Producer's Corner: Kane Beatz
The Grammy-nominated man who produced Lupe Fiasco's "The Show Must Go On" and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" tells DX how he used an Internet hustle to become a YMCMB affiliate with a stream of hits.
Florida-based producer Kane Beatz is just pulling up out of the blocks when it comes to his studio capabilities. His self-professed love for music has earned him three Grammy Award nominations in 2012 and with tracks such as "Super Bass" from Nicki Minaj and Lupe Fiasco's "The Show Goes On," as well as the highly infectious Yong Money posse cut, "Bedrock" to his credit its easy to see the potential this producer has at finishing first over the line in February.
A poster boy for the wave of online producers in the mid-'00s, it was his consistency and his apparent proficiency in crafting a fresher sound that caught the ears of Atlantic A&R Mike Caren. Caren signed Kane to a production deal in 2006. Fast forward five years, this Floridian has platinum discs, Grammy nods and is slowing laying down foundations for his own company, aptly called The Building. Nothing is too far out of reach for this Young Money sound provider.
Eager to excel in the boardroom as well as the studio Kane Beatz obviously has his sales pitch down to a fine art, taking a brief look at his discography. And if there is one thing he is good at selling, it is himself. Sparking relationships with those who he aspired to work with have paved the way for this musical wiz. Sharing his ambitions and enthusiasm with HHDX, Kane Beatz is undoubtedly destined for many more ‘nods’ if he continues this love affair with music.
HipHopDX: How did you get your start in production?
Kane Beatz: First of all I was actually going to High School in Tulsa, [Oklahoma] and I was making beats and then at the beginning of college I was making beats and selling them on the Internet through SoundClick.com. I was selling beats on there and you know how that works, you get to the top of the chart and then you get on the font page of the site. I met a few A&Rs and Mike Caren from Atlantic [Records] though that in 2006. He contacted me through SoundClick.com and he took some of my stuff to Atlantic and I signed to them in 2006. The first record I actually did was Trick Daddy's Back By Thug Demand and it stared from there.
DX: You are a success story for Sound Click then as some folk are quite negative about using these sites, believing that they never amount to anything.
Kane Beatz: Yeah. I support Sound Click to the fullest. I quit my job before I even signed because of that site. I was making $2,500-3,000 a month just selling beats on there so I actually stopped working at my job and did that full time for a while.
DX: Being that you hooked up with Mike Caren through Sound Click, someone who has been very influential in your career since meeting, that kind of voids the age-old myth that A&Rs don’t use these sites really, doesn’t it?
Kane Beatz: I mean Mike Caren found me on there and he always tells me it was his first time to ever go onto a website, but I don't know if I believe him. [Laughs] He reached out to me through my email account and I started building with him through there.
DX: And now you have two Grammy nods to your credit.
DX: My apologies. What do you think you have brought to production to bring about these three Grammy nods and this unprecedented success?
Kane Beatz: Man, it's a blessing. I think it is just my sound. I have a sound and I have always worked at my craft. To [critics] I am new, but I came into the game when I was 19, so to myself I feel old. I have been able to work at getting my sound to the point when people trust my judgment and believe in the music I make. It’s shown that the sound can succeed. I try to make my sound different, there’s no particular thing. I make musical records and big records that are Hip Hop but are able to cross over. I think that's what it is for me, I just try to make music that everyone can relate to but keep that Hip Hop element.
DX: Your sound is very up-tempo and like you say this obviously does well for radio. I know Young Money's "Bedrock," another of your tracks and Super Bass were huge commercial hits. Is that what you always look to create?
Kane Beatz: I mean 100%; music is feeling and its supposed to make you feel a certain type of way and the way it seems is the way people try to feel. I have listened to Hip Hop my whole life and it’s one thing being a producer growing up and struggling, you’re not going to make it making Hip Hop records that don’t cross over. I was able to come up with a sound when a lot of these big name rappers, like Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Lupe Fiasco, they were willing to take risks on records like this. It all depends on the type of music you make and I feel I am taking Hip Hop to places it hadn’t been for a while.
DX: Who has inspired you production-wise?
Kane Beatz: Growing up it was producers like Mannie Fresh, Dr. Dre, and Lil Jon. In the beginning his sound changed Hip Hop music, Scott Storch, Kanye West, these producers were really out there doing it and at the same time these producers were artists. We got to see both sides of what they were doing. Those kinds of people really inspired me.
DX: Considering Mannie Fresh was one of your inspirations, to be working so close with the likes of Baby and Wayne must seem kind of surreal?
Kane Beatz: Yeah, I mean I always say it was something I dreamed of. I started listening to music and when I was growing up Lil Wayne was a new rapper and we all listened to Cash Money Millionaires to see what they were doing. Mannie Fresh making the beats and seeing him rap on them – they invented the new sound of the south and for me – it’s just crazy and unreal and I am grateful for guys like Mannie Fresh, they paved the way how we do it now. Back then programs like Fruity Loops, people weren’t messing with; it was all MPC whereas now it is a lot more computer based as opposed to sampling. The sound has changed but the feeling is basically the same.
DX: What is your basic studio set up?
Kane Beatz: Right now I am running FL Studio and Protools on the mac, but usually I will have one computer running FL Studio and a Mac running Protools.
DX: Do you do a lot of work on the road or do you prefer to be studio based?
Kane Beatz: It changes, I work on the road a lot so I switch my gear up so I can work off a laptop, but I would really love to be in the studio every day, but with travel, I find myself making beats in hotels. I have got used to traveling but I would prefer to be in a home studio, which I work out of every day.
DX: Where are you based?
Kane Beatz: I just moved to Atlanta but I was born in Miami and lived in Orlando. My father was a pastor and we grew up around that kind of music. When you hear a lot of Hip Hop records and Pop records they are just church chords. It definitely gave me an advantage. My family has supported me and me working the way I work. This is how it is supposed to be.
DX: I remember having a conversation with another producer some time ago, who, like yourself, had a church upbringing. We concluded that at the end of the day you are just creating the music and can’t necessarily be held accountable for what goes over it. Do you feel that way?
Kane Beatz: I used to see it that way but if you are a real producer you have a lot to do with the song, but for me man, it’s just a job. I create music that people want to hear.
DX: How did the affiliation with Young Money come about then?
Kane Beatz: The first song I did, like I mentioned before was Back By Thug Demand in 2006 and I met Birdman at the video as he was on the ["Tuck Ya Ice" ] song and I literally just walked up to him and told him I made the beat. Birdman listened to me and he started rocking with me from then. So every time I made beats I would send them to him. He used me on his 5* [Stunna] album and I just kept getting placements [at Cash Money Records] by working with Birdman. Then I started working with Wayne. You know every time I get an opportunity through Mike Caren I would take advantage of it and build better relationships. I tend to work with people who I have a relationship with and who are familiar with my music.
DX: Is it of paramount importance for producers today to build relationships themselves rather than depending on managers?
Kane Beatz: The industry is so saturated now. There’s always a new producer and a new song out. There’s so much going on and people can produce music so easy too, it’s at your fingertips. If you want to stand out and place yourself separately you have to have relationships with the people when you start working, they automatically know who it is when you send them records. That’s a big advantage.
DX: You mentioned sending beats to Baby before, were you consistently sending him music or just once in a while?
Kane Beatz: People have to stay consistent. When I was on the come-up I was trying to do whatever I could. I literally walked around with beat CDs on me at all times, camped out at studios when I possibly could, I would send beats, give up beats, I mean now it’s a little different. I can’t feed everyone like I used to.
DX: Well you have presence now.
Kane Beatz: Yeah but for the people I’ve worked with for a long time I still send them records and beats all the time. It’s about staying focused and a lot of the time I am in the studio with artists, if I make something with an artist, I am making it from scratch. There’s a lot of times though when the artists are on the road and they are recording on buses, so I am always sending beats out at the same time just because you have to keep your sound and what you are doing, fresh in people’s minds. So when you are constantly sending beats and you are getting good responses back, it effects what you are doing. Like when I started working with Nicki and Wayne, I probably gave Nicki about 50 beats and she took say four. And then out of that four was "Super Bass." You just never know how it works.
DX: Out of all the hits you have had, records you have made, regardless of success, sales and critical acclaim, which track are you most happy with?
Kane Beatz: My favorite song of all time is "Steady Mobbin'" for Lil Wayne, which didn’t end up as the biggest song I have ever done but it is my favorite. I feel it is timeless and to this day if you drop it in the club, the club will go crazy. So that’s my song of all time.
DX: You started out as a rapper I believe?
Kane Beatz: [Laughs] Yeah, back in the day.
DX: When ‘back in the day’ are we talking?
Kane Beatz: [Laughs] Five or six years ago. I was in a group with my man D-Blaze, rest in peace to him, and I was trying to rap. We had a mixtape which we passed around in school and I was making the beats for the mixtape and it was then I realized I was way better at producing than rapping.
DX: Even though rapping didn't turn out to be your strength, it had to give you a better understanding for producing actual songs?
Kane Beatz: Oh yeah, especially when it comes to creating a record or creating a song. I know when I make beats I start dancing around to it, it’s getting hot. I like to help a rapper showcase what’s they’ve got on a track. I try to match the song before I even finish the beat, not too much detail, but just little things for the rapper. I’m so wrapped up in my music and creating it. I do do a lot of extra stuff so you are right on that point.
DX: Do you get heavily involved in the songwriting?
Kane Beatz: Yeah, it happens if you are in the lab all the time. My role is to guide the song, if I have to help them out I always come with a whole load of concepts on my phone and my iPad just incase they get stuck. I always try to do my part.
DX: What was the process with "Super Bass"?
Kane Beatz: That track was a blessing. Nicki man, we had been working in the studio in Orlando and she was picking records in L.A. The producer I worked with on that track, I flew him out to Orlando and told him we had to make something up-tempo for Nicki and we came up with "Super Bass" in two days. I sent it to Nicki and within five minutes she told me she loved it.
DX: There are a lot of lawsuits aimed at Cash Money or Young Money, various folks are always suing them and I know you had an issue with Trey Songz' "Bottoms Up." Is this something that goes with the territory when you are successful?
Kane Beatz: It’s something I am starting to learn as I go, as I have only been successful for a short period of time. I mean I talk to producers and I have learned from producers. You succeed and then you start going through things like this, the hatred and people trying to sue you. It’s a problem when you look at the bigger picture but it does come with the territory. Look at Dr. Luke, one of the biggest producers of our time; he’s been sued for so many songs. It happens and you just keep moving.
DX: Just talking to you now it is very obvious how driven and super motivated you are. Beyond the music is this part of the attraction with you when it comes to placements?
Kane Beatz: I hope so. I hear people say something like that but I know right now I am nowhere close to where I want to be. You can’t stop or let anyone get in the way. Working with me, people see how hard I want it and I push people really hard in the studio as I know how much it is going to pay off in the end. That is a quality I hope people see in me.
DX: What are you working on right now?
Kane Beatz: I am working on Rick Ross, Nicki and Lil Wayne’s albums. I did some records with Nas which should be coming out this year and I did a big record with DJ Drama which should be coming out soon, which has four of the biggest artists in Hip Hop on. Me and Drama have been trying to work together for a while and then it took a while to get the record done. This is our first time to make a huge smash.
DX: Do you see yourself in a role beyond producing?
Kane Beatz: Yes, 100%. I love producing but my long term goal is to do every aspect of music and I see myself as an executive in the next five years so I get the respect on that level too.