In The Lab with araabMUZIK

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Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

AraabMUZIK is a beast. The 25-year-old producer, who originally hails from Providence, Rhode Island, has quiet as kept become one of the illest and most original producers in the game over the last several years, helping to push that neck-breaking sound forward by consistently providing dudes like Cam’ron, 50 Cent, Fabolous, Danny Brown, and Styles P with hard body, futuristic heat rocks. And when it comes to his festival stage game, forget about it. There is no one nicer live on the MPC pads than araabMUZIK in the hip-hop and/or EDM world. Fact.

With his new instrumental project For Professional Use Only 2 out this week (cop it on iTunes here), and his brand new Dipset joint “C.F.W.U.” fresh on the block, we linked up with araabMUZIK for our latest In The Lab to get a look behind the scenes at his studio life. And he walked us through his equipment set-up, his daily routine, how he connects directly with artists to secure beat placements, what it’s like cooking up with fellow beat monsters such as The Alchemist and Swizz Beatz, his history working with Cam’ron, preparing for festivals, making remixes (like his Lana Del Rey joint for “Summertime Sadness”), and more.

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Studio Set-Up

araabMUZIK: “My first set-up was just a keyboard and a tape recorder. I started off recording beats off the keyboard onto Maxell tapes. I had several cassettes filled up with beats. After that, I start doing shit on the computer. Just a basic computer, speaker, and some headphones. Then a couple years later, that’s when I got my MPC. I pretty much got everything in one shot. I got the 1000, my studio monitors, and I got a Triton keyboard. A year later, the 2500 came out, and that’s when I got rid of the 1000, and stayed with the 2500. And after that, I got a couple more keyboards. So that’s basically my set-up now. I got the room remodeled up, so it’s a production room now. And now, I use a lot of VSTs and plugins. Now everything is pretty much digital to where I’m only using a MIDI keyboard to control all the sounds, and of course [the MPC]. It’s all at the crib.”

“I wasn’t trained [to play any instrument]. I always been trying to figure out my own notes. Getting taught keys kind of takes away from your ability to play around and do shit. It’s cool to just hack it to where you learn as you go. But I was always good with instruments.”

Early YouTube Videos

“I was just messing around at the time, on the spot. I didn’t really plan videos. Sometimes I would be in the studio, and someone would just be recording on the fly, and just have it on. I threw those out there to show people my beatmaking process, and show them that I could play [the MPC like it’s an instrument].”

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Daily Routine

“I’ve always done late, late nights. That’s when a lot of producers and artists record, late at night all the way into the morning. That’s when, to me, the creative process really kicks in. More than in the afternoon, because there’s other shit going on to where you can’t really focus. And I’m not the type to do something and then go back to it later. Everything I do is done right there. I don’t ever do something a little bit, then go back for a little bit. There’s a lot of producers that take three days to make one track. That shit’s crazy. Sometimes a month. But everything you’ve heard [from me] has taken like twenty minutes.

“I’ll do about five or six [beats in one night]. Different kinds, I don’t really like to stick to one sound. You always want to have a variety of different stuff to showcase different artists. You never know who’s gonna call looking for something, and then you don’t have that type of beat their looking for. Music always changes, so you always gotta keep up.”

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Crafting Beats for Rap Artists

“I’m just building up the catalog. I don’t really make beats for specific artists. But if I know an artist is working and looking for something, and I’ve worked with him before, I’ll make a couple joints just for him to hear, because that’s his style and his type of sound. Right now, there’s a couple people working, so I’ve been making a couple [customized] things. But usually, I just make everything. I don’t focus on one sound. Nowadays, radio only has one sound. All you hear is 808s, and fast hi-hats. I’m not trying to do that. I’m trying to pitch out stuff you’re not really hearing at the moment.

“There’s a couple people working right now. Kendrick’s working on his album. There’s Wayne. Fab. LOX, Kiss. I have a list of all the artists that are working right now. It’s not like I’m just guessing to see who’s working.”

“I deal with everyone directly. I don’t go through my managers or nothing like that. I pretty much reach out myself and contact them, and we go back and forth. Or I’ll go out there, and link up with them myself in the studio. I build a relationship with an artist. I’m not really a ‘send you a bunch of beats via email’ type of dude. I actually go there myself and show them shit live on the spot. It’s a whole different feel than them just hearing it versus you going there and showcasing the beat. You get to drop it, and take stuff out. When they just sit down and listen to it real quick, they don’t really get the same feel. It’s not the same impact as when it’s me right there. That’s what always gets them, when they see me messing with the beat. They might wanna have me play that versus just the regular sequence or whatever it was.

“And I don’t always have to go over there and play them beats. I’ve built relationships with artists I’ve worked with, so I can go over there and just chill out. It doesn’t always have to be about business. You can just be chillin’. With me, it’s not always about, ‘I need them beats!’ We’ll just joke around and do regular shit.”

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Sound Bank

“I have a whole bunch of sounds that I’ve clipped from CDs, drum kits, keyboards, and all different types of programs. I just search and find shit. I had made folders years ago with sounds that I like. It’s all about taking sounds and making them your own, because you don’t really want to sound like anyone else. Like I said, everyone’s music sounds the same. You might think one producer made it, but it’s like, ‘Nah, this nigga made it.’

“Everybody wants to stay relevant now, and stick with that one sound. That’s why all you hear is Mustard on the radio. For me, it’s all about working with that artist that’s gonna embrace that new sound, that new shit. It’s like follow the leader right now. But if Jay Z hops on something, like his old sound from back then, like if he uses Premier again, or if Dre comes back with something, then it’s gonna be like, ‘Oh shit, that real shit is back.’ Then it’s like, boom, you got niggas trying to holler at Dre and all these niggas again. [Laughs.]

“I’ve always grabbed shit off MP3. I’ve never really dug for records or sampled off records. I find the real rare songs from records on MP3. People like that old, crackly sound, but me, I’d rather take the crispy version of that. I’m not really with the gritty, cracklin’ sound through the whole beat. That’s not really in anymore. That was in back then. I always been digital. I been doing Coachella and all the festivals. Now everyone’s trying to do those, and DJ, because that’s where the money is. But I’ve been doing that since 2011 and Electronic Dream.”

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Studio Essentials

“Everything I’ve ever done was sober. I don’t have to drink or smoke to get in that mode. I’m just naturally nice like that. [Laughs.] I just like the lights really low, and that’s it.”

Inspiration

“Right now, nothing’s really inspiring me. But I’m usually inspired by just being out, listening to different types of music. But I’m the type that I don’t get inspired to the point where I sound exactly like what I just heard. It just inspires me to make something iller, or completely different. Other people make something exactly like what inspires them to the point where you don’t even know the difference. It’s cool to be inspired, but don’t take their whole sound from them. That’s what all these producers are doing. They steal each other’s sound because they inspire each other. They’re copying off each other. I’m just different. You can’t get nowhere if you’re not original.”

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Working with Legendary Producers

“It’s definitely a humbling experience, growing up to their music my whole life and now actually being in the studio with them, and them being fans of my work, too. It’s definitely a blessing, especially with such legendary people like Alchemist and Swizz Beatz. There’s all types of people I’ve been in the studio with that I never thought I would be in there with.

“Alchemist’s beats, man. His chop game is the most—I can’t even describe his chop game. I hear his whole catalog of stuff that you guys don’t hear. I hear his 500 beats that he has on his iTunes, his archives. And I show him my archives. We pretty much go back and forth listening to each other’s shit and inspiring each other. And we build, and share some sounds, or end up going to another studio where artists are there and end up getting a placement. It’s a lot of shit like that going on.

“I had a few sessions [with Swizz Beatz], not too many. But it was like a playground in the studio. Equipment everywhere. I’ll just go off, and play him a lot of stuff. Then, they’ll pick shit for either other artists or themselves. I already got a couple things with him.”

Cam’ron “I Used to Get It in Ohio”

“I was home, it was I believe the summertime when I made that beat. 2006 or 2007. I was still in high school at the time. I made that, and from there, I played it for him. I played him a couple tracks, and when that particular track came on, that was it, man. It’s fun [in the studio with Cam’ron]. It’s always fun. Definitely a lot of jokes.”

The Diplomats “Salute”

“I gave that to Jim, and Jim sent it to Cam. A couple weeks later, I had people calling my phone like, ‘Your song’s on the radio! You got the single, it’s called ‘Salute.’’ Then I went online to check it out there, and I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ And that was the biggest record in the city. But I hadn’t even heard it yet.”

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Preparing for Festivals

“I do a lot of winging it, and shit on the spot. I don’t really take too much time to make new sets. I’ll just take certain songs out, and replace them with new ones. I do shit depending on where I’m at, or where I’m gonna be. Certain festivals are different from each other, but they all pretty much got the same music going on.”

Lana Del Rey “Summertime Sadness (Remix)”

“That was a song I liked on the radio, like, ‘That shit sounds hot.’ But I never really heard the original. I always heard other remixes of the song, until I actually saw the video, with the slow tempo. It sounded real ambient, and different. When I heard that, I pretty much laid the drums and chopped it up. From there, I put it out. I felt like, ‘It’s summertime, so let me drop it this summer.’ I flipped it in the wintertime, but it wouldn’t have made sense to put it out then.

“All these remixes I do are songs that I like. I don’t like anything to be forced. If I don’t pick it myself, I don’t really go hard on it like that.”

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For Professional Use Only 2

“It’s just the sequel to Part 1. It’s a whole bunch of tracks that I’ve done, instrumentals and original work. I haven’t really been putting out a lot lately. It’s time for the streets and the industry to have something, to hear from me.”

Photos via AraabMuzik’s Instagram.

Previously:

In The Lab with Boi-1da
In The Lab with Meyhem Lauren and Buckwild
In The Lab with Vince Staples
In The Lab: Blu on the Making of Good To Be Home
In The Lab with Sean C & LV
In The Lab with Harry Fraud
In The Lab with RATKING
In The Lab with The Alchemist and Evidence (Step Brothers)
In The Lab with Thelonious Martin
In The Lab with Troy Ave
In The Lab with Marco Polo
In The Lab with Black Milk
In The Lab with Oddisee
In The Lab with Pete Rock
In The Lab with Party Supplies
In The Lab with Mac Miller
In The Lab with Roc Marciano