MYTH BUSTER: X Gear Will Make My Beats Sound Like [Insert Famous Producer's Name]
Article from Bboy Tech Report
Let’s bust some myths around here. I always hear Beat Makers and producers say things like “I have to get an MPC 3000 because that’s what Dilla used to make his beats” or “I have to get my hands on a MASCHINE because that’s what No I.D. made that Jay- Z joint with.” Well, boys and girls let me be the first to say that’s just not how it works. Dare I state the obvious? Just because Dilla used an MPC 3000 doesn’t mean your use of an MPC 3000 will make your beats sound like Dilla’s beats.
Obviously, nearly anything can be imitated but for as much as the legends (Dilla, Premo, Pete Rock etc.) have been imitated we very seldom witness a superstar rising from such imitation. I once heard Questlove tell a story about Dilla meticulously sampling a record that Pete Rock sampled on an interlude of one of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s early albums.
The abridged version of the story goes something like… Dilla and Questlove had been working on new music together when Questlove had to head out he realized that Dilla had been playing this record repeatedly. Questlove recognized the record as used by Pete Rock on “the interlude.” It seemed to be a bit of a puzzle to Dilla as he was either attempting to figure out how Pete Rock flipped the record and/or attempting to flip it in his own way. Later, Questlove heard the fruit of Dilla’s labor and was floored by the shear patience, tenacity and imagination that Dilla used to craft something out of lots of itty bitty pieces of this familiar song. He begged Dilla to let him play it for Pete but Dilla thought it would be distasteful and/or disrespectful and insisted that this would never see the light of day and he was just practicing and passing time. Well this joint became Black Star’s “Little Brother.” And might I add this sounds nothing like anything I ever heard by Pete Rock. He (Dilla) flipped it even in light of Pete Rock being his inspiration.
Yeah. True. They both used similar equipment to achieve different results from the same song. But I’m certain it was never J Dilla’s intention to attempt to sound like Pete Rock. I’d even go further to say I doubt that Dilla owned a MPC 3000 because of Pete Rock in hopes of becoming the new Pete Rock (obviously just guess here but I’m rolling with it).
Dilla has been known to say, and I’m paraphrasing, that dope beats by dope producers inspire him just like they would anyone else but he’s never aspired to make music that mimicked or sounded like anyone else.
That line of thought is the charge with which I challenge a certain train of thought. The myth that, for instance, copping an ASR 10 and an MPC 2000xl will make you sound like Kanye. Or in contrast, the myth that not copping an MPC 5000 will help you to avoid the inevitable wackness that Just Blaze spoke of in his now infamous rant when the 5000 dropped.
If I may quote a bit of a my own statement made elsewhere on the internet, “The idea that a skilled carpenter uses a certain model or brand of drill and hammer to create masterful works doesn’t mean that the apprentice carpenter, outfitted with the same tools will yield the same masterful results. Tools help along the way but its really the skilled hands that wield the tools that make the masterpiece. 9 times out of 10 the cat with skills will create those same sorts of masterful works with what ever tools you hand him.”
At this point those huge manufactures have figured out that if you see Premo with the latest “sampling drum machine” it just might make you want the same shiny new “sampling drum machine”. That’s not a dig on any “sampling drum machine”. That’s the reality in appealing to a particular segment of any market. Macy’s and Sears are in the business of selling Martha Stewart products to a certain segment simply because they know that Martha is revered by that segment as the end all be all in warm, smart, homey household goods.
Indeed, this line of thought is perpetuated and capitalized on by manufacturers of the fine products we all lust after. There is no other reason to hire well-known producers and have them do photo ops and demos all over the place. Fair enough I understand that it’s just business. But my point here is to dispel the belief that “gear x” will auto-magically transform you into “producer x.” It just doesn’t happen that way.
However, there are times when certain gear can be used to achieve a certain sound. After all, some sectors of the pro audio industry is based on some level of standard equipment. There are situations where achieving the optimal sound requires specific tools. Any audio engineer will advise you on similar tools to solve particular problems in pro audio engineering. But gear lust induced single white female admiration is something entirely different.
What makes Dilla beats unique to Dilla? He had soul and he knew his lane. But he also challenged himself over and over again to stay fresh and new.
What makes DJ Premier beats unique to DJ Premier? It appears to me that he knows his tools inside and out, up and down, backwards and forward. He has his own technique and he kills it every rip.
Let me conclude by saying that no amount of admiration will turn you into the person you so admire. But hard work and study of your craft can in fact propel you to higher heights than you’ve ever achieved, regardless of the gear that you use.
I was once asked in an interview “What advice would you have for an up and coming rapper?” My answer would be the same to any beat maker and / or musician and I say now as I said then, “I think I’d advise them find your own voice. Be careful not to become a carbon copy of what inspires you. Stay focused on what inspires you to create the things that truly resonate with you regardless of whatever the popular opinion is. My point is… Kanye West is great at what he does because he was the first Kanye West as opposed to the next Jay Z.”