We have had an amazing year speaking to some incredibly talented people, and as we head towards closing shop for Christmas at Minnis2Society HQ, on of our last interviews of 2019 is with Vice Beats from Bristol!
Vice Beats tells us all about himself, his music, and a project he is working on…
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Vice beats. I’m a Bristol based producer. I mostly make Jazz and Soul inspired hip hop. I love working with musicians and live instrumentation, and over the last few years I’ve mainly focused on developing royalty free music, honing my skills as a musician. I play keys, bass, a bit of guitar and occasionally pick up my trumpet! Alongside being a producer I am the Education and Events Manager for Wordplay Magazine, so I create opportunities for Wordplay to get into the community and support the scene where possible. I’m a podcaster, and have hosted a wide variety of shows.
My day to day is being media lecturer for a training provider in Bristol, teaching 16-18 year olds how to make videos, music, graphics and more. Alongside released music, I also make music for TV and sync. Finally, and probably most importantly, I am the Dad of an awesome little lady called Alex and a proud husband. I try my very best to balance my music life and home life, and although I’m always busy I feel I’m very lucky. I’ve had some amazing opportunities as a musician over time and they keep building.
You have been working on a project raising money for the James Dewitt Yancey
Foundation in Detroit – tell us some more about that?
Well, I’ve been working on that album for about seven years! It is a concept album which reworks Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s “Suite For Ma Dukes” which is truly stunning rendition of Dilla’s music. I first heard it when my daughter, who has Downs Syndrome, was very unwell in hospital. I sat there for weeks, desperately trying to stay positive and then watched that performance. In a moment I felt inspired, like there was hope. I watched it on repeat for days, and afterwards I knew that I wanted to rework the album. I’ve never felt that before with a record, but the songs meant so much to me, and I wanted to see what I could do.
I began with one track, doing some simple loops, and seeing what I could create, and with that Donnie Numeric of Delegates Of Rhyme laid a verse down. I started playing around with a few more ideas, and once I had 5-6 tracks I saw Greg Blackman and played him what I had so far. He could see past what I had created, he heard the gaps and got involved adding vocal parts, bass, keys, guitar, additional drums and more. When he returned the tracks to me it felt like the album’s potential had sky rocketed. I approached my friend Lupo who was the drummer for Babyhead and he began laying some riffs down. It took shape from there. I contacted a whole bunch of artists whose music I loved and admired. I didn’t want to limit it to one country, I wanted to see where the album could lead.
7 years later, the album features artists from the UK, US, Brazil, Australia, Holland and more. I’m incredibly proud of what I have created, and I feel very lucky and thankful that the artists involved believed in my vision.
In terms of the James Yancey Foundation, I contacted them a few years ago explaining about the project. They liked the sound of it, and when Ma Dukes visited the UK we met and it really inspired me to meet her and Toney and hear first hand what they were doing. She gave me a hug and thanked me and I knew I had to see this project through no matter what. My background is youth work, so being able to support an organisation who are supporting young people in Detroit and far beyond is a privilege.
The album is being released on vinyl and digitally via HHV and Fat Beats, and Suspect Packages in the UK, which is an amazing feeling in itself! I can’t wait for this to finally be released!
When did you first discover J Dilla?
Damn! I honestly don’t know! I heard his beats for years before knowing it was him. The first production I heard that really stuck with me was A Tribe Called Quest. 1nce Again is one of my favourite tracks, and hearing that sparked my interest. When I went to uni in Lincoln there was a little record shop which I spent way too much money in! The owner was a massive hip hop head, and stocked Rawkus, Tommy Boy, BBE and loads more. My friend Halo was deep into music and introduced me to Slum Village’s – Fantastic Volume 2, a year after it was released. I loved it, and when I heard Fall In Love it instantly connected. The production was perfect. I started going back through older albums, and seeing“ James Yancey”, “Jay Dee”, “J Dilla” on the liner notes. I spent weeks on Win MX finding anything I could (this was 2001!) And realising that some of my favourite music from Common, ATCQ, Q-Tip, D’Angelo, The Roots, De La Soul and more involved Dilla. I was hooked from that point.
And for those that don’t know him where should they start?
I think it depends on the type of music you’re into. The beauty of Dilla was that his repertoire was so broad. He had the ability to create contemplative, beautiful music, and then make raw dirty head nodding bangers! On a personal level I’d suggest listening to Donuts as a starting point as it introduces you to Dilla’s way of working. Having created that album whilst in hospital, with his mum bringing him crates of vinyl in to sample on his MPC, the tracks have an intensity and intricacy to them. It’s the album he never managed to see the fruits of.
After that I really like Jay Loves Japan, and his production on Common’s Like Water For Chocolate is another level. I absolutely love “Sun In My Face” featuring Blu and Jontel from “Jay Loves Japan”. That tune is awesome!!! For me it sums up Dilla’s blend of beauty and rawness. Beats wise, “Life” is one of my favourite stand alone beats from his tapes. It’s so hard to choose, there are so many incredible records. He had such a crazy work ethic, and the thing is that his music stands up on its own, vocals sprinkle a little bit of magic on the beats, but you can listen to Dilla beats and zone out for hours.
It feels like 2019 has been a good year for hip hop would you agree?
YES! Definitely. It’s been hard to keep track of the good quality releases this year. Some of my favourites this year have been:
- Loyle Carner – Not Waving. But Drowning
- Athletic Progression – Dark Smoke
- DJ Yoda – Home Cooking
- Sampa The Great – The Return
- Common – Let Love
- Damu & Blu – Ground And Water
- Gangstarr – One Of The Best Yet
- Abstract Orchestra – Madvillain Volume 2
But there’s been a load of amazing music coming out. It feels like the boombap / lo-fi sound is really at the forefront at the moment, and it’s opening the doors for some really talented artists to get the attention they deserve.
And whats next for Vice Beats?
Lots! Dilla: The Timeless Tribute is dropping on 7th February 2020. There’s 3 singles before the release, and a launch party at the Chip Shop in Brixton on 8th February featuring performances from some of the artists on the album.
After that there’s a series of releases planned. I have an EP dropping mid next year, I’m part of a vinyl compilation which I’m really excited about (but that’s secret for now!). There’s some albums that I’ve produced tracks on that are coming out including The Scribes and Donnie Numeric.
Also, I am starting a new podcast series called Diggin The Crates, which features interviews with some of my favourite musicians; producers and vocalists, talking about their creative process. I’m really excited to drop that.
I also create sync music for TV, and have had music featured on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 alongside.
What have you been listening to, reading, watching and loving recently? Any
So many! I pretty much live on Spotify! Albums and music wise my top listening at the moment is in part the albums I already mentioned, I also love listening to random playlists and seeing what I can find.
My favourite podcast is Hip Hop Saved My Life with Romesh, its the best around. It’s brilliant hearing the guests they manage to get on and hearing about their creative journeys.
Books wise, I’ve not long finished reading Questlove and Ben Greenman’s Creative Quest. It’s brilliant! I’m a huge Roots fan, and hearing how Quest’s portfolio career took shape and the amazing twists and turns and advice he has and has been given along the way is really inspiring. I’m quite a slow reader, so I really have to commit to a book. I also love Keith Stuart’s A Boy Made of Blocks. That’s brilliant. It’s not often that a book makes me cry but that did.
We don’t watch TV at home, but we watch a fair bit of Netflix and going to the cinema. Recently I’ve really enjoyed Beats, Wonder, The Last Black Man In LA, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. Lots really, I love films. I teach media, and love creating media in all forms. My main focus in music and graphics but I also love video.
Finally what is your tip of the day?
Have fun! I have spent over a decade going through various stages of my creative career, and once I accepted that my skills had given me the opportunity to work in a creative environment it took the pressure off creating music. I make music because I love it, it’s my best stress release and connects me to the world when I feel lost. Try not to think about the output or the end point, just enjoy the ride! The fun is in the process, the learning, the playing and keeping that passion alive.
Wow – we love this! So much to look up and listen – thanks so much Vice Beats! To find our more about his projects check out the links below:
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