SXSW 2015 March Music


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3 6 S X S W o r l d | M U S I C M A R C H 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M he biggest names in hip-hop will always be the ones holding the mic, but a rhyme without a beat is like a kick without a snare. Before coming to SXSW, Mannie Fresh, New Orleans super producer and chief architect of the Cash Money Records sound, discussed his creative process. What does your production setup look like these days? Mannie Fresh: I still use analog stuff. I still like the feel of my old SP-1200, my first drum machine. The new stuff just don't have the swing that I want, that gritty, dirty sound. When it comes to making beats, I still go back to my original old school equipment. If ain't broke, don't mess with it. Crate digging and sampling was the foundation of hip-hop for a long time, but it's no longer financially feasible to make records that way. How has that changed the game? MF: When money began to rule in hip-hop, it destroyed the whole crate digging era. Now the cheesiest sample will cost you something incredible. I make original songs that are inspired by crate digging, and I still do songs with samples, but it's more of an art that you keep to yourself. Is there a certain mindset you need to be in to make music? MF: I know a lot of people like the studio dark, and they got their ambience and little candles and all that. For me it's completely dif- ferent. My whole production style is from a party point of view. I make my best beats when there's a lot of stuff going on. If the studio is full of chaos, that's a good day. What's it like working with the likes of Lil Wayne and Mos Def ? MF: Wayne and Mos have similarities. When it's time for them to concentrate on whatever they're writing about, they do it. If you grew up in the era where you were the engineer, you were the pro- ducer, you were the arranger and all of that, you know how to work around noise. That's what's similar about Mos and Wayne - nothing really bothers them when it comes to the recording process. Do you make beats with specific rappers in mind? MF: If you spend time around someone, you get to know their personality, get to know what they really want to write about. If someone starts rapping to me before I make the beat, I kind of know what the flow is and I try to get the beat to marry with their lyrics instead of just saying, "Here's a beat, good luck with it." I like getting to know someone's personality and their vibe, then we do music. When you made "Back That Azz Up" did you know immediately it was going to be a hit? MF: I wanted to make it so that it would make sense to black kids, white kids, old people, young people, whatever. Even before radio stations or anybody got it, I knew it had that vibe. Even if nobody would have bought it though, I still would have thought it was a hit record. For some people a hit record means platinum. It doesn't mean that to me; a hit record is a feeling. Describe the recording process for Juvenile's 400 Degreez album. MF: What really made it great was Juvenile knew those raps and how to deliver them. The only thing he didn't know how to do is count bars. He was such a raw rapper at that time that he had no idea there was a format to making songs. I wanted to capture that. I didn't care if he wrote 15 and a half bars, we were gonna go around him, not change him. When we finished one song he couldn't wait to go to the next one. It was like a real Motown session. We'd start the drum machine and tap it out while he was rapping. A lot of it was done in one and two takes. There was no punch-ins or nothing. It was magical. You talked about beats having swing. Is that influenced at all by New Orleans? MF: Yeah, I want the song to move; I want a real bass player on it. If I can get real horns, I want real horn players. It just feels so much better when a song moves, and it's not the same thing looped over and over again. What in particular makes a dope record? MF: Sometimes an old school record will come on and 20 years later, you remember what you were smelling that day, or what car you were riding in when you first heard it. That's a dope record to me. "Building the Beat: A Conversation with Music's Most Influential Pro- ducers," featuring Mannie Fresh and others, happens today (Thursday, March 19) at 2pm in Room 18ABC of the Austin Convention Center. by Thomas FawceTT T M a n nie Fres h The Beats Go On: Mannie Fresh Explains It All

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