huge fan of rap and hip hop, I do create hip hop beats and rap beats as a full-time career. The life of a beat maker varies significantly.
Even though I create lots of hip hop beats that are played in clubs, I'm not really ever at the club to hear them. A lot of hip hop beats and r&b instrumentals that I've have been used on television shows, even though it's rare that I'll watch those shows.
This is because In my life as a beat maker and music producer, I spend most of my time making beats and producing music. I don't really have as much time to chill out like a lot of people. I am either making hip hop beats, rap beats, or r&b instrumentals, or I'm working on marketing my beats to labels and television networks, as well as all over the internet.
When I create beats, I really try to incorporate my signature sound of dramatic movie scores mixed with smooth jazz, while keeping the hip hop beat easy for a rapper to flow to it.
This is a formula that works for me, because I am able to use all of my talents with multiple instruments and do more than just the typical sounding hip hop beats.
THE BATTLE: Hip Hop Beats vs. Rap Beats
Even though the basic foundation of hip hop beats and rap beats could be considered the same by some people, they can be very different from each other at the same time.
Rap beats are, by some people, considered more of the 'underground' form, whereas hip hop beats are considered more of the 'commercial' form. The funny thing is, this is kind of backwards compared the the way things were before, when hip hop beats were more underground and rap beats were the more commercial form.
In order to compare the two forms in today's music wolrd, we would have to look at actual rap artists. A lot of people consider Nas rap music, while they consider Jay-Z hip hop.
Therefore, one would draw the conclusion that Jay-Z uses hip hop beats while Nas uses rap beats.
This debate could go on forever, and its one that a lot of people agree and disagree on. For this reason, I choose not to be concerned with it, and I just create the beats that artists want and need.
Beyond the Beats...
There is a lot of confusion in the industry sorounding the beats. A lot of beat makers consider themselves producers, because they truly don't understand that being a producer involves a lot more than creating beats.
Being a producer involves anything from songwriting, finding songwriters, vocal arrangement and production, mixing, finding engineers, booking studio time, handling production budgets, setting up studio time, and soooo much more that doesn't even involve making beats.
In fact, there are some producers in the industry that never even touch an instrument or music computer.
I am more than just a beatmaker who plays multiple instruments and creates the beats, but I am truly a music producer who is involved in the entire process. I will state that there is nothing wrong with being just a beat maker.
The process of creating rap beats, hip hop beats, as well as r&b instrumentals is the fun part of the industry, and anyone who only has the responsibility of making beats can and should be grateful that they can focus on the fun and creative part while some other sucker has to go and do the rest of the dirty work.
But I can't really complain about the other things. I have always been fascinated with the process of starting with nothing, and creating a finished masterpiece from beginning to end. That is why I choose to involve myself in the entire process of hit song creation.
I enjoy the fact that I can hear something in my head, start making the beat, putting writers on to write the song, work with the artist in the studio to record vocals, work with my engineers or on my own to mix the record, master it, and put it in the hands of the management company or label exec, and watch it hit the airwaves.
I also enjoy helping independent music artists market their music through the internet and watching them grow with excitement as they start accomplishing things that they never thought they would do with their music.
There is a rush that comes with watching people react to a creation that was concieved in your head...