[Feature] Kenny Beats: Audio Dope
Article by Persiah Alcorn (@latinegras)
Say hello to the new guy. 21 year old producer and Berklee College of Music student, Kenny Beats, is creeping his way into the major leagues one hot song at a time. He is the mastermind behind ScHoolboy Q’s EDM fuzed “Party” as well as the infatuating “Diamonds” collaboration between Smoke DZA and Ab-Soul, and a fan of all things affiliated with The Clipse. We sat down with Kenny Beats to discuss his introduction to Hip-Hop, future endeavours and astrology.
JM: Before we start I’ve got to know what the correlation is between yourself and JENESIS Magazine?
Kenny Beats: I did daily post and interviews at 12oz for a while, and still try to contribute when I can. I'd get stuck sometimes looking for content or stories to break, and JENESIS was always one of the first places I'd look to “borrow” from in times of need [laughs]. I'm an admitted fan slash thief.
JM: [laughs] now that that’s out of the way. Be as descriptive or mysterious as you’d like with this next answer. Who is Kenny Beats?
Kenny Beats: A 21 year old senior at Berklee College of Music, who DJ's and produces in his free time. I'm also one half of LOUDPVCK. Oh, and ladies, I'm a Taurus.
JM: [laughs] Yo! You are pure comedy. What made you say “I think I want to produce music”?
Kenny Beats: I used to play guitar and drums obsessively since I was about 9 years old, though my focus back then was on music I could play along too; which pretty much excluded dance music or hip hop. As I got older I started listening to more rap and paying attention to other genres through my friends, somehow I came to find out how “beats” were actually made. After bugging my dad for like a week I ended up with a $100 version of Fruity Loops on our home computer, the rest is history.
JM: How does the musical process come about? Do you sit down with artists in the studio and bounce ideas; do they come to you with their own production thoughts?
Kenny Beats: 99% of the time I'm not with the artist when I'm creating. I usually have a specific vibe or sound I'm going for ahead of time, and once I have a rough skeleton of the beat I start considering who it might work for. If I really have someone in mind I'll try to taylor the beat to their flow as much as I can before I send it, and ONLY send it to that artist until I hear back. Those are my favorite beats to make, especially when I have some type of direction or concept given to me beforehand. If you both can share the same vision throughout the process of making the track, there is less work to do once words and verses get laid down; because everyone is already in a similar headspace.
JM: A lot of people know you for your extensive relationship with the Smoke DZA. Give us a little insight on how you and DZA began working with each other.
Kenny Beats: Dza is family! I've been on 6 of his last 8 releases, and beyond the music he is a great friend and mentor to me. I started working for Jonny Shipes and Cinematic Music Group my first summer out of High School, and ever since then he and Smokey have always kept me under their wing. Both Dza and Jonny truly want the best opportunities for those around them, and without the things they've taught me I doubt I would be doing any of what I am today.
JM: On Smoke DZA’s latest project, K.O.N.Y, you produced the stand out record “Diamond” featuring Ab-Soul. Give us a little insight on what went into making the record as well as your extensive relationship with the Kushed God?
Kenny Beats: “Diamond” happened by being in the right place at the right time. I had been on the phone with both Smokey and AB that day, and found out that they had a session together at Quad; so I knew I couldn't miss that. I was just scrolling through beats, trying to get a vibe for what DZA wanted, and like 30 seconds into the “Diamond” beat Soulo walked back in the room and said “That's the one.” I actually had to leave for another session, but they sent me the record the next day and it was crazy. Word is that a video is in the works!
JM: Ab-Soul isn’t the first TDE member you’ve worked with. You’ve worked with ScHoolboy Q on his record “Party.” Is it safe to deduce that you’ve conquered the EDM Trap production style to a certain extent?
Kenny Beats: I wouldn't say that at all [laughs], but thank you! “Party” definitely has a more EDM influence than most of my solo beats, but that’s more of a coincidence rather than me trying to conquer a particular sound. If anything I'm just happy that I can incorporate elements from this new “EDM trap” genre into songs I'm producing. Some kids still are confused about the term “trap” being applied to music other than southern hip hop, so I try to stay away from it.
JM: One thing I’ve noticed about you as a producer, though it isn’t a huge deal, is that you don’t have a drop. Most producers have catchy, and corny, drops. For example, Harry Fraud has “La Musica de Harry Fraud” or DJ Khaled’s slightly narcissistic screaming. Was there ever a point in time in which you had a drop? If not I’m always available [laughs]! I can’t nail the Dominican ascent like Harry Fraud’s drop, but I have one hell of an American ascent, I promise!
Kenny Beats: [laughs] I need your help then! I used to have this corny, robotic “Kenny Beats” drop before every beat I made in High School; until I started actually playing them for rappers and got asked to “take that shit off” [laughs]. I want to find something subtle, not necessarily someone’s voice, just a sound that lets you know it’s me. Do you remember The Runners “ahh” tag? It was like one breath, but they put it on everything and it never bothered the intro, I always thought doing something like that would be cool. I'm open to suggestions, though.
JM: For the future producers out there sitting in their bedrooms perplexed as to where to start are there any wise words you could lend them in regards to finding their sound, what equipment to use, and etc?
Kenny Beats: All you need is a computer and software, and don't let anyone tell you different! I know so many kids who get hung up on some keyboard, or plug in that they “need” to buy before they can make something dope. It’s such a waste of time. If you really do your research you can get anything you want on the internet for free, but learning to improvise and substitute what you have is how you truly sharpen your abilities as a producer. Beyond that your peers are the best resource you have. Kids are on social media sites and production blogs all day trying to educate themselves and trade libraries. Just play beats for each other. You can teach yourself so much in the process.
JM: Let’s get a little personal here. What are your favorite albums purely based on their production?
Kenny Beats: “Hell Hath No Fury” is simplicity at its finest! “Trilla” is probably still Rick Ross's best album to date, and in my eyes is nearly perfect from start to finish. The production on “American Gangster” is so ridiculously underrated; Sean C and LV had a few classics on there. “Good Kid, M.a.a.d City” is a masterpiece, can’t forget that.
JM: If you could produce one mega record with your choice of singers, rappers and instrumentalist who would be featured on it? And by all means name as many people as you’d like!
Kenny Beats: It would be The Clipse featuring Black Hippy, co-produced by Me and Just Blaze with all the musicians from that Amy Winehouse “Back To Black” album. Swag.
JM: Who can we expect you to work with in the near future?
Kenny Beats: TDE! I've got a few records with Ab-Soul and Jay Rock coming, and always trying to get more material to Q and K Dot, but who isn’t? Definitely look for some work with myself and Ree$e, one of my favorite artists in Atlanta period right now. Always got a few NY rappers in my email too. If you haven't already go check out LOUDPVCK, a new DJ and production duo I'm in.
JM: Before we get out of here where can the people get in contact with you?
Kenny Beats: @KennyBeats on Twitter and Instagram, hit me!