Despite receiving a direct hit from the recession, the Motor City continues to manufacture dope music. Among those reppin the D is up and coming beat maker/producer Determination the Beat Author. Our contributing correspondent, Lou Perrington, sat down with the budding composer and here’s what’s on his mind…
What’s good Fam? How are you?
D: I’m good man, thankful that I’m here living, breathing and just trying to make the most out of life… and laugh every chance I get.
So where are you from?
D: Well I was born and raised in both the east and Westside of Detroit, MI, and currently I’m living a little further out in the suburbs of Sterling Heights, so its nothing but a 10 minute drive, and I’m back in D-town.
You have a very unique stage name. What or who influenced you to use that particular moniker? Was there any specific event that sparked your stage name?
D: One day I was pretty much just playing around with names to call myself before I even made my first beat (laughs), I wanted something that was different but familiar at the same time. To me it also had to describe me and what I’m about. During this time of thinking, my mother was just mentioning how proud she was of me for working a full-time job while in my last year of high school. At the time I wanted a decent computer, and I got it with my first two paychecks. My mother says to me “Now see, you wanted a computer, you worked hard and with [determination] and you got your computer”. The word “determination” just stuck with me. When people first heard the name they thought it was dumb, I mean my fam and almost everyone told me “you need to think of another name”. I refused to change it and I let people know “if you don’t like it, oh well, it’s me”.
Which producer(s) have had the greatest influence on you?
D: I cant really jus pick one or just list names, but I can elaborate on some in particular
Dr. Dre- This man crafted the blueprint sound for the entire West Coast. Legend
J-Dilla- to be honest I’m still new to Dilla’s work, but with each beat or song I hear, I become amazed every time. Legend
Ryan Leslie- The dude is just a beast with the instruments. Musical genius
Timberland- People think Mr. Mosley has fell off recently. To me dude gets better with time. Legend
Dj Khalil- This guy is pretty crafty behind the boards. He’s on the come up
Rick Rubin- Pioneer of the Def Jam sound, and c’mon son! Jay Z’s 99 Problems? Legend
YouKnow da Beatfreak- This fellow D-town producer is responsible for motivating me to make beats in the first place, can’t forget him.
Oh and quick fact, my birthday is February 12…. J. Dilla’s Feb 7… Dr. Dre Feb 18.. Coincidence? I think NOT! [Laughs]
How have they assisted in the development of your production abilities?
D: Dre and Khalil both tweak every aspect of a beat till its quality, which is what I strive for. Dilla flips samples in a way that the average producer doesn’t think of, I mean he gets me every time I hear a track of his and I think to myself …Genius. People don’t realize that Timberland has to be one of the most innovational producers out. I mean this guy can make a beat with his voice, some crayons, rubber bands and plastic cups for cryin out loud! (laughs), I plan to be just as innovative, in the future. I will craft classic backdrops for the artist I collab with, using a half empty tube of carmex lip balm, shaving cream and two AA batteries…. seriously. And last but not least my good high school friend, fellow d-town producer/rapper YouKnow, he gives me honest feedback on just about every track I make, then later he takes them with excessive force…I’m joking.
How long have you been rocking beats?
D: Honestly just a little over a year and a half.
From what I understand, you came from humble beginnings. You got a gig as a janitor that has lead to you slowly but surely constructing your own lab. Many cats would have taken their checks and bought a stock room full of kicks or expanded their wardrobe. What gave you the willpower and determination (no pun intended) to put the material aspect of life aside and make such a wise investment?
D: Believe me I surely thought about cashing out on kicks, but my mind was just set on getting what I needed so I could start constructing some beats as soon as possible, and also just listening to music got me through the day.
What was the first piece of equipment that you purchased?
D: Well first I purchased a decent HP computer that could handle what I was trying to do. I bought a midi keyboard, an Akai MPD24, and used copy of REASON 4.0 with a truck load of extra synths, drum samples, effects online for a good price, which I found out upon receiving in the mail that the particular copy of REASON 4 was a illegal copy burned to a blank disc, this was an upset, but everything happens for a reason. Had I not purchased that illegal copy, I wouldn’t have had that great library of samples and sounds that I currently use in my tracks.
How has your lab expanded since the early days? What equipment are you working with now?
D: First and foremost I saved enough money to get my own original copy REASON 4(so I’m legit now!)[Laughs] and Propellerhead recently released RECORD v1, which allows me to implement live recordings into my tracks. I also ditched the keyboard and AKAI MPD 24(I also had the MPD 32 for a short period of time), for AKAI’s MPK49 (that’s my baby), which has MPC styled pads and weighted keys all in one package. And an extensive sound library that has so many sounds that I haven’t heard them all yet.
Would you consider yourself a beatmaker or a producer? Why?
D: I’m definitely a producer because when I’m in the process of making tracks, I tend to think about how a particular artist would approach the track, what kind of hook they could come up with, the way their cadence should be, I mean I think about everything, some days I’d let a beat play for hours on end and tweak it till it feels just right, otherwise I just scrap it and come up with another idea. One day when I get my big break, I plan on collabing with artist in person, constructing tracks from beginning to end…so yea I consider myself a producer.
You’re beats are bananas and which I’m sure makes you a well sought after cat behind the boards. Who are some of the artists that you’ve worked with?
D: (Laughs) Thanks. I’m still working on the sought after part. Well of course my homie YouKnow, whose putting together a group project with other rappers and producers under the name Detroit Collective I believe, in which he jokingly tells me that I’m their groups main producer considering he has damn near three albums worth of my beats that he took with excessive force of course (laughs). There’s a duo of two MC’s/singers under the name Flying Without Wingz, who have a EP out on ITUNES, check em out, I did a club remix one of their tracks for their upcoming mixtape called HIPtronica, so look out for that. Then there is this dope Mc from Arizona who goes by the name of VERBS, we collabed on a track called “Swagnotta”, which turned out great. This guy is on his grind 24/7 just ripping on people’s beats; he literally has new songs every day, so definitely take some time to check his stuff out.
I love the fact that you combine live instrumentation with samples. However, some producers/beat makers have the tendency to look down on beat makers who sample. They believe that there is no originality or no true art to sampling. What’s your take on sampling?
D: Thanks, funny thing is the live instrumentation are actually samples themselves, but once I achieve that particular success in my life, I would like to collab with live musicians and learn how to play different instruments. As for sampling, I consider it as an art form similar to a collage, where your taking pictures, words etc. and making a new piece of work. Producers who sample are conceptually doing the same thing except with sounds. Then you have people who are lazy and just loop a track toss on drums and call it a day, that’s a total cop-out to me. I love to sample a record and chop it to hell and see how many types of beats I can create from one song, I enjoy that sort of thing.
Aight if you had to choose a commonly used sample to flip and make a beat out of, which sample would it be?
D: I’d pick any Isley Brothers’ song and flip it, but I’d do it in the most unorthodox way possible, and when you hear it your brain will explode (laughs). Kinda like what Dilla does to me when I hear his tracks.
Let’s take a moment to test your beat making aptitude. Since you utilize both samples and live instrumentation, this should be an easy one for you. What is currently the most sampled song in the history of Hip-Hop?
D: Um that would have to be the Winston’s’ track called “Amen Brother” aka the “Amen break”…. am I right? I even used that sample in some of my tracks.
Close famo, but nah. It’s James Brown’s “The Funky Drummer”. Which do you feel is the most head-nodding break: Bob James’s Nautilus, or The Honey Dripper’s Impeach the President?
D: The Honey Drippers joint was recently used for that Asher Roth track “I love college”, but that “Nautilus” joint has that funky ass bassline, that gets me every time.
What projects are you currently working on?
D: Well I’m working a beat demo, still working with YouKnow, on the “Detroit collective” project, I plan on sending VERBS from AZ some more tracks to rip, and pretty much anyone who takes their music seriously and digs my stuff.
What crews are you affiliated with?
D: As of Now Detroit collective
What advice do you have for other inspiring artists who are trying to make their mark in the music industry?
D: Pretty much just be yourself; take the time to assess who you are as a person and who you want to be musically. Get your 10,000 thousand hours of practice in (cause all the greats did), and realize that success doesn’t come over night…
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
D: Uhh… I’m open for collabs people, no matter what style of music you do so, contact me…[smiles]
If you could sum your music up in one word, what would it be?
D: [takes a deep breath] The-Future-Where-I-am-able-to-transcend-the-genre-of-hip-hop-and-make-music-at-a-global-scale-that-eventually-allows-me-to-support-myself-without-the-need-to-work-a-9-to-5…(all as one word). [Exhales, almost faints]