So I'm on Facebook one day and up pops a Facebook Live notification for 'BEATS+CHILL'. Naturally I click on it because, you know... beats. If you're not familiar with this live stream/beat showcase/beatmaking session, STLNDRMS captures his viewers by including them in the conversation as much as possible during these sessions. It feels like you're in the room taking part in the process. There's community. To top it all off, the audio and video production quality are top notch which is what's usually missing from most independent hip hop endeavors.
Having first touched FL Studio back when it was called Fruity Loops circa 2001, STLNDRMS recalls falling into beatmaking because he needed beats.
"When I first started, I wanted to be a rapper. I low key had a record deal at one point in time. I needed beats and was looking for a certain sound I couldn’t find anywhere so I started making my own beats. I kinda liked it better so… I mean low key, every producer is a rapper."
Once he started buying equipment, he picked up an (MPC) 60 and an ASR-10. I had a chance to catch up with the elusive producer to ask a few questions I've had on my mind since first seeing his well thought out show.
--How did you come up with the idea for BEATS+CHILL? And did you think it would take off the way it did?
I was influenced by early Soulection and Future Beats Radio. I liked that you can make instrumental music and you didn’t have to have any other attachments or co-signs. In my attempt to get my music out to the masses, I was texting all my friends and sending beats everyday….I like to create a lot. I kept sending beats (to people's phones) and they would say “stop hittin' my phone, you keep sending me WAV files everyday!”
It got to a point where I thought, OK I gotta do something else. Then I did a Facebook live video and a lot of people responded. I had no idea it would take off the way it did. I got the idea from some motivational speaker’s e-book. Over time, I got competitive and kept working on the look. For someone that used to make videos for a living, I thought I can’t have the look not match the wave.You seem comfortable in front of the camera...is that something you had to get used to?
All of this came from wanting to be a rapper. I didn’t have anyone to shoot videos, so what do you do? Shoot your own. You need photos? Same thing. Website? Same thing. All those things turned into key jobs over time. And now they’re coming full circle where I’m using my super powers for good type of thing to build this music wave.What is the most surprising feedback you have received since starting BEATS+CHILL?
Little kids like it! Someone has said their daughter won’t go to sleep until she hears some STLNDRMS. That’s probably the craziest. I love it.What was the first song (or beat) you heard that made you say “I want to be a part of hip hop”? Where were you when you heard it?
It wasn’t a record. It was a Black Thought freestyle.
Every time they gave him a word, he would turn it into a couple of bars, it was dope. I was in middle school when I saw that.
Music has been a part of me forever. I played drums for a little bit...my mother sang. And my uncle had a music store as well. Music has always been a part of my life but at that point in time, I wanted to be Black Thought.Are you originally from Atlanta? How has Atlanta had an effect on your creativity?
My family is from Detroit. I was a military brat so I lived everywhere. Between my father being in the military, and then me being in the military plus entertainment...I’d say I’ve lived in over ten countries.
My tempos and drum patterns are affected by being here. I don’t listen to a lot of trap but it affects everything here. Being in a space like a big club and hearing that, it’s in the DNA of the city. I have been here for about six / seven years, you can not be affected by it.Describe Atlanta's beat scene.
Its fun! We do a weekly thing called Controllerise thats getting some traction. It’s like an homage to Low End Theory out in Cali. It’s getting 100k impressions or something goofy like that...5k-10k every time we do it. It’s growing. There’s been regional notoriety. There are folks I keep seeing on blogs that came out of that. It's cool because we see all these super talented people come out week to week. Controllerise is a collective of about 20 dudes that participate. Some do photography, some do video….we’re a collective for sure.How important is your gear selection?
I can work in any program. I bought Ableton a couple of weeks back just to familiarize myself. But once I understood and learned how to use it and made a couple of beats, I sold it and went back to my (Akai) MPC. The MPC and my brain works the same way but I can produce in Logic, Maschine, and the SPs (Roland SP303 / 404sx). I just made some stuff on the 303 the other day. I liked that actually, that felt really good. I might make some more stuff on that. But I prefer the MPC and the SPs...both of those feel like extensions of my hands.When you are not making beats, what are you doing? From the looks of your output, is it safe to assume you make beats on a daily basis? How do you manage to balance life and art?
If I’m not making records, I’m with the family, or working on the next Controllerise event or some other kind of creative venture.What’s your secret to maintaining that output and creating daily?
Like with anything else that I’ve done in life, I feel consistency is important. It's like a muscle right? If you don’t use your muscle, you just lose it after awhile. I stay creating on a daily basis so I can stay in shape.Outside of music, what inspires you to create?
Everything man. I can be hanging out with my kids and they can say something cool. I could be playing video games and I can hear a couple of tones that sound cool. Anything really. Smells, certain foods….everything has a certain level of inspiration for sure.If you could go back in time, what would you say to the 16 year old version of yourself?
Man, 16! I probably couldn’t talk to my 16 year old self. He was a wild dude.Let’s talk artists for a second. Who are your top three wishlist artists (artists you would like to work with)?
Great question. Thundercat, Raphael Saadiq, and DJ Quik. Quik for his engineering and studio prowess. Plus he seems hella weird so he’d probably be fun to hang out with.Speaking of artists, do you prefer to work alone creating beats or producing songs with artists?
I like producing with folks and building...especially when you have influence.That recurring dream you have...what is it about?
The pursuit of creativity. Being able to breathe easy because I’ve already created the matrix.What sound do you love?
There is a pocket of Brazilian Soul from the mid-70s. There’s a certain tone they had that sounds crazy even though it's very heavily sampled.
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