Artist Spotlight: HooksArthur

Hooks is a dual-threat talent repping Middletown, NY. He first came to our attention a few years back with his Few Words EP. The latest work is Wave Form Fluent, featuring himself tearing up some Influence production.

RD: You last dropped back in December with Wave Form Fluent, what’s next on the docket? 

H: Right now I’m looking to release my next beat tape Stay True All Times. A beat tape from me is long overdue. 

RD: What You Know May… featured a lot of your own production, while WFF was entirely produced by Influence. What was it about his work that drew you in?

H: I first heard of Influence Prod. from New York Belgian Ale with him and Snotty. What made his production interesting was his choice of samples. From listening to his music it seemed like we had a common goal sonically, a type of “psychedelic hip hop”.

RD: If this resurgence has taught us anything, it’s that there is talent strewn across all of New York State. Talk to us about Middletown and how it impacted your music endeavors.

H: It’s hard to say. Middletown is a small but very diverse town, and it’s honestly what you make of it. And it’s just over an hour from NYC which is cool for making moves. Rapping started from me just messing around kicking freestyles like many other people. 

RD: What came first, emceeing or producing?

H: Rapping came first, but only by a few months span.

RD: If there is one piece of gear you could add to your existing setup, what would it be?

H: A spare SP-303, for when the one I have now gives in those prices are getting crazy.

RD: What is your ultimate goal as a dual threat artist?

H: To be recognized as one of the greatest rappers and producers. And to look back at my discography decades later and know that I got busy.

RD: If you tap any 5 producers for your next project, regardless of budget who would they be?

H: If I could somehow land a Alchemist, Madlib or RZA beat that’d be wild. Other than I’m not pressed for beats honestly. I got an ill group of individuals in my corner who’s production could match with anyone. And I have just as much confidence in my own abilities. 

RD: Shouts?

H: Shoutout to my family at Stolen Sound System and everyone I’ve been working with up to this point. Shout out to my guys in Primal Sound Garmentry. My instrumental album Stay True All Times is dropping soon, and a new rap album coming fourth quarter.

Follow the man on IG and Twitter @hooksarthur


Producer Spotlight: alejandrito argenal

RD: You’re a newcomer to many, give us some background info on yourself. When did you start making beats?

AA: I’m a music/sound curator from Nicaragua, and I focus on digging in the crates of Latin America and Spain. I’ve been collecting music and producing since the age of 11. I’ve been active as alejandrito argeñal since 2013 when I dropped my first tape Nuestro Agradecimiento with Amajin Records based in Germany.

RD: Music from your homeland of Nicaragua plays a clear influence on your material, who were some Nicaraguan musicians you grew up listening to?

AA: The funny thing is I grew up listening to music from all over Latin America and Spain, Nicaraguan musicians, in particular, didn’t play a huge role in my inspiration, but the culture and sensibilities of the people did. However, traditional Nicaragua marimba (an instrument similar to a xylophone) music and composition is a big inspiration.

RD: Do you feel what your doing now is an extension of what you heard many years ago?

AA: I grew up with the boom bap alongside Spanish music. Growing up it was obvious to me that the two had major potential to complement one another. I started out just making beat tapes and instrumentals because I was never fond of many underground emcees I had access to. I also felt like hip-hop music was too stale the producers and emcees weren’t fulfilling the role of artist, just fulfilling the prescribed cookie-cutter approach. Now, there are so many really talented emcees and producers as well, which is why I’m dipping my toes more into collaborating with some of those amazing artists. 

RD: Canciones Que No Se Olvidan is the latest work, a blend of instrumentals and vocal tracks. How do you decide which ones get rapped on and which beats stay instrumental?

AA: My process is very intuitive, I’m all about the samples. The sample dictates what becomes of the track. Some tracks I choose to over-produce, some tracks are very minimal, and some tracks can’t even be considered beats or loops. As far as choosing which ones get rapped on depends on what I envision when I hear the track. I think most of what I curate can be rapped over despite my intentional chaotic arrangements and muddy layers. 

RD: You have worked with Nowaah The Flood a number of times now, showing nice chemistry. Is he your favorite among the newer class of MC’s?

AA: He’s definitely my favorite emcee in the underground right now. He’s got such a dope and versatile style, drops raw one-liners, militant bars, and knows how to use his cadence masterfully. He’s not scared to rap over anything and he can transform a track like no one else can. I’m honored to be able to collaborate with such an elite emcee.

RD: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

AA: Just to put out dope hip-hop artifacts that highlight the cultures that taught me so much and have contributed positively to my life and to so many. I want to be authentic, so you know I’ll never sample some jazz, blues, soul or funk because that’s not really my culture. Latin America has such a rich and diverse music culture and history that I really want to highlight with my production, in particular female vocalists. There’s something about the compositions and voices that captivate and emote. I want to maintain that integrity in the tracks while re-contextualizing it into raw Hip-Hop.

RD: If you could improve at any one aspect of beat making, what would it be?

AA: I don’t consider myself a beatmaker, or a producer in all honesty. That’s why I say I’m a sound curator because that’s really my creative process. However, everything you hear in my songs is intentional. I think mistakes, skips, hisses, misses, off-beat hits, and awkward layering adds character to music that relies on appropriating the musical past. It’s also hyper-stylized to feel like it’s an artifact of a distant time. 

RD: Talk to us about your setup, what gear do you feature and do you have your eye on any specific piece to add on?

AA: I’m not a gearhead, but I use SP-303, 404, a few drum machines, Ableton, FL studio, vinyl, cassette, CD samples. I’m not really focused on gear and never have been honestly. I’m all about the vibe and sound and being resourceful with what you have. 

RD: If you’re given an unlimited budget for your next project, what are the first five calls your making for guests?

AA: Thankfully I’m already working with some artists I’m a huge fan of, but I would love to work with Crimeapple, Shabazz the Disciple, Boldy James, Hus Kingpin, and 7xve the genius. 

RD: Message to supporters/shout outs?

AA: Thank you to everyone who’s ever supported. Keep supporting independent underground artists, support creative integrity, and keep pushing the culture forward. I’ve got multiple projects in the works with some heavy hitters of course so stay tuned, and shoutouts to all the artists that have collaborated with me. Thank you so much for this interview and peace to all. One.

Follow on IG alejandrito.argenal


Producer Spotlight: Moderator

Sometimes when the music is that fire it becomes undeniable. Moderator boasts two #1 albums on Bandcamp, the latest being the spectacular Midnight Madness. His music takes you on unique journeys, the vibes ranging from bossa nova to trip hop, taking the music wherever he wants to go. One of the most unique producers to grace our ears in years, here is what he had to say for himself.

RD: Your music runs a wide gamut of styles, from lounge to soul to hip hop and beyond. What were some of your biggest influences growing up?

M: From a young age, I enjoyed listening to instrumental hip hop music. I got influenced by the production style of the greats: Madlib, DJ Shadow, J Dilla and Nujabes to name a few. In general, I like listening to music that carries some type of feeling and soul regardless of genre. The one that you can feel it in you stomach if that makes sense. That’s why I got drawn to so many styles of music growing up. Nowadays, I get inspired by other fellow friends beatmakers and producers, listening to their projects really puts me in the mood to make something new as well.

RD: Greece is home to a number of progressive musicians such as yourself. Do you feel the scene has grown over the past few years?

M: Yes, despite its small population, Greece has a lot of great artists in this scene and has definitely grown over the years. It’s refreshing to see young talented producers doing their thing.

RD: One of the most appealing things to us about your catalogue is that no two albums sound alike. How are you able to create such different soundscapes every time out?

M: It’s probably because I’m a fan of many musical genres, and I get inspired by different sounds within different periods in my life. I might listen to a lot of library stuff for some time. Switch to Ethnic Funk, and from there go to Surf and Psychedelic the next year. Of course I have some favorites, but I try to keep it fresh in my mind. It usually depends on my mood. With Midnight Madness for example, I wanted to make something Halloween-ish. Dark, playful but also sexy and full of emotions. So for the last couple of years I was searching for samples that gave me that feeling. Rockabilly songs, old horror movie ads, poems. Bits and pieces to create what I had in mind for this project.

RD: Your last few albums have been met with wide acclaim, spanning a multitude of countries. How big can this go? Is that something you think about?

M: It’s crazy to think that your music can be heard in dozens of countries around the world. Of course the internet made music more accessible than ever which is awesome, but I don’t think about it that much to be honest. I just make stuff that I like listening to and some people seem to enjoy it. I’m grateful for what I have but will always try getting better at what I do and learning more.

RD: What are some of your favorite places to tour?

M: I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places while touring and had a great time on most of the cities that I’ve played, but if I had to chose one it’s Paris. Having a lot of good friends in the city definitely adds to the experience, plus the connection with the audience is always amazing.

RD: Are there any vocal talents out there that you would like to have on a future project?

M: I always liked the flow and overall skills from yU and Noveliss. If I ever make a project featuring MC’s I’d love to have those 2 on a few tracks.

RD: Your covers jump off the page, just like the music. What are qualities you look for in artwork?

M: Thank you. I usually spend way too much time looking for the right cover for each album. As you can tell, I love surreal art. I like collage as a technique because it’s basically like sampling in music, but it all depends on the project I’m working at the time. It must catch the vibe of the album and make you take a second look at it to really get what’s happening on the image.

RD: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

M: Hopefully doing what I do today. With the same passion and hunger, but with more knowledge and experience. Touring more, which I missed greatly these past two years, and definitely work on having a couple more albums under my belt.

Cop Midnight Madness here

Producer Spotlight: Big Daddy Chop

RD: Let’s start with the art of the chop. The ability to create entire new sounds and melodies from an existing source. Who do you feel has the best chops in hip hop history?

BD: J Dilla, but it would be blasphemous not to mention Preemo.

RD: How long have you been making beats?

BD: Since late 2015 so going on 6 years now.

RD: The chops are clearly insane, is there an aspect of beat making you feel you could improve at?

BD: I want to improve my mixing for sure. I want to add more variety to my drums and even switching up the beat patterns.

RD: If you could add one piece of gear to your current setup, what would it be?

BD: The SP-303.

RD: Chopzilla is the latest project out on your Bandcamp, which has many releases on it. Would you consider yourself prolific?

BD: I’ve never thought of myself as prolific but yes. My Bandcamp doesn’t have nearly as much music as my Soundcloud. I have hours of beat tapes on there but I’ve been thinking about deleting most of my older music on SC to clear up space.

RD: What goes into selecting the guests that appear on the tapes?

BD: I just try to get people who I think are really dope and would sound good on some of my production. A lot times it’s an artist that I already have a connection with.

RD: What is your ultimate goal as an artist? 

BD: I want my music played all around the world. Not on some super famous shit either. I want to bring inspiration into peoples life whether it be aspiring artists or someone living their day to day life.

RD: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring producers what would it be?

BD: Keep your foot on the pedal. Work on your craft as much as you can. The more time you put into making beats or even just listening to music and studying it, the more you’ll grow and find your own techniques and ways about doing things.

RD: You can enlist any 5 vocal talents for your next tape, who are you hitting up?

BD: Roc Marciano, Earl Sweatshirt, Conway The Machine, Estee Nack, & Fly Anakin.

RD: Message to the supporters?

BD: I have a bunch of dope music dropping this year so stay tuned! Shoutout everybody that continues to show love and shoutout to Respect Due for this interview.

Peep Chopzilla and his other work here

Producer Spotlight: The Prxspect

The Prxspect has been holding it down with the sounds and visuals for a few years now. Repping Australia and The Umbrella collective, he brings a concise style to each medium. He has scored full projects with Miskeem Haleem, Ice Lord and Jamal Gasol as well as singles with a host of other dope talents.

RD: Your covers are among the best in the game. What came first, graphic design or music? 

P: Thanks brother, there’s a lot dope artist doing beats and visuals. I’ve been artistic since a youngster, never studied  graphic design it just came naturally.

RD: Does the music dictate how the cover will look?

P: Not really, but it can.

RD: What are the criteria when looking for a collaborator? What are the main qualities you look for?

P: All the artists I have collaborated with has been organic, I have not really looked for any criteria they all have a certain quality to them though.

RD: We need to know the details for Nautica Jewels, your upcoming compilation. What can listeners expect from this project?

P: Something easy on the ears. Sit back, pour yourself something kick your shoes off vibes.

RD: If you could add one piece of gear to your current setup, what would it be?

P: A subwoofer.

RD: What are some prime sources of inspiration when it comes to both the audio and visual mediums?

P: I’m easily inspired, it could be some random thing to something I remember from a weeks back.

RD: John Creasy is your most frequent collab partner, what is it about the work flow with him that has spawned three projects? 

P: You going to hear what that is on our new joint effort Man on Fire 2.5 .The video to Unity Park out now via YouTube check it out. (Link to vid is at the end)

RD: Message to the supporters?

P: Big salute and major love to all that been supporting and enjoying what I do to Guy Grams and Full Scale.War Medals approaches to John Creasy ! Man On Fire 2.5 next up next peace to all my Umbrella brothas! Everyone on Nautica Jewels you all legends. Shout to my brotha Cashmere P! For always checking in and providing inspirational beats and the raps is ridiculous. And shout to Respect Due for having me on salute!

Follow the man on IG @prxspectworldwide


Unity Park vid

Producer Spotlight: Killer Kane

RD: You’re by far our most local guest repping Camden County, New Jersey just like us. Did you grow up in the area?

K: I did, right in Voorhees.

RD: How did growing up in the area shape your musical tastes/creative output? 

K: Can’t honestly say the area influenced my taste or creative output. You go digging around there and you get Barbara Streisand and Christmas cover records. Of course I had friends who introduced me to different styles of music, but really I just buried my head in the sand and looked for stuff I liked. 

RD: Do you record at home, or in a studio? 

K: At home, for a time I interned at Gradwell House Recording and would have homies come through there.

RD: You have a blend of vocal projects as well as beat tapes available on your Bandcamp. Take us into recording Open Casket and Lost In Translation.

K: The best thing about the internet is being able to make music with people you wouldn’t usually be able to. For both those joints I sent everyone on them a pack of beats that was in the general direction I was going for with for the tape. Except for the joints with Barry Marrow, we go back so he’ll come through and we’ll get a nice session going.

RD: Voodoo Kit is a joint venture with Sleep Sinatra, tell us about your relationship with Sleep and how that project came about. 

K:  Sleep is a real good, genuine dude. Voodoo Kit came together because of the homie Sekwence actually. He introduced us and everything just flowed naturally between me Sleep. Glad we got to make that, one of my favorites to date.

RD: You also fully produced Budget Cuts with Sekwence, do you take a different approach when doing these joint projects? What is the workflow difference between this and your own projects?

K: I’ll send the artists joints based off what I think they’ll like but also still has my style on it. Sometimes artists send me songs to cut up that resonate with them. I feel like that can bring out more emotion cause the writer feels a connection to the song in the first place. With my personal tapes, I look at them as more of a show case of the styles I can bring to the table while also making the projects sound cohesive. A good way to put it looking at it like a movie, is the “artist x producer” formula I play more the composer role and the rapper plays the writers role. Where tapes like Open Casket, I’m the co-writer, director, acting coach.

RD: If you could add any piece of gear to your setup, what would it be? 

K: That’s a good question, I just got the MPC Live 2, but if I needed something else I’d go with the Apollo Twin.

RD: What aspect of beatmaking do you feel is your strong suit?

K: Chopping samples, anything and everything can be sampled and I’ll die on that hill.

RD: What can listeners look for in 2021?

K: Kill Barry 3 with Barry Marrow, produced, mixed & mastered by me, just dropped. Sekwence and I have Budget Cuts 3 almost finished with some crazy features. I might also drop a mini EP of some old joints me and Lord Jah-Monte have, and of course another Souless project in the works.

RD: You’ve been given an unlimited budget for your next project, what are the first 5 calls you make? 

K: First off , half the budget is going to sample clearance, then John Williams to replay some samples. Kareem Riggins for some drums. Jay Electronica for some verses. Resurrect Stanley Kubrick from the dead to direct a short film, and I’m calling the weed man.

Editors Note: This is the one standard question we ask everyone, strong contender for best reply.


Follow him on Twitter @killerkanebeats and Soundcloud

Producer Spotlight: Level 13

RD: Let’s talk about Level 13 the person first. Tell us a bit about yourself.

L: I’m a South Philly based producer, a new(ish) dad, my daughter Charlie is almost two.

RD: Do you set aside time to create, or get to work when inspiration hits?

L: For sure, I used to be more of a night owl and fell into the trap of only making beats when inspiration strikes. But the last four or five years or so I really begun to regiment my creative time. Especially after reading Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art. I began to treat it more of a job. A job I enjoy, but still a job. So, lately I’ve been keeping my clock-in and clock-out times in the morning and early/mid afternoon.

RD: Your list of placements is nothing short of incredible, in an era where placements are few and far between you seem to excel at shopping your work. Is it raw persistence? Building connections? What advice could you give to other producers like yourself?

L: Thank you, shit’s work. A lot of it’s persistence. Of course building relationships. Advice I would even chase placements. Some of my biggest advice is to learn to sell/lease beats online.

RD: Do you have a personal favorite piece of work?

L:From myself? Probably the joints I did with Bodega Bamz, or the joint I did for Billy Danze “What It Was”

RD: Once you get the green light for, lets say Method Man’s Meth Lab 2, what occurs after that? Are you in constant contact with reps until the project drops?

L: Not at all, even with Meth Lab I, I didn’t hear the finished track until it was done.

RD: When constructing a beat, what comes first?

L: It depends, always starts with the melody for me. Half the time I sample records, other half someone is sending me loops.

RD: Growing up in Philly, who were some of your biggest local influences?

L: Rap wise? Beans of course, Black Thought, Paz & Stoupe, Reef.

RD: Best place to see a hip hop show in the city?

L: Voltage used to be one of my favorites. The Rona messed things up. Has me feeling bad for not getting out to enough events pre- pandemic.

RD: Aside from your placements, you have developed a few projects with up and coming rappers as well. Is that something you plan to do more of? If so, who are you building with?

L: Definitely, I have something cooking up with my homie Vas from Philly. Also dropped Smoke Crudo with Bub Styles back in 2019. I definitely want to do more 50/50s though.

RD: If you could get any 5 vocal talents on a Level 13 album, who are you contacting?

L: Man, probably Thought, Beans, Dark Lo, Paz and RJ Payne.

Follow the man on IG level_13_beats

Producer Spotlight: Hobgoblin

We first caught up with Hobgoblin in 2018, when he teamed up with Jamil Honesty to make Martyr Music. Since then he has had numerous placements such as with Da Cloth’s M.A.V. for the Angelz & Demonz series. His new album The Awakening is loaded with talented mc’s, and is the flagship release for his Deathface Records imprint.

RD: Since our last interview you have landed dozens of placements and began a series of amazing projects with M.A.V. Are you pleased with your trajectory?

H: Of course! Its been very organic though, I’m having fun creating, getting in my zone musically, and just trying to make the dopest music. Luckily the artists and supporters like what they are hearing, so the momentum is naturally opening up new opportunities.

RD: The first thing that stands out on your productions are drums with a lot of punch in them. Is that the foundation/starting point for all of your beats?

H: It’s definitely important that the drums have a certain presence, that’s the foundation of the style of hip hop I grew up on. Finding a mix on my drums that ‘worked’ was the single biggest reason for my beats going to the next level. I pretty much use the same plugins on all of my drums now. I don’t always start with the drums though. Sometimes the sample I use/play will mean I swap out the drums or pattern as I go, again the process has to be intuitive and organic, that’s when the magic happens!

RD: The Awakening is your debut producer album, take us through the selection process of the guests and how long this took to create.

H: Making this album was both scary and exhilarating! With regards to selecting MC’s, I definitely had an idea of who I wanted and how I would arrange them before I sent out the beats, but being in complete control myself meant I could experiment and play with these arrangements too. The finished product took shape quite organically and is a mixture of measured intent and planning, my own subconscious ideals of what hip hop is and some happy accidents! It took fucking ages though.. There are over 20 MC’s on the project, all of who are working on their own projects. So as a curator, you have to be persuasive but not a dick about it. You have to know when to stop harassing someone who’s just not going to get it done. The album was pretty much done in February 2020, but Covid hit so we decided to hold off. 

The Awakening track-by-track breakdown

1. The Awakening intro’ with Lord Juco literally came together 3 days before I sent the project off for mixing and mastering. Juco had agreed to be on the project, but had a serious car accident, so obviously I left that where it was. Fast forward a year, and he had fully recovered and was recording again so I hit him up one last time to just let him know that there was room for him on the project if he still wanted to jump on, but that the record needed to go off for mastering. Luckily he got it back in time, and it was (ironically as its the last track to get made) the perfect intro track to set the album off.

2  ‘Fifteen Twenty‘ feat J Scienide, Ace Cannons and DJ TMB. This definitely has a Wu feel to it! A lot of tracks on this album are heavy nods towards my production idols and this one is a huge nod to the RZA. The features on this absolutely killed this too! Shout to J Scienide for being the first mc to get me a verse back for this project.

3. ‘Mogilevich‘ feat GeneralBackPain and Chuck n Lock. I love this track because its fully sample free. I played everything on here by hand. This joint definitely has a more DJ Shadow, laid back but still gully vibe to it. 

4. ‘Dump on em‘ feat Mav, Rec Ali and SmooVth. This one is my ode to that 90s era gully New York Street rap shit! All three features on this track are masters of their craft and this joint is def one of my personal favourites on the project.

5. ‘Horsemen of Apocalypse’ feat All Hail Y.T, Squeegie-o, PGenz and Nino Graye. I felt like the RZA on this shit because nearly all the mc’s initially recorded their verses over a different beat, and I got to really experiment with how I ordered and placed them. This joint was really fun to make, and I layered lots of really small sections of samples to construct this beat.

6. ‘State Your Business‘ feat Jamil Honesty. Jamil is like family at this point, so this was just effortless and easy. I wanted to experiment with a more emotional, melodic melody with this one as well as making the track with a higher bpm than the listeners might be used to me working in, I’m just really happy about how this one turned out!

7. ‘Deathwish‘ feat Supreme Cerebral and Madhattan. Firstly, massive shout to Supreme for getting Madhattan on this track because I didn’t know he was going to do that.  This track is just gully as fuck, and I love it. I played this sample melody myself too! 

8. ‘Warriors 3′ was initially going to be my homage to ‘Protect Ya Neck’ with 7 emcees. However, Ace Cannons, Jamil Honesty who sent me back a whole song, and Josiah the Gift all felt the beat so much that they wrote choruses too! In the end it made sense to split the track into 3 separate tracks which later became ‘State your Business’ and ‘Fifteen Thirty’. 

9. ‘Survival’ feat Cousin Feo and Fastlife. Again, huge shout to Feo for surprising me with the Fastlife feature. Feo and I have a lot in common including a mutual love of soccer, and he’s such a genuinely great guy. I couldn’t decide which beat to use for the final version of the track, which is why the beat switches half way through.

10. ‘Hunger‘ feat Whatamess. I just love the fact this guy has his own unique flow and cadence. How an MC sounds for me is almost as important as whether they can spit or not, and this joint closes out the project so well in my opinion!

RD: Is there anything you can divulge about the rest of 2021?

H: Angelz and Demonz 3 drops very soon and it’s my favourite of the 3 so far. I can’t wait for the supporters to hear this one! Jamil and I are also feeling our way through Martyr Musik 3. I have a lot of other shit in the works, album & EP collaborations, placements too many to mention, which is great!

RD: There seems to be a brotherhood amongst some veteran producers like Flu and Farma, how did all that come about?

H: Through social media generally, we have always been very supportive of each others music. Farma hit me a couple of years ago to produce a collaborative project, and that grew into a producer collective called The Seven. Its basically a collective of seven producers from all across the world, the plan is to drop a ‘Seven’ project this year, so keep an eye out!

RD: Do you have any Shout outs?

H: The Awakening is out now! The album is available from Deathface Records. Shoutouts to all the MCs who blessed the project. Shouts to Tokebi who killed the artwork! Shout Chemo for the incredible mix and master. Shout to my wife for believing in me and supporting my passion!

Follow the man on IG @hobgoblin80 and Twitter @hobgoblinbeats

Producer Spotlight: Chronic Tone

RD: Talk to us about your musical history. What did you listen to growing up? How has this shaped your production? 

CT: I currently live in Boston, but grew up in the Worcester and central Massachusetts area, and was exposed to a lot of music from my family, many of whom are musicians and artists, several pianists. My parents played all sorts of 70’s and 80’s music, but my grandparents played more classical based music, opera, jazz, solo piano. As a kid I always loved to perform for my family at holidays, singing while my gramps played piano etc. One grandfather played trombone in a jazz band, the other a self-taught pianist who can play almost anything by ear. My grandmother was a fire cook as well, and I find myself doing what she did at the stove, and at the boards. My approach to cooking and painting translates perfectly to how I produce music. 

RD: Like ourselves here at Respect Due you’re of Italian heritage. Does that come into play with your music? Whether it be samples or just a certain spirit.

CT: The specific aura my music encapsulates is significantly influenced by my family and environment during developmental years as a youth. My grandmother, who is of Sicilian descent, plays a major role in the influence of my stylistic palette and approach in more than just music (cooking, fashion, interior design, gardening/landscaping, work ethic, character, principle). However, my foundation of particular taste in music has always been based on the ominous, dark, dramatic sound you hear in a lot of Italian music. I love all sorts of music/samples, but have always been attracted to classical based samples to make beats, which is a unique facet of my production, differentiating me from masses in the hip-hop culture. Call it a predisposition.

RD: You’re clearly a jazz head, what do you look for when listening to jazz? what separates the greats from the average in your ears?

CT: My Grandfather was in a jazz band, he played the trombone. I was exposed to upbeat jazz from him when I was younger, but didn’t learn about the cool, slow (dramatic) style of jazz until I got to college. At Northeastern I attended a class “John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest for Freedom”, which totally inspired me. I learned the history/ roots of the music, and also delved into the catalogues of artists such as Coltrane himself, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and many others related to the “cool jazz” movement. When listening to jazz I am looking for that same feeling as when I dig other genres, that special phrase of emotion that sounds hard yet beautiful at the same time, that part that makes you have that face like Robert Deniro just stepped in dog shit. The Silvio Dante stank face haha. In my opinion, what separates the greats from the mediocre is the artists’ ability to speak through their instrument and convey a message or dialogue with no use of verbal language. If you listen to “Blue in Green” (which I consider the greatest jazz tune of all time), you can hear a story of pain and perseverance through the instrumentation of Miles, John, and Bill. Raw emotion that is received and understood without the directive limitation of words.

RD: You rhyme as well as produce, what came first? Does the track get laid down first, or do you write then try to build around that?

CT:  I was an artist first around age 7 then a beginning producer at around 13. I was always talented in art classes with painting, and in English class with writing and poetry, so those skills converged into becoming a lyricist. What separates me from “rappers” is that I paint a literal picture. I have very strong synesthesia (the connection of senses) and naturally understand sounds as scenes, colors and flavors etc. This plays a major role in my art. As far as recording, for me, the instrumental always sets the foundation because it dictates the sonic environment and emotion from which the lyrics grow. The beat is the pot, and the lyrics are the plant. Much of my formal training in college helps sharpen the refinement/mastering process, but my natural ear and gut-instinct are the strongest deciding factors in creating ART. Quality over quantity.

RD: The Green In Blue album dips even deeply into slow, melodic jazz vibes. Talk to me about crafting this album. It strikes me as quite personal.

CT: Green in Blue was inspired by points mentioned in my previous paragraph about jazz, the title is a play off of Blue in Green, the classic album from the Miles Davis quintet. I literally flipped it in a couple ways. It is definitely personal, as you can see the sole feature was DJ Bobby Bangers, fully written, produced, recorded and mastered by myself at my studio “The Deli”. I’m going to have to let the music speak for itself on this one, the project is riddled with gems from the depths. The lead video was shot at ‘Diamond Beach’ in Iceland, while on a vacation with my wife.

RD: Mafiusu is here. Take us behind the meaning behind the name and what went into this.

CT: The highly anticipated project I am releasing 1/17/21 is titled MAFIUSU Part 1, it is something I have been slow cooking for a long time and I would consider my “magnum opus”. The translation of MAFIUSU is from the Sicilian word, which in its origin means boldness or bravado, and signifies “fearless, enterprising, and proud”. It also relates to the style of one who carries themselves with resilient confidence and sharp demeanor. A “Mafiusu” as a noun is not just a “gangster” as most would assume, but a man who proudly takes care of his family and his village, and will go to any extent necessary to do so; someone who is passionate, considerate and loyal, but never to be crossed or disrespected. Based on this principle definition, along with my heritage and bloodline, I embody the term “MAFIUSU”. There is a certain set of moral ethics and code of honor that my family raised me with, and is a permanent part of my persona. The project is a testament to that. When immigration from Europe took place in the early 1900’s (when my ancestors came here by boat and Sicilians / Italians immigrants amongst others were considered non-white) the word “mafiusu” transformed to “mafioso”, which is a stereotypical derogatory term that described someone of Italian heritage who was assumed to be a member of organized crime. 

In the album content, I portray my “Mafiusu” mentality and principalities while simultaneously juxtaposing and citing sources of the Americanized Mafia culture with quotes from classic films like ‘The Godfather’, ‘Casino’ and series ‘The Sopranos’ etc.

This project is very personal to me, and my goal was to create a timeless piece of art that is meaningful, unique and authentic. I put a great amount of care into to every aspect of the project, from sample selections, to lyrical message, to features, and transitions between tracks. It was carved and cured over a time period of about 3 years, and I consider it as a fine marble sculpture of the new Renaissance era. A sonic equivalent to an ornate oil painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, hence why I call it my “magnum opus” to date. Also, a disclosure to sharks and copy cats out there, cease and desist letters will not be issued, sit-downs will be.

Guest appearance features include my Tragic Allies family Estee Nack, Codenine, Paranom and Al Divino (all from Mass), as well as Sonnyjim from the UK & Eto from Rochester NY. The project is entirely self produced. There will be a MAFIUSU part 2 following… 

RD: One of the singles is the bone-chilling hip-hopera song Take A Breath feat. Estee and June. What’s the story behind that record?

CT: Take A Breath was just some fly shit that resulted in an oceanic burial. Started with this fire jazz fusion record sample, and I ended up using an ill verse I had written for a different much less fitting beat. I originally had two verses recorded, but kept hearing Estee Nack and Junelyfe in my head on the song, so I cut my second verse and added them. That’s family, so I sent it to get laced up and bada bing “I’ll tie your wrists and ankles up and we can go for a swim, so take a breath”. Ended up being relative to the “Mafiusu” message, and became a promo for it. I created the cover art for the single as well. Maybe if someone tries to jock ride my wave, they can be the sinking star in the music video.

RD: You have teased some opera samples on your IG live vids, is that something we can expect soon? Sounding heavy.

CT: As far as opera, blasting Luciano Pavarotti full volume is mandatory when I’m at the stove cheffing the family recipe sauce, extra garlic. Complimenti di mia nonna. You can catch me doing my thing on the final track of the MAFIUSU part 1 record “Hold the Strings” where I sing an operatic aria for the outro. I might start a new genre where I sing opera over dramatic beats, we’ll see.

Support Mafiusu Pt. 1 here

Follow him @ChronicTone on IG and Twitter

Producer Spotlight: Dirty Art Club

RD: Let’s talk about the success of Gardens, your sixth release. The vinyl and tapes are currently sold out, including your own Bandcamp and a separate Fat Beats drop. Why do you think this resonated so strongly? 

DAC: I don’t know. I didn’t expect that because it’s so many beats and a lot of them are 5+ years old and/or were intended to be used as interludes. 27 songs is probably overwhelming for people at this juncture but I did it anyways because fuck it. It sounded right to me at the time.

RD: In terms of raw number of tracks, Gardens is your longest release. Do you go into the recording process looking for a certain amount, or is more of a feel to know when to start sequencing/moving onto the next step?

DAC: It’s mostly just a feel for what seems true to the album and trying to see the whole picture. Might add one beat or seven to a project that isn’t shaped the way I envisioned. So there is a gray area when it comes to the reason for the amount of music that ends up on a release. All about how it sounds as a whole, however that comes about.

RD: When constructing a song, do you follow a certain path to the final version? I know some guys strictly start with drums, others may build around the melody. 

DAC: Nah I try to avoid that or really any structure at all. I start with something I hear in a sample and let that take itself wherever. Sometimes I make multiple versions of a beat using the same sample and blend them together with something else to tie it up. Other times I just hear a loop and want to let it run for a minute. It’s just whatever feels right.

RD: Mise En Place with YUNGMORPHEUS is a rare vocal collaboration for you, how did that come about?

DAC: We listen to each other’s music so we talked about working together. I sent him a couple things and we decided to do an EP real quick. Bong bong. 

RD: 2020 has been very active for you, tallying three releases. Do you see that becoming the norm? 

DAC: I’m not sure what’s gonna happen. I know I’m always working. There’s never gonna be a norm but I’d like to release as many albums as I can. It takes me a long time to finish things, so I get caught up in all that and hold onto projects that are probably ready to be let go of.

RD: Let’s go back to 2011, the year of your first release, what advice would you give yourself?

DAC: Eat some vegetables 

RD: If you could add any one piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?

DAC: Good monitors. I use some raggedy headphones that are falling apart so my mixes never sound the way I want them to sound. I spend a lot of time trying to get them as close as I can.

RD: You’ve been given an unlimited budget to make an album with star-studded vocal features, who are the first five calls?

DAC: At this point I don’t know. Too many artists I like to pick 5.

RD: Shouts?

DAC: My grandma Judy (RIP) and too many people to name who’ve kept me in check or tried to through some hard times. The artists who’ve made songs that I’ve sampled, for inspiring me to do it. Also, everyone who supports- thank y’all.

Follow him on IG @dirtyartclub