The sound of Florida rap is characterized by a few hallmarks: a distorted 808 bass, a simple lead, and a catchy hook.
The sinister sound that sparked the SoundCloud rap movement is due in no small part to the aptly-named, multifaceted producer Diablo. Emerging from the sunshine state, Diablo played an immense role in the rise of lo-fi heavy bass music, producing for the likes of Lil Pump, Lil Xan, Kodak Black, and Smokepurpp. To celebrate the release of his new sample pack, we had Diablo walk us through some of the major cuts in his discography.
Lil Pump – “Boss”
How did you and Lil Pump link up originally? You work extensively together, with you acting as both the producer and engineer on tons of his tracks. Tell us about your working relationship, and what your collaborations look like today.
We just ended up linking in South Florida. I was already producing and DJing underground shows, and I met him through Smokepurpp, who I was already collaborating musically with. We started recording music at my home studio very early in our careers. We have chemistry in sound selection and creating new rhythms. Today, we work just as hard, but always have fun making our music.
“Boss” and many other Lil Pump tracks are quite short in length. Is this a decision that the two of you made? What kinds of other stylistic choices does Pump gravitate towards?
That was totally Gazzy’s idea — he wanted songs to be short, repetitive, and super catchy. He’s very in-depth with his music and the production behind it. When we work on music, it’s always a collaboration between our tastes and ideas. Now, he’s at the level where he even records himself in Pro Tools and produces tracks.
Tell us about the synths in this track. What instrument is the lead?
That sound came from Nexus — love that VST!
How did you distort your 808s in this song? Are you using samples or a plugin for your subs?
I mostly use 808 samples and apply EQ and distortion only if it adds to the project. Sometimes less is more; I typically do very simple bass melodies.
Diablo — “Illuminati (feat. Ski Mask The Slump God & Lil Yachty)”
How did this track come together?
I made this beat one day while chilling at Diplo’s studio; we made like ten beats and this just happened to be one of the songs I sent to Ski Mask The Slump God. He hopped on it, and then Lil Yachty did too. And I guess a version’s out there with Famous Dex.
Do you typically send your beats to an artist like Ski or Yachty, or do you try to hop into the studio together to make it happen?
Sometimes I send out beats, but I’ve learned the best way to cut records is in the studio with the artists. It’s just more natural.
What So Not & Diablo — “OOGAHDAM!”
How did this track with What So Not come together?
So random — I was at Alison Wonderland’s house, and they’re mutual friends as well, so we told Chris to slide to the studio to cook up, and that we made a couple of melodies and this riff stuck out to us. We went to work on it more at my studio and finished most of it in a day. We kept working on it ’till we knew it was perfect. One of my favorite songs ever. Also, I love What So Not — coolest human ever, yo.
This is a departure from a lot of your other tracks. What made you want to go in a more bass music direction? What did you and What So Not respectively bring to this song?
I mostly do hip hop, but I’m also very into electronic music and all genres. I produce country music, rap, and also pop. Hell, give me a check, and I’ll make some jazz (laughs). But nah, I don’t like to be kept in a box. Always evolve.
Florida has deep roots in bass music. How do you find that Florida has influenced your productions?
We’re a different breed. There’s something in our water, for sure.
We also asked Diablo a few questions about his workflow and general approach to producing music.
What’s your studio setup like? What DAWs are you currently working with?
I work at my personal studio at home, but because I travel a lot I also work out of a lot of studios everywhere with other artists, producers, and writers. Currently, I produce in Ableton, Pro Tools, and Apollo.
Do you have any go-to plugins?
I like XLN Audio’s RC-20. That shit is gas… I also use Kontakt and Omnisphere, and I cut up a lot of samples.
What are you working on now?
Working on my album.
What’s your mixdown process? How do you get your tracks to hit hard?
Mix down, then bring the key elements of your song up to where you get a perfect balance. Remember that every song is different — nothing will be mixed the same.
Lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring producers?
Bro. F**k the system! You really got this. We are in the future. You can make beats from your computer, record people in your house, and make platinum records. I did. So can you. You don’t need a fancy studio or fancy A&R — you can really just find talented people around you. Believe in your friends. Be in the culture. Be in the studio. Send out beats. Work with your friends — they are legends too!
October 11, 2019