Updated: Mar 7
TCB: Welcome to The ChaCha Blog OSYM! Thank you for joining us. Do you mind telling everyone about yourself?
O: Thank you. Yes.
TCB: How did you first get started in producing beats?
O: There was a Digital Audio Workstation called Fruity Loops back in the day, that now goes by the name of FL Studio. Contrary to popular belief, it was my cousins that got me into making beats using that program, and not my uncle (who was an R&B industry producer & keyboardist back in the late 80s and 90s) My older cousins had a copy of the demo version of FL and I always sought their approval. So I kind of fell into it.
I didn’t really think much of what I was doing. The program was a free download, so I just used to spend a lot of time on it…like a computer game of sorts. I started with version 4, just to give any of the REAL ones an idea of how long ago that was. I’d download that program on EVERYBODY’S computer if I was at their crib. So a lot of my homies were making beats too.
TCB: In your opinion, what is the one thing every song must have for it to be solid?
O: Every song has got to have an earworm. Something has to be memorable about the piece. What I say may appear to be vague, but there is a reason for that. This rule applies to all genres. The vast majority of music in existence is actually instrumental. So that covers all the bases, not just music with lyrics, although the lyric or the “hook” can be the earworm in those sorts of songs.
A solid piece should also make you feel something. Whether that “something” is a mood, a memory, or some sort of discomfort. It should affect the listener in some way, hopefully in the way the artist intended.
I do my best to make my work take you elsewhere. I try to make you think of some location, or situation. When I was younger my boy Bobby Corwenn and I used to call our beats “worlds”. Hopefully in light of what I’ve mentioned thus far, the reason we did that makes sense.
Anyway, a record should definitely include something memorable that gets stuck in your head, or makes you want to put the song on repeat, or even just run back a particular section.
TCB: What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations? How do they influence your sound and your work?
O: That is an extremely difficult question for me to answer accurately and concisely. I get inspiration from EVERYWHERE, not just music or musicians. So primarily I supposed I’d have to say The Neptunes, Just Blaze / Justice League / Jay Z / Rick Ross, Drake / Bryson Tiller , A$AP Rocky / Schoolboy Q / Travis Scott, J. Cole, Ohgoshleotus / Nabeyin / Curtiss King / THX / Epik the Dawn, Tone Jonez, Dreamlife, Kaytranada / Soulection, Alchemist / Harry Fraud / J Dilla.
There is also a ton of Rock and Jazz musicians that have a hand in my style and sound, but you asked for primary haha.
Additionally, I’m very much influenced by books that I read, from authors like Tim Ferris, Robert Kiyosaki, Austin Kleon, Seneca, the concept of minimalism and the principles of design.
I’m constantly keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open because everything we experience feeds our subconscious. The more you consume, the more developed your perspectives become, and therefore, the more ideas and approaches you can take as a creator. As an artist you sort of reshuffle your memories and communicate the emotions, results, perspectives, stories and philosophies via your skills and abilities…if that makes sense.
But I always try to take a more sophisticated approach to my work. It’s less crowded in that creative space to me.
TCB: With all the music producers in the world, what made you think that you were still going to be successful in this field?
O: I would venture to say my personal definition of success is what ultimately allowed me to be successful in the first place. Many people begin overly ambitious. They decide against pursuing things due to fear of failure. They shoot for being the best out of the gate. But I feel that is a flawed perspective, despite my own struggles with perfectionism.
There is space in the market for everyone willing to pursue something of this nature, especially today. If you’re doing something different and you’re not “cookie-cutter”, there will always be a place for you.
So when I approached this, contrary to your question, I wasn’t even thinking about every producer in the world. I turned my attention to the internet, to the “online producers”. That’s where I felt confident I could carve out a niche for myself. I also knew there were some folks making a living off of going that route. So I listened to their beats and studied how they were presenting themselves.
I essentially conducted my own form of market research. I thought to myself “ ..if there are people making $2000/mo, I should at least be able to make $1000/mo”
So I just shot for that goal and allowed for constant trial and error. Just shooting to improve and learn as I worked at it. Success to me didn’t mean producing for the biggest artist at the time, it was more like, “just make money doing this”.
TCB: How long did it take you roughly to start excelling with your career?
O: From the moment I decided to take it seriously, it took me about 6 months to consistently bring in over $2,000 in revenue. I think that was like December of 2012. I had been sparsely selling beats already for a few years, but I hit the ground running June of 2012 after I graduated from Loyola New Orleans. So that December I made maybe like $1,900 and then after that it just started being like $4k, $5k- $6k, like a compound effect.
TCB: What are some of the biggest mental tools you can obtain to be successful in this field?
O: There are a number of philosophies that would benefit someone pursuing a career in entertainment. I dove quite deeply into philosophy during college, and it’s truly enabled me to keep my sanity and grant me a healthy perspective while working in this industry. So this is a great question! Get your mind right, and the success will follow with the 3 P’s: prayer, persistence, and patience.
If you wish to leave a legacy, remember “life is short, art is long”. Your work, if it resonates with enough people, will live on long after your pass away. That should be motivation enough to stay consistent in your creation. It’s really in your best interest to religiously do as much work as you possibly can without burning yourself out.
Prioritize quantity over quality. I know that goes against the general adage, but the more you make, the better you’ll become, provided your goal is to make a better product…hopefully that makes sense.
If you’re someone that struggles with perfectionism or imposter syndrome, remember to let the market decide. Creative thinkers often get caught up in our heads, inaccurately thinking that something is “not good enough”. But the marketplace, your audience, decides that. If you’ve got something amazing, the market will reward you. If it is a “dud”, they won’t even acknowledge it.
Years ago I spent a week on a single track, and ultimately overproduced it. My fear of being viewed as a hack didn’t pay me any favors. Less is more.
The record didn’t need all the intricate things I added to it. The market let me know that by ignoring the track altogether. Conversely, I had a separate piece that took me 30 minutes to make. That “30-minute track” sold hundreds of copies and made thousands of dollars for me in a fairly short period of time. If the idea is good, and you’ve communicated it, move on.
And last but not least, research the pomodoro technique. I have gotten AMAZING amounts of work done and short periods of time simply by being exposed to that single concept.
TCB: Do you remember the first beat you made? How have you grown in terms of style and work ethic since then?
O: I actually don’t remember the first beat that I made. It was probably a crappy 4-bar drum pattern that sounded like something from the late 70s haha.
I do remember what my early beats sounded like in general though. I focused a lot more on percussion back then because I didn’t know much about music theory. I also didn’t have any 3rd-party plugins, like a quality synthesizer or a decent piano or bass module, in fact, I honestly didn’t even know they existed.
My style grew as I accumulated more sounds and musical education. And though I’ve concentrated my efforts on chords and melodies, I believe my drum programming has improved as well.
My work ethic has changed of course. Music is how I make the vast majority of my income. So there is more of a schedule to my creation process now.
As a kid I made beats almost daily, but I rarely “finished” them. Nowadays, my current process of arranging, mixing, and mastering is just as time consuming as actually making the track itself. Today’s industry wants finished products, so I work with that in mind.
I do feel I was more creative when I was younger, and I would attribute that creativity to my innocence and/or ignorance. Pick your poison. Now I create with certain rules and structures in mind. In my “heart of hearts”, I feel “the rules” take away some of the more creative aspect, but it makes the tracks I produce much more accessible. In my adolescence, it was more of an aimless creation. Whereas, nowadays, I envision specific types of vocals on most of my records and create accordingly.
I remember my early beats were a lot more “synth-based” too, but a few years back, I set out to craft a more “live and analog” sound. You know? Live Bass, live drums, grand piano, trumpets and orchestral string sections, those aesthetics.
Lately, I have started to get back to more synth-based stuff but not nearly as much as my earlier works. Back then, I tried to do a lot of Neptune influence drum stuff like “Grinding” and “Light Your Ass on Fire” but it wasn’t nearly as cohesive and uniform as my current sound. Having limited tools early on, increased my proficiency with sound design and sound manipulation; I was always warping sounds to make due with what I had. I’m extremely grateful for those formative years of playful creation with no rules though, because I still do a number of those things and I feel it sets me apart from the pack.
TCB: When you’re not working and creating, what do you like to do in your spare time?
O: You mean outside of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock N' Roll”?
I try to hit the gym and meditate daily. I read (which is kind of work) and watch a lot of anime. I actually run an anime podcast with some long time friends over at otakify.com (@otakify on instagram) so that’s kind of work too ha.
I co-host a monthly producer event in Tucson called The Producer Round Table every third Saturday at Thunder Canyon Brewery with my buddy Halsero (@Halseromusic). Sponsored by the Tucson Hip Hop Festival, the Producer Round Table is an outstanding platform for the Arizona producer community to connect with one another, get feedback, and hone their skills. I absolutely love doing it.
I’ve taught music production at my Alma Mater, Loyola High School in Los Angeles for the past 7 years or so during their summer session. I created a financial literacy course there 2 years ago as well, which seems to be a fan favorite.
Last year I actually started delivering food to people (via Postmates & such) because I don’t get that much human interaction on a daily basis since I generally work from home and my love language is quality time haha. It’s pretty dope if I’m having issues focusing while working on music. I could pop out do a delivery and already feel better knowing that I just made someone’s life easier.
Last but not least, I’m a member of a 4-person mastermind. We meet at least once a month and challenge each other to be the best we can be in business and as individuals. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without any of them. I love those guys.
TCB: We like to keep it real at The ChaCha Blog and not hide our faults or struggles, so with that, have you experienced any pitfalls or struggles so far? If so, do you mind sharing what that struggle was, and how you bounced back?
O: Oh…I’ve made several mistakes since I started my business, many of them financial in nature.
I never used to have money, my parents didn’t allow me to really work as a kid. So, when I started making REAL MONEY I just wanted to pay for everything and help everybody, which is good in nature, but the thing is you actually kind of have to be selfish with some of it.
I learned the hard way that the kindness of your heart can go unreciprocated and if you didn’t properly account for fluctuations in your income, paying taxes, or unexpected emergencies, you will be left with some large bills and no help. So, always put a cap on how much you spend, and set some money aside for a few rainy days and a potential storm.
I can’t stress the importance of this as an adult, but even more so as a business owner; your advertising and marketing budgets can eat up large chunks of your revenue. Though money may always be coming in, be sure to keep some gold stashed just in case. Realize that you can give your loved ones time and energy, which can often be more impactful than money and other material things.
I genuinely care about other people, so I’ve overextended myself several times. It’s truly by the grace of God that I’ve been so successful for so many years. But I think financial issues are a pitfall that a lot of unsuspecting people could run into despite their good intentions. Just keep those intentions in check so you aren’t spreading yourself too thin, or you don’t abruptly switch up your behavior causing a riff in relationships with loved ones.
Take care of your mental health. Depression and anxiety plague many artists. It’s important to have other things in your life that bring you joy and balance to keep you out of a state of low or negative energy.
Initially, music was my “escape”. It served as a getaway from issues I had in my personal life in my adolescence and throughout high school, but when it became my job, I didn’t have an “escape” for years, and I DEFINITELY wasn’t taking vacations. It wasn’t until I rediscovered anime that I had a new escape. I also started going to the gym and picked up cooking as a hobby of sorts because physical fitness and a solid diet have a large impact on your emotional and mental states as well.
Do your best to live a balanced life, and be sure to surround yourself with positive energy because energy is contagious. That is part of why I started the mastermind. If you don’t have anyone positive around you, start reading uplifting books, watch YouTube channels, and listen to podcasts of positivity. Drown yourself in them. They’ll hold you over until you can attract people with good energy into your life.
Also, there is no shame in getting extra money on the side. Don’t be so eager to quit your day job. I personally hate paying myself out of my profits, so if you can manage your living expenses well, you’ll be able to live on far less than you earn. And if you’re a hustler for real, you shouldn’t care how you get your bread. (as long as it’s legal…because if it’s not you’ve got a slew of other concerns that I can’t even begin to help you with).
TCB: What is your best advice for others looking to pursue this career-path?
O: Read a book ha.
Right now is the easiest time in history to become famous and known for something. So do “it” and do “it” consistently. Come up with a viable schedule and release content consistently. It doesn’t necessarily just need to be music, it can be anything. Stay active out here so that people know who you are. As soon as people know who you are, your value goes up. It doesn’t even matter if you’re “good”. I’m just being honest.
The internet is the great equalizer. We have been blessed to not have to deal as much with the “industry gatekeepers” of yesteryear. Your following is your key to success, so if you can prove to a bigger company that you’re worth it, people will start to invest in you. So, show your work, whatever it is. Make sure you tag it properly and all that stuff so that people can find you. And just figure out a way to sustain your dreams and passions by taking action. Fail early and fail often.
TCB: Last but not least, where can people find you to stay up to date on your work?
O: Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak. I appreciate the platform and those were some QUESTIONS.
It’s been a pleasure.