“Murda on the beat so it’s not nice!”
If you’ve ever seen Travis Scott, Drake, or Migos live, it’s likely you’ve heard the entire crowd chant this tag as loud as any lyric in the song. Even if one of Murda Beatz’ productions plays in a DJ set, you’ll hear the entire crowd shout along to the part. But these days, in light of the ongoing shelter-at-home restrictions put into place around the world, nobody can attend concerts, DJ sets, or club events. With the population of producers now stuck at home in mind, Murda Beatz had the inclination to release a long-awaited sample pack for his fans – the resulting “Murda Beatz Quarantine Kit” is out now.
In this article, we caught up with Murda to discuss his new pack and break down a few production techniques and stories behind some of his biggest placements.
How’s it going in LA right now? A shelter-in-place is currently going on, right?
It’s going good, man – been in the house. Just been making beats and playing video games in the crib. I haven’t been going to any sessions or anything.
Tell us about the “Murda Beatz Quarantine Kit.” What inspired you to put it out now, and what kind of sounds did you include in it?
I was just sitting at home, like day one of the quarantine, and I was like, “This would be a great time to drop my first-ever drum kit, and drop it with Splice.” I just wanted to drop a pack for all the kids who are staying at home that need inspiration and are just making beats. They can have this new kit to really inspire them during these tough times. I just wanted to make a really good starter kit that everybody should get when they first start to cook up. It’s a great go-to kit too, that you don’t have to search around in a lot.
How did you get into producing? When you first started making beats, what kits were you using?
I used to play drums. And then, I started to like rap music a lot, and I saw my skill level plateauing as a drummer. Then, my one friend showed me FruityLoops on his home computer. I was using it like a drum machine, like I wasn’t even that good. Then, I figured out how to download drum kits and start doing different drum patterns, using SoundFox to make melodies and shit. I didn’t even know how to download VSTs. Then, I got FL, cracked it on my parent’s computer, and traded my drum set in for an AKAI 49 keyboard; this was in like 2011. I was using a Lex Luger kit and a Trapaholics drum kit – those were the first two I ever got.
At what point did you start getting placements? How did you start sending your tracks to artists?
I started dropping shit on YouTube within the first three days of making a beat. Then, I went straight to Twitter, and I had my first placement like a month into producing. His name was Kashif Fresh; he was from the Bay. He was in Black Card, the rap group of Ya Boy. All the kids in my high school grew up on Ya Boy’s music, so I wanted to work with him so that I could get all these kids to be fans of my music. Then, I started traveling with my music within the first year, working with Kill Bill in Chicago. I wanted to get into the whole drill scene there, and I was trying to work with Chief Keef and Young Chop at the time.
Migos, Nicki Minaj, & Cardi B – “MotorSport”
Speaking of Twitter, that’s how you and the Migos linked up right? Tell us about working with them for the first time.
One of the main reasons why I went down to work with Migos is they didn’t believe I was making my own beats. So I was like, “Watch me make my music.” Then we just started cooking up. I remember that day like it was yesterday – the first time I was working with Migos in a studio in Atlanta. I remember the songs we made; some of those songs we made never even came out.
What did you learn working with them that you still think about today?
I learned to work smart and work efficiently. Not spending too much time on stuff, and definitely building my work ethic and just getting in a better workflow, making music fast.
You worked with Cubeatz for this track – how important is collaboration to your process?
Collaboration’s the biggest part of music creation. Music back in the day always starts with a band or a symphony; it’s always a collaborative effort. When I first started, I didn’t really want to collaborate. But you realize – why not make the music the biggest it can be, and the best it can be? Instead of just trying to be a one-man band, why not bring in the best drummer, and then bring in the best keyboard players, and the best this and that, and make the best music together?
What do you feel like you bring to a track when you work with other people?
I’m good at drum programming, and I feel like I’m good at producing records. I have a good ear for how things should sound, where things should go, and how things should progress throughout the song.
For a track like this one, how involved do you get in the topline-writing process?
Most of the time, I just let the artist do their thing. Sometimes I get vocal; if I don’t like something, I’ll let them know. If I have an idea, I’ll let them know before they start. With “MotorSport,” right after I played the beat, Quavo was just ready just to go in. He had the idea in his head already, so I just let him go and do his thing.
This is one of your older placements – do you listen to your older tracks like this one?
I was just going through all my old songs, like my old mix tape stuff from 2014. I was like, “Damn, I got a lot of shit.” I probably make around 600 to 1,200 beats a year.
How do you decide what you want to show certain artists?
If I do a session a day, I’m going to play the beats I made in the last two weeks. I feel like that’s a gift and a curse – a producer’s pet peeve is when you make a beat and you think it’s going to be the beat that they like, and they end up taking a beat that you don’t even really f**k with. Then you’re known for a beat that you don’t really like, you know?
Drake – “Nice For What”
How did “Nice For What” come to life?
Drake just invited me over to come kick it and cook up; we were just over there playing 2K. Drake wanted to do a female vocal sample, and my manager had the idea of doing “Ex-Factor.” We figured out the place in the song and I just chopped it up and added the drums to it. Then, Drake wrote almost the whole song right there in an hour or so – the only thing he didn’t have was the breakdown and the ending. He went in and found more vocal samples and stuff to chop too – he’s very smart.
This track has a different feel from your others, with the vocal chops and bounce rhythms. You never do a lot of overt vocal chopping, right?
I feel like around that time, I went through a phase where I was chopping a lot of samples. I wanted to start sampling older music, because I feel like that’s a very special part of rap music and urban music in general, you know? You take an old, nostalgic record, and then give it a new feel and make a new moment out of an old moment.
I wasn’t trying to go for a bounce type of sound; I was really just making some uptempo drums and being specific on the drum selection.
How involved do the artists typically get on the production of your tracks? Are there any artists who get involved in the beat making process?
Sometimes, the artists like to get involved. They say things like, “Just change this 808,” or, “Let’s try a different drum pattern.” I appreciate it. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Quavo, Travis Scott – they like to get involved.
Travis Scott – “BUTTERFLY EFFECT”
Speaking of Travis, tell us how “Butterfly Effect” came together.
I made that beat in my mom’s basement back in Canada, and I was like, “Man, this is a smash.” I got the beat to Travis and I remember FaceTiming him while he was recording the record and shit, it was crazy. The demo of the song was the final version. He just wanted to put it out on SoundCloud but then it started going crazy. We were going to try to do an updated version for radio and stuff, but we just left it like it was. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, you know?
A signature part of your sound is the dreamy melodies and synths. What plugins do you use to get this sound?
Right now I’m using Omnisphere and Kontakt heavy. Kontakt has some of the most real-sounding stuff out there, but it takes a lot of space so if anyone is about to get Kontakt, make sure you have an external hard drive. I have two terabytes of libraries and I just randomly click and find stuff I really like.
Do you have any specific plugins or effects that you like to use across a lot of your tracks?
FabFilter. FL has some fire shit – one of my go-to pianos is just the FL Keys plugin.
How involved do you get in the mixdown process?
I like to kind of keep the beat how I mixed it originally. If an engineer gets the chance to get their hands on it, I tell them to be minimal with it, just so I don’t lose that feeling. There have been a couple of records where the engineer will mix the record so much to the point where it kind of loses the feeling that I gave it. I want my beats to always sound raw; I don’t want them to sound too mixed or too polished.
How do you get your 808s sounding so hard?
You want to have room for your drums to breathe. You don’t want anything getting in the way of them or drowning them out. For 808s, you want to make sure that there’s no bass in the melodies, or that any other parts are clashing with them.
Murda Beatz & YNW Melly – Banana Split (feat. Lil Durk)
Can you tell us how this track came together?
I came across Melly’s music in 2018 and I was like, “this is fire.” I got a hold of him and got him into the studio in LA. We made five records that night, and this was one of them. I ended up using it, got it mixed, and then sent it to Durk on his phone. He recorded it by himself.
I feel like they complemented each other. I don’t think they’ve had a record together, so I was excited to make that happen. I put some of the drums I used in that track in the Splice kit as well. I’m very excited for this to be my first release of the year.
Tell us about engineering this record – how involved were you on that side of bringing the song to life?
I didn’t engineer these sessions, but I was very hands-on throughout the whole process. I did a light mix on the record with one of my boys here in LA, and then had one of my boys in Toronto mix it up a little better. Then, Jaycen Joshua and I did the final mix. I was very, very hands on.
I imagine remote collaborations are going to be the wave, now that everyone’s at home for the foreseeable future.
100%. I’ve been working on so much music being home right now, and I’ve been working with so many producers as well. I play Xbox with a bunch of producers, and we’ll just go back and forth on beats. I feel like it’s not that much different; it’s just missing the hands-on part in the studio.
You’ve got to remember too – music’s not how it used to be when we were recording stuff on tapes in person. The music creation process became a very remote thing in the past decade. We can still get some of the biggest records in the world done while being at home.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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April 2, 2020