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Morbidly-o-Beats Interview: Heavyweight Funk (talking vinyl, running a record label and Dibia$e's inspirational approach)

From being one half of FilthyBroke Recordings, to numerous well - received projects and tracks at home and elsewhere, Chicago's Morbidly-o-Beats has certainly achieved a lot in 2013. 
In an exclusive interview, Morbidly-o-Beats, a specialist in atmospheric, suspenseful sounds, big drums and heavy low end, explains how his workflow could be seen as unorthodox; why Filthybroke champions vinyl and tape; and how a West Coast legend changed the way he makes music.   

TNB: For those people out there who don’t already know you, can you please introduce yourself and, if you can, describe your sound?

MB: My name is Jake.  I go by the name Morbidly-o-Beats; I'm based out of Chicago; and I'm one half of Filthybroke Records.  As for my sound, I like really heavy beats, dirty bass, and all around gutter shit which I try and flip into a cohesive package.

TNB: When and how did you start beatmaking? Who/what were your early influences?

MB: I started making music around 2000 with my buddy Hoot.  We both started out as rappers and made shitty beats to rap over.  I started buying samplers and hardware around 2001 and realized I wasn't much of a rapper and liked making beats way more, so focused on that.  Early influences had to be people like Vangelis, Mort Garson, El-P, Trent Reznor, Prince Paul and RZA.

TNB: How has your set-up changed since you first started out? What gear could you not live without and why?

MB: I've been using an MPC since day one.  I copped a 1000 and an SP-303 and started digging heavily for drum breaks and random samples.  The pads on the 1k shit out, so I scooped up an MPC2000XL, which I like way more.  Later on I got the MicroKORG, Electribe ESX-1, Kaoss Pad and MS2000, but I ended up having to sell most of my gear to make rent when I was on the ‘trying to be a rock star and not work a day job’ tip.  Now I have an SP-303 SP-555, MPC200XL, Kaoss Pad and records.  I enjoy a more minimal set-up and feel like I’ve made the best stuff i’ve made with less.  (However, the) MPC is the main piece of gear I use.  Everything goes into the MPC at some point.  I do the majority of mixing in the MPC and normally just record one track into a DAW as where a lot of people multi track into the DAW.  I came up with very minimal knowledge of computers, especially when it comes to making music.  I’m getting better with the computer now, but find that I still prefer the MPC just for workflow purposes at this point.

TNB: How does a Morbidly-O-Beats track happen? Do you have preconceived ideas, or are you creating beats spontaneously?

MB: Most of the time I let the records I’m sampling dictate what the song will be.  Sometimes I go into it with a specific drum pattern in mind, or a bass line I hear in my head and start with that and layer stuff on top.  It also depends on if it’s gonna be a solo joint or if I’m gonna send it to another producer or a rapper, then I have a clearer image as to what I want to do with it.  I start with drums mostly, then search out a sample, chop it up and try and add bass; sometimes I start with a synth line, add the drums to that and just build.  I try to change up the process as much as possible so things don’t always sound the same.  We all have things we always do though to give our shit a signature sound, (which can be) a good or a bad thing.  It’s kinda like when a rapper goes off the top and says the same word a bunch (of times) it’s a crutch – and the crutch helps you walk but it sucks that you need it.
...most producers would say the way I work isn’t really conducive to a good mix, but I set up all mastering before I even record.  That way I can mix inside the MPC according to how it will be mastered.
TNB: Your compositions are often very heavy in mood, and the sounds, especially the bass, often have a really powerful, guttural feel; but at the same time they never sound muddy.  Is there any technical advice you can give to readers who want heavy funk and mood, without sacrificing clarity?

MB: It’s awesome you think it never sounds muddy because that is something I struggle with, especially recording the way I do, with the one track system.  To be honest, most producers would say the way I work isn’t really conducive to a good mix, but I set up all mastering before I even record.  That way I can mix inside the MPC according to how it will be mastered.  It’s kind of a pain in the ass because the floppy drive on my MPC is broken, so I can’t save any beats.  I can’t go back and change things after the fact, so if I fuck up It’s just how it is.  Again, it’s not the smartest way to go about it, but I digg it.  It works for me to record by tracking shit out on the fly on the MPC and I will record like six versions of each beat, so I can pick and choose which I like; and sometimes splice shit if I need to.

TNB: There’s a real hotbed of beatmaking talent in Chicago.  What is it about Chicago that breeds such creativity?  Is there a certain place you all meet up, a certain club you came up around?  

MB: Yeah man, Chicago has some really awesome producers and a pretty dope scene.  Push Beats is really killing it, they do a weekly that gives Chicago beat heads a place to flex.  I think a lot of people in Chicago have to go above and beyond and really try to take it to that next, because it’s such a hard city to get any love in.  But I love Chicago, it’s grimy as fuck.

TNB: You’ve shared stages with some of the biggest names in beatmaking and hip hop: from Dam Funk to Mr Lif, from Ras G to Blockhead.  What did you learn from interacting with these artists?  

MB: To be honest I had really never heard of most of those guys outside of Lif and Blockhead, ‘cuz I was a rap kid.  I never really bumped just beats, but my roommate at the time who I was playing these shows with (Hoot), who also set ‘em all up, knew who they were and would be like ‘yo...these dudes are dope and a pretty big deal in this beat shit’; and most of the time when we played there was a pretty big turn out so I figured out quick that this was the scene and these dudes were running it.  Like, I had never heard of Samiyam, Teebs, any of those dudes; and the first show we played in Denver was a Brainfeeder showcase with all those dudes, so I didn’t really fanboy ‘em.
Dibia$e walked into my basement...laying down these wonky ass drums... (when he) turned the quantization off I was like ‘Man...this dude is crazy'.  It was an eye opener into this whole other world...
But one dude who showed me some cool stuff and kinda made me look at beats differently was Dibia$e.  He played a show in Denver and the promoter was a friend of ours, so he asked if he Dibia$e could crash at my house instead of paying for a hotel, which I was totally cool with.  Now, I had never heard of this dude or heard any of his music.  I went to the show he killed it and then we went back to my crib. When he walked into my basement and saw me and my roomate had 2 MPCs, 3 keyboards, an SP303, SP555, a grip of records and other random shit he got all jacked up and wanted to work on some music.  He was especially stoked I had a 303.  Me and him chilled, dugg through my records, chopped some shit and laced a track.

At the time I was making real straightforward beats, kind of overly techy shit, and when he started laying down these wonky-ass drums and turned the quantization off I was like ‘Man...this dude is crazy’.  I hadn’t even thought to do shit like that, as silly as that seems now.  It was just an eye opener into this whole other world of shit outside what I had been listening to and making up until then. I ended up turning the MPC off before recording it, ‘cuz I thought it sounded kind of wack (laughing), but man, I wish I hadn't.   Dude was cool as fuck and that night changed how I look at using samplers.

TNB: Tell me about the creation of FilthyBroke Recordings.  You were proud of the fact that you were only going to deal in vinyl.  I know that a lot of artists feel that vinyl has more soul and I definitely respect that, but it can't be an easy task to deal in vinyl when we're living in the digital age.  What have been some of the high points and the low points in your commitment to vinyl thus far?

MB: Well, FilthyBroke came about when I met MJC through a mutual friend (at the time) who went on to fuck the label out of what was to be the a-side of our first record and thus slowed us down immensely.  Which, in the end, was the best thing that could have happened, ‘cuz thats when me and MJC really figured out what we wanted to do with the label, and realized that we had a very similar taste in music.

We were originally going to do wax only, but realized tapes were a dope option as well, since people seem to digg tapes and be buying them.  As far as doing vinyl in the digital age, me and MJC are such sound nerds that really, the only way we can roll is wax or tape, to us, the sound is noticeably better.  We are the type of dudes that would rock a turn table in the whip if that would work.

TNB: I’m a big fan of ‘Best Buds Vol II’, which came out on the label.  How did the project come about? How did you decide who and what was going on the project? 

MB: ‘Best Buds...’ is basically me and MJC just talking and telling each other who we are really hyped on right now.  If we both digg on an artist one of us reaches out and sees if they wanna get down.  We also have some outlets to get people exposure, so we wanna help however we can, like I showed MJC Zackey Force Funk.  Now that dude doesn’t need our help in the promo department, but we both love that dude’s music, so I hollered to see if he wanted to get down and he was.  He shot us over a couple joints and we loved em.  We put his joint (‘Montego Bay’) on the FilthyBroke soundcloud page and it did really well - a bunch of beat heads who had never heard of him were blown away by it - so it ended up being dope for everyone.  That dude’s legit, he’s a real good guy.  His brother N8 is nasty as fuck too. Everyone should peep them: Zackey Force Funk, N8 Noface / CrimeKillz, it’s real good music.

TNB: What are your plans for the New Year?  Any projects you want to promote? People to shout out?

MB: 2014 should be dope.  We will be dropping our first 12", which has songs from MJC, Odd Nosdam, Myself, featuring a special guest rapper, and Benito; and it’s all being mastered by Matthewdavid, so thats gonna be major. MJC and I are slowly working on a collabo record; I’m gonna be working on beats for a rapper homie named Daf K, I’m tryin to do a project with him; and I’ll prolly drop a couple solo joints, I’m not really to sure yet though.

I just put out a tape with the really awesome label I had an Accident Records, out of Annapolis, which I’m really excited about.  That’s a label to check out, they have so many awesome releases and they do it the right way.

I wanna give a shout to MJC, Hoot, IHAA Records, Odd Nosdam, Matthewdavid, Zackey Force Funk, N8NOFACE, DG, Push beats, Lanzo, Seenmr, all of YOUNG HO, Benito, everyone supporting FilthyBroke, SYFFAL, Kid Presentable, all my friends and family and of course you guys at The New Beatmaker for taking the time to interview me and showing FBR love.

TNB: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.  Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to new beatmakers?

MB: Make music because you want to.  Make what you love, not what you think other people will love.  Making what you think other people will love might get you a little shine but when the fad dies so do you. Enjoy what you do: it’s not all about soundcloud follows and plays.  Also, over promotion is tacky as fuck.

As corny as it sounds, be true to yourself.  Do the math.  Know the Science.

Many thanks to Morbidly-O-Beats.  Check him out at:

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