Bring The Beat Back | Brief synopsis
producer | noun | /prəˈd(y)o͞osər/ A person who supervises the making of a musical recording, especially by determining the overall sound.
Hip-hop was born in the Bronx in 1973 and the DJ was its midwife: Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. A decade later, the producer had replaced the DJ as hip-hop’s musical conductor thus cementing a holy musical trinity of DJ, MC, and producer that has defined the music since. Often hidden in bedrooms and basements, slaving over samplers, turntables and collections of vinyl records, the producer crafted the beats that propelled hip-hop forward.
As hip-hop exited its teenage years in the 1990s, the shadows of its mainstream became a breeding ground for musical innovations that sidelined the MC in favour of the producer and would culminate, twenty years later, in a rearranging of the music’s traditional power structures. A new generation, raised with hip-hop music as a standard not an exception, took hip-hop’s original ethos of ‘do with what you have’ and applied it to sonic experimentations that pushed forward the acceptance of the producer as artist and the dominance of beat-driven music.
This is the first and definitive history of the evolution of hip-hop’s production aesthetics in its third and fourth decades. How we got from DJ Shadow in the 1990s to Flying Lotus in the 2010s. How hip-hop rekindled its electronic roots, because the music in this story is hip-hop and it is electronic. How producers stepped out of their bedroom studios and onto the stage, taking ownership of their art without the MC and fulfilling a prophecy first heralded by the DJ a decade earlier. How the holy trinity of hip-hop music making balanced itself out. How technology fostered this evolution. And how one social network changed everything, forever. And if all this doesn’t mean much to you, it’s also a story about the current popularity of EDM and its cult of the artist, because many of the artists in this story are the favourites of your favourite EDM DJ or producer.
This is a book about people, cities, record shops and night clubs; about connections made and bad timings; about figureheads and unknown pioneers; about the death of regional flavours and the rise of global sounds; about how everything moves in cycles. Last but not least it’s a book about the beat, one of the most formidable primordial forces in existence.
It all starts in the bedroom. That’s the setting shot.
Considering its subject I’ve decided to lay the book out as if it was an album. The book is split into three parts, with 13 tracks (chapters) and a handful of interludes, shorter sections that cover themes that are relevant to the overall story being told. View the current chapters here.
The story I seek to tell is a personal one in many ways, it is informed by my own experiences and ideas. Yet, a personal angle alone isn’t sufficient to carry something like this, much less valid. As such I’ve spent the past few years travelling the world (and racking up phone and Skype bills) to interview and speak with as many of the characters involved in the evolution of the producer as I can. I’ve conducted over 100 interviews with artists, label managers, and people behind the scenes. You can view the full list here.
When, where, what?
The book is currently being written. I am looking for publishers so if anyone reading this is interested, please get in touch. I am hoping to have something out there by 2016/17. The first step should be a physical book. The next step will be a digital book, with an interactive element to it. A final step would be a multimedia, travelling installation. One step at a time though.
In the meantime the research portion of this website serves as a sort of free version of the book, fragmented that is.