Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Interview With Producer, Mike Mo Beats

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Recently, I was able to conduct an in-depth conversation/interview with one of the best young producers around, Mike Mo Beats.  Mike is an extremely underrated talent, and his sample heavy boom-bap style is one of the sharpest around. This is a bit of a lengthy article, but it should be a fun and interesting read. Be sure tp comment your thoughts and to check out Mike's music!

@MikeMoBeats | Bandcamp

First off, could you introduce yourself?

Name is Michael Moreland aka Mike Mo Beats. Been making beats for a little while here, I'm 22 years old and been making beats since I was 14 or 15, kind of freelancing and throwing stuff online for a couple years now and just seeing where it takes me.

What got you into making beats that early?

Man, I was just a huge hip-hop nerd. I would get all my stuff with LimeWire, probably shouldn't tell all my stuff, but all the 9th Wonder, Little Brother, Pete Rock, J-Dilla, DJ Premire, and I was like, "Man, I want to do that" so I got a little computer application, like a $20 one that had all the loops preset and eventually worked my way up to getting the real software and figured it out on my own and took tutorials online.

Now most people, when they're younger, want to rap and I know you rap as well, but you mostly make instrumentals, so what made you want to make beats first instead of rap?

Yeah, I kind of come from a more musical background. I grew up playing the sax, and the recorder when I was a little kid, and I didn't really have too much, but I wrote every now and again, but it was easier for me to make beats than to rap, I guess it just came more natural. But yeah it is a little different than the traditional story of people just trying to be a rapper, I guess I just gravitated more towards making beats for whatever reason.

Do you remember the first beat you ever made?

Haha, ahh man I'm pretty sure it was terrible! The first beat I made, if you could call it a beat, it wasn't really anything that I made, but it was a program that had all these preset loops, and it had drum loops and horn sounds, and everything was out of key, but it was just cool to me to have something that I created and manipulated and put it on an mp3 and listen to it on the way to school. Even though it was terrible I still got a little high from it.

You talked about what you used to use to make beats, but what kind of equipment or software do you use now to make your beats? 

NXNW cover artRight now, I'm strictly FruityLoops man, good ole FL Studio. I believe it's FL Studio 9 or 10? I think I'm on FL Studio 10 right now so I'm a little behind so I need to update, but yeah no hardware just software.

I hear you man. Now one question I've always wanted to ask someone who makes instrumentals is, where do you come up with the names for tracks?

Man that's probably one of the craziest things. Like a lot of times, the beats will be untitled and I'll just hurry up and name them after a sample I used. I like to get everything in order, like 10 or 12 beats that all have the same vibe to them, and just listen to them, and whatever pops into my head. For example, from backpack (his instrumental project) I just thought about how I grew up on the backpack. I mean I'm a college kid, still got a year left in school and it kind of had that sound, and the actual track titles are kind of random, but I tried to add a little meaning to it and kind of leave it a little mysterious for people to kind of derive their own meaning to it. Nothing too calculated.

Could you take me through your beat making process and what that's like?

Yeah for sure. Mostly, I'm pretty sample heavy, I try to branch out, but I'll just be digging through records man. Lately I've been using YouTube, I had a record player and it broke so I'm kind of stuck to the digital files. But I'll just listen to tons of records and see if I can find a loop I like, and from there I'll usually start with the loop and either chop it up or pitch it and then I do the drums last. Some people start with the drums first, I like to have the sample first, and have the drums fit in the pocket of whatever the sample or loop I use.

How long does that usually take?

It can vary. A lot of times, I'll probably sit with the sample if something pops or I kind of like the drums I do. I can make a beat in 15 minutes and sometimes I'll just take way longer than that to perfect it and get all the mixing right, but a lot of times I make it quick, then come back to it maybe a week later and add stuff in, and see if I can hear something else in. Y know make something pop a little harder or maybe make the drums hit a little harder or turn the snare up, but it kind of depends on the mood.

Do you have a favorite artist to sample from?

Ooh that's a good question. I'm thinking who have I sampled a lot from? There's kind of a lot of people that I use. I guess one guy is Lonnie Liston, he's got some cool stuff. A lot of Roy Ayers, and obviously guys like that have been sampled like crazy, Guys like Grover Washington, and you know you always got the old school soul stuff like with guys like David Ruffin, who just put out crazy amounts of music so you have so much to pick from, but I don't necessarily have a favorite. I try to change it up and sampled something that no one else has sampled, but if I do sample something that someone has already sampled, I'll try to find a different loop or chop it up differently.

Now you said earlier that you listened to Little Brother and 9th Wonder, would you say he was your big influences?

Oh hell yeah man. My first 30 beats were all ninth wonder bites. Ya know, I went online for a 9th Wonder kit to get the snares and all that. he's probably one of my favorite producers for sure, top five for me.

Since you said it, who are your top 5 producers?

Ooh on the spot, I set myself up man haha. Number 1, I got to go Dilla. Then I might even go Kanye, then I'll take it back and put DJ Premier up there, Pete Rock, and I'll throw 9th in there and give him the five spot.

backpack. cover art9th is probably one of my favorites as well, so what's your favorite 9th Wonder beat?

Man he has so many, I'm trying to think off the Little Brother albums, and the whole The Listening and The Minstrel Show albums were crazy, but I would say "Lovin' It" maybe. He had this one album where he remixed God's Son by Nas, and all those beats were crazy. and to me his was a better album than Nas' actual album, and I was actually listening to those earlier today.

So your top five are the guys that you listened to early, and got you to where you are now as a producer?

For sure. Yeah definitely, the way that they took a sample and didn't just loop it, well sometimes they would loop it but they would make it their own. Guys like Madlib, even though he just loops it, he still finds a crazy way to make random parts of the song mesh, but yeah man I definitely look up to those guys. They do things like filtering, ya know like low pass filter to give that underwater effect of the sample, and the bass-line, and they get the drums to sound not programmed even if they're using an MPC or FL Studios it still sounds like a real drummer with that live feel and bounce to it. Definitely something I try to emulate.

To switch gears a little, I'm curious as to why you'll often release you're projects for free for just anyone to download?

For me man, the biggest thing is, and I don't want to be the hipster guy, but I just do it for the love of it, it's something I just do regardless. I'll probably be like 80 years old making beats probably still on FL Studio, but I just want to be heard. It bothers me, and I know people are trying to hustle, but when dudes that aren't really that known try to charge for their music, it's like c'mon man. Big name artists, and even producers put out stuff for free, so what do I look like trying to charge? I'm just little ole me from Portland, Oregon ya know? I just put it out and maybe I'll get some clientele and increase my audience, but it's not something I'm stressing too hard,

I hear ya man. So what big plans do you have to make 2015 your year?

That's a good question. I've been actually sitting here trying to ponder some new years resolutions and think what I want to do, but one thing that I  want to do is try to get a bigger name placement, and I might have to change my style up a little bit, because it's not something you can market as well as a beat that Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan would rap on, but I've been sending beats out to these A&R places and to some people on twitter, so hopefully that works out. If not, I kind of want to do my own thing and since I've been handing out my beats over the years and networking, I want to do something like Jake One and his White Van Music or 9th Wonder's album that he put out where they did all the beats and have people rap over them. That's definitely something I want to do by the end of next year, I might even throw a couple verses of my own in there.

Might throw in your own verses? Which do you think you're better at, rapping or making beats?

I think I'm better at beats, it's definitely easier for me. Writing raps is a lot harder than chopping a sample and putting drums on it.

A bet a lot of people would argue otherwise. Also, you're a collegiate athlete, can you tell me a little about that?

Yeah man, I couldn't give up my hoop dreams. I played 2 years at a D3 school, and ended up transferring to an NAIA school out here in Oregon. I played last year, I did basketball and I do track as well. Not doing basketball this year, but I've got a high jump meet coming up, and I'm going to try and max out for senior year. So I've been crazy busy trying to be a producer, student and athlete at the same time.

How do you balance it all?

A lot of Red Bull man. I've got to keep the mind right, so a lot of Red Bulls and swishers every now and again to keep the mind right. I'd rather be doing a lot of stuff than sitting around being lazy all day, it keeps life interesting.

Now what's the hip-hop scene like out in Portland?

It's kind of interesting. There's a lot of talent out here, but it's almost like the crabs and the barrels type thing. People don't really network much and just other factors too. Portland doesn't have its own distinct sound, but there's some cool guys. Like there's a dude named Illmaculate, he's a battle rapper and he's actually pretty common in the battle rap scene. Then there's this guy named Luck-One, and I gave him a couple beats on his last tape there's a lot of people poppin'. Actually a couple dudes were on XXL and getting love on 2DopeBoyz and OkayPlayer. It's coming up, but traditionally it has not been a mecca for hip-hop.

Who is your favorite rapper that has rapped on one of your beats?

To be real, not just because I'm doing an interview with you, but that Xc song was really cool. It wasn't super mixed and mastered but he killed that "Close Encounters" beat I gave him. Other than that, there's this dude named Luck-One that has been grinding in Portland for a minute, but he's out in New York now. We did this song Malcolm X Blvd that had some really solid social commentary and just some really quality bars. He's dope man, super dope.

Now have you ever had a rapper destroy your beat in the bad way? Just did awful?

It happens all the time man, it's the funniest thing. It's a little bit of a struggle because a lot of times when I do make money off beats it'll be some 15 year old kid with his mom's credit card like "yo man your beats are dope bruh"(Mike said this in what I believe to be his nerdy white boy voice) and I was just like alright man for sure and they'll send me the track back and I don't want to like kill nobody's dreams, and I respect the passion, but I put so much stuff out for free like on YouTube, SoundCloud and Bandcamp and I'll look up stuff and and find tracks people did that's just so bad and I try not to laugh but it happens all the time.

That's all the questions I have man, but is there anything else you want to say or let the world know about you before I let you go?

Not really man, I don't like to talk about myself too much. I just kind of do my thing and if people rock with the music they rock with it, and if not then it's all gravy I guess if you're reading this and checked out my music, then I appreciate it. That's kind of what I do it for, not to be cheesy but I like the slow music you can listen to and get a little feeling from it, and that's what I came up on, so if I can do the same thing then I'm definitely honored if that's the way people think about my music.

*Thank you Mike for taking the time to do this, it was a blast, and we'll have to do another one soon!

Check out Mike's bandcamp page and be sure to follow him on twitter @MikeMoBeats

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