Interview with STBB #706 & #709 Winner, SoDamnFresh
Can you shortly introduce yourself?
My real name is Ahmad, but my 'Hip Hop moniker' is AMBA. My parents are Syrian, but I was born and raised in West London. Im approaching 40 yrs old now ( ) so Ive been involved in Hip Hop culture in one way or another since 1994/5. MCing back in the day, Graff, DJing, putting on club nights etc... But mainly Graffiti. I represent SDF crew (So Damn Fresh), but also rep TKS (Total Kaos) and VFL (Vandals For Life). Ive been collecting vinyl since the mid-90s, mainly Hip Hop based stuff, but for the last 10 odd years Ive been collecting stuff to sample and seeking out samples already used by people (I only did a bit of this in the 90s). I bought an MPC1000 offve my friend about 10 years ago and been addicted to it since. Luckily Im surrounded by beatmakers here who schooled me early on (DJ Thor (Mys-diggi), Unsung Heroes (J-live, Tony Allen, Ty), NightShift (Breakbeat legends), LG (Jehst), TMS (Prof Green) and lots more)
What was your first STBB entry?
I entered a few battles on the original Stones Throw forum way back if i remember correctly... But was here pretty much when it started at STBB... Heres my first ever entry on the first battle here-
Can you tell us about your musical or other inspirations.. acts/ producers etc?
Apart from my friends around me and music I hear on records Ive collected I get inspo from most things tbh. Specifically I love the usual suspects like Pete Rock, Premo, Dilla etc.... But also am very inspired by Nick Wiz, 88 Keys, J Rawls and Shawn J Period to name a couple more lesser known producers. Im very lucky to be friends with Diamond D as Ive organised a few gigs for him here in London. We stay in touch often and he drops gems for me every now and then... I also dig for him in London if he needs etc...
How did you learn to make beats..and do you play any instruments?
I used to make beats on my friends MPC2000XL for a few years until I bought an MPC1000.
As I stated above I was lucky enough to have beatmakers and DJs around me as friends who all contributed to my growth in one way or another... But listening intently and breaking down beats I loved growing up helped me alot.... I dont know how to play any instruments (I did grade 4 piano as a child) but I wish I could play drums... I have a bass guitar and Im starting to learn on that but im finding it frustrating tbh
To me, making Hip Hop isnt brain surgery... Its pretty simple. But I think it all boils down to taste. If you have a particular taste in what and how to chop samples that others find appealing then youre on to a winner! hehe Kind of like a DJ and the selection they might choose for a set.... and if you think about it, thats how Hip Hop beatmaking/looping began. I do enjoy some experimental styles of Hip Hop but sometimes I feel it goes too far off the mark.... The rules are there to be broken, but the rules/history must be mastered first IMO.
Ive heard Sampling being referred to as a 'collage', which it pretty much is, but I look at it as more of a malleable puzzle... manipulating things to mesh together seamlessly (or not, depending what effect you want to acheive)
also... Weed and whiskey helps
What equipment or software (DAW, VST’s etc) and production process did you use on this track?
Im not the most computer savvy person so I do the majority of work on the mpc itself. I consider myself a 'traditionalist' and try to keep it simple and the ways they used to do it back in the day bcos thats the sound I like (strictly vinyl and analogue etc), but of course I do take advantage of modern tech every now and then.... But Im lazy and cant be arsed to learn new programs most of the time.... I just want to chop samples and have fun tbh... I try not to overthink stuff. In these battles I try to limit myself to use ONLY the samples provided... But i use my own drums and Bass sounds usually.
I have a proper miniscule set up (Turntables, MPC, laptop and lots of vinyl) and I just use Garageband when bouncing stuff out. Ive used Logic in the past, but dont have it anymore for some reason... My main weakness is my mixdowns etc as Im literally playing by ear most of the time and its what ive learned about the least... My philosophy is that if the beat/sample/drums are wack then a tight mix is worthless anyways lol, but im recently starting to realise the benefits of a decent mix makes all the difference...
How did you make use of the sample?
As I said above I try not to over-analyse things.... I took the sample and chopped it up in the MPC in a manner that i find pleasing to my ear. I tend not to just straight up loop stuff as its more fun to chop etc. I usually lay out a simple beat/tempo... Then play around with the sample until im satisfied... then I go back and re-work the drums to fit the sample better... put little fills in if necessary... Maybe do a switch-up for a bridge of sorts... I use the filters alot on the MPC and it helps to find other bits of the sample to layer ontop of other bits... I relish situations where im limited and feel it really helps with creativity... As for emulating Premo, Ive been biting him for many years so I didnt find it difficult to copy his characteristics tbh.
I tend not to spend too much time whilst making battle beats and look at them as 'practice' or sharpening of the techniques in general. Its a good place to try things out you havent before etc... And the people here are nice/enthusiastic which helps.
How did you go about the drumwork?
Drum patterns are my fav thing! Within 'boom-bap' drum styles i always find that the simpler the better. Sure sometimes I go deep and complicated, but in general you want to compliment your sample and enhance it if you can with the drums... Create a bounce with it.
With the premo beat I basically copied the drum pattern from 'MCs act like they dont know- KRS'...
I love to collect, use and chop drum breaks... I have quite a few in the stash... But its more fun to program the beats in separatly... again, it depends what Im going for and what the sample dictates.
Are there any interesting aspects about the track you’d like to share?
Umm... Not really. Its all there and pretty simple. idk... Sampling Kool and the Gang is cheating tho in my book haha Its too good to begin with...
Any recent projects/collabs going on?
I have an instagram dedicated to my music @TarbooshRecords that I do with my friend FREZIDANTE out in the middle-East (hes a beatmaker/graff artist too)... Weve released a couple vinyl 7"s and do Hip Hop quizzes, music mixtapes and battles and upload all sorts of cool stuff. I often travel with my (real) work so I make little videos of me record shopping in strange cities and then making beats out of the records... Go check it out if you think youd be interested... Im working on a website right now and will be live in the next couple months hopefully www.tarbooshrecords.com
also got a soundcloud
and a youtube-
I have a beat on Fliptrixs' (High Focus) new album that just dropped called 'Light Work'. The track I produced is called 'Alignment'...! Very pleased with it.
I did a podcast a couple years ago that goes indepth about me and my life
Anything else you'd like to say?
I think I rambled on for long enough haha... Just much love and props to all the beatmakers here... Keep doing the doo... PEACE