So why the novel long explanation of this mixtape? Producing for artists over the past 8 years, I've spent alot of time in the studio, one on one, with them. Sometimes my favorite part was getting insight on the rapper's lyrics. A prime example is our long time collaborator and good friend Ray Cash. The dude is a beast lyrically. I always look forward to recording with him. At the end of the session we would be listening to the song and he would break down all the hidden references and meanings between the lines. I suggested he include on his website a video of him doing this because to me it made the songs that much more interesting. For this reason, I'm including a complete breakdown of my "Trap or Dub" mix. Yeah it's alot of info, but if I don't tell you, maybe it'll go over your head and you'll just assume I'm throwing random stuff together and BAM! there you go. Not quite.
First things first, don't take this mixtape too seriously. It was something I did for fun over the course of a single weekend, with the exception of a few minor edits. Don't get mad there's no exclusives, it's not that kind of tape. I consider Trap or Dub in the "Rap Phenomenon" category, meaning a "conceptual creative mixtape." Some of the acapellas sound low quality because that's all that was available at the moment. I wasn't trying to win a grammy with this thing, just acting on an instant's thought and having some fun with it.
Listening to Dubstep for the first time several years ago, I heard similarities to southern rap. Obviously, the tempo. Southern rap usually ranges from 70-80 bpm, while Dubstep is generally around 70. Secondly, the music has a dark grimey feel. Dubstep is associated with London's popular Grime scene, which definitely qualifies as "street." Grime's star Dizzee Rascal was stabbed 5 times the week his debut album dropped by a feuding crew. I guess that's street cred. The point is, Dubstep and street rap are not meant for the radio. The fans of both these genres like the music dark and what dubstep fans call "filthy." Recognizing this, I wanted to make the dirtiest blend I could. Jeezy X Gucci X Dubstep. In my head, the sonic roller coaster Dubstep music takes you reflects the intense day to day street life Jeezy and Gucci describe in their music. Fast money, cars, women, shootouts, fame, betrayal. It's all in the music.
One reason I took on this mix was for the challenge. I know plenty of good songs I can mix into your average podcast but that's not very fun, interesting, or risky. It's difficult mixing two different genres into a complete cohesive project. I come from an electronic background as well as Hip Hop, so it's easy for me to recognize what elements to draw from both to make it work. That doesn't mean you're going to please everyone. I know alot of rap fans may have never heard any Dubstep before, so I wanted to highlight some of the bangers they missed out on. Caspa's remix of "Where's My Money" was one track that blew me away when I first heard it, Skream's "Midnight Request Line" was a huge single as well. While some Dubstep fans may desire more underground tunes, I was more focused on highlighting the jams that have brought the genre to the forefront. The only time I swayed from this approach was when I heard a dub track that clearly sounded more like rap, as in the case of Boregore's "Ice Cream." Hearing the 808's on that track remind me of any song you'd hear playing in a southern hip hop club.
My style of creating a mixtape is like a combination of painting a picture and piecing together a puzzle. It's truly a work of art, carved from stone, painted on a canvas. I approach the project with the same mindset I would as a producer. What's the story I'm trying to tell? What's the point I'm trying to make? Trap or Dub is a mixtape movie, "Fear and Loathing in Atlanta," a psychedelic trip through the streets. Instrumentally, think Shawty Redd on shrooms. I also wanted to bring to attention how similar Jeezy and Gucci are and how well they compliment each other. First I structured the tracks. Usually in Hip Hop, stripped down works better. It leaves room for the vocals. I found there's almost always a breakdown in Dubstep beats that could easily be looped for 16 bars. After the vocal was set in place, I searched through the instrumental and found all the sick drops and sequenced them in the mix, usually for the hook. I'd put an ad lib in the beginning or end of the verse to smooth over transitions. That's the easy part. Below is a breakdown of my puzzle pieces and how I pieced them together.
I wanted the mix to have a cinematic intro. I found a short excerpt from a documentary where Big Meech, leader of the multi-million dollar criminal empire BMF (closely linked to Jeezy), breaks down his philosophy on success and music. I believe this quote puts the listener in the right frame of mind. Afterall, this mixtape features the game's two biggest trap rappers, Jeezy and Gucci, a genre of music defined as dopeboy music. Who better to start off the mixtape than the real life rap version of Tony Montana? It's doesn't get more real than that.
The mix begins similar to the original Trap or Die mixtape with a classic Jeezy sound clip that ends with DJ Drama stating, "cause that's the type of shit we do" leading into the first track, a blend of Jeezy's "Do the Damn Thing" and Joker's "Do It." Besides the common "Do" theme between the tracks, Joker's pizzicato's in the beat reminded me of Shawty Redd's production on Thug Motivation 101's intro track "Let's Get It."
An introduction to Young Jeezy. Can't remember the interview I snatched this sound bite from but basically I dropped a grimey beat under it and added some cuts.
Jeezy's "Trap or Die" was THE anthem. I had to blend it with the Dubstep anthem, TC - "Where's My Money (Caspa Remix)." The first time I heard this track, my sub speakers sounded like machine gun fire. I left in the "where's my money" vocal sample from the beat because it seemed to work with the dopeboy theme of the mixtape.
Introduction to Gucci Mane. I thought the beef should be recognized early in the mixtape since that's all everyone associates with the two rappers. This was a diss Gucci recorded calling out Young Jeezy called "Round One." I put the vocals over Jakes "Rock tha Bells" track. The bells in the beat sound like a boxing match which makes sense with Gucci's hook. I wish I could've found a harder verse from Jeezy on this one.
This is just a cool party break basically. I like Shawty Redd's vocals and sounded good when pitched down against Rusko's "Woo Boost." More thug inspiration half way through the track from a Jeezy interview.
When I heard Borgore's "Ice Cream" it first struck me as a rap track. About 72 bpm or so with some heavy 808's on a stripped down beat. It drops real nasty in the hook and has cut up vocals of a girl moaning. I chopped the open parts of the beat to make room for Gucci and replaced some of the moans in the hook with his chopped vocals. Overall both tracks fit the theme, freaky-ness. Bam!
Another track from Gucci Mane mixed with Skream's banger "Midnight Request Line." The "Pillz" vocals worked great on this spacey bassed out cut. When you listen to this instrumental you zone out! I brought Jeezy in on the second verse. His flow is a little more laid back which fits the trippy beat. Peep the gunshots already laced in the track throughout Jeezy's verse. Gangster.
This beat was a hands down banger to me. I love the strings and big stabs. Definitely leans towards rap on the verses with the big Dub drops during the hook. Jeezy and Gucci on the track. Mission accomplished.
Not only is the beat a bassed out killer, but once I heard the vocal sample "Guess I got my Swagger Back," I was sold. It was easy to see the rap influence on the production side and how it could easily exist in Jeezy and Gucci's realm. I chopped it up and made it work, splicing the rappers vocals throughout the hook.
I needed Joker on this mixtape once more. He's often called the Timbaland of Dubstep, or possibly just the next Timbaland. After the intense vibe of the previous few songs I wanted to bring it down a bit before the mixtape's closer. I thought it worked out perfectly that Jeezy begins the second verse with, "If you feelin like a pimp dog.." playing of Gucci's hook "I'm a dog..." I let the smoked out beat ride for a minute at the end, like a cool down walk after a jog. I also included an excerpt from the famous DJ Drama phone conversation with Jeezy and Gucci attempting to resolve the beef.
I wanted to end the mix on a lighter note, so I up'd the BPM to 80 something and started the track off with Jeezy, Gucci, and Drama cracking a joke like three old friends. The mixtape comes full circle with the final song being the only official song the two have done together (besides Trap or Die 2 remix), "So Icey." The R&B hook didn't work for the tune so I replaced using lines from Gucci "I'm the shit" with Jeezy's reply back, taken from a completely different song. The end product sounds as if the two are trading lines on the hook. The R&B vocalist cut into Jeezy's final line on the verse saying "I'm with the Gucci Mane and I'm so icey" so I took Gucci saying "I'm so icey" from the second verse and replaced Jeezy's part. The result sounds as if Gucci is finishing off Jeezy's line. I liked the idea of teamwork there. haha
So, the mixtape ends with a happy ending. But is this really the ending!? Who knows? Anyway, this write up was due an hour ago and people are waiting on this tape to drop so I'll make my closing brief. I had fun making this mix and hope you enjoyed it. There will be more in the future. I'm a part of band, The KickDrums, make sure you google us and check out our newest material. It's faaaar from Trap Music, but hopefully there's listeners out there who enjoy and appreciate different music as I do. Maybe that will be my next essay. Enjoy!
PS - REMEMBER, Gucci's album and Jeezy's album are in stores Sept 28th. Support two of the realest, and go cop that.