Production is an undeniable and absolutely necessary skill in music. In hip hop it might be an even more integral as part of the culture because certain sounds have become tied to artists and even to an era in general. A production group by the name of The Heatmakerz has a sound that has been a staple for certain artists, and to a time period in hip-hop as a whole. The multiplatinum group has produced for Kanye West, Lil' Wayne, Beyonce, and most notably, the Diplomats. I had a chance to sit down with Rsonist of the group to ask how he got into music, what his thoughts are on technology breakthroughs in music, and where he feels hip-hop is headed. Hearing from such a veteran highlighted some things I had never thought about before, and he even told me a bit about what to expect from the new mixtape the Diplomats will be releasing.
Ironically, Rsonist did not grow up listening to hip-hop music at all. His family is Jamaican so he always had a much better knowledge of Reggae music. The first hip-hop record he explicitly remembers listening to is "Cop Killer" by Ice-T, which he embarrassingly said, knowing that he got into the genre late in life. Originally he had gotten into hip-hop because he had a friend who was a DJ, and would pick up on hearing different records from him. From there he thought it would be fun to starting being a DJ himself, and that is when his knowledge of the genre really started to take off.
He realized that hip-hop was more than a hobby the first time he was sitting in a studio with the legendary Big Pun and his protégé Fat Joe. He was doing a listening session with them on beats he had made, and asked Fat Joe what new producers typically get paid per track. He was told that $5,000 and up was what he could expect. Rsonist says that at that moment he was having a flurry of thoughts,
"When Joe said $5,000 I just realized that if I take this seriously I could really turn this into something. Because even then I knew it was all about relationships. You know, for a producer who's only been doing this a few months to be in the studio with these guys was huge. I knew people who had been doing it for years, and could never get this meeting. From there I knew it was always just going to be about figuring out that six degrees of separation. It was common sense. That's when I knew."
For an artist who has been in music so long, he says that he never makes tracks with a specific artist in mind because he believes it stifles his creativity. Instead, he will make the beat, and then think about whom he thinks would be well suited to it. A big problem with hip-hop today is that people are not worried about creativity, but are too worried about jumping on the trends that are popular. The Heatmakerz themselves are known for a particular sound, and he says they kept it that way because it is more true to who they are. He realizes certain sounds just are not meant for certain artists, and even though it may preclude him from working with certain people, it does not bother him in the long run.
Curious as to his views about how technology changed music, he was extremely passionate, saying,
"Technology ruined music. It opened the floodgates. Yes, the gatekeepers have been eliminated, but it diluted the quality. It's just too easy now. You can download a program, and do drag and drop to make beats, which makes you a DJ. If you decide you don't care for it anymore, you delete your hard drive. I could have never deleted my 13 crates of records I carried around from show to show. Also, since it's so easy now people don't have to pay their dues anymore. Everyone feels entitled to fame. Technology just really f*cked up the music game."
On the evolution of hip-hop since he started over a decade ago, he says he is not upset with how things are. Part of him is protecting his childhood wishing things would stay the same, but he realizes it could not have stayed that way. It needed to evolve. He said since hip-hop had no guidelines, everyone was able to come in and change things to the way they liked. The lack of referees has been good and bad.
An issue he thinks may arise from the lack of guidelines is an implosion of hip-hip. Because there are no rules, it has been increasingly going from what he defined as music, which was sound combined with feeling to a state of sound alone. Soon he feels people will ask themselves why they are listening to something that is just noise.
Instead of worrying about those things though, Rsonist has been busy at work. These days he has been focusing on a new artist they have been working with by the name of Mally Stackz, and have been putting all their energy into the new project that will be dropping by the Diplomats in the near future. He said he really believes this will be what true hip-hop fans have been waiting for.
One would imagine that a group who has sold millions of records, worked with the biggest artists in their genre, and had every success possible with their profession would be content, but that is not the case. The Heatmakerz have been hard at work to put out the music they know their fans love. He said there are things in the pipeline we should really look out for, and that we will definitely be hearing more about them in 2015.