In the mid-to-late 2000s, the "End of the Weak (EODub)" open mic in NYC was my favorite proving grounds for up and coming talent along with local legends in the rap game. You quickly learned how to rap with your chest out knowing cats like C-Rayz Walz, Immortal Technique, Pumpkinhead, Homeboy Sandman, and Mr. MFN eXquire were up later. Riddled with respect and raw talent, it was the perfect room to get comfortable with rapping in front of others. But no one really tells you how to rap at an open mic right? Odds are, you'll make some stupid mistakes going in blind like I did, so I put together a roadmap for optimizing your next open mic opportunity
If you've been around enough artists, especially rappers, you've probably heard this one before:
"I just record at the crib right now."
Ugh. I hate that statement. It usually comes with an embarrassed tone because people still have this fascination with signing a deal and recording in a multi-million dollar studio. The reality is, If you're smart enough to make intelligent purchases instead of going in debt for gear you don't need, extremely proud of yourself. You've made the conscious decision to work harder and invest in your craft, stick your chest out and talk your shit the next time you mention your home setup. If you struggle with that, consider a few reasons why tracking at home is such a better option for so many people
Inspiration is Random
You never know when the best musical idea of your life is going to pop in your head. We are entering an age of experimentation in hip-hop that wouldn't be financially feasible a few decades ago due to studio costs. Plugins are powerful and dirt cheap compared to hardware nowadays. In addition, very few artists have the luxury of a label or company paying for unlimited studio time that you can waste waiting for inspiration to hit. But an artist with the ability to record themselves can enjoy the same approach without breaking bank. My best work comes when I'm not chasing anything and time isn't an issue. I doubt I'm the only one in this boat.
Learning the Process
I recall introducing Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire to my home recording setup years ago. The excitement of no longer needing a studio ultimately lead him to acquiring his own setup. As he got comfier with Pro Tools, our conversations about writing and recording began to change. Suddenly he was referencing leveling, compression, EQ, delays and all of the wonderfully nerdy things you don't expect MCs to know. He began to write his verses with the knowledge of what could be done later in the DAW via effects/ processing. As such, it opened up a whole new chamber of his writing. It also made me all the more excited to mix for him, because we could speak more candidly about what a song needed. To this day there are things that eX can do in Pro Tools better than most engineers, and it pays off whenever he's working in a new studio. Too many mistakes and he can literally tell you to get out of the way so he can fix the issue from the engineer's chair himself. That kind of mastery will make you a better artist.
If you've ever played a first person shooter like Call of Duty you're probably familiar with a "Free for All". In one of these types of battles, everyone on the map is an enemy. Your radar is literally filled with little blips you need to strategically avoid while still being on the attack. Negative experiences can be looked at in the same way, little dots on your radar that try to pull you from your goal. The difference with life verses a game though is you don't have any way of seeing all of the dots of negativity. Sometimes you can see them from a distance, but often they often just pop up out of nowhere. What's worse is they tend to cloudy up the rest of our radar so we can't even see other problems around or respond well to the moment. It's important for your happiness and your progress as an artist to learn how to armor up and deal with that. Fortunately there's some easy and actionable steps you can take without buying anything new or reinventing the wheel.
Booking your first DJ gig is a huge accomplishment. You're leaving that bedroom setup and taking your mildly awkward Milly Rock skills to the public. In the excitement, there's a good chance that you'll forget some things, so I've compiled 8 questions to ask yourself before your debut that will give you a comfier first ride than a married couple that saved themsel.... never mind.
Do I have all of my required equipment?
It's essential to do a walk through of a space, or have a conversation with the venue about what equipment is available, so you can bring whatever they don't have. Some places have mixers, some don't. Some places have mixers that somehow predate disco. The point is, find out before you get there and write a checklist of the items that you need to pack, down to the cables and power strip. You should also use your walkthrough to scout general logistics like booth and speaker layout. If possible, ask if you can come in before operating hours a few days before the event to do an actual sound check, and make sure everything works. Take photos during the walkthrough too so you can reference the layout and booth setup. You can use these photos for promotion leading into the event too.
Any accomplished recording engineer will tell you the job requires wearing a lot of hats. Why does Pharrell choose to do the multiple hat thing? I have no idea. But recording engineers walk into a unique set of circumstances every day, with a goal of capturing someone's art and inspiration before it fades into oblivion. It's stressful, multifaceted, and often involves way more than just pressing buttons. If you're thinking about being a recording engineer as a profession, or if you're wondering how to start wowing more clients, put some consideration into improving these skills if you haven't already.
We've all been there. You try to get a mix sitting right and it just isn't working no matter what you do. If you're new to the process and have had recent issues mixing, odds are, one of these tricky little issues might be the root of your problem. Here's how to get over the hump.
Welcome back to the Lab Science Podcast. This week we take a look at some synthesis basics while conducting an audio overview of the new Korg Monologue, a hardware synth that literally can't be found in stores. Professor SentZ and Captain Lean Automatic also crack a few Modelo's and discuss Troy Ave, the difficulty keeping NYC clubs open, and the "post crack" hiphop generation.
Click here to listen/download this week's episode
I'm beyond excited to announce that I'll be teaching multiple courses on music production and djing! The first course is already live and covers the basics of sampling in Ableton Live 9. Students can study at their own pace, rewind content, and reach out for 1 on 1 assistance.
As a thank you, the first 25 students to enroll get the class for free! Just use this link to check it out!