Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Essence of Hip-Hop Vol. 2: The Writing Process

As a listener of music, haven't you ever wondered what went into the writing of your favorite songs? What in the world inspires artists to write what they write? Or even the random places they have written music? Well, below is an interview with four very talented hip-hp artists (Allen Poe, Tino, Joey Aich, and Kwab aka Y.e.S) who all have different versions of the writing process. They were all asked the exact same questions, yet in their answers you may note some large differences. Compare and contrast all of the answers, and see what these guys go through in order to pen your possible next favorite song! The artists will be color coated to make reading this article a bit easier, so give it a glance, and be sure to comment any thoughts below!

Tino-T     Allen Poe-AP     Joey Aich-JA     Kwab-K

1.) Introduce yourself (name, where your from and how long you've been making music)
T-  I'm Tino.  I'm from Cleveland Ohio, but now live and operate out of Dayton Ohio. I've been writing music for five years now and I've been a serious musician for three and a half years.
AP- I'm Allen Poe, MC from Frankfort, Kentucky.  I've been rhyming since '95 and dropped my first record in 2011.
JA-  I'm Joey Aich, a starving artist from Cleveland trying to get free chipotle. I'm been recording music since I was 15 years old. 
K- My name is Kwab aka Y.e.S! and I am originally from Ghana, Africa but I currently reside in New Jersey. I have been making music for about 8 or so years.

2.) What made you want to begin making music?
T-  I started writing while on vacation for a friends destination wedding. I wasn't a fan of the Florida's climate so I'd stay inside most days and have the whole condo to myself. It was during this time I could play my music as loud as I wanted. While listening I just started writing one afternoon and haven't stopped since.
AP-  I used to like to write poetry in school when I was young.  Once I dug into hip hop and started getting my hands on instrumentals the writing naturally combined. 
JA- I always wanted to make music because music and performing have always been a big part of my life from church choir to school plays and what not, but it wasn't until my grandmother passed away in my senior year of high school and I finished a verse to a song (Exhibit J) in dedication to her that I knew I wanted to continue to pursue music. I wanted to actually get into a studio and publicly release songs and embrace the biggest critic in the world today, the internet. 
K- Always had a passion for it and enjoyed the culture. I was always writing bits of poetry and lyrics when I was younger because it was always good outlet to get my ideas out. It eventually evolved from that to house party rap battles to putting together tracks for different projects. 

3.) Where do you get ideas for songs, lyrics, and hooks?
T- May seem generic, but life inspires what I do. It can be my life which fueled the creation of songs like Time Clock Blues which is about hating my old 9 to 5, and Bonus Stage which is about my love of video games or it could be life as a collective which has been the base for my more socially conscious subject matter.
AP- I get them from everything I see and think and feel.  The beat will give direction too.
JA-  I get most of my inspiration for songs through living life. My music is a strong reflection of what I'm going through or thinking about.
K- I always incorporate my life into my music so my ideas usually come from a personal perspective even if its just a braggadocios track. I always try to listen to different genres of music to see if I can incorporate it my music and style. I also try to be in the company of talented (not just music) people around me in order to get different types of ideas, perspectives and inspiration.

4.) Do you have a certain routine when writing new music?
T- I used to write really late at night. There is something special about that state of thought just between sleep and awake. Now my writing is much more free form.
AP- A few songs might not be wrote to the music, but mostly I listen to the beat and try not to think about anything else.  Once I get a feel for it the writing begins. 
JA- I try my best not to force it. I feel like when I sit down and say "I'm gonna write this verse today," I fall short and end up forcing lyrics and concepts. I usually jot down all my thoughts in the note section of my phone to keep ideas while I'm mobile or just not in a writing mood and revisit them later. Also, since I'm still in college finishing my senior year at Denison University, I keep a notebook and during class I'll flip to the end of book and just write what ever comes to mind. If you look inside of a notebook of mine you'll find drawings, lyrics, ideas, anything music related. 
Joey Aich
K- I usually get a concept or direction in mind and listen to the beat a bunch of times to get a feel for it. Then I usually go about putting together my verses and hook. Sometimes its a free flowing process and at times very methodical depending on the track. Some tracks just come easy and I am able to complete it in a short amount of time without any changes. Very personal and introspective records usually take a while to write because I tend to rewrite things if it becomes too much or "regrettable".

5.) Where do you normally write your music at? (Weirdest place you've ever written at?)
T- I normally write most of my music from my couch. I'll also write where ever a line comes to me, that could be the car, a concert, a wedding, in the line at Chipotle . Almost anyplace where there's music is a place a song can be birthed.
AP- I write at night at home most nights.  I try to write in different spots when I can.  Different settings can add different color to the track.
JA-  Usually just in my notes on my phone or in notebooks. The weirdest place I've written at isn't really that weird but I was at dinner and just wrote on a napkin. As far as places I write. In bed at night is probably the best place I get thoughts. 
K- I usually write anywhere I am able to zone in and focus. I have written songs in different places such as during recording sessions to crowded train rides. I don't really have any weird places that I have written music in my opinion. Whenever I am able to just lock in and focus regardless of the outside distractions is when I am at my best writing music. 

6.) When writing down verses, what materials do you use? (phone, pen, computer, etc.)
T-  I was a laptop writer, but when it died I switched to my phone and have written on it exclusively. It's nice to be able to capture whatever thought, line, song title, or melody immediately.
AP-  I always use my phone.  I just started working on something and I'm going to write with pad and pen only for it.  The phone is convenient but I think something might be getting lost without actual 'writing'.  
Allen Poe
JA- Just phone and pen.
K- I usually write on my phone because it is easier to jot down ideas, lyrics and concepts right in the palm of my hand. It makes it an easy process compared to writing on paper and I have the lyrics saved right on my phone in case I need to make improvements or reference from it at a later time. 

7.) You're a rapper, but could you write for other genres or artists?
T- I write melodies for hooks to be sung by other artists for my projects and a few of my songs could easily be sung so I believe I could do some R&B writing if my heart was in it.
AP- If it were a homie and we were collaborating or there was a hook written for somebody else, I've done that a lot.  If another rapper felt like their money was worth my rhymes I'd  be interested.
JA-  Could I write for someone else? I doubt it, but could I write for my self in a different genre? I believe so. I'm actually trying to get into country music. I think I would get a greater attendance at my shows I don't know just a thought haha.
K- Yeah I believe so. I listen to other genres such as R&B or soul music in order to draw inspiration to my own work so if need be I could put together something for another genre. 

8.) Do you write verses before or after you find an instrumental to work with?
T- On occasion I'll write a few lines without music, but I believe instrumentals and verses should compliment one another and even a dope verse may never find a home without the write production to accompany it.
AP- It can be before but usually it's after for me.  The instrumental gives so much energy and influence to the overall song it seems it should be part of my creation process.
JA-  Depends. Sometimes I find inspiration through the beat. I'll hear a beat and I'll say "I know exactly what I want to say on this," or I'll write something just in down time and when I hear a beat I'll find a way to get them to work together. 
K- A bit of both. Sometimes I have verses written that my producer is able to craft a beat that fits the idea and concepts. Other times I draw inspiration from the beat and go from there. 

9.) Where was your best song/verse written?
T-  Back in 86, one of my best songs was written at my girlfriends townhouse.
AP- Probably at home just by volume of where songs have been created.
JA- The best song I've written? Damn that's actually tough. There are some that I just feel very passionate about like Exhibit J, Smooth Hardcore and Acknowledgement. and there are others where I just have a lot of fun with like Early Bird, Loading, Greyhound, or 40oz. To me one of my favorite verses is my verse on The Pleasures off the Knock 5 Compilation album. I just feel like that verse screams Joey Aich. Its me, its my dreams, its my goals, its just a Joey Aich ass verse haha. 
K- Probably at my dinner table at like 3 or 4 am. I was going through some things and spent the better part of the night and morning just writing songs for a previous project. I was able put together a couple of my favorite songs that night. 

10.) Any advice for up and coming rhymers that may struggle with the writing process?
T- I think the biggest mistake any artist can make is lusting for results. When you want to write hits and focus on getting plays is when you taint your process and impede your ability to do so. I would also suggest doing something outside of your comfort zone when you experience writers block. Doing something you're not familiar with can help you develop a new approach to your traditional style or help you incorporate a new style altogether.
AP- Be alone some to read and think.  Write a little bit everyday, consistency is king.
JA- My biggest advise is write write write, but don't force it. Let it come to you. Let the ideas come organically. Like I said before some of my worse verses come when I sit down and say I am going to write this verse. Another bit of advise is to be creative and push envelopes as much as possible. 
K- Practice and patience. Its okay to struggle but just keep at it till you are satisfied and even then keep going. Writing can at times be easy but there are times you will hit a block. Just keep at it and keep the same passion you have mentally regardless if you are struggling. 

11.) Do you think other artists will have similar or the same answers? Why or why not?
T-  I think there will be some similarities, but nobodies process is the same. I know emcees who don't write, ones who only write in notebooks, and some that write in a phone like me. It's all about what's comfortable and works best for you which isn't a one size fits all type of thing.
AP- I think creation is unique to the creator so I would expect some variation, but at the end of the day it's putting thoughts into written form so it all comes out the same.
JA- For some yes, for other no. I think everyone has their own unique regimens yah know. Like every batter in baseball has a different batting stance or routine as they approach the plate, but the goal is still to get on base, score runs, and win games. 
K- Yes  and no. I think all artists are similar at times when it comes to the writing process. They usually have to write ideas and lyrics or at least make mental notes when they get inspired but everyone has an overall different routine and process.

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