Here is another interview from someone that inspires me. I have always felt so blessed to work with people that are not only talented but true friends. Cynik has been one of the most supportive people I have ever worked with and is a multi-talented being to be reckoned with on every dimension! He produced some of my favorite songs I have done including Freakuency, Godette and The Fact is. Here is more about this powerhouse in his own words.
Q: How did you get into music?
A: First off, thanks for asking. My biological father was and still is a
drummer, and my grandmother on my mother’s side was a church singer…
The music was in the blood, and my grandma had me singing before I
could talk, really… at about 4, my aunt on my stepdad’s side, who
was a singer in a rock band, had me on stage performing with her, and
since then I never seriously wanted to do anything with my life other
than be an entertainer. I was fortunate that my mother recognized I
was crazily passionate about it at a young age… she kept me in
musical programs throughout school and was a believer in doing what
you want with your life, so she was always very supportive.
Q: You are an emcee, producer and engineer…am I missing anything?
A: Well I wouldn’t really say I’m much of an engineer, hahaha, I still
have a lot to work on in that area… But besides rhyming, ((the rap
game is disgusting)), beatsmithing ((for almost 10 years now, love
every second of it)), and DJing ((for a few years, just rockin bars
and clubs and shit like it was a “day job”)) I also have experience as
a host of live and filmed events. I also do a ton of consultancy work,
and I was debating getting back into acting at some point down the
Q: What genres of music do you produce and why?
A: I identify as a rap/hiphop producer because that’s my “main” genre,
but I like to produce as many different styles of music as I can get
into, because I feel like all the techniques you learn in producing
various genres will serve you when working on what you’d consider
“your style”. So thus far, I’ve had my hands in rap, hip hop, r&b,
theme music, pop music, rock/metal, jazz, dubstep and house. I made an
attempt at country one time on a bet, but I’m probably gonna leave
that one alone for a while, hahahah…
Q: What artists have you produced for?
A: I’ve heard Freeway, Raekwon, Ghostface Killa, and Tasha from Xscape on
my tracks, as well as Lil Wayne on one of my tracks that was
re-worked. At the time of this interview, though, all of that music is
unreleased, so it really doesn’t count yet in my eyes. As a hiphop
producer, I’ve focused mainly on the Pittsburgh music scene, while
sharpening my skills, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see artists
I’ve worked with from the ground up take music we’ve made and go
national and international with it, which I feel like is one of the
greatest achievements a producer can have. I’ve seen artists from
Pittsburgh such as Jasiri X ((“What If The Tea Party Was Black?)),
Kellee Maize ((Godette)), the Wu-Tang’s Pittsburgh affiliates the
Wulords ((Chapter 3)) and Big Lyfe ((Sky High)) take songs we’ve made
out into the world and make serious headway in their careers, which I
feel like is much more of a feat in today’s harsh musical climate than
merely getting a placement with an already-established national
artist. I still have a few more indie artists that I’m in the process
of working on some exciting projects with, so hopefully the music we
make will act like swords for them also… I’m also working with
electronic artists in the dubstep genre, such as Statesthetic and RSK, with whom I’ve
had a few releases over the last few months. In addition to the
artists, I’ve also done some theme music for a few commercials and an
audio book as well.
of? I wonder if it is the same one. Don’t feel obligated to say
Well, every project I do has a special place for me, because no two
that I’ve done are alike, and no two artists that I’ve worked with are
alike ((that’s how I keep it interesting and evolving))… BUT at the
moment, off the top, I’d have to say that this group that’s the
Pittsburgh Wu-Tang affiliates, the Wulords, had one of the most
amazingly in-depth projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on to
date. These young men are crazy as hell. We have this jam with metal
guitars on the project they just released in April ((“Johnny Blaze”,
off of Chapter 3: Strategic Attack)), that just gives me goose bumps
every time it hits. I find myself walking around absent-mindedly
spitting the lyrics to that jam… The way the whole creation of that
song went was just like magic. They said “we want some hard guitars,
we wanna get vicious”, and I said “cool, let’s kill some people”. I
got to work for like three days ((I don’t play the guitar, so I had to
make the guitar sounds myself, and make it convincing)) and finally
came up with how I wanted it to go, then when they came thru the spot
to hear it, I saw big smiles, they didn’t even want anything changed!
The next day they just hit the studio without a word, and in one
session murdered the song, which turned out to be one of my favorite
jams of 2012 so far! I ended up producing most of their Chapter 3
disc, and due to the heavy lyrical content, creatively aggressive
beats, and the group itself ((11 yr old, 14 yr old, and 18 yr old
brothers, amazing!)), as well as the collabs we had on there, it just
became one of my favorite projects to have worked on thus far, in
other producers and emcees?
A: I would describe my sound as aggressive and constantly evolving. I’ve
heard people say that they can always tell when I’ve produced a track,
no matter the genre, because it will always have musically violent
undertones, attitude, and very full drums. Most of the music I do
comes from a dark place, so whether it sounds like a sexy pop track, a
jazz hybrid, electronic dance, or whatever, I’ll still find a way to
throw something in there that makes you feel where I’m coming from…
Most of the artists I have worked with and like to work with have dark
pasts and have overcome things in their lives that would destroy most
“normal” people, and I feel like that’s one of the things that always
comes through in my sound, which is what most artists I’m working with
gravitate towards for these particular projects of theirs I get to be
Q: What producers do you admire? what emcees to you admire?
Well I’m always gonna say Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Just Blaze,
Pharrell, RZA, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Kid Capri, and Quincy Jones
right off the top, because those are the ones I have always studied.
These guys are the guys I’m striving to be able to stand next to some
day. As far as rappers go, I was always into Luda, Busta, Jay, Ye,
Twista, KRS-One, Pac, Biggie, Nas, Naughty By Nature, and Run DMC…
Emcee’s who had FLOW, as well as something to talk about. One of the
things that’s strange about me, though, is that I actually listen to
as little rap music as possible these days. I listen to a lot of
American dubstep, aka “brostep”, so producers like Datsik, Skrillex,
Bare, and a whole lot of underground guys are what I’m into at the
Q: How did you start making beats? when?
As a little kid I was always fascinated by the music behind the
artists I was listening to and how it was made ((it was like magic to
me)). I was always drumming on shit, beat-boxing, and recording it
onto blank tapes. I learned and studied as an artist for the first
part of my life (singing and rapping), then I started learning how to
make beats using drum machines and keyboards at 16 while working for
this strange program downtown during the summer…. I started learning
sequencing and production incorporating computers at 18 after high
school… but never got good enough to start selling tracks til I was
about 20 and working at a studio in my hood.
Q: Explain your beat-making process?
I can’t really say I have one process that I go about it…. I guess I
would say that it depends on how much of the idea is already
formulated before I even touch the keys. For example, if an artist has
an idea for a song, we’ll get into the studio and start from that, and
the track ends up customized to the song they heard in their head or a
hybrid of their idea and where else we thought we could take it. If an
artist just says “I like your sound, I want what you do”, then I’ll
start like 3 different tracks according to what that artist has
already done, trying to imagine where they could go next that would
be comfortable yet outside of the box for them ((if they want that))
and work on the ideas simultaneously until one of them sounds like
where I’m trying to go, or I hear elements in each of them that I can
combine into one solid track for that artist… A lot of times, when
I’m not making anything specifically for someone, I’ll just hear
something in my head and have to run to the keyboard to get it out
before I lose the idea. The easiest ones are the ones where I hear the
melody in my head first.
around what someone has already written?
Well I find it’s easiest when an artist has a concept for a song, not
necessarily the whole song already written out, but an idea of where
the song should end up. It gives both the artist and the producer room
to work and find a middle ground. I like to work with people, and I
feel like the less “guessing” a producer has to do, the more he ((or
she)) can focus on what it is the artist wants and end up with a
better project in the end. In some cases, though, ((when working on
rap music mostly)) I definitely don’t mind if the artist has the song
already written out and I just have to lay sick drums then fill
everything in while we blaze. In the electronic genre, I encourage
artists to give me a capellas, even, which I can then manipulate to
form some whole other thing!
Q: Explain your writing process and why you write what you do?
Well my writing process as an artist is kind of funny, because I feel
like the music pretty much tells me what to say and how to say it, so
I’m militant about the music I rock to, because every little nuance
affects what I write. I’ve tried to steer away from the artist thing
the last few years and focus more on the production end, because I
can’t seem to stop myself from writing really cynical dark material
that is always socio-political based and aggressive-sounding, which, in
today’s rap climate run by corporate fuckers, is deemed unprofitable.
I think that style of writing comes from my love of heavy metal music,
hahaha, but I figure once I find the proper medium as an artist where
that’s appropriate, I’ll be fine, if that’s the road I feel like
traveling again. I’ve found that some of the feelings I like to
express, when verbalized as an artist, can come across as frightening
to some, whereas I can put the same feelings into music as a producer
and elicit a much more positive response and a clearer understanding
from my audience, without ever saying a word. Furthermore, being a
producer allows me to find artists who would be putting out the types
of messages I’d like to, and strengthen their movements by lending my
energy to what they have going on.
Q: What kind of advice would you give aspiring producers or emcees?
The number one thing I can and will always probably say to anyone
working in this industry is this:
“Strive for innovation, not imitation!”
Q: If you aren’t making music, what do you enjoy?
If I’m not working on music I’m into movies, shows/events/parties,
video games, and some other stuff I won’t talk about on here, hahaha
Q: What inspires you?
God, really. I feel like this is what I’m put here to do, and I feel
completely happy with life as long as this is what I’m doing and I’m
continuing to move forward. Any obstacle in life I’ve ever
encountered, I felt like I had to overcome only to do what I’m doing.
Music is like a martial art to me, I’ll only continue to evolve, grow
and achieve greater levels of skill until I’m bad-ass enough that they
have to stick me on the top of a mountain like an old monk from a kung
fu movie, hahahah. I’ve recognized that my music is motivated and
fueled by a very dark place, and that it’s what I use to get me
through. What inspires me the most is the hope that one day I’ll be
able to stand in front of millions of people and testify that God took
this man who was born with nothing and made him a king!
to produce a wide variety of sounds?
I’ve found that when a producer tries to stick to just one sound,
(like they make a hit and get on, then tons of other artists start
hitting him for something that just sounds like that one song they
made), there exists the possibility of stagnation. The main guy that
trained me as I was coming up, (Caz Lamar, is his name) taught me that
the more diverse you are, the stronger and more valuable you are as
producer, and you will survive longer.
What’s next for me as far as in the upcoming months: a whoooooole lot
of electronic dance music production ((i.e. dubstep, moombahton, and
tech house)). There’s an audio book I produced that we’re wrapping up,
called “From A Kushite To A Thug: How Did I Get Here” by author Steve
Johnson, that should be coming out soon. New Wulords records I’ve
produced are coming. New Jasiri X is coming. New Kellee Maize tracks
are coming. I’ve got collaborations with a rock band called Doomsday
Initiative coming, and I’m producing a jazz-hybrid project for trumpet
player Ian Gordon! I’m hoping some of the national placements in the
rap genre I’ve done start to emerge this year, but even if they don’t,
I have tons of other interesting opportunities on the horizon I’m
looking forward to… This year should mark my return to the
microphone in some capacity as well, so I’m pretty excited about some
of the material shaping up under the Cynik Lethal project…
Q: When will your next emcee project be out?
Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure the first single from the new Cynik
Lethal project should be out in the fall of ’12, along with the video I’m executive producing. The project is gonna be
electronic-based for the most part, as that’s the genre whose
techniques I’ve been studying the most, over the past year or so. I kind of
feel pretty free as an artist, these days, to experiment, because I’m
working and gaining steadily as a producer… I’m not really under any
pressure to repeat anything I’ve done in the past, so I’m looking
forward to being able to reach a new audience with a new sound, some
hard-ass music, and hopefully break a lot of necks in the process!