FOREWORD BY NICK DONNELLY.
AT URBAN KINGDOM our main role is to give everyone who makes up the urban industry a voice. One important role that is not recognised anywhere near enough in the mainstream is that of the producer. In the US a producer is often as much in the public eye as the artist. For instance Timbaland, Swizz Beats, Pollow Da Don, Neptunes etc. However, naming even 5 UK producers is a much harder task.
With this in mind Urban Kingdom have decided to interview producer, Shin from Dumb Beats, for the first in our series of Urban Kingdom interviews.
Oliver Whitehouse introduced me to Shin of the Dumb Beats camp a few months back, after he had worked with him on the M Dot E ft Naye video ‘Positive State of Mind’ here on Urban Kingdom. I then went down to London to visit him in the studio for his collaborations with Newcastle artist Young Littlez on his debut release ‘Death Penalty’.
The music and the energy in the studio made it abundantly clear that Dumb Beats have the potential to be the new sound of British urban music. Shin is constantly working on crossing the South London appeal over to the mainstream, and in an effort to do so has become an integral part of getting the artists signed to major labels.
Most significantly Shin recognises, like Timbaland and Swizz did before him, that to be a known producer, you must become a brand.
INTERVIEW BY GIULIA SALIS
UK: YOU GREW UP IN SOUTH LONDON. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CONTACT WITH MUSIC?
Shin: I used to work in a youth club doing volunteer work and basically got funding to get a music studio. What happened was I got the keys eventually to the studio and i started, not breaking in, but letting myself in in hours when I shouldn’t have been, and me and the guys from the team: Ash, Rawz and Rome, we ended up using the studio after hours. It was all good until we got caught…
We were bringing a couple of our artists from the area down and just making beats and doing ghetto amateur vocals.
UK: SO WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU GOT CAUGHT?
Shin: Got sacked (Laughing hard)
UK: HOW DID THE PLACE YOU GREW UP IN SHAPE YOUR MUSIC TASTE?
Shin: I was always around Hip Hop / RnB. My auntie listens to a lot of RnB, I used to spend a lot of my weekends there with my cousins and stuff so I had a lot of RnB influence – American RnB but when I was around the lads back in the area it was Hip Hop. Never really was UK Hip Hop, always American stuff which is where we always wanted to be, wanted to end up in America making beats.
UK: YOU BEGAN MAKING MUSIC AT COLLEGE. HOW WAS YOUR ORDINARY DAY AS A STUDENT/PRODUCER?
Shin: It was kinda awkward cos you’d go to college and i think at that age your creativeness is bubbling a lot, it still is now but then bubbled a lot then. I was doing my graphics which I did at Richmond College and then put my headphones in and you’d listen to music and go I want to just go home and make a beat now.
I didn’t have a laptop then so at lunch I’d get proper frustrated, when I got home it was make beats but I can’t turn it up cos my Mum would turn it down, and I got frustrated until I got the keys to the youth club.
UK: DO YOU REGRET NOT GIVING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO YOUR EDUCATION?
Shin: No not at all. For myself I never saw it working, only thing I wanted to go uni for was the uni life. I wanted to go but I didn’t see the point in it id rather stay at home and make beats, i didn’t want to be taught how to make music, it was always the vibes to me that you make something if it sounds good it sounds good. Only thing I regret is not going college and learning (music) engineering but guess you learn it along the way. I’ve taught myself, my friends around me taught us, if we learn something new, if Ash learns something new he’d share it onto me if i learn something new i got a new plugin id show him watch tutorials and stuff but we taught ourselves.
UK: ALTHOUGH YOU SAY ALWAYS LOVED MUSIC, YOU SAY YOU ONLY GOT SERIOUS ABOUT IT IN 2009. WHAT HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFE THAT MADE YOU BELIEVE THIS WAS NOW GOING TO BE YOUR FUTURE?
Shin: We were messing around in the studio and we did this tune called ‘Beat and Bounce’, it was a Funky House beat. The guy that was looking after us at the time ‘Milk Tray’ he told us to make this Funky House beat and we did it, it was just a mess around and it was just a remake of something Rawz and Rome originally did.
We made it and we showed it to a couple of people and it kinda caught on. Then it got round the clubs and then, before you know it, after the summer people were saying they were dancing to our tune in Napa and dancing to it in O2 Academy in Brixton and it kinda just lifted. We didn’t see a lot of it because we were always in studio and none of us had Twitter back then. We were just making beats and it properly spread, that kinda helped get our name out and from then we could kinda see what it can do and then we just started making Hip Hop, the Funky thing was good but we want to do what we make now.
UK: HAS YOUR FAMILY ENCOURAGED YOU OR NOT?
Shin: At first no, my Mum always supports me no matter what but my Dad would always be like turn that shit off, blah blah blah, I’ve got a pair of speakers and couldn’t use them cos they didn’t like to hear the base through the walls so its like if i got home from college or work early that was the only time I could make a beat.
Until they started seeing the things happening recently, Littles went to number 18, just got back from Germany with Dotty and travelling the world for free with music, might be going New York in four weeks and I think they are starting to see things happening now. I think you got to stick at something and to paint them the picture. Its good to have their support.
UK: ONE THING I’VE NOTICED ABOUT PRODUCERS IN THE UK IS THEY HAVE NEVER MANAGED TO GET INTO THE MAINSTREAM THE SAME WAY THE PRODUCERS IN USA HAVE, THEY HAVE NEVER BECOME A BRAND.
Shin: Thats the one thing we are trying to do we are trying to market ourselves as producers not just for the music but face value as well. When you see us we’ve our own image we’re focusing hard on that, we may not jump on a hook but as long as you see us and know who we are… I think its really important because its something that lacks in the UK. Everyone knows who Hit Boy is since Paris, since Jay-z and Kanye, everyone only knows who he is now because people are starting to see him around more.
UK: VISUAL CONTENT IS KEY.
Shin: Definitely key, and in the UK there is not a lot of it going on and its something that we can break into, its just doing it.
UK: YOU LIKE TO SHOOT VIDEOS FOR ALL YOUR WORK AND HAVE YOUR NAME IN THE TITLES: IT IS NOTED THAT EVERY PRODUCTION ROCKWILDER MAKES IT IS IN THE CONTACT IT HAS TO HAVE A MUSIC VIDEO AND MUST BE A SINGLE.
Shin: That’s something we push for as well. Its pointless with us working on some tunes if its just gonna be put on a mix tape and its just gonna be a free download. Keep quality control up there.
UK: ALSO YOU MENTION HIT BOT, JAY-Z SHOUTS HIM OUT ON STAGE – THAT HELPS.
Shin: It helps a lot, even if you not in the venue and someone says shout out to the producer its exposure, it all helps promote the producer, and again this doesn’t happen a lot in the UK. If I was working a 9 to 5 in an office and I come home and listen to a tune I wouldn’t know what the producer looked like, I wouldn’t know Frazer T Smith made Tinchy Stryder or Kano and Craig David’s tune. I want to be that guy that when you turn on the TV you see him, and he got his decks, his headphones or whatever he got thats music orientated, you know his role in that tune.
UK: DO YOU HAVE A CERTAIN SONG THAT REALLY INSPIRES YOU?
Shin: Off the top of my head I can’t think, there are certain beats though that i make that really mean something to me. There might have been a time when i was making them and something really mad was going on in my life at the time and I haven’t given them beats out for them reasons. Its just a beat i listen to sometimes but i wouldn’t show them to nobody, I’ve got like two or three of them.
UK: WHY CLASS YOURSELVES AS PRODUCERS NOT BEATMAKERS?
Shin: We are very selective on the Artists that we work with because we have that relationship with them where we can paint pictures in their head. We can show them melodies, we can show them direction on where we want it to go, we’d like them to be themselves on there which we give them the creativity to do but we paint that picture for them as well. We’re not beatmakers, we don’t just make make beats and throw them out, we used to but not no more.
UK: SO IF AN ARTIST COMES UP TO YOU AND SAYS HE WANTS YOU TO MAKE A BEAT LIKE LEX LUGER?
Shin: I’d say holla Lex Luger, I don’t go up to artists and say I want you to rap like Rick Ross, its an insult….
UK: (Laughing) THEY DO ANYWAY.
UK: THE TEAM GAINED SOME EXPOSURE WHEN THEY SAMPLED TOM JONES TRACKS ‘BURNING HELL’ AND ‘LORD HELP’. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
Shin: We was in the studio, an artist let us down for a listening session, so we had this studio to ourselves we was making beats, then the guy who runs the studio his sister came in and she was telling us how she manages Tom Jones. She gave us a Tom Jones CD, we had a listen, took it home, sampled it and I got Benjamin A.D. to jump on it and showed them (the management) the radio rip that was on Trevor Nelsons show on Radio 1.
UK: NOT MANY PEOPLE WOULD PUT TOM JONES AND UK HIP HOP IN THE SAME SENTENCE?
Shin: There are ways to exploit it, what we did at the time if we was to do that now it could be a big tune. Thats the whole thing of us being Dumb, thats us being Dumb, you wouldn’t think of doing it, but it worked, and we was in the early stages and if i was to make that tune now…
UK: WELL OF COURSE A LOT OF US HIP HOP IS SAMPLED FROM CLASSICAL AMERICAN SINGERS, BUT WE DON’T SAMPLE OUR CULTURE….
Shin: Well exactly, who would think to sample Peter Andre…… (thinking and laughing) Because it wouldn’t work thats too dumb…. Thats retarded
UK: HAS TOM JONES HEARD IT?
Shin: Yeah he tweeted us saying good job on the track.
UK: HE COULD FIGURE IN HIP HOP STILL THEN – ON TWITTER KEEPING HIMSELF RELEVANT. WHAT OTHER MOMENTS REFINED YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Shin: Dotty (A.Dot) getting signed was a really proud moment for me and her. I did about a quarter of her last EP and to know that got noticed by a major and us getting called in to EMI to sign an album deal thats a highlight. Ben (AD) getting signed is a highlight. Little Dee I did his all EP with Ash, who done Im a Londoner, that got to number 18 in he hip hop charts. M Dot E and Troy getting signed to Billy Woods, all these are recent things, who knows what the next 6 months can hold.
UK: ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT YOU CAN RETAIN AUTHENTICITY WITH THE SIGNED PROJECTS?
Shin: I don’t think they are gonna change, just be more developed. I been working on Dottys Album already nothings changed. When we went into EMI the main thing they said to us was carry on doing what you doing.
UK: SO DO YOU THINK THE LABELS ARE FINALLY NOW BEGINNING TO ADAPT TO REAL HIP HOP IN THE UK?
Shin: I think certain artists are still not being produced correctly. It up to us and its only ever been up to us, all they are is a machine behind us and its going with the right machine and what suits you best. Its the same with publishing with producers, why would i sign my publishing out to a pop publisher where I’m gonna stand out like a sore thumb and none of my beats are gonna get used.
UK: ARTISTS SIGN THEIR PUBLISHING FAR TOO SOON. ONE THING THERE IS NOT A LACK OF IS ASPIRING MUSICIANS, BEDROOM PRODUCERS / ARTISTS OR WHATEVER, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY TO THEM?
Shin: Keep making beats, and i know everyone says it, but you will only get better and being around people that are progressing is key. If you’ve got a good positive drive you will find yourself attracting to people with a positive vibe also. Im still a bedroom producer myself, I still work in my Attic, i got a Yamaha HS80s and a macbook you don’t need all this big equipment and a big studio just yet, I look at that mainly for just mixing and mastering.
UK: AND A NICE MUSIC VIDEO….. AND A RICK ROSS VIDEO BLOG…..
EDITED BY DANIELLE MIDDLETON.
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