Starting from today, we will be reporting to you straight from the Stones Throw Beat Battles, with a weekly roundup of the battles and a few words of explanation from the winners about their beats. It was a three-way-tie this week, and the winners Niklaze, K∇W∆lZK¥ and Slanteyez share some info about how they made their tracks.
Original Sample (provided by Vavoom La Haye):
- Make a HOT SUMMERTIMEMASHUP…………..? (optional)
- Time limit 3:00
- Outside everything allowed (but sample must be focus)
Interview with the battle winners:
Hi guys, much congratulations the win!
Can you shortly introduce yourselves?
NikLaze: My name is Niklas Kullick aka NikLaze and i am a hip-hop-producer from Aachen (NRW, Germany)
Slanteyez: A 24 year old producer/rapper/engineer/binge drinker currently operating from a damp attic space down a back road somewhere in Whangarei, New Zealand. Have been messing around with sounds ever since I was a kid, but it hasn’t been until very recently that I’ve made anything worth releasing to society. Mostly known locally as being a member of Whangarei rap crew OBC since 2011, taking on MCing and production roles. Since the crew has pretty much pissed off to opposite corners of the universe, I’ve been focusing more on solo work, taking part in beat battles online to keep things rolling musically.
What Equipment or software (DAW, VST’s etc) did u use on this track?
NikLaze: On ‘Fuck A Job’ I only used Fl-Studio’s Standard Plugins (EQs), a Bitcrusher, Izotope’s Ozone 5, my 50 Euro Logitech5.1 Speakers and my korg nanoPad 2, since its a beat built out off samples only (no outside-bassline/synth).
K∇W∆lZK¥: Adobe audition, Maschine 1.8, Q 8, SSL channel strip (unfortunately not hardware but vst)
Slanteyez: I’ve used FL Studio pretty much exclusively for the last 10 years. Still running FL 8 on a laptop which is on its last legs. Since it was a beat battle track, didnt really use much VST synth plugins as most of it is based around the sample provided. I make alot of use of the 3xosc synth thats been included with FL since way back, its basic as hell but ive pretty much learnt it inside out, so I can come up with whatever bass/synth/effects noises I need without too much trouble. The main VST I use for other instrument sounds (mostly piano/rhodes) is Sampletank 2.
FX wise, there’s nothing special here either. Just been looking thru the FX channels and it’s all FL compressors, parametric EQ 2, and the odd fruity reverb/delay/fast dist on some of the tracks. All basically FL stock plugins. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to new and exciting plugins, other than the fact I have a slow ass computer with not a hell of alot of space left, I’m not too hyped up about getting them. I figure I don’t have time for the learning curve that comes with new plugins and getting the sound I want out of them. Which is why most of the time I stick with the “this isn’t the greatest thing but it’ll do for now I guess” attitude. For now.
What was your approach to get started?
NikLaze: Just to get the idea of what kind of beat i wanted to make was probably the hardest part of the whole process.. in order to get this idea i chopped each and every part of the given samples and rearranged it until i had only the sample-track, which actually took me roughly 80% of the overall time I worked on that instrumental. Now the only thing i had left to do was to catch the vibe of the samples to get the right drum-set and pattern developed.
K∇W∆lZK¥: It’s all pretty common, step by step flippin until I’m full of it or I listen/feel some magic. From that point on, there are no given tasks any more. It’s like force and retreat until it’s done… or not!
Slanteyez: I noticed that one of the rules was to make a something along the lines of “make a beat which contains 20 smaller beats” or some such thing. Knowing this was definitely out of my skill level I decided to just go with the usual make a standard flip approach. I’ll listen to the sample a few times, generally stick to one track in the sample and work off that, cutting rough loops out and dumping them to the slicer, then coming back to them later and seeing what I can come up with.
Sometimes I’ll hit gold reasonably quickly and come up with a solid foundation for a beat. This wasn’t one of those times. There was nothing straightfoward about coming up with this track. I gave up on 2 different projects over the course of trying to make the beat(s). In this case I started on the second section of the beat first and hit a dead end. Started work on the intro track which ended up similar.
I came back to the first track I was working on a day later and added a few instruments, changed up drums. Added dropouts/fills etc. Went back to the second beat and added a synth. In the end wasn’t really feeling either of them.
Came back to them the next day and decided that I’d go with the idea of making a beat tape style track out of both of them, and then add a third track to the end to tie things up. In conclusion this one beat is actually 3 entirely seperate FL projects, and it was until after 2 days of disappointment that I figured out how to go about making something decent out of them.
How did you make use of the sample?
NikLaze: As on any beat I make, I started off with the samples which is why it’s on the one hand easier to get sum’ good going, because I’ve got more room and I am not restricted by the drums, on the other hand I sometimes have too many options which is the reason why it sometimes takes me hours/days to get an idea at all. On ‘Fuck a Job’ I did it in below-average-time, though. just pitched a little, chopped not as clean as I usually would and arranged it until I was happy with it.
K∇W∆lZK¥: I used the first few seconds as lowpassed base and added some highpassed chops over the basic loop. Some were timestreched (the vox for example).
Slanteyez: Listened to the sample and picked out (what I thought was) a slightly less obvious loop as far as looping opportunities go. Let it loop in Edison (FL studio built in sampler) and pretty much visualised drum patterns in my head. If I come up with something I think will work, I’ll cut a 1 or 2 bar section of it and dump it into FL slicer (the old one, that slicex thing doesnt vibe with me). Normally I’ll go thru the whole track hunting for several loops. Like a main one to base the majority of the beat around, then maybe another one which is in a different chord/key to add some sort of change up. Also vocal/instrument stabs, drum rolls, etc are always good to chop in with. Those are a few things I keep an ear out for.
Going to have to break this into sections, since I dealt with three completely diferent samples for each section of the song.
The first loop; was from that slow jam track, guitar hits on snare, subtle rythm gat licks, lazy vox sample at the end, some real smokey soundin shit, was asking to be sampled. Ripped this directly, pitched it down alot and repeated the first halves of each bar to make a clean loop, minimizing the amount of vocals in what would be the base of the track. Found another sung part in the same key, EQ’ed it so I only had the mid highs (mostly vox) left and used it to layer over the original, filling in the emptiness in that area. Then figured out bass notes, chords, drums etc. It actually took alot of messing around with chopping different sections of the sample to find something thatd be good and basic for the main part of the track.
The intro was sampled from a breakdown in the song. After adding 3xosc keys/bass and lead, figured thered only be so much I could build off the same sample, so kept it short and made it the intro to the whole beat (tape)
The loop I chose was some sort of middle eastern horn break with a dude hollerin yaaayy yeaaahhh at the end of the last bar. I got nothin against the dude rockin out and shit, but to have it on the end of every loop is a wee bit excessive. So I cut the last half bar out and replaced it with a copy of the first half so it was just straight horns. For some reason the whole loop along with my chopping had some sort of swing in it which worked in my favour. I use swing on drums whenever possible because it adds the whole neck breaking quality to a track. Head banging induced neck breakages are generally welcome in my neck of the woods. To me the loop was somewhat reminiscent of something Black Milk would use, this was a good sign.
So that was the base loop. The center of the track. I EQ’ed the bass and mud out by putting a high shelf in around the 200 hz area, and cut around 2300 hz to remove the harshness. This left me with a thinned out horn sample with plenty of room around it for drums, bass, whatever.
Pitched the sample up about 200 cents. I screw around with the pitch alot, sometimes opens new ideas for working with it. Then go about building instrumentation around it, tune them into the sample by first bringing up a sine wave in 3xosc, and playing the keys/altering the pitch till I find something that roughly resembles the scale of the sample. Once ive got a bassline ill go about building a chord progression off that. In this case I built a piano section and a synth pad playing the chords to add to the lower mids which were EQ’ed out of the sample earlier.
I layered other random parts of the sample as well, there was a high… guitar?… or horn? note that I isolated with the parametric EQ and placed at the start of the bar. Used vocal chops from other loops id found earlier and added them on some of the patterns. Just some small things to keep shit interesting yeah?
The apple bite was crunchy as hell, so I thought it’d make a sweet transition noise.
This was acutally just drums, and a sports whistle being scratched up. Cut a couple loops out the sample, dumped them in the slicer, ran them thru the fruity fast dist then boosted around 3Khz to bring the high mids (most notably the harshness of the snare) riiight up. The whole point of this was to sound rough as hell.
The whistle ends up soundin like someone smearing a wet guniea pig on a clean window. I acheived this by pitching it down and randomly throwing slices of it into the piano roll, edited some off parts. And boom. Farmed me some nervous window washing guinea pigs.
How did you go about the drumwork?
NikLaze: Once I had the Sample Loop I was able to easily identify the drums needed for the track (just had to bounce), I picked my samples, pre-EQed them a little, and tapped the pattern on my nanoPad, to give it a less mechanical touch, only made tiny corrections without quantizing in order to not kill the vibe.
K∇W∆lZK¥: Starting with the step sequencer.. Bass Drum on 1 ; Snare on 5 & 13, and percussion played via pads without quantisation. Mostly i use untouched sounds but i do have a few samples i use quite often to add punch and crispyness on top of the drums.
Slanteyez: I’m a basic dude with drums. Both the intro and second track just chucked drum sounds into the step sequencer in FL and play them alongside the sample to see from mates who mustve got them off the internet somewhere.
The only thing I think I probably do different to anyone is how I set them up in the sequencer (90% of the time). or rather the whole timing of the project. I work with 6 beats per bar. Still not sure why, but find it opens up other ways of laying down rythms. FL slicer behaves slightly differently when its cutting to 6 or 12 rather than 8 or 16 beats. Using the whole 6 beats per bar + swing also sounds sick. Almost feel like I shouldnt have shared that.
First beat is in 6/8. Used the 6 beat to bar layout obviously. Alot of kicks in this drum pattern, most of these are quiet hits (ghost notes?) before the actual kick, to almost give it a rolling effect. Since there was already a pitched down snare present in the sample, I used a clap, copied/ pitched it up and triggered it slightly after the actual clap to give a slightly more flammed or human sound. The pitched up clap also adds to the crispiness.
Got the hats swingin along in the background as well. Come to think of it theyre on their own buzz. Never mind.
Other than some fairly severe compression and bass boost on the kick, there nothing much in the way of processing on the drums here. Moving on.
Same deal here with the overly compressed/ low end boosted kick, followed by an equally as harsh snare. Since the snare I used had a abrasive tone to it, took a fair amount of the mids out of it. This preserved the lower end (body) and the highs (clarity) of it. I cut off quite a bit of the release time on the waveform as well to keep it tight. Made sure the attack on the compressor wasnt too long, just enough to give the initial hit some punch. As with most of the compression i do on drum hits.
Had a fairly strong hi hat playing on the downbeats throughout the song (most evident at start before snare comes in), this along with the swing pushed up to 75%ish helps reinforce the groove of the track. Then theres a seconday hi hat and shaker playing doubles of that as well.
All drums were from the sample. basically a direct cut from it, and a few pattern alterations after being dumped into the slicer, distortion/EQ as I said earlier.
Are there any insteresting aspects of the track that you would like to share?
NikLaze: I’m glad i was one of the co-winners, because that beat was one of the easiest and at the same time most fun beats I’ve ever produced (and the first one I won a battle with) plus this round was a good one, lots of bangers.
K∇W∆lZK¥: While working on this beat i got tired and just posted it so its not packed the best way.
I often have trouble to save energy and time for the arrangement and appearance phase, I think that has decreased my chance of winning for many times…
Slanteyez: In the end put the Maximus plugin on the master of all three projects and used the NY compression preset. Mostly because i’m still new to multiband compression and whatnot, and because I wanted the whole thing to sound heavy. I know there are probably more “correct” ways of doing this other than running some hectic compression across the whole mix, but i’m still learning. I wasnt focused too much on getting a good clear mix for this beat, say as much as making everything loud as hell. bad practices maybe.
Looking back on the actual mix of the tracks, I can see A LOT of room for improvement. For most projects id spend days doing several different mixdowns, but the deadline was pretty tight in this case.
The last beat was made entirely within a few hours. To me that is world record time. I played the bassline/ electric clavinet distortion guitar simulator mongrel thing melody on my computer keyboard, which has horrible latency and doesnt always register keystrokes. I recorded the verse in a damn hurry as well. Just listening to it now soloed noticing how rough the MIDI work was.
I went for a run and came back to the three beats, came up with transition ideas and yeah… beat battle entry.
Other beats worth checking out: