Our latest exclusive interview is with NYC-based artist and producer Ras Beats who recently released the track "What I'm Connected To" featuring Ralphiie Reese, off his upcoming project “The High 5”. During this Q&A we ask Ras Beats about how he got his start producing, what his go-to production equipment is, who his favorite producers are and much more.
After this interview, be sure to follow Ras Beats on his social media streams and head over to Rasbeats.com for the latest news, free downloads, and to cop some exclusive merch from his store.
Tell us about how you got started making beats. Do you remember your first instrumental? Did you sell it to an artist or stash it away?
I started like most people from my era. By listening to hip hop and studying the masters of the music, Marley Marl, 45 King, Premier, Pete Rock, Bomb Squad, Muggs. I was already DJ’ing with my older brother and we started looking for old records. Isaac Hayes, James Brown, War, all that good shit. Just trying to find samples and learn as much as possible about music and in particular old records. At first I emulated what I heard from hip hop production and worked on creating my own sound.
I don’t remember the first one but my early instrumentals were simple loops, wasn’t really ready to be sold or really made into songs at the time, just figuring out my craft. First song I made was off a single 2 bar Bob James loop, matter fact I think I still owe the studio for that session.
What software/equipment do you use for your production? What is it in particular that you prefer about this software/equipment that you work with?
Akai MPC 2500, Pro Tools. My set up at the crib is simple, I can get right to work when I get an idea ofrhear a record I wanna mess with. Easy to take those protools files right to the studio for the recording of the vocals, mixing and all that. Definitely a set up I’m comfortable with and do my thing with.
For new producers just getting started, what software/equipment would you recommend they invest in?
I love how you do things on the MPC, a lot of people love that Maschine, but for me you can’t beat an MPC. Whatever you can do good work with, don’t get too caught up with what machine you use, it’s about what you can do with it. As long as it doesn't restrict you from getting busy.
Describe your creative process for us when it comes to laying down a beat. When do you know that a beat you have been working on is ready for an artist to jump on?
Mmm, it’s different, sometimes it’s strictly from hearing a groove, a sound, a mood of a record. Other times I just wanna sit down and make music. I may with the groove, then add drums. Sometimes the drums are first. It really just depends on how that inspiration comes. It's some form of a zone, when you're in it you just go with it.
I know the beat is ready when it’s just missing that last thing, I always leave some room for the MC, the vocals are the last instrument on the track, the last layer.
It’s basically just a feel when you know it’s done as far as adding more layers or sounds.
I grew up in North Carolina but always preferred East coast rap music and the soulful sample-based production that artists like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Bootcamp Click, Jay-Z, State Property, Nas and early Kanye West utilized. Most people call those days (mid 90s to mid 2000s) the golden era of Rap. What are your thoughts about the state of rap music on the East coast now, especially with so many rappers from your region rapping over trap beats?
The state of hip hop in general is a mixed bag for me right now. Plenty of really good fuckin music out there right now but most definitely some sub par stuff too.
NYC or the east coast doesn’t necessarily have a real strong definitive sound to my ears these days, I think it kinda forget it’s the Mecca of hip hop, that's it's where this all started from. A lot of people lost their way a little bit with the changing of the popular sound in hip hop but things do move in cycles. I think the east coast sound will be fine, you just have to stick to what you’re good at and appreciate the gifts you’re given.
Who is your favorite producer? Why?
I can’t pick just one, all time I would have to say Marley Marl, DJ Premier & Pete Rock.
Of “current” producers Marco Polo, Nottz, Alchemist, my man Elemnt always keeps my inspired to get to work. Ice Rocks doin' his thing, Evidence, D.I.T.C. still gets busy.. I love beats so I appreciate a lot of people’s work.
Judging solely from a production standpoint, what are your top 3 rap albums of all time?
Man, that’s a tough question. I could probably sit with that question for a month and really come up with a lot of different answers. Right now, I would say, De La Soul 3 Feet High And Rising… for innovation, that album blew the doors completely open as far as what to sample and how to sample. De La & Prince Paul absolutely knocked it out the park on that album…Groundbreaking!
Pete Rock & C.L.Smooth - Mecca & The Soul Brother… incredible album, Pete Rock at his finest, incredible beats, the sequencing of the album, all the interlude beats that were crazy by themselves. Another album that’s one of the best of all time.
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back….. I’m still trying to figure out how they made this album in 1987/88. Classic.
Marley Marl - In Control….. one of the greatest in his prime, the blue print for a producer making his own album.. Such an incredible album.. One of the best Juice Crew projects!
Honorably mention…all the Gang Starr albums, Tribe Called Quest first 3 in particular, Cypress Hills first, I could go on… so many great hip hop albums out there.
What can we expect from Ras Beats in 2018? Any new videos and projects on the way?
I put out the first song from my new project “The High 5” in January, 4 more songs to go, all coming in 2018! Also I did some work for Ralphiie Reese from Philly recently, some work with John Jiggs and other stuff being worked on right now. I plan on being busy in 2018. A lot more stuff I can't really announce right now.
What advice do you have for a producer who is trying to get more exposure for his beats?
I heard graphic artist Joe Buck say “If you don’t get work, make work”. If nobody is knocking at your door for you to work on their projects, create work yourself. Make your own songs, albums, mixtapes, put that out there and let people hear it. Once you paid your dues and gotten good though, make sure you’re ready cuz listeners don’t do any favors. That’s one of the best advice I have heard, don’t wait for anybody to give you an opportunity, make it happen for yourself.
If an artist wanted to reach out to you to buy a beat and/or collaborate with you, how would they get in contact with you?
Twitter, Instagram or directly at email@example.com