Another fine Wednesday, and another fine update to the MsP Production Vault!
This week, we go back from our more instrument focused kits to the textbook hip-hop/rap production drum kits as requested by our visitors. =] I have three different kits, all together totaling over 100 different drum samples, for you producers out there, free for download as always!
Ready for more samples? It’s Wednesday, so check out what I’ve got for you today. =]
This week, we have some lo-fi drums. These are perfect for classic hip-hop production. If you’re a fan of Timbaland’s production, then you’ve noticed how his drums are not exactly that clean. These drums are filtered similarly, so they have that feel to them. In addition, there are distorted guitar and bass samples in here. All in all, we’re looking at almost 200 samples for you to mess around with.
Today marks the release of NaS and Damian Marley’s collaboration album Distant Relatives. If you haven’t heard this album yet, you are definitely missing out.
I’ve never been exposed to that much reggae, at least in the Bob Marley sense. I’ve had a lot of exposure to the Dancehall stylings of Cutty Ranks, Buju Banton, Elephant Man and the like. So when I heard that Bob Marley’s son Damian, a.k.a. Jr. Gong, was going to hook up with NaS for a collaboration album, it was exciting to hear some new sounds.
I’ve always been a fan of NaS, since Live at the BBQ. I do have a bias towards NY emcees because that’s the sound I grew up with.
I have all his solo efforts except The Lost Tapes. Right now, I have his albums ranked as follows:
Hip-Hop is Dead
It Was Written
Distant Relatives is a different beast. First off it’s a collaboration album. Secondly, it’s a pure departure from the New York sound we’re accustomed to hearing from NaS. No Salaam Remi, no L.E.S., no Large Professor, just to name a few consistent collaborators.
From a production standpoint, it might be his best album, which of course you have to credit Jr. Gong (and his brother Stephen) for the amazing musical backdrops. Very thick instrumentation and uplifting ambiance make this album a pleasure to listen to. Songs like “Tribes at War” carry an African feel to them that push the listener to visualize the continent.
Here’s a breakdown of each track:
As We Enter: An awesome intro. To show that solidarity, Nas and Gong trade bars on a fast beat to show you the unified effort. Definitely a good start.
Tribes at War feat. K’Naan: Production-wise, this is one of the best on the album. The instrumentation makes you feel Africa, with the bongos in a tribal pattern, the tonal percussion in the back, the grunt on the down beat, and the chorus of people chanting. The descending strings and the smooth synth are nice touches. All three performers kill it here. K’Naan’s sequence about conflict was great:
1, it’s me and my nation against the world //
2, then me and my clan against the nation //
3, then me and my fam against the clan //
4, then me and my brother we no hesitation //
Go against the family until they cave in //
5, who’s left in this deadly equation? //
That’s right, it’s me against my brother //
Then we point a Kalashnikov and kill one another //
Strong Will Continue: This song is very powerful. The hook and production sounds like a rally of troops, and it’s very uplifting. It moves you to take action. As Gong’s hook goes: “Only the strong will continue, do you have it in you? ‘Cause we got a journey to go.” The industrial effects combined with the distorted guitars and strings give this track an adventurous feel. The light piano also gives the track a nice touch.
Leaders feat. Stephen Marley: This one has that classic reggae feel. I feel like I should be listening to this in a cloud of smoke lol. But seriously though, this one talks about leaders and pushing them to change the world rather than use their power and influence for personal gain. Damian possesses such a smooth voice, and with such powerful lyrics, Gong truly shines.
Friends: Another reggae feel, and it addresses friendship. I’m sure we’ve all been through our share of drama with our real and artificial or fairweather friends. Gong’s choruses in this song are great, because it’s simple and true. Real friends won’t do you wrong, real friends never change. Nas kills this song, and here’s a powerful sequence:
Real men, we have a code of ethics, no questions, no jealousies //
No feminine tendencies we expecting //
No gossip, no phony logic, no counting your homey’s pocket //
Spare no expense for legal defense if your homey locked up //
No keeping tabs on who was the last who looked out //
Selfishness, that’s a character flaw, no holdin out //
Yo what happened to the honor? Primadonna drama //
Teflon love for my dudes who solid //
Count Your Blessings: This one is very uplifting, making it a point that you should be happy with what you have. Nas mentions his son, and how he wishes to raise him the same way Bob Marley did Damian, and even when you’re not at the top and you wish to be, just keep your aspirations high. I like the bongos in this one and the smooth guitars. When the verses come in, the way the distorted guitars come in give you a great sense of purpose.
Dispear: At first, I thought they had either misspelled dissapear, or a different way to spell despair. But it actually means This Spear. It’s a lot more aggressive than the other songs on the album, and the spear is a symbol of power, violence, and control, and how it has broken down society. Sonically, it sounds like preparing for war. The middle pause with the whispers and animal sound gives you the feel that you’re hunting with that spear, which I thought was a great touch.
Land of Promise: More reggae here, reminiscent of Jamrock (Gong’s HUGE hit a few years back), and it pays homage to Africa. How Africa is real, and how what you perceive in New York and California are nothing comparable.
In His Own Words feat. Stephen Marley: This one’s a song for God. NaS shows his appreciation and faith, despite the negativity that surrounds him and in the world. Production-wise, it’s very uplifting.
Nahmean: This one’s about as close to the hip-hop sound you will get on this album. The head-nod is official on this. Both Gong and Nas go in and destroy this one lyrically, asking what the higher-ups are doing for us.
Patience: This track is the most inquisitive, and the most thought provoking. A lot of history on this song, addressing The Bible and The Qu’ran, as well as the origins of words, numbers, and everything in existence. Gong was the most eloquent on this track. The instrumentation on this is beautiful along with the sample that goes on in the hook. Very synthy compared to the rest of the album; the atmosphere of this beat mixes in SO WELL with these philosophical questions and thoughts.
My Generation feat. Lil’ Wayne and Joss Stone: This is the most uplifting song on the entire album, and I’m sure will be a radio hit. I know of many people who were disappointed with Wayne being on the album, but he did his part and didn’t bring the song down at all. The hook is great, and it just an all-out feel good song. Nas’s first line is great: “Can you blame my generation, subject to gentrification, depicting their frustrations over ill instrumentation?”
Africa Must Wake Up feat. K’Naan: This one has that reggae feel. K’Naan comes in with a Somali verse, and the translation is available in the sleeve. It serves as a good ending to the album.
I’m very pleased with the album, and it sounds great cover to cover. It’s a classic. Nas’s lyrics, combined with Marley’s lyrics/vocals and production make for a very powerful, 5 mic rated, combination. It’s not your typical hip-hop or reggae album, as it fuses both quite well.
This past week has been really busy, and I finally had a little bit of down time to go work on some music. As I’ve have written in a previous post, I had recently bought a new Ibanez Acoustic/Electric guitar and an SM57. I’ll cover the SM57 in a future post, but for now I want to share my experiences recording the acoustic guitar.
My attempts at recording acoustic guitar were always fine. Never great, but they could pass. Now that I have my own acoustic/electric, I figured I can try to figure out what way would be best to capture a nice, thick sound.
Recording direct (whether it was acoustic or electric) always sounded dull to me. There was just a certain tone that was missing, and I could never put my finger on it, whether it was the missing reverb, or just the way the pickups were bringing in the sound.
With an electric guitar, you can always use plugins to mess with the sound because electric guitars are manipulated in so many different ways today that you can record something direct, then use effects to get the desired effect later. This goes for distortion, overdrive, flangers, chrouses, and whatever else.
Acoustic guitars are a lot more difficult, because the desired tone and/or sound for a majority of acoustic guitar uses will be very similar. The differences may come in the way it’s EQ’d, or some style of compression or reverb. However, that particular sound of an acoustic guitar cannot be created or be the product of a manipulation from an electric guitar and have it sound that accurate (at least during the time of this writing I haven’t found anything that would do that yet). Of course you can get VSTi’s that have acoustic guitar sounds, but where’s the fun in that? =] Especially since, unlike an orchestra or a chorus, you can buy yourself a guitar and a mic to record with for about $200 (of course at the very low end of the food chain.)
With an acoustic/electric, you have a choice of either mic’ing it up, or going direct, or doing both. Neither on its own for me ever fit the bill completely. However, recording both simultaneously covered all grounds and got me the sound I personally was looking for.
Keep in mind also that I don’t have a state of the art studio, and I’m stuck with an E-MU 0404 Sound Card with two mono inputs. I do have a Samson MDR6 mixer, which I thought would be useful for me when I bought it, but realized after I wouldn’t be able to simultaneously record four tracks and be able to manipulate post-session. I could, however, use two mics and feed them through one mono signal or two for a stereo, if I so desired.
The final setup that I came up with that got me the sound I wanted was the following:
Ibanez Acoustic/Electric direct with the bass slightly up into a Studio Projects VTB1 Tube Preamp into one channel on the 0404
Audio-Technica PRO37 small diaphragm condenser mic at the 12th fret about four inches away + Audio-Technica 2020 large diaphragm condenser about six-seven inches pointed at the third fret, going into the MDR6, then into the other channel on the 0404.
I then compressed both recordings softly and gave both a slight reverb.
The direct recording captured I’d say about 80% of the sound I wanted, but the mics gave it that extra 20%; that character and natural reverb. I then panned one 25% to the left, then panned one 25% to the right.
Another Wednesday, another Production Vault Update!
This week, we have a nice drum kit mixed in with some acoustic drum sounds. I like using this kit because the sounds in these have a particular feel to them. The layering of the acoustic drums give it that extra zing. Also, I’ve got some piano hits in here. Some of these have vinyl already on them for that classic 90’s feel. If you’re into Premo, or Marley Marl, even Pete Rock possibly, you may like the piano sample hits in this particular kit.
Here’s an ill Biggie T-Shirt from the good folks at United Five (no relation to 5Fam, name is a coincidence). Any fan of hip-hop knows the King of New York, Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. From the ever-so-fluid flow, sharp wittiness, and uncanny storytelling ability, Biggie is one of the most (and for many, simply the most) revered emcees. Even after his untimely and tragic death in 1997, he still is in a majority of top 5 lists, and for a majority of those, he’s in the #1 position.
United Five’s description of the shirt:
The Biggie, Babe Ruth Re-Mix T-shirt. Untied Five teams up with designer CuddleMachine for this clever fun shirt. Representing two of New Yorks greatest icons.
All t-shirts are screen printed by hand using soft to the touch inks.
100% Combed Ring spun Cotton. Super-soft, lightweight, slim-fit tee. Machine washable and preshrunk to minimize shrinkage.
You can check their website at http://www.united-five.com, or go directly to their shop at http://shop.united-five.com. I personally have this t-shirt as well as their Crooklyn shirt. Aside from the nice designs, they’re good quality; I’ve washed them quite a few times since with no signs of wear and tear.
From what I understand, the name of “United Five” comes from the five boroughs of New York, so you’ll see some borough specific tees as well as some that represent all five. So if you rep the city hard, you may want to grab these shirts to show your solidarity.
Tomorrow, I’ll be hitting you guys up with some info on the new SM57 I bought. It’s the first SM57 I’ve bought for my mic arsenal. Studio pros know the SM57 very well, and though the review I’m going to give would be obvious to those who have had it, I’m hoping it’ll be enlightening to those who are trying to find the right microphone for electric guitar amp cabinets and snare drums.