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Thread: Questlove talks production circa 1994

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Questlove talks production circa 1994

    since this is a bit of a long read i thought i post it here

    From the ST forum, Questlove talks (primarily) J Dilla, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, Marley Marl, Kanye, Premo, Large Pro, etc:

    here is NO potential for opening a can of worms.....or a can o arrogance. (this can go either way if word gets back to either camp)

    i guess in a sense there could be speculation on whether or not the "gil scott" voice sample is Donuts-esque in "the people" or if "black maybe" with the use of Syreeta's voice is in that same mode....

    but imma take you back and give yall the answer.

    cause on the real....

    its Kanye, paying tribute to dilla FOR paying tribute to kayne who was paying tribute to rza.

    follow me now.

    imma jackie brown this and go back a lil. this is gonna be long.

    imma start with the pete rock batch.

    there lies a pete rock batch somewhere in a basement storage unit in detroit. not only have i heard it but i sorta seen him make it.

    see. to all my okayproducers (especially the ones who got into beatmaking circa 1991 to about 2004) 9 times outta 10....the first beat you ever made was someone else's beat. no lie. i feel like the ONLY way to be a better beat maker is to master someone else's beat. figure how they did some ****. and if you REALLY in love with your new found craft (see Dilla) you will find ways to improve on it....and THEN you can call it your own.

    i did it. everyone from that era did it. first time i made a beat on someone else's machine i practiced and remade "welcome to the terrordome" because my dad had all the ingredients in his record collection and i practiced on my toy casio sk-1 before i went to bill jolly's crib to mess around with his equipment.

    but here is the thing about the "groove merchant" era of production (i dubbed ATCQ, extra p, primo, pete rock, de la (meaning pos and dave and mase were part of that era too....paul was more the "ultimate beats and breaks" era with some crazy pop overtones and masterfull sequencing genius), and diamond d's ---and cats from that feather who later influenced the buckwilds and the jay swifts and the no id's and the like of the production world) that **** (meaning the initial Groove Merchant production way of life) was like gold mining in the wild wild west in the early 1800s. it was an empty marketplace and the coast was clear...but you also knew that time was running out because either someone was going to discover your craft and crowd the marketplace or bite your craft or even worse...change your craft (hello chronic!)

    the difference between break shopping in 1994 (when i first got put on to record shopping in the four figures)--and now in 2007?

    man....a cat behind the counter could face a potential beatdown if he gave a secret away.

    the secret:

    afrika bam- would wash the label off the record so you couldn't bite his breakbeats that he would play at zulu parties.

    biz and marley- would buy all of the same records and 45s from the same store so the noone else could have access to those records.

    tip would NEVER share his secret salvation army store locations on the west coast for fear so and so and such and such would discover it and take some treats too.

    pete rock would resort to violence if he got word that a certain record dealer played (hypothetical example) the lou donaldson break of "who's making love" to another producer AFTER said dealer just made pete pay $50 for it

    (pete "yo man how you find that break?"
    producer "?" "oh i went to downtown records and they had a copy"
    pete on the phone "YO MAN WTF!!!!!!!!!")

    i mean **** was MAD competitive before i got in the game. once i got in the game it was on its last legs and once i really got 10 years in **** was a lost art. now i record shop in ghost towns of a record store--although STILL expensive, not a crowded marketplace....for the thing that gets you paid in hip hop now is ringtone beats. not samples.

    but man...in 94 and 95? beat tape sharing was like a code of honor ****.

    cats were never threatened by me cause (i dont know if this is a good or a bad thing) cause i was not "one of them" i "play drums" or...still seen as "not real hip hop" (!?!?)--like the down syndrome cousin you still gotta be nice to at the family reunion...but he aint playing on my softball team damnit.---so they would openly play me **** and show me **** cause i was the first cat to arrive on the scene on some journalist **** and ask about their craft....

    i mean you ask pete "how in the hell you manage to stuff the "bubblegum" break, the merv griffin james brown intro on the back of the "world" 45 ("number one soul brother....")"the grunt" backwards, "funky penguin", "long red", "lovin man" by eugene mcdaniels, AND that genius filter of marshall jones' bassline in the ohio players "pain"---in ONE PASS?!?!!?! (my first words to pete...most cats would be like "hello, TROY was a major influence on me" i was more like "pete i need answers NOW!!!!" lol)--i mean dude was flattered that someone cared enough to memo a cookbook-esque like memory to hold their **** up in that light of "importance" ("damn kid...the way you describe it makes me feel like a work of art or something" <---his response)

    that didn't work on all cats....tip "stanned" me for about 3 years lol.

    but turn that around and let me be a cat tryna come up...let's place that same conversation and this time lemme be just blaze just getting put on in 1993....pete might have his guard up. why? cause new meat means someone else's old meat.

    and that is how cats was back then...it would be HILLLLLLLLLARIOUS.

    i'd watch cats (except primo who was in a world by himself---no mistaking his sound) do the "oh yeah i got that break" game over and over and over again. as you would play them your new creation. kinda hoping to catch you off guard or make you reconsider you using that sample before they get to do it first.

    tip plays his cypress hill "illusion" remix....first thing pete says is "oh yeah this is "the whatnaughts and daaddadadada......i just used this for dadadadadad"

    seen crazy cats say "don't tell dadadaddad i flipped marvin gaye's dadadadddada cause he gonna bite and say "I ALREADY DID THAT!!!!!

    like some "1..2..3..I GOT MY BASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" game of hide and seek.

    THAT is the atmosphere dilla came into being.

    although he was part of the second wave of groove merchants--his heart really belonged to the idols he worshiped from the varsity class. but they've been known to scoff and sneer at the youngins cause "that was my snare from 91"....and "his chops is horrible"---i mean it was a competitive game out there.

    so of course dilla made his entry under the ATCQ shield. he was the hungry-eager to please new ideas on old records injection they needed.---i mean who is going to be the madman to chop dj towea tei's 6 second loop to make "find a way"? who is going to have the patience to sit through a rodney franklin album to make "wordplay"?---

    but sometimes....just to pass the time, dilla would amuse himself and play the "this is how i would do it" game.

    not even being smart...or arrogant

    just "man if i had a chance to freak some **** before dadadada got to it first".....type thing".

    i call it his passive agressive way of saying "im the man"

    when i first met him he was still in that young jedi/still the student/just finding things out phase. this is what confused him about cats like me and 88 already knowing what he didn't know then:

    he was "THE ONE"

    he was VERY uncomfortable with fan worship in that sense because one:
    how can someone be declared the greatest when there is NO evidence of it. and if he is so great: why is he living in his parents basement in detroit? (riq does the same ****. HATES when his peers do that: "YO THOUGHT YOU SO ILL! MAN!!! you are the illest ***** ever!!!!---and in his head its like "if i am so ill how come the ONLY ***** that wants me to spit on his **** is Kweli?----i think that is where his "edginess" yall sense comes in....but that is a whole nother poast")

    but i was more quiet about him being "THE ONE"--

    until okayplayer came along.

    but that was 5 years after i met him so i was cool.

    anywho....back to that pete rock batch--

    dilla was ALWAYS making these ill ass beats that pete rock already made.

    like his version of "for pete sake" with the "substitution" drums all demented like he did for Common.

    or him flipping "Bam Bam" from Sister Nancy like Pete did on the basement.

    **** that regular ears would never hear....he'd pick me up from the airport and on the floor would be a cassette and it would say "pete" or "primo" or "dre" and it was just him doing some homework trying to up his game with different challenges.---

    i mean mastering primo means getting your scratch game and your accapella knowledge up and working with big meaty drums as opposed to the small crispy kit you used for your own project.

    but if you wanna be the illest you gotta master it.

  2. #2
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    part 2 b/c its loooooong:

    one of his "primo" beats he felt was good enough to get out without cats getting "the joke"/ or labeling him a biter was phat kat's "dedication to the suckers"
    in which he used primo's "blues formula" theory (deep drums and a shrill noise on the 3. repeat 3 times. bar four change the shrill noise to a louder shrill noise used the first three times. repeat til fade. add scratches in for chorus. bonus points if the words "industry" or "the business of..." in the chorus--and where does primo find them sound bites?!?! lol---jokes..)

    it was easier to let that get out without getting noid because primo never rolled like that. primo's theory was the better quality hip hop out there...be it a bitten loop or some crazy original ****....as long as it was RAW? it was all good. cause that helped the game survive. i never once heard of prime screaming on a dealer for playing a record, or him hiding his beat stash so that "dadadada" next door won't know about the difference between the two versions of sly's "small talk" on the marketplace.

    now pete?

    god bless pete.

    pete was jealously passionate about his craft. if it was funky? he HAD to have and stamp it as his first (i mean we already read the whole debacle over "the jazz" on the low end theory) and he earned his stripes as the general of classic beatmaking...but he has earned a rep for his "by any means" method of beats (i don't think de la was too keen on his "flow on" remix for lords of the underground---cause even primo said "rappers shouldn't charge other rappers for samples" and since pete took the main loop of this remix from a de la record....its not like he had to pay for it. so basically he car jacked a loop that de la probably slaved over...got denied...flatlined...and now pete sees the car on the side of the road...takes its parts and somehow got it to the finish line.

    (pete took de la's GREATEST beat flip, an unclearable remix for "breakadawn" taken from prince's "the ballad of dorothy parker" and used their flip of "ballad" for his LOTUg remix. what makes it weird is that ---well back when a remix could bring attention to your album---de la never got the benefit and glory of doing an AMAZING beatflip (93 standard--of course in this dilla age of flipping the stakes are higher--but back then? i lost my cotdamn mind when i first heard that ****.) You see...only inside heads knew about this remix. and since 93 was a dangerous time anyway--with gfunk taking the edge and attention away from new york...that cost the "Mindstate" project some major street cred points it needed to sustain itself vs the easily platinum counterpart of midnight marauders.---back when street cred was a funky ass beat. not a beat up concept like "i sell drugs".

    or take the whole controversy of the "wha wha wha wha wha wha wha wha wha" part of "psychedelic shack" (not the tempts version but...i forget who) that tribe used on "midnight" and pete used on "the main ingredient" --now who is to say "well since tribe used it first then pete was wrong to use it too"

    i dont agree with that.

    that is where i DISagree. cause the entire fanbase don't think like beatmakers. so hearing an element of your song in someone else's song to me is just a part of a the game. i mean you forever have the right to say "i released it first"...but for all we know...pete grew up on that record and knew about it before you did....you just happened to get to the finish line first before he did and released it first.

    so for you lazy readers just skimming this let me reiterate: this is not a bash one dude to big up the next dude post.

    this is meant to explain the mentality of what the beatmaking environment was in my eyes "back in the day".....cats spent ALOT of money buying records. and clearing samples. and fishing for great beats to make the soundtrack of our lives.


    dilla worshiped pete because pete was worthy of it. i mean pete can set fire to my record room tomorrow and i just MIGHT consider dropping charges cause he made "Soul Brother #1" (say it in chapelle's "he made Thriller" voice)--but

    under NO circumstance was i to let pete hear these treats.

    "why?" i asked.

    he might take it personal. and dilla heard too much from the other varsity team about pete and couldn't risk having his idol brand him "enemy" cause he used one "long red" break too many.

    i thought dukes was buggin....i said to myself "if these beats ever got out there...then just maybe beatheads will know what me and 88 already knew from the gate:

    dilla was god.

    i mean break after break it was killing me to keep this secret: that "mind blowing" joint with v mojica? slum had some AMAZING **** for volume 2 called "Sentimental Love" with these drums that made the kicks in "Get It Together" and "Wordplay" seem like a sober night at the drumset.

    and INI's first joint that used the Dorothy Ashby harp break was flipped something terrrrrrrible for Que-D (a fellow mc from the D) that really aint see the light of day.

    i mean i heard stupid ****....sheeeit Me and D even took the Dilla flipped Crown Heights Affair "Far Out" that pete used after the "Spaces and Places" interlude on Ingredient and tried to make a jam of it on Voodoo.

    i think Dill came out of his confidence shell around Vol 2 time. he had an even bigger Pete dilemma: to "spruce up" (you mean "improve" jay? "naw naw...just--you know..."spruce it up a bit"--so humble that cat) "Once Upon A Time In America". in short. Pete did the beat and it was dope. But cotdamn when Dill "spruced it up".....there was no denying it.

    but he would talk himself outta **** over and over and over again.

    maybe he should just drop the song altogether and come up with something else so pete wont be offended.

    i called hogwash. as im sure other's did too. for it stayed on the album.

    i do know the final straw was the creation of what i felt was his greatest pete flip: "little brother" for blackstar.

    now normally i thought only i was privy to these treats...but i guess somehow mos and kwe got their hands on that beat (dill's flip of pete's post "in the house" interlude from the Ingredient album)--and they looped the beat from the beat tape.--

    i was amazed he let that beat out cause of all those beats? that is the beat he really was on his most "who is the jedi master now??!!" ****.

    again...just a humble way to --tap tap tap tap-- "uh hello? im the **** thank you....don't forget it" (exit stage left)

    im sure somewhere in archives is the story of how he made that beat and why i consider it to be his greatest flip.

    which now leads to kanye (dragnet horns)

    the real story is:

    kanye was the inspiration for the motown/dill withers series.

    after i heard the "dancing machine"/throwup flip i was like....

    ok something is up here.

    then i heard the "everyone can see your love is real good" and it hit me....

    "this beat is too cotdamn intricate for an mc to rhyme over....it would distract from whatever is being said...what is the purpose of putting this batch out of songs and noone can rhyme over em? ---i mean these were put together with genius beyond no other....but what was the real reason THIS batch...more than any other batch is circulated out there more than others? i asked him.

    i mean...is this your version of the pete batch for ye? kinda like a nudge like "i see you....but peep this ****"?

    he told me that "spaceship" ****ed him up cause for the first time he never heard that interpretation of "distant lover" in his head when he heard "distant lover". kinda ****ed him up a lil.

    i was like damn...that sounds like me when i talk about him (dilla). cause lord knows i have those same exact records he had and its always after the fact when i discover "he used this?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?"

    so there could be some speculation going on with that marvel. did that mean he knew he was on his last moments and he just had to make one more message to the world of beatmaking and show them what me and 88 knew all along? was the goal to take some simple very familiar breaks and just do the Will Smith solves rubiks cube challenge in the cab with 2 mins left trick? i mean who in their right mind would spit on something as crazy as "waves" or "glazed" before they became his Donuts?

    "you tryna say something to us we don't know man?"

    he laughed and shrugged and never answered."

  3. #3
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    And a section on drums and other production intricacies:

    "Kicks: according to pete rock (remember when i spoke of jay and pete re creating "mecca and the..." in jay's basement when we were doing "dynamite"? (actually we just did the "new years at jay dee's" joint) anywho---pete says that 9 times out of 10 he uses the 3rd kick from James Browns "funky president" says it gives a great punch and depth. i tested his theory and he is correct. i must say that i give JB a run for his money on the voodoo album ("the root")

    808 Kick: get the 12 inch to BDPs "duck down". go to side B and play instrumental of "we in there". there is a friggin kick 808 drum from the lord himself at the very end of the song (they yelling "south bronx...south south bronx AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!!!!" THEN boooooooooooooooooooooooooooom! in case you can't find this then i think that tribe has a nice one at the end of their "vibes and stuff" on the low end theory.

    Claps: "carwash" from rose royce. can't lose from that. and of course "chicken grease".

    Crisp snares: i dont have the song name, but al teller's SHOW AND TELL has a song on side two (the last song) that is sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet to death! matter of fact--you don't even need to take it from there, you can take it from the top of "busta's lament" on the love movement (for that is the same snare)---you can also take the first snare from "fantastic 1" on the fantastic vol 1 album (same snare, just dilla mixing more low end in it. even though it's played out i still like the crisp sound of the emotions' "blind alley". "substitution" and "funky drummer" are crisp but they are mixied with so much reverb, that you can't give them a separte identity. so you always wanna use a flat sounding snare with no reverb on em...

    Deep snare (aka a primo snare): once again "funky president" is a winner. and it adapts to every style. you can take the lows off it and it cracks hard (see marley marl's "eric b is president", "the bridge", and his classics) or sample it with the lows in it and blamo!! you have half the group home album. "impeech" is good too.

    Hi hats- i hate effed up high hats (except for 9ths hats....while studying his hats i noticed that "speed" and "love" sounds like jheri curl "fffffftzz" spray bottles. lol. but there is a "decay" option on your 2000 (page that lets you speed up and sl;ow down samples) it is set to 0/0. when doing high hats try to decay before you just edit them on the edit page. in other words if you get a hi hat (or snare or kick--) with "clips" on the end (the result of either other instruments in the way or perhaps reverb that would make your new drum sound out of place (TSSSSSSSTsilence......TSSSSSSSSTsilence) use the decay option (scroll "end" to 100 (0/100) so now your TSSSSSSSSST sounds like a clean "T!"

    the goal for me is to make drums sound as natural as possible. this is why i am on dillas nuts. cause as a drummer, he is perhaps one of maybe 4 cats that i know that will go through painstaking measures to make sure that his drums are ultra natural sounding.

    once you get more advanced then you can dillatize it by sampling more than one snare. this will give you more "dynamics" options. in other words, one snare would sound rather blaze.---dont get me wrong-- one snare sound works great for the songs that need that type of action like "can't stop wont stop"--but for more melodic stuff--say if you doing a track for jill. or maybe the tribe reunion album--or just something that has musical elements (as in: you sample 8 bars of a rhodes loops, and you playing bass lines)--then this is where this method of "dynamic options" comes in correct.

    if you are giving the illusion that you are doing a band--then a drummmer would hit the snares different ways everytime he hits it. i try to match the same sound when i drum, but it is not possible to get the same tone everytime. so if you are in a situation in which you got alot of sampling time--take 3 snares from the same break use snare one on the 1 and 3 use snare 2 on the four use snare 3 on the three. and if you really wanna freak **** program your drums like 16 or 32 bars at a time and go random. and if you really wanna kill **** put each drum sound on the 16 level option (the loudest sound on the top right pad/the most silent sound on the bottom left) and give snare hits that way (i do pad 16, pad 14 and 13---nothing the naked ear can really catch but it's those small things that make the song flow)

    of course if you are doing a "cant stop wont stop" or busy b "suicide" or eric b is pres then just do normal programming.


    sometimes a shuffle is a nice high hat replacement. hi hats keep the song moving (take note that some of you die hards are scratching your head at the new gang star album because primo all but threw the high hat out the window--thus it seems--well "slow") but sometimes you can't find a good shuffle (if you own "what time is it" and "1999" (the time) and (prince) you can find excellent shuffles on "i dont wanna leave you" "777 9311" "lets pretend were married" and "dmsr".

    but you can make up shuffles too--

    take a high hat and do the opposite decay thing. instead of turning a TSSSSSSSST into a "T!" you can turn a "TSSSSSSSST" into a "SSSSSSSST"---

    instead of scrolling the "end" of your high hat, scroll the "start" and slowly decay the start of your hi hat and soon a shuffle will occur. the best way to apply shuffles are to do the 16 pad thing and press the 16 and 10. (loud/softer sound)----check out the "yo yo" on little brothers album. there is no high hat....but 9th has shuffles all over the ****ing place (ok--he has taken drunk programming to a whole nother level---) but if you do away with high hats or just program em one the 1 and not the 3 (see MJ's "butterflies") --and you still want people to move---use a shuffle instead (or woodblock---or percussion)

    more later if i think about more tricks

    oh more primo (deep) snares: "free" ohio players the second and third drum breaks are sweet too.


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