"Hi people, my name is Cryptic One, a producer from Brooklyn, NY and I have been making beats since 1989. Yes, you read that correctly, I am THAT old. With that said, when asked to write about a few albums that had an influence on my production, I was initially overwhelmed with a seemingly infinite number of important works to mention. After long deliberation, I narrowed it down to these five; keep in mind that on any given day, I could easily pick five different picks that were just as important to me. So, with no further ado, here is my Beat-maker Bedrock:"
I. Jungle Brothers - Straight Out The Jungle (1988)
"This was the record that helped me understand how sample-based beats were made. The whole album was great and a big influence on me, but specifically, there is one song from the album that really set things off for me: "[Because] I Got It Like That."
But first, a little background/history: In the 80's, Hip-Hop wasn't the tour de force it is now. I was a teenager and had been obsessed with Hip-Hop since 1984, after first hearing The Disco 3 ([who] would later become The Fat Boys) emanating from my older sister's bedroom one afternoon. It was like nothing I had ever heard before and I was immediately hooked and needed to know more. The second she left the house, I ran into her room and flipped through her records, until I found The Disco 3 record she was playing. My life was forever changed by that moment. It was worth getting in trouble and yelled at by my sister and parents for "messing with your sister's stuff."
Flash-forward four years to 1988: Hip-Hop had grown. It wasn't getting any exposure on daytime radio yet. It was restricted to Friday and Saturday nights on 98.7 KISS FM with DJ Chuck Chillout/Red Alert & 107.5 WBLS with Mr. Magic/Marly Marl. Every Friday and Saturday, you would find me taping these shows religiously. One of the first times I listened, Red Alert played The Jungle Brothers' song "[Because] I Got it Like That." It was my first time hearing the song, but I instantly had an intense feeling of déjà vu. Where did I hear this before???
It took me a few days and repeated listens to figure out why this song sounded so familiar to me. It turns out that I had recognized the sample it used from my parents playing Sly & The Family Stones' "You Can Make It If You Try" around the house growing up. My mind was BLOWN. It was that moment that a light bulb went off and I started raiding my parents' record collection searching for more. To my surprise, I found a bunch of samples in my parents' stash. So, my record raiding expanded to my extended family. Uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, friends parents, etc. Anyone who would let me listen to their records became the place where I would hang out for hours. I started making lists of sample sources and in time, the list grew and started to morph into a list of songs that I thought would make good samples/loops. I didn't have a sampler, so I figured out how to loop beats using two tape decks and I re-created The Jungle Brothers' beat that day. It was a long, excruciatingly meticulous process, but it's all I knew to do because I didn't even know what a sampler was, at this point. By 1989, I bought my first sampler and never looked back. I credit that Jungle Brothers song—and my parents, for unintentionally educating me on how beats were made—and I've been making beats ever since."
II. De La Soul - 3 Feet High & Rising (1989)
"Prince Paul, Prince Paul, Prince Paul... I had been anticipating this album for a while, since "Plug Tunin'" was played regularly on the radio shows I mentioned above. I had the "Plug Tunin'" and "Jenifa" singles already and was fiending for more De La. The day the album was released, I drove my 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass to Tower Records, bought the tape, unwrapped the shrink wrap before I even made it to the car, put the tape in, and pressed PLAY. It only took a few seconds to realize that this album was like nothing else I had heard in my life. The samples clearly extended far beyond the standard Funk/Soul records that were the norm in Hip-Hop. Prince Paul sampled everything: kids records, French records, Folk music, Rock—nothing was safe. This expanded my own record digging exploits into anything and everything. I was no longer heading straight for the Soul or Funk sections in record stores; I'd buy Comedy records, spoken-word records, children records, soundtracks, the weirder the better. Prince Paul showed me that there were NO rules to follow and that anything was fair game in the sampling world."
III. A Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory (1990)
"This was the very first CD I ever purchased. Prior to this, all the music I owned was on cassette or vinyl. My parents had just purchased the family's first CD player, so when the Tribe album was released, I scooped it up on CD. From the first note of the bassline in "Excursion" to the last seconds of "Scenario," I was locked in. The drums hit like no other drums before it, the basslines were unique and hard-hitting, everything about this album, sonically, was in it's own lane. I'm not sure how much of it was Q-Tip and how much was Bob Powers, but either way, this album just spoke to me in ways that nothing else, at the time did. I tried so hard to re-create and capture the snap of those drums and failed for years. It wasn't until I got a bit of engineering knowledge under my belt that I was able to approximate what I heard on this album. To this day, I still listen to it and learn from it."
IV. Portishead - Dummy (1994)
"I had already been making beats for five years, at this point. I had developed my own style, by now and my equipment and skill set had grown. One night, my boy Jest came to my house and dropped off a cassette tape with the hand-written word "PORTISHEAD" in black marker on the tape. He handed me the tape, described it as "eerie female singing over beats that sound like you made them... you HAVE to hear this" and the,n he left. So, the second he left, curious, I popped the tape in and pressed PLAY fully expecting to hear some lame R&B/Hip-Hop that I would [quickly] dismiss as garbage.
First song in and my mind melted. This was not Hip-Hop, but it clearly was heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. At the time, I was making a ton of slow, eerie, cinematic beats sampling a lot of Sci-Fi and Horror soundtracks. I listened to the whole album from front-to-back twice through that night. I don't know if it influenced me that much musically because I was already on that path of dark eerie down-tempo beats, but it definitely gave me some confidence that I wasn't crazy for making music that was so dark and didn't sound like much else going on in music, at the time."
V. David Axelrod - EVERYTHING HE HAS EVER TOUCHED... (1931-2017)
"Firstly, RIP to David Axelrod, one of my biggest music idols. I don't remember the first time I heard a David Axelrod produced song, but I do remember obsessively playing his music over and over and over again to understand his arrangements. Even going so far as to write out the arrangements in detail to study them. I still listen to his music with the same awe and wonder.
The music he was involved in was/is incredible; the drums hit hard, the basslines were perfect, but what really got me was that his songs felt like stories, even without vocals. They built to climaxes, then would drift off into calm, then back to another crescendo. It was Axelrod's influence that birthed the idea for me to do purely instrumental music. Hip-Hop that told a story, but without words. Clearly, he was influenced by Classical arrangements but it was a fusion of Jazz, Funk, Orchestral music, and just weirdness.
Years later, DJ Shadow's Endtroducing..... was released (1996). It wasn't the first release of its type, but it definitely had a huge impact on the budding Instrumental Hip-Hop ([later known as] "Trip-Hop") scene. Coincidentally, the first song I heard from Endtroducing..... was "Midnight In a Perfect World," which samples David Axelrod's "The Human Abstract." It was perfect. Axelrod, man who inspired me to try and make Hip-Hop instrumental music, was clearly an influence on DJ Shadow, the man who had arguably made the most important record for the Instrumental Hip-Hop movement. My favorite Axelrod-produced song is Electric Prunes - "Holy Are You.'"
I'm currently working on the third season of my Beat-A-Day project, which is where I make a new beat every day, shoot, and edit a minute-long video, and share it on Instagram (@cryp_uno). In addition to Beat-A-Day, I [have] combined with ALASKA (Atoms Family, Hangar 18, Def Jux) to form the group IT. IT is currently recording and releasing a new single every month for this entire year. You can find those here. I have released a number of beat tapes, over the years, and you can hear them all here. You can find all work past and present on my label, Centrifugal Phorce Records' site. I also am currently finishing up my full-length instrumental album, Solace In Solitude for release next year. I have my hands in a bunch of other projects, which you can keep up to date on all my social media platforms. I also wanted to take the time to introduce you guys to a film, Adult Rappers, that I produced the score for; it is a documentary that tells the story of "working class" rappers and the struggle to find a balance between making a living and pursuing their art, alongside the never-ending saga of age and relevance. Enjoy!
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