Festival Fast Talk:
BoomBaptist

If you caught our previous Festival Fast Talk, you saw that we spent time at the Red Bull Music Academy at Bonnaroo. The facility was a spot that Red Bull set up, bringing 20+ producers together, granting them time in fully stocked studios, having Mannie Fresh and Thundercat lecture them, and encouraging them to write music.

Though the entire crowd of producers were all great, one producer who definitely resonated inside the pack was BoomBaptist. Just as his moniker implies, he religiously studies the art of boom bap, making offerings to its church in the guise of hip hop beats and heavy grooves. BoomBaptist makes hard hitting and soulful beats over chops of kitwork and carefully queued samples. Be careful, his tracks might just give you whiplash if you’re not paying attention to how hard you’re nodding along when the snare follows the kick and it hits so hard its difficult not to just be like “damn.”

How did you start making music?

My mother instilled a love for music in me as a child. She was a very talented pianist, extremely focused, and dedicated to her craft. She put me through piano lessons early on in life, around six years old, I believe. But as far back as I could remember, I was drawn to the medium. Supposedly I would play the glockenspiel for hours and rock to the rhythm of washing machines as I sat on top of them.

Several years later, when I was exposed to East-coast rap on the radio in Miami, I obsessively studied all the production greats of that era—early ’90s—Premier, Dilla, Pete Rock, Diamond D, etc., etc. I realized that what drew me to those records was the production. At the time, a couple of friends and I had invested in our first turntables/mixer. The package was called the Gemini Starter Kit and was the budget option for people wanting to get their feet wet with DJing. Around the same time, I started dabbling with other styles, playing in a couple of jazz groups (percussion/woodwinds), a Latin group, etc. But ultimately, I had a real love for hip-hop and its production. About a year later, I discovered a free online program named Fruity Loops that was a very elementary option, and that sparked what became BoomBaptist.

What equipment did you initially use?

When I decided to become serious with music, I bought my first MPC and remained very faithful to the brand (2000, 2000XL, 1000, 5000). There was something so satisfying about chopping samples and physically playing drum parts, basslines, etc., all on one machine. The sound the machine would produce was unrivaled by computers, and I think the MPC contributed to the gritty sound that had me swooniing as a kid.

Has it changed over the years?

I eventually embraced computers, much to my chagrin. Sony Acid, Reason, Logic, and eventually Ableton, which is my current DAW. I have struck a balance between my MPC approach—chopping samples, and synthesis within Ableton and other VSTs (Native Instruments, Spectrasonics, Arturia). I still buy vinyl to sample it and very firmly believe in that tradition.

What are your main influences?

Recently I have been immersed in music that really moves me beyond the head-nod that hip-hop is known for. I still very much seek out that style, but [also like] jazz-fusion, boogie, instrumental hip-hop, etc. As of late, a lot of Jaco Pastorious, George Duke, Taylor McFerrin, Thundercat, Diggs Duke, Flying Lotus, Steve Spacek, Electric Wire Hustle, Mndsgn, Sasac, Lindsey Lowend, Moods, Samiyam, Jai Paul, Tall Black Guy, Robert Glasper. I really appreciate music.

Could you walk through the production of your J Dilla tribute “Toucan Wing?”

The label I am currently on, Feelin Music, put a great Dilla Tribute compilation out, called “Do the Dilla.” They asked a great group of producers to reinterpret Dillla. Each producer was assigned a song, and the outcome was pretty spectacular. I had always idolized Dilla, so the project was even more meaningful to me, as I would have considered his work immortal and untouchable otherwise. I followed his track all the way back to the sample source, a lovely song by The Sylvers, called “Only One Can Win.” I have always been drawn to big four- or five-part vocal harmonies in my sampling (Close Curtains, Too Late, Bang Bang). There was a really lovely section of the song that was never touched by Dilla, which would serve as the foundation of my song. The session was a really special one, as I felt in a way I was channeling him. Dilla’s “Donuts” served as a huge leap forward in the realm of instrumental hip-hop, so it was really an honor to be able to reinterpret the work of such a giant.

How was your Bonnaroo?

Very inspirational. I attended the fest as a participant of Red Bull Music Academy’s Bass Camp. The concept was to create five state-of-the-art studios in the middle of the camp and place 22 musicians in there, forced to collaborate and step outside of their comfort zone. The results were really interesting. Being around so many creative minds, this is the way the sessions would work. Someone would be whistling “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” then another producer outside suggested chopping the hook; within 20 minutes, a beatmaker would be adding a drum kit to the sample, a pianist would be playing wurly over the hook, a bassist would be laying down something on the moog, and before we knew it someone was writing a verse down. The whole experience was so communal and infectious, it’s really difficult to explain well, because in five days we all became very close and left the festival/camp with a completely unique bond.

Favorite act to see?

I barely participated in the festival itself because we were so busy working and creating. Most nights we were up till 6 or 7am with a variety of collaborators sliding in and out of the sessions. However, I have a tremendous appreciation for James Blake and was able to see him serenade the audience into a catatonic state. His sets are so varied, he commands a silence upon his audience that is really special and almost spiritual.

What was it like kicking it with Mannie Fresh?

Mannie Fresh has such a positive and motivated approach to music, I think most of the participants could feel his openness and familiarity. New Orleans, in my experience, has retained its Southern hospitality and that shines through with Mannie. He is still very active in the music community and all of us were really happy to share a few moments with him in the studios.

What did you think of the RBMA compound?

The compound was lovely. The five studios were made mostly of glass, so people could look into the sessions and gauge their interest in joining, depending on the team inside. We slept in these huge tipis, very plush and comfortable. I would consider it glorified camping, or glamping.

Did you make music at the RBMA?

I left the academy with about 11 or 12 ideas. Most of them are collaborations, and two of them are very inspired ideas that I plan on adding to my upcoming project. I think they are both really good reflections of my time at the academy, and I cannot wait to finish them.

Did you collaborate with anyone?

Cellists, Singers, Rappers, Drummers, Bassists, producers, etc., etc., etc. Everyone was very open to working together. My most cherished collaboration was one with Thundercat. He gave me some really good direction on a bass part in a sort of Jazz-Fusion song I started. I have been VERY influenced by his work in the last few years, so being able to share that creative space with him was very special and important to me, I hope to do it again.

Looking forward to following up on that project?

If the universe allows it, I would be thrilled to work with any one of the participants again. Music is meant to be shared and collaborative, and this experience really convinced me of that.

Upcoming plans for your own music?

I have my debut LP in the works through Feelin Music, which is really fantastic label out of Switzerland. There are some incredible guests on the album: family, dear friends, and idols of mine. The entire process has been really challenging in a great way, and I am genuinely looking forward to conceptualizing the record in a way that tells a story. Half of it is instrumental, and I am still learning to speak more and more with just instruments. I have no date for the release of the project at the moment, but in a sense it’s my departure from simple hip-hop production and the beginning of a new era musically for me, so I intend to put my entire being into it.

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