Many associate the St. Louis Hip-Hop scene with artists like Nelly or Chingy. This association is about to change. Keystone State transplant Centipede the Real has penetrated St. Louis’ perimeter and inserted himself as one of “The Gateway City’s” sought after underground producers. We got a chance to chop it up with Centipede and here’s what he has to say:
Where are you from?
C: I was born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I’ve been in St. Louis Missouri since ’05.
How’d you get the name Centipede?
C: I got the name from a scar I’ve had on my right arm since I was a little kid. My friends always said it looked like a tattoo of a centipede, so they just started callin me that. After I started beatmaking, I decided to keep that name.
How long have you been producing?
C: I’ve been producing since ’06. My dad was looking through old programs that he had never used, and found one called Magix Music And Video Maker Generation 6. I thought it was a video game, so I was always playing with it.
You started out early in the production game making Techno music; some would say that’s light years away from producing Hip-Hop music. What was the experience like producing 120+ beats per minute tracks?
C: This may sound strange, but when I was doing Techno, it sort of helped me develop my style for hip hop later on. On Magix [music production software], I was mostly making music from the loops that it provided, but I could pretty much do anything with those loops, whether it was chopping, re-sampling, reversing, whatever. I just had to think in a faster tempo. I also experimented for awhile with creating my own electronic melodies, which was hard for me to get used to.
What inspired you to transition from Techno to Hip-Hop?
C: One reason, when I was messing with Techno, I was limited. I only had 2 synthesizers because I couldn’t pay for the special online package, and it only had so many loops I could use, so I was getting bored. The main reason I started to get more into hip hop, was Dilla (I know its kinda cliche’d, but its true). When I listened to Donuts, I realized that when it came to sampling, possibilities were endless. I started to look at music completely differently after that. So, I decided to get a different program to use for beats, and I was hearing a lot about FL Studio, so I started using that with my old program Magix. After that, hip hop just came natural to me.
I think Hip-Hop heads will be extremely grateful for your decision to switch musical styles. The majority of your music that is in circulation via the internet showcases your sampling talents. However, unlike some producers, you don’t just loop the main groove of a track (Kanye West :D). You take the time to chop the sample or find the rarest groves for our listening pleasure. Can you provide your fellow beat makers and beat enthusiast some insight into your beat making process?
C: When I’m beat making, I always start with the sample first, by chopping it the way I want to, then sequencing it into several patterns. I might have a melody going this way for the first couple of bars, then the next couple of bars, it might be slightly different. I usually make around 4 different patterns with the chopped sample, though I may not even use all of them. Then, I search through my drums, and add them to each pattern. From there, I go and start eq’ing the drums and samples until it sounds the way I want it. If it needs it, I add my bassline to each pattern. Then, I map out each pattern on FL, using a couple of the patterns as the verses of the track, then I use one of the other patterns as a hook, and just keep repeating, and switching up patterns. There’s a lot of trial and error too, so I’m constantly adding different effects, eq’ing, different drums, comin up with different patterns, or whatever. So when I finish, I might come up with something a lot different than what I was going for. At times, I may end up getting about halfway through a beat, and if I’m not really satisfied with I came up with, I’ll get rid of it and start over with a completely different sample. That’s my usual beat making process, though at times it may be a little different.
Since Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, many producers have been in the lab producing their greatest work to lay Jay-Z’s a cappella over. Your spin on Jay-Z’s American Gangsta “Centipede Presents: Jay-Z American Gangsta Tha Remix” is certified dope. Many of the tracks that you produced sound as if they should have made the album instead of the original composition. What do you feel is the stand-out track on your version of AG?
C: One that people really love is my remix of Blue Magic. I actually played this for some friends after I made it, and no one could believe that I made it. My personal favorite, however, would be No Hook.
“Centipede Presents:” is a free download correct? Where can people go to download this project?
C: You can either find it on my myspace page, “www.myspace.com/centipedethegreat”, or you can find it on DatPiff.com, just search for ‘Centipede American Gangster’ on Datpiff, and you should find it.
What other projects are you currently working on?
C: My main project that I’m working on right now is an instrumental CD called Broken Records 2. For those that know me personally, they’ve gotten my little beat tapes that I periodically come up with. The last one I did was back in ’07, which was the first Broken Records, and that was basically me getting used to sampling. Now, the next one coming up, Broken Records 2, I wanna make hip hop that tells stories without words, you know? Hip hop that really makes you think and reflect on things you might have gone through in life, or thought about. Other than that, I plan on doing a mixtape, which will feature many different collaborations with other artists, as some solo joints.
Your sound is reminiscent of Lord Finesse or Pete Rock early in their careers. You use those soulful samples that get chopped and blended over prominent drum patterns. How does your production style differentiate from the aforementioned?
C: One thing I’ve noticed is filtering. Pete Rock and Lord Finesse used a lot of filtered samples, especially in their early work. I could never get the hang of filtering, so I don’t use it much. You could hear a Pete Rock track, and notice that he blended a bass line from one song, some horns and guitars from another song, and a drum break from a completely different song, all into one beat. My beats are usually sampled from just one song, with either a drum break or my own pattern. I don’t think I could do it like Pete or Finesse, yet.
I’m sure that many emcees are dying to lace one of your brilliant tracks. Who are some artists that you’ve worked with?
C: I actually haven’t worked with many people yet, but I have worked with a couple. I’ve done a song with this dude who goes by M.D.S.(MyDammSelf), called Lites Low. You should be able to hear this on my myspace page. I also did a track with an emcee I met named Big Din, and I’m also working on another one with him. I’m also working with one of my friends, named JR, on an R&B track, which should be interesting because this would be my first R&B song I’ve ever made.
Are there any artists that you would like to work with?
C: So many…. A Few are Spark1duh, Hotspitta(those are both Stl artists), Nfinit3, Double Dose, Dr. Nyquist aka Big Speech, Team D.O.P.E., ONCS6 and 1LLA Funk. As far as artists who are already established worldwide, I’d say Little Brother, Common, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, and Black Thought, just to name a few.
What crews are you affiliated with?
C: An online crew called The Movement. Check us out here: http://www.themovementonlinesite.com
What’s next for Centipede?
C: Like I said, my main focus is finishing Broken Records 2, and then my mixtape. Beyond that, who knows? I’ll always be comin up with more music, remixes, and beats for others, but as far as anything specific, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Just keep lookin out for me.
How can other artists and your fans get at you?
C: Check me out on myspace: http://www.myspace.com/centipedethegreat. Ya’ll can hit me up on email also: firstname.lastname@example.org
What advice do you have for your fellow producers who are trying to break into the music business?
C: Make music because you love it, not for the limelight, or the honor, or the money. Always do what you feel.
If you could describe your music in one word, what would that word be?
C: Timeless. Not tryin to be cocky, but I could enjoy my music for years, and hopefully others can too.