The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. In some songs, the producer is both the band leader and the band, yet his or her name is often unknown. Every other week, with Beat Construction, an extension of our column in the magazine, we aim to illuminate the role producers are playing in creating some of our favorite music. This week, we talk with Texas based Beautiful Lou. Check below for an interview, download Lou’s EP and go ahead to the next page to check out a selection of some of his favorite tracks.
How did you get into hip-hop? Really it was breakdancing. Once I came to Dallas it was real big. It was around ’98, ’99. It was just breakdancing. I had liked rap and everything before then, but I started getting into the funk and other stuff, electro and what we were breakdancing to. From there, it led me to things I found I liked more, like Outkast, UGK and the shit you can ride around to. That’s what I was pretty much doing, riding around and smoking and shit.
Why did you start producing? Mostly I would say east coast music, like RZA—and UGK were doing samples too—but there’s something about it. That little piece of music and being able to stretch it out and evoke an emotion just with that vocal sample. The first time I heard some RZA productions, like on 36 Chambers, and he was using little voices and stuff, to me it was almost like a little part of a movie. You can visualize that whole scene based off that little sample, from whatever record or whatever piece in time, and it just helps create that vibe. You always hear people talk about rap as cinematic, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big budget movie, which is what I think people associate it with, it could be a little piece of history that gets made into something else. You can really take something that sounds soft, like flutes and shit like that, that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the kind of area that we’re around, but it really just fits. My thing was if you put enough bass behind it, anything goes. The rules get thrown out the door and people will start rapping. You could throw it behind the weirdest sample out there, but if you have a nice beat behind it they don’t care, they’ll go off. There’s no rules to it.
What gear do you use to make beats? I use the same stuff that I’ve been using since I first started. I just use a Boss drum machine. I use a Nero program from like ’98 that I use to chop my samples up. I love to try and make the most with the littlest thing I’ve got. Someone like Madlib, that stuff is a real big inspiration, because he does it all with a little Fisher Price turntable. I love that shit. You don’t need anything really to make classic shit. You just need the right vibe and originality with it. For the time period that I like to sample from, I love the new wave sound and all that kind of shit. I usually go for CDs, so I go to Half Price Books and buy all their CDs up. Depeche Mode, shit like that, New Order. I didn’t know what the hell I was listening to when I was a little kid, but for some reason those voices and those instruments drew me to it automatically. That’s what I want to use. Subconsciously that’s why I like it, because that was the first kind of music I listened to. I knew nothing about it, but I knew I liked it.
What rappers have you worked with? I’ll be honest, no one from Dallas or San Antonio was really fucking with my shit. They liked it, but the people that wanted to rap on it didn’t really get it. I was shopping it to Tum Tum, I was shopping it to more gangster types, street types, and they weren’t really trying to get what I was doing. But those are the rappers I love. I wasn’t really feeling the content or whatever they were doing. They didn’t seem genuine to me. I was trying to get them to rap but no one was really fucking with it. I don’t blame them. It’s kind of hard when you’re building up an image and this sound that you’re doing and I come along with this weird shit. You could lose fans like that. I didn’t blame them. No one was really fucking with me, and I wasn’t really fucking with the internet too heavy. I just got a Twitter account. I didn’t know nothing about the internet, bro. I was trying to keep it local. I wasn’t fucking with Myspace or that kind of shit because I didn’t want to work with anybody from a different part of the country. I wanted to work with these people because I grew up here and I wanted to expose the rest of the world to these people. It was real hard because they weren’t really working with me too well. I come across Lil B and I’m like, All right, I’m going to send him some stuff. He sends me back the track and I bug out. This is probably the biggest thing that I had done so far. We did “Cocaine” together, he’s telling me to send him more beats. I started researching who was doing his beats, because I was liking his sound, and that’s how I found out about Clams Casino, Squadda B, Keyboard Kid. Really, I loved the sound and vibe that Squadda and Mondre and Shady Blaze were doing, so of course I’d go and send them shit. I figured, based on the beats that Squadda was making, that we would click. It just seemed like it would be in my lane. I was finding all these people that were in the same mindset. I really felt alone, I felt like no one was doing the same thing I was doing. Maybe I was just doing shit that just wasn’t ready yet. Then I started finding these producers and rappers like Lil B and Squadda B and it really made me want to keep going. I was like all right, maybe there is a lane for it, maybe people are gravitating toward it. I can only speak locally for this scene, but it really is popping off. Lil B is blowing up huge around here. People ask me about it, and I didn’t think anybody would know who he is. It’s opening up that lane. Even Squadda is getting his name down here too. I’m trying to get his name out there, doing that promo heavy down here. It feels real good to click with these people on the internet. It amazes me that people from France or wherever are hitting me up for beats. Bless the internet man, I don’t know what to do about it bro. I love all that shit now.