Being a respected underground vet in 2010 means a few things. It means you knew what you were doing back when wax was used for more than making crayons. It means you knew how to chop a sample before computers would do it for you. It also means you were able to survive in an era where wack music was called wack music and the creators of said wack music didn’t have meaningful life spans.
While the rap game has had more facelifts in the last 10 years than the combined total of The View’s talking heads, one variable has remained constant – true school producers dedicated to the craft of creating dope beats that defy trends and force fads to stagedive. Baby Paul, once a member of Da Beatminerz, fits that bill. From his work with Smif N Wessun and Heltah Skeltah to his current projects with AZ, Amil and Mikey Bloodshot, the producer also known as BpZy continues to prove why he belongs in the upper echelon of producers.
You’ve been quiet the past few months. What have you been up to?
Oh, man, I’ve been up to a bunch of things for the last year and a half, including the whole Amil situation. Right now I’m in Atlanta making my rounds. I’ll be out here for a week or so doing some work and looking at some property. What haven’t I been up to? I started my company Divine Order Entertainment in 2006 and I had signed Amil and we were going to put her out through Babygrande Records but unfortunately the project was put on hold so I released her from the situation and that’s when I put the mixtape out to put some music out there. I want to thank all of the producers like Kwame who helped us put the music out. She’s still working on music and she’s in North Carolina doing her thing. She’s working on a book loosely based on her life but it’s not a tell-all type of book. It’s an inspirational book about young mothers inspired by her influences in her life. But she’s doing her thing.
On my end I’m working on AZ’s album Doe or Die Part 2 that’s coming out later this year. I’m also working with an artist from West Palm Beach, Miami, named Mikey Bloodshot. He’s a southern hip-hop artist/reggae artist. I came across him through a business partner of mine and we pitched him to Koch to put him out independently. We’ve been developing his catalogue because I feel like there’s no artist development with the companies anymore to find those diamonds in the rough to nurture them and build their catalogue and build their presence and value so they can actually sell some records.
How does your experience in the game help you build artists the right way?
I think the advantage is with my experience and knowing what sells and what people respond to in the marketplace. As a performing artist, I know what people will respond to live and know how to translate what we record live. I started out with Da Beatminerz so shout out to Evil Dee and Mr. Walt. I worked with artists like the Boot Camp Clik and classic hip-hop artists like Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli and those guys. We were all labelmates on Rawkus Records back in ’99 and 2000 when we put out Da Beatminerz’ project Brace for Impack. It was pros and cons because in the process of that project I decided to sever my ties with them because I felt we were growing apart. But I’m not mad and we’re both in great spaces. We’re both making our moves in our own accord and making our presence felt in the game so I’m good with that. As far as artists, I was an integral part for developing music for Black Moon, Smif N Wessun and Heltah Skeltah. I feel like to this day, their early catalogue is a big part of the reason why Duck Down Records exists today. The foundation that company is built upon is based on the hard work of myself, Evil Dee and Mr. Walt and not to forget Rich Black, a cat who was affiliated at the time.
Just knowing that a company like Duck Down is 15 years in the game and still relevant speaks to itself and that relevance speaks to what we built in collaboration with the artists and the talent of a Buckshot and Smif N Wessun and Sean Price. On my end, I actually took the time out to collaborate with the artist on ideas and not just give them beats. Today, producers just give people beats and the producers are not connected with the artists. They just send beats on the internet and call the producer back when they have an idea for the record. But I come from the era where you would make a beat in front of the artist and they would share their visions of what they wanted to talk about and you made records like that. With that experience, I come across talent and have connections about what artists want to express and know how to construct a landscape and help them count their bars and create a consistency with what they talk about in the music. Consistency is key. That’s what builds a fanbase.
What are you favorite moments from the Duck Down days?
Man, so many, man. I mean, shout out to the whole movement back then. We were just some young, hungry cats out of Brooklyn trying to do our thing and gain the respect of our peers, and when I say our “peers,” our peers were Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik and Cypress Hill. Those were our peers back then. We were making our beats for the love of the art and just show our talent and in the process of that leave something behind that was timeless and hopefully make a living off of that. People’s agendas sometimes change with the ups and downs of the business but at the end of the day, it starts with the quality of the music and ends with the business.
I would say Enta Da Stage and Da Shinin’, when I first started making a name for myself, were big and then the opportunity to be on the first Heltah Skeltah album when Duck Down got their deal with Priority, having those records were classic. I go on YouTube and see performances and they’re still doing records that we did 10 years ago. It’s still amazing to me and it’s a blessing.
Do you ever feel like Da Beatminerz are left off the list of great producers who came of age in the ‘90s?
I don’t really think about it because when I walk the streets and when people see me, I think part of the reason was that we never really highly marketed ourselves in the buying public for the work we did. If you read credits you would know who we was, but we weren’t in the music videos and we didn’t visually brand ourselves back then. If we did we probably shouldn’t be left out of the history books. If we did, we probably wouldn’t be left out of the history books. We may get overlooked a little bit, but I’m comfortable in my own skin and I’m not worried about the attention I get or don’t get because at the end of the day, I know what it takes to make great records and I know what people want to hear and I focus on that. The accolades will come and if they don’t come, I’m good because I think people mostly recognize people when they’re gone as opposed to when they’re alive. That’s just the way it is.
Even with the work you’ve done over the past few years, you still have a low profile. Do you enjoy playing the background?
Yeah. I keep it light. I feel like if I was to want to walk the streets and be comfortable and not be necessarily approached by someone because they know who I am…It’s fun to walk and have someone drive by playing a record that’s produced by me and they don’t even know, or you go to an event and you have a conversation and they don’t even know who you are and you tell them and they have no idea. Part of what I’m doing now is connecting the dots with everything that I build and making sure that I do enough publicity to make people aware of the work I’ve done and where I’m trying to go so I can build a brand from here on. That’s basically the goal that I’m taking upon myself to make sure that people are aware of what I’m doing so that going forward, it won’t be as much of a headache to get work because the game is very saturated right now. It’s very competitive. You have to make sure people know who you are. You can’t have total anonymity in the music game today. (laughs)
Does your resume carry weight today or do you still have to show and prove?
I feel like I get better with time and I think the work that I’m doing now is of a better quality. When I say “quality,” I’m talking about sonics and arrangements and the level of intricacy in terms of the actual production. The earlier stuff was simple and raw but it had feeling and as long as it has feeling, it’s very substantial to maintaining a level of relevancy. I keep that consistency but now compared to then, I just feel like my sonics are better and my arrangements are more intricate and it just sounds bigger so it has the potential to reach a wider audience over time. Sometimes when you blow up overnight, you fade fast and you have nothing to accomplish and you’ll have nothing left to grow into.
What’s it been like working on Doe or Die Part 2 with AZ?
Shout out to AZ. He’s one of the hardest working underground hip-hop artists that I know. He’s always throwing something out in the streets. We started working together after I worked on Nas’ Stillmatic albums. I worked on AZ’s Aziatic album, his last major label release. I did “The Essence” with him and Nas and I guess since then I’ve built a good rapport with him and a level of respect for what I do that whenever he was working on something, whether it was on a production level or a consultant level, I would help him with the records and structure the direction of the album. I haven’t been on every single album in the last five, six years that he’s put out. I was on the AWOL album with Koch and the Aziatic album. I collaborated with him on the Undeniable album and I consulted with him on The Format album and now I’m working on the Doe or Die 2 album.
How would you describe your sessions with AZ?
Well, it’s real cool because he’ll call me and we’ll compare notes about what’s going on in the marketplace and what records make the most sense to do based on what’s going on in our lives and where he’s going in his career. Despite being independent, he has fans and he’s thankful and appreciative of that and he doesn’t take it for granted. When he makes new records, he approaches it like that where he doesn’t lose his old fans but he gains new fans. Some beats are laid back and some have energy. What I try to do is going as far back to my records that I did in the beginning of my career to now, I try to maintain that consistency and try to make it fresh and something that he can work with. Our chemistry in the studio is pretty cool because he’ll take music from me and write to it and we’ll knock it right out. He doesn’t write in the studio. He’ll write on his own time and then come to the studio and just work and bang it out.
That’s a professional quality you won’t find with everyone.
Right. That’s a plus because he knows what he wants and what he wants to do. Honestly, when I work with new, younger artists, I look for a level of understanding and then I work with it, like doing adlibs and counting bars. I guide them on that. But on a whole, I at least try to find artists that I could nurture that already have a little bit of an understanding of what to do but they’re already good writers or have a good voice or good delivery.
How’s Doe or Die Part 2 sounding so far?
It’s sounding great. We definitely have some of the greats like Pete Rock and Buckwild. I’m on it. I’m going to try to get up with DJ Toomp and see if we could pull that off. I know Statik Selektah gave him some joints. Shout out to him. I think Havoc reached out. 9th Wonder reached out. It’s just a matter of what A decides to run with. There’s a couple of people with some stuff in the pot. It’s just a matter of what comes out of it! (laughs)
What makes you think Amil can be successful today?
Well, I think with Amil, what she has to do, because the female rap market has been quiet and it’s just now resurfacing…I just recently helped Monie Love format a mixtape called Sisterhood of the Traveling Mic that’s going to be a series dedicated only to female MCs. We have a catalogue of Amil music and I helped mix it and Monie’s hosting it and there’s records from Shawnna, Gangsta Boo, Eternia, of course Amil, Quintessence and some others. There’s a bunch of up-and-coming female artists on there. It’s a good start and Monie’s good at marketing so you’re going to be hearing about that.
Why should we check for Mikey Bloodshot?
He’s unique because he’s not just a southern hip-hop artist. He’s also West Indian. He has a strong cultural background that reminds me of Smif N Wessun. He can rap and chant and it’s not fake. It’s real. There’s not too many hip-hop artists that can authentically represent the West Indian culture and interpret hip-hop and reggae music properly. Shout out to KRS-One and a good example is what Nas and Damien Marley did. When you hear him you’re not just going to hear southern twang and swag. You’re going to hear lyrics and reggae chanting and singing. There’s going to be a real approach to what he’s doing.
How do you maintain your classic Baby Paul sound while still adapting to today’s trends?
I understand how to balance the art of sampling and coming from that foundation of digging in the crates to understanding how to implement organic instrumentation. As I grew into my career, I found ways with technology and keyboards and sound modules and just studying sound. When you get these programs and these drum machines or keyboards, you kind of listen to sounds and they make sense to you creatively. It’s not about trying to follow what people are doing outside of yourself. You find a sound that caters to what you’re already doing and I can structure a lot of music with or without a sample because I’ve trained my ear over the years and listened to all types of drums from jazz to soul to funk to rock to blues. All of those genres was incorporated into what was hip-hop to us and a lot of hit records were made from those back then and if you have a trained ear for how to structure a beat, then you’re good. I don’t get intimidated by the new programs or beats that come out because once I listen to a sound, I can distinguish what works for me without trying to sound like some other producer’s beats.
What’s your favorite equipment to use today?
I use the MPC 2000 and the 2500. I got the 4000 but I haven’t been using it like I would probably like to. It’s got so many screens and I just gotta really sit down with it. I got Fruity Loops like a lot of other people do. I got Reason and Recycle. I got other programs too. I just try to stay up on top of everything. Rockwilder’s program has a lot of dope sounds to it. I just have to figure out how to sequence it and all of that. But I’m not afraid of software. It’s just a matter of adjusting your creativity to what’s out there.
Who are your favorite producers today?
Oh, man. I definitely respect cats who came before me, first and foremost. I respect what Just Blaze does. Shouts to Alchemist. I still love Dr. Dre’s work. I like DJ Khalil a lot and DJ Toomp. Shout out to him because I’m in the A right now! (laughs) Even other producers out of the south like Shawty Redd.
What artists would you like to work with today?
On the old school tip, it would be an honor to work with Slick Rick, for me, personally. I would do a classic hip-hop/reggae record if I got the chance to work with Slick Rick. I’m going to put that out there. I would love to work with Kanye because I know he’s such an artist and producer, he’s open to working with other producers. Shout out to Consequence. He’s a good friend of mine. I actually did a record with Kanye and Consequence that was released right before Kanye came out with his first album. I would love to work with T.I. and I know he’s not biased with working with producers from the East Coast because he’s done that with Just Blaze. As far as the West Coast I would work with Game and I would love to work with Snoop. I was actually out in L.A. not too long ago but I need to connect the dots with my L.A. folks. I think that pretty much covers it!
And stay tuned for a couple of things. Outside of my music I worked on some independent film projects and one is coming out in the third quarter called Expendable. I featured in it and did the score. It also stars Omilio Sparks and Gillie Da Kid came in. It’ll be out in August or September, somewhere around there. I’m finishing up some music for Mikey Bloodshot. There’s a record that’s going to start bubbling called “Pound for Pound.” And I also work with a pop rock band out of Ohio called Fatkid Dodgeball and we’re about to service their single digitally. I executive produced their album and it’s done.