It’s been a while since I wrote an music production article but I’ve decided to take a new approach to planning how I’m going to bring the most value to everyone who chooses to read my blog. My goal is to write an article every time I listen to a new album where I somewhat review everything I’ve learnt from the album and a few takeaways from it. I’m not going to simply review an hip hop album like you would see on other blogs but I’m going to try and give you insights into what I’m learning (and stealing) from others.
The first album I’m attempting to do this with is Ego Death by The Internet, which was released in 2015 and nominated for a Grammy. These are the four learnings and takeaways I’ve received by listening to this body of work.
Use All Bases, Not Just 808’s
An issue I’ve faced, particularly in early 2016, is that people always wanted to hear booming 808 beats. Even in pop music 808’s have now been popularised, and escaping hearing them, and in particular using them, has become extremely difficult. My escape prior to listening to Ego Death was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB), which I learnt early this year, courtesy of Logic, intentionally avoided using 808’s (Video Below).
So back to The Internet’s Ego Death. Throughout it’s entirety, I struggle to hear a single 808 hip hop beat (tell me if I’m wrong), just hearing groovy acoustic baselines and influences of old school hip hop beats, predominantly a reminiscent feeing of West Coast producers such as Dr. Dre. There’s even modern influences with production utilising moog basses, not in the style of DJ Mustard Type Beats but rather using synthesisers in more subtle ways, which helps build an atmosphere different to modern uses, as witnessed on “Girl”.
My takeaway from this is that although 808 rap beats are super cool, like I make them all the time, widening my horizon, experimenting with different sounds as The Internet do with music production, is essential in order to remain unique.
Play Into My Strengths
Perfection is far from essential. Whether that’s with the instruments used in the instrumentals themselves or the mixing of the beat, even down to Syd Tha Kyd’s vocal performance. She happily purports that she is not a great singer but instead of attempting to perfect her vocals to sound like a Mariah per se, she plays into her “weaknesses” and makes them her strengths.
The intentional radio-esque effect featured on tracks like “I Tried” and “Curse” (Video Below) brings forth uniqueness, which helps the minimalistic overall sound of the album.
Ego Death deliberately breaks many of the conventional rules of song form and structure. What I mean by this is that they choose on many occasions to place extremely long winded bridges which are super repetitive but still unmistakably enjoyable on many of the featured tracks. They also opt for somewhat of a peculiar panning/stereo width, demonstrable in “Girl Ft. Kaytranada”. The first time I actually heard that drums come in I had to skipped the track because it made me feel uneasy.
Those are just two examples from an album which is somewhat unorthodox but nevertheless takes up a unique sound which stands left of R’n’B/Hip hop.
Collab, Collab, Collab
Displayed periodically throughout the entire album is their desire to collaborate with artists who are able/willing to explore a different approach to their regular vocal cadence and beat structure/sound. For example, track 4 “Go With It” features Vic Mensa, where he sits into a beat of a different tempo, and even attempts to sing on the track. See the video below where The Internet speak on what they attempt to do when collaborating with other artists.
I’ve taken this onboard a lot lately, experimenting with different genres and building with my production team, DEPHYR Music, where we’re constantly trying to view music from others points of views, and adopting a different approach to music as a whole.