Dukes is a beatsmith, historian and mailman hailing from the south of The Netherlands. He knows more about politics than you and is as nuanced as a brick through your car’s front window. This is his exclusive column for TRU. (the opinions expressed by Dukes are solely those of Dukes and do not represent the TRU board of editors).
“Your dad told me you were looking for records with drums on ‘em right? Perhaps you can do something with this record right here” one of my father’s friends told me as he gave me his vinyl copy of The Incredible Bongo Band’s Bongo Rock. It was 2004 and after making beats for about a year I had just started sampling vinyl. I kinda frowned on the record he handed to me, the cover looked weird with a drawing of a lagoon with some dinosaurs on it, but what the hell, I’d give it a spin. When I put it on my turntable I immediately recognized it: this was one of the most famous breaks ever! From that moment on vinyl was the way to go.
As I mentioned before, I love going record shopping. I know guys who happily pay a hundred bucks for a record, but I’d never do that. I’m a broke-ass semi-fulltime mailman which puts a significant strain on my budget. Besides that, I found some of the greatest loops and breaks in the euro bins. I got my regular spots where I know that they got some good stuff that’s just waiting to be recorded in my 950. I just gotta find it, I’m on some Indiana Jones and the Temple of Vinyl shit. What genre too peep first, soul or soundtracks? These are matters of life and death. The smell of a record that hasn’t seen any fresh air for decades gives me the chills. The crackle of the record before the music kicks in is almost porn. Working your way through the record for usable parts to sample, being excited for what you are about to hear, reading the liner notes, it’s all great fun to me. And sometimes you work your way through 30 records and don’t find anything you like and you’re frustrated and almost wanna call it a day… but then you find a killer drum break or some spine-chillin’ loops. Sometimes you pick a record that you expect to be crap and it actually contains some gems and all you wanna do is just run home on some Golden Ticket shit so you can get to work. And that alone makes the self inflicted asthma attack all worth it.
I’ve always regarded the art of beat making being similar to photography. A photographer who snaps a beautiful shot of the skyline of New York hasn’t designed the whole skyline. The architects and planning commissions involved did that, but the photographer did offer us his perspective on it. To me, that’s more or less what I do when I’m making beats. Photographers filter colors, I filter basslines. I give my perspective on things, in a way that someone else who samples the same record might not do. Is this very musical? I don’t know and I don’t really care. All I know is that I’m no Beethoven, Mozart or Willie Mitchell, but I know that what I do is justified when I see a crowd go apeshit upon hearing my beats through a good PA system.
Lately I’ve started hearing more and more idiots claim that samples aren’t ‘musical’ and that therefore they prefer hip-hop with real instruments. The fuck outta here. The only reason people started doing that shit is because sample clearance costs got way outta control. I don’t have a problem with session musicians or people recording themselves, I’ve heard some great beats that were made this way. I actually prefer this mentality to third-rate Premo imitations that supposedly are ‘real hip-hop’ in which samples are chopped for the sake of chopping them. In the end of the day it’s the quality of the music that counts. Good music is just that: good music. But to me it’s very simple: you can’t beat the sound of a chopped drum break and a great loop. Perhaps you don’t get props by a bunch of conservative rock purists by opting for this route, but fuck them and their musical rules. Nobody can convince me that tracks like Stroke of Death, Right Back at You and Ante Up are anything short of genius simply for the fact that they rely on heavy sampling. Let me put it like this, what do you consider to be RZA’s best work: C.R.E.A.M. or B.O.B.B.Y.? I rest my case.