Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few months or recently awoke from a coma—we're terribly sorry for 2017!—Beat-maker Bedrock (BMB) is a new, recurring column here at The Witzard; initially, the brainchild of Baltimore-based beatsmith John "Jumbled" Bachman, BMB simply asks beat-makers and aspiring producers to highlight 3-5 of their personal favorite albums, which, early on, helped shape their overall sound and style. I'm proud to present to you our first Beat-maker Bedrock column 2018 and 14th overall features a playlist selected and meticulously arranged by New York-based rapper-producer and We Are The Karma Kids founder Lt Headtrip—or just "Headtrip" for production work. Following his critically-acclaimed 2017 album, Comedy of The Filtbeast, Lt Headtrip teamed up with The GreenHouse Studio/Backwoodz Studioz producer and engineer to curate LNYCHPIN; described on Bandcamp as "a full-length collaborative album featuring 16 emcees and 7 producers, all from NYC-based labels and crews, including Karma Kids, Reservoir Sound, Backwoodz Studioz, Uncommon [Records], and Smoker's Cough." LNYCHPIN's self-titled 14-track album features a wide array of talented New York emcees and producers including rappers MF Hater, Shape, Duncecap, SKECH185 (War Church & Tomorrow Kings,) Uncommon Nasa, Gruff Lion, Teddy Faley, Lt Headtrip, billy woods, Warren Britt, PremRock, Hype Wonder, MC Eleven, Googie, BIG BREAKFAST, DJ Zesto, GDP, Blastmaster Baker, Creature (RebelMatic,) BALD AFRO, and beat-makers Teddy Faley, Willie Green, Samurai Banana, Uncommon Nasa, Headtrip with Blastmaster Baker, Jeff Markey, and A.M. Breakups. It's also worth mentioning that this month's Beat-maker Bedrock features original artwork designed by freelance graphic designer and illustrator @UnibrowDuck.
I. Primus - Pork Soda (1993)
"I snapped a copy of Pork Soda into my Sony Walkman with ESP in 7th grade, a year after I began learning Sonic Foundry Acid Pro, my first DAW [digital audio workstation]. I was mostly experimenting, making joke songs, and Techno remixes, at that point, while trying to convince my friends to start a Weezer cover band, but I listened to Primus nearly every day on the bus to and from school. Primus' clunky, dissonant sound was unlike anything I'd heard before. The band works together to reject music theory and generate a completely unique sound. It reminded me of obese, sickly demons stomping about aimlessly through a wasteland I’ve been dying to explore.
It wasn’t until early high school that I revisited the album, asking my bass guitar instructor, Gerry, how Les Claypool generated such harsh, spastic patterns with his guitar. Gerry, surprised I was exposed to Primus at such a young age, taught me a few techniques, changing my understanding of the bass' capabilities. Within weeks, I recorded my first original, non-sample-based song using my guitar, followed by some rambling, Claypool-esque vocals. This may have been my first serious "Rap song."
On my latest album, Comedy of The Filthbeast, I replaced most of the drum hits with [Tim "Herb" Alexander's] from this album and a few from other Primus records. It helped bring consistency to the production—I created the beats for this album over the course of the last decade and sampled various breaks. I also thought it would be a fair nod to a band whose idiosyncratic, dissonant, clunky tone helped shape my sound."
II. Aesop Rock - Float (2000)
"Later on, my sophomore year of high school, a friend passed along two mix CD's of Aesop Rock's early work. Some tracks were from Appleseed (1999) and Music for Earthworms (1997) [but] most were from Float. Aesop's lyricism stood out to me at first, but the beats quickly became a focal point. Blockhead seamlessly blends samples from all over the world, tying them together with fat, basic Hip-Hop drums. I was intrigued by how grim he could make a listless flute sample appear or how haunting his string loops sounded. His use of stand-up bass and cello samples attracted the bassist in me, as well. I recall searching for music students' senior theses in order to find untouched, solo, orchestral samples, and connecting my VCR to my computer’s input to steal obscure scores from movies set in different countries. Without Float, I may have never dived headfirst into world music and orchestral samples.
Another aspect of Blockhead's production that influenced my style was his attention to drum patterns. Instead of letting a break ride throughout the song, he seemed to intentionally lay each drum by hand; going back later, after Aesop laid his vocals, to fit them together. While simple, the patterns are subtly ever-changing, allowing them to feel fluid."
III. El-P - Fantastic Damage (2002)
"After listening to Aesop [Rock] & Blockhead's work to date, I investigated the rest of Def Jux. Fantastic Damage was the first album I heard from El-P, and I was immediately entranced by the intricacy of his songs; it seemed he obsessed over every tiny sound, attempting to reflect his own paranoid, scattered mind in his instrumentation. His sound was also entirely new to me—I heard little attempt to appear normal or fit within confines of other Hip-Hop. [Fantastic Damage] was the first time I was moved by a rapper who wrote his own songs entirely, from composition to lyricism. This allowed him to create an entire universe on his own, getting unapologetically lost in the details.
The layer of grit covering his synth-based production initially attracted me. Most producers who worked outside of samples sounded too clean for my teenage angst. The staggered, distorted kick drums that begin the record are an excellent thesis statement to the album's jarring, unforgiving tone. I remember waking up to this album every day for a few months using the CD player/alarm clock I won at a high school dance and accidentally, associating the album with the dread of waking up after a couple hours' rest to go to school all day. I'm certain this dread isn’t far from the feeling El-P intended to evoke.
El-P's snare placement in songs like "Deep Space 9mm" taught me to let my drums out of the downbeat/upbeat pattern I’d already grown accustomed to. While I was fascinated by the complexity of his percussion, I also learned the beauty of simplicity from songs like "Dr. Hellno & The Praying Mantus." This track reminds me of his production on [Company Flow's] Funcrusher Plus (1997) which I discovered a few months after listening to [Fantastic Damamage] and reinforced El-P’s influence on my style."
IV. Dr. Dre - The Chronic (1992)
"Once I arrived at college in New York, I met Samurai Banana, whose production style continues to challenge my own. He played artists for me I would had never given the time, including Dr. Dre. Initially, I freestyled over 2001 (1999) instrumentals, while he cut, but it wasn't until my sophomore year that I began to study The Chronic. My friend Sara, who I would eventually marry, bought me two tapes at a yard sale: Count Basie - The Gold Collection (Digital Dejavu) and The Chronic. After years of focusing on angry, raw music, I began to value Funk and it’s positive groove. It helped that Dre and his rotating cast of emcees play the roles of ruthless, unapologetic gangsters, but overall, I was focusing on the production. Although, the speakers in my '87 Nissan Sentra were barely louder than the cracked exhaust system, I bumped that tape every day for two years straight.
Dre's production taught me the merit of Funk. I hadn't considered delving into that realm, spending much of my childhood railing against the groove. Once I accepted this, a whole new world opened up to me. I traced his sound back through Parliament-Funkadelic, to James Brown and his contemporaries, back to pre-Funk Blues, such as Leadbelly. After exploring these realms, I re-visited the music that helped mold my style and found traces of it at every turn.
Today, I keep an open ear. Most of my current influences are my peers and colleagues. There’s an abundance of talent fighting to be heard right now and we live in a time, where finding it is possible. I try to absorb, when I’m not creating and tune everything out, once I begin writing because after all, the unique nature of these influences is the most inspiring aspect of their art."
"Lt Headtrip—head of Queens-based Hip-Hop collective, We Are The Karma Kids—is a intentional lyricist, an electric performer, and a master of linguistics. Also a seasoned producer, he sheds the "military ranking," when dealing strictly with beats and composition. His recently released opus, Comedy of The Filthbeast, spotlights his musical prowess on every track. This is (Lt) Headtrip's Beat-maker Bedrock."
You can find examples of Headtrip's production throughout The Karma Kids' discography at: we are the karma kids.
Albums Entirely Produced By Headtrip:
Lt Headtrip - Comedy of The Filthbeast (2017)
Gruff Lion - death or evolution (2015)
Albums Partially Produced By Headtrip:
Various Artists - LNYCHPIN (2017)
bluelight + Lt Headtrip - TVNNELS (2017)
MC Eleven & The Karma Kids - Kombinations (2016)
Googie - 'Tis What 'Tis (2016)
BALD AFRO - BALD AFRO (2015)
Webtrip - Webtrip (2013)
Lt Headtrip - Raw Dog (2011)
Lt Headtrip - Keep Out of The Attic (2011)