Cecilia Hone on the intersection of classical music and hip hop

Cecilia Hone is one of the latest signees of 808 MAFIA who brings a unique perspective to the world of hip hop.

To celebrate the release of Southside and PVLACE’s collaborative pack with their newest signees, we sat down with Cecilia Hone to learn about her background and how she brings a classical edge to hip hop.

Be sure to tune in to The Inbox livestream on October 8th, 2020 with Southside and PVLACE to get your beats heard by the crew.

Your background is in classical music – tell us how a classical pianist and teacher came to working with 808 MAFIA:

Well, after I got my Master’s degree, I took a break from piano for several years to have my two daughters. I was a single mom so it was hard to find time to work on music, but I always planned on going back for my Doctorate’s degree once my kids were old enough to start school.

When that time finally came, I started prepping for my audition into the music program, but I also started to have doubts about committing the next four to five years of my life back to the classical music world. I mean, I do love classical music, and there’s very little that excites me more than learning and performing some of these incredible works on the piano; however, I also have a passion for other styles of music. During this break, I had been spending more time writing songs, creating arrangements, and collaborating with other musician friends, all just for fun, and I realized I wanted the freedom to continue working on these other aspects of music.

I was inspired by a friend who’s also a professional composer and producer to build up my home studio and study music production on my own. Not too long after, I serendipitously met Brock Luker from 808 MAFIA in Vegas at a Marshmello concert, and upon learning I was a musician, he asked me to send him some samples – and that’s how I came to work with 808 MAFIA!

I definitely believe that if you just start taking the steps to put things in motion, opportunities will eventually open up to you. You don’t need to have everything figured out in the beginning; just do the work, put in the time, and (probably the hardest part of all) be patient!

Crafting loops and piano parts used in hip hop likely wasn’t on your mind when getting a Masters in Piano Performance. Tell us about your experiences entering the world of production, and how your background informs your work now.

Ha, no, when I was back in school I definitely didn’t think I’d be writing music for rap artists. However, no matter what genre, music is all based on the same basic principles. Even if you want to compose something completely outside of ‘the standard,’ you have to know and understand what the standard is in order to break it. Having studied the development of music throughout history has really helped me understand its evolution, where it started, and where it’s going.

That’s the thing about music – like everything else, it’s constantly evolving. And with the world as interconnected as it is today, the possibilities that can come from the fusion of styles is limitless. I’m grateful for the time I spent practicing classical piano, as it has given me the technical and musical skills to compose and create anything I can envision. I’m not limited by technique, but only by what my mind is able to create. And the best way to open up your creative mind is by listening to and studying the works of other great artists from all styles and genres.

What similarities do you see between classical music and hip hop? What similarities do you see between classical composers and hip hop artists?

My favorite thing about hip hop is the beats. Music at its core is not melody – it’s rhythm. You start playing a drum beat to a baby who can’t even speak yet, but they’ll start moving and dancing along to it. All music, whether classical or hip hop, is fundamentally driven by these rhythms. Now, you throw some tasty melodies and harmonies on top of that and you get to another level of expression.

Musical expression is so ingrained in us as humans and is probably the simplest and most pure form of communication. Just think of how closely people can bond over music, even if they don’t speak the same language. It can express and convey more than words by themselves can. All musicians create music for that same purpose: self-expression. It doesn’t matter what form you choose to express it. It’s all born from the same human experiences and emotions that we all share or can relate to.

If you could foster a collaboration between one classical composer and one rapper, who would they be?

Wow, that’s hard… There are so many good artists to choose from. I’ve been really into Childish Gambino lately – I love his soulful musicality – and one of my all-time favorite classical composers is Prokofiev, because of his driving rhythms and his progressive approach to tonality for his time. I think if Prokofiev was still alive, he’d fit right into the world of rap music. If you aren’t familiar with Prokofiev’s music, I highly recommend listening to his piano sonatas!

Get your beats heard by 808 MAFIA’s Southside and PVLACE:

October 7, 2020