Xperiment on boom bap, hearing melodies in every day sound and making music versus creating it
Xperiment (aka Courtland Urbano) is an out of this world supersonic architect of sound. His beats are a perfect synthesis between a test to discover or prove the unknown and the balance of validating tried and true methods, threading analog sounds through digital components. Xperiment's beats are accessible to the untrained ear, yet, a closer examination reveals that the seemingly simple melodies are built upon an expert layering of instrumentation.
Xperiment recently competed against twelve producers in Denver's Red Bull Big Tune semi-finals, and ended up being the runner up to fellow Colorado beat maker Boon Doc. The two are will be heading to Chicago this November to compete in the national finals for a chance at the grand prize, which is an opportunity for the winner to produce for an artist of their choice. We caught up with X recently and chopped it up with him about beats, rhymes and life.
WW (Ru Johnson): What exactly is Boom Bap?
Xperiment: Technically, I would say it's onomatopoeia. The "Boom" represents a kick and the "Bap" represents a snare, but as a general definition, it's that raw hip-hop, a sound that harnesses the true essence of where hip-hop started by sampling drums and melodies from a record.
WW: Do you hear melodies in every day sound?
X: Definitely. There's usually a rhythm or melody to everything that's around us, whether it be the anxious college student next to you tapping their finger nails on the notebook, or the copy machine at work as it scans the paper and prints it out, or sitting on the porch at night while the crickets chirp, or the sound of your neighbor's wind chime. I'm learning more to utilize every day sounds or what could be considered background noise in my music.
WW: How did you prepare for the battle?
X: The day of the battle, I really took my time to relax. I ate a good meal, drank plenty of water and then went through each track I would potentially play. While going through my selection of beats, I tried to put myself in the position of the audience. Really get into the mind set of what they would want to hear since the crowd was the deciding factor of each winner.
WW: What do you think of Boone Doc?
X: He's an amazing producer! But everybody already knows that. What some may not know is that he is an extremely humble person. His music is big, and so is his heart. I'm proud to say he's my friend.
WW: Are there any other competing musicians that youre fond of?
X: There are several producers in the finals that I am a big fan of: Dibia$e, 14kt, Budo, Captain and T Mos, and also the Incredible Stro, Cam and Hitmakers, competing so far, as well.
WW: How do you know when a beat is completely finished?
X: Once every thought in my head that says, "It could be better," is gone.
WW: What's the difference in "making music" and creating music?
X: The difference is the process. Before I lay down a drum pattern, I'm going through my selection of sounds and playing them live to get a feel of what sounds good. At that point I am "making music." Once I have an idea I then record it into the sequence and at the point I have "created music." Its the same with my next step for a beat. I'll go through tons of different sounds and play around on the keys until I hear a melody and sound that I like but the music has not been created until it's recorded.
WW: What are your thoughts on technology verses more manual forms of beat making? And what does that even mean?
X: [You're] talking to a kid who started making beats on software demos. I'm definitely a fan of technology. The fact that you can have a simple software program then add on thousands of virtual instruments that replicate the sounds of very rare analog synths or instruments is amazing to me.
On the flip side, if you have those original old school synths or instruments, then that's even better! Before software became such a huge thing, there weren't many beat makers using more than just samples. If they were using synths, it was probably some cheesy Casio keyboard preset. I know there are plenty of hip-hop heads and producers that feel sampling is the only way to make a good beat -- which is complete nonsense, and I think limits yourself and limits where hip-hop could be going.
Having a balance in the old style of hip-hop production and the newer style is key, and in a way [this approach] has defined my personal style: Using drums from a record that has the "boom bap" with other sounds I can tuck into the background of the mix that is sampled. It gives the beat a very unique feeling. "Ancient ways with modern technology."
WW: More and more, "wordless" music is seen as a viable commodity. Where is the market for the art that you create?
X: A lot of it is online, in LA or outside of the US. It's kind of created its own scene now, but it's much more diverse because it's not only for people who like hip-hop, but for those who like electronica, dub step, soul, jazz, techno, really everything. It's a very freeing form of music. It doesn't have boundaries, and really lets the audience take on a different way of listening and what they feel in the song, as opposed to having an MC speak on their behalf.