2011 saw AraabMUZIK become one of hip-hop’s most hyped producers.
Of course, the man known to his mum as Abraham Orellana had been making waves long before last year: in the Diplomats comeback single ‘Salute’ he produced one of 2010’s most talked about records, and Instrumental Kings, his mixtape with J. Arms, was receiving heavy rotation even before that. And then there were the videos: the amateur-shot sessions of Araab showing off his lightning-fast fingers on the MPC that seemed to be shared more with each passing day.
It was last year, however, that saw AraabMUZIK become a star. His debut album Electronic Dream was a huge success: a sickly-sweet mess of hi-hat rushes, larger than life basslines and samples ripped wholesale from classic trance, chart-dance and gabba, while those bedroom YouTube videos were replaced with footage of his increasingly hyped live show (he recently made his London debut to a heaving CAMP). Oh, and the majority of his late 2011 studio time was spent producing for 50 Cent, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss and more.
If you’ve read FACT’s On Record features before then you’ll be familiar with the premise: an artist picks a particularly treasured record from their collection, and talks about it. This one, however, was a little different: ten minutes before the interview was due to happen, our writer was simply told to “pick anything from Alchemist, DJ Khalil or Hi-Tec’s catalogue” as the subject.
So your manager told me to pick anything from Alchemist, DJ Khalil or Hi-Tec’s catalogue. So I went for ‘The Forest’, by Ghostface Killah, which is produced by Alchemist. Do you know it?
“Hmm… Nah, I don’t really know too much Ghostface.”
That’s okay. I picked it because it was from a period where Alchemist had first started producing for rappers outside his immediate sphere in Dilated Peoples and Mobb Deep. You seem to be in a similar position right now, working with Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent and Eminem. How’s that working out for you?
“It’s been real good, you know what I’m saying? I been doing shows, and doing what I’m doing with this hip-hop thing. Doing my thing with the MPC – just doing what I’m doing, and getting everyone’s attention.”
When big names approach you for tracks, do they ask for quite specific-sounding beats? I remember seeing Lex Lugar say before that people always ask him for beats that sound just like ‘Hard in the Paint’ and ‘BMF’, and how he found that quite frustrating.
“I just send ’em beats, you know? Like they’ll say to me, ‘gimme something crazy’, and I send ’em whatever. They’re not that specific, ’cause I’m still an underdog, I don’t have that stuff that the whole world knows out there – like Lex Lugar, of course, he’s working with Rick Ross and stuff. He’s got big songs and singles out there, so of course people want tracks that’re like that. But with me, they ask me to send them something that’s hot, and of course, they like it.”
Well say Busta Rhymes hits you up for a track, would you send him something that you think suits his flow more than it would, say, 50’s?
“Nah, I have a lot of stuff for like… for different types of people. I have a lot of varieties of beats, I don’t just stick to one outlet. I have stuff for everyone. I just make different stuff, I have a lot of stuff in stand by for whoever. Just hit me up.”
Back to Alchemist, I’ve seen you say before in interviews that he’s one of your favourites. What is it about him that you like so much?
“Just growing up, I was listening to a lot of different producers – you know, 9th Wonder, Swizz Beats, Dr. Dre – who I looked up to, and aspired to be like. [With Alchemist] it was just the way he had a dark, grimy sound, like that was the music I was into at that point. Just the drums, you know what I’m saying, the patterns. It was something different.”
Is there a particular period of his stuff that appeals to you, or his work for one group in particular?
“It’s all of it really, everything, it’s just great. Me, growing up at the time hearing [Prodigy’s] ‘Keep it Thoro’ and those sorts of tracks, it just made me want to create something, know what I’m saying? Made me want to create; just go hard, you know. That’s what keeps me going, still, just hearing other beats, hearing something different – it makes me wanna go straight to the studio, to try and top that. Make something crazy. Not make something similar, but to just go create.
“It should be original. Like a lot of up-and-comers these days, they have their favourite producers that they look up to, and they’re sounding just like them. And that’s what I’m going through now, like I got people trying to sound just like me [laughs].”
How’s your new album, Electronic Reality, shaping up?
“It’s sounding real good. I gotta go through and pick out the right tracks for it; the sequel. And I gotta get the cover right for it.”
Does it continue the same sort of sound and themes of Electronic Dream?
“Yeah, yeah. I have more of like, different styles and genres added to it, but it’s still kinda on that same wave. ‘Cause [Electronic Dream] was pretty much done without you behind it, or without promotion or nothing, and it did real good, you know what I’m saying? But this one, we’re gonna get like a deal for it, and promotion, and have it be more out there than the first one.”