Interview by Jerry L. Barrow
“I spit a rhyme, melt your whole style like acetate/ I make a beat and make the Wonder Twins deactivate...”- Pri The Honey Dark, “I Be”[audio:IBe.mp3]
Pri The Honey Dark is one of the few artists to claim reign over both beat AND MC battles. The Brooklyn-born single mother has won the Vibe Magazine, Blaze Magazine and Everlast boxing MC Battle Championships and came in as a runner up in the MTP and iStandard Producers Showcase battles. Her double-edged attack has led her peers to dub her the female Dr. Dre. Business-minded, she has founded the Female Producers Association (FPA) to aid her sisters in the industry.
This fall she is giving the world a more complete taste of her skills with the debut, She’s The Producer. Her first single, “I Be” is a battle ready declaration of independence where she brags that she stands out like “Puerto Ricans in Nigera” over a pounding, string-driven beat. With a voice that sends opponents heading for the hills and battle-ready beats, who are we to disagree?
I see that you really like the Reason software. What do you like about that program?
It’s easy to manipulate and use. It takes specific wav files so I can chop whatever I need and use it as a wav file. I can take sounds from other gear like a Yamaha Motif sounds and load them into Reason and not have to worry about using the keyboard. To me its easier to have all the gear sounds in Reason, as opposed to having all the gear. The downside would be, well I haven’t figured it out yet, is you really can’t record in Reason. It’s more of an editing and production software. It comes fully racked so you have your own drum machine, synthesizer, sampler…whatever you need. Amp, mixing board. You can have as many tracks as your memory can hold. But you can’t record vocals into it. I’m still basic with it. Some people know how to manipulate it more but I just don’t have the time.
When you first get it if you don’t have a midi keyboard you have to use this thing called the Matrix. It’s like a grid. Where ever the knob is it’ll play the key, but you can’t really go all out. Some people don’t like Reason because it sounds too much like Reason. But some people can’t tell the difference. It’s based on the sounds that you use.
Which Midi controller do you use with it?
I have an M-Audio now. I had one before that was garbage. The Axiom-25. It was good for a while but it died. It crashed. I just need the keys but it literally crashed, a blue screen. Then I heard a lot of people were having he same problem. It might be a glitch in their system. I have my son’s Casio and hooked that up and then I bought a small M-Audio.
Any other pieces in your set-up?
There’s a program called Sequel that costs $99 and has an entire CD Rom of the Yamaha Motif. That has like 5000 loops and the Motif sounds. Just drag and drop and it’s for PC or Mac. I try not to blend too many programs because my computer is slow. I have a Macbook. Before that I had a G5.
What’s one of your favorite beats?
“I Be.” When I make a track I have to really picture the song and how it would be in a video. And I have to know the ending of the song before the beginning. I can hear a melody in my head or I can hear a kick and visualize a story. I’ll know what direction its going in based on the sound of the kick. I’ll hear some tracks and drums and kicks are sitting on top of each other. I don’t like to hear layers. I like for it to sound like one big bowl of soup. [laughs]. They all have their distinct flavors, but everything should be in the song. I don’t want to rhyme on TOP of a beat. There’s a difference between making a beat and making a song.
Your speaking voice is very different from your rhyming voice. Is that to make it more aggressive for battling, etc?
When I started rhyming I trained my voice to rhyme without a mic. Years ago I started noticing that when I was on stage that it would come from my diaphragm, not my throat. So there is a lot of bass in my voice. It’s not me doing it to sound stronger it’s just how my voice is trained. It’s been doing that for years. You’ll hear that when I’m on stage and when I’m angry. And I’m very rarely angry.
That’s good to know. So what did you do first on the “I Be” beat?
I think it was the classical strings first. At first they were in a different format, just a loop. Then I chopped it to go up and down. Once I hear the strings then I looked for the Kick. Because it’s very orchestrated they couldn’t sound like pitter-patter. I’d go through a 1000 drums before I get that specific kick. Everything just goes from there. A lot of the sounds in there are single sounds that are played out. I could hear every sound that’s on there but there’s somethings in there like glass breaking [laughs]. It gave me the feeling that I wanted in the music.
Tell me about your album, She’s The Producer…
It’s coming out in October on Ludovia Entertainment. It’s a label created by myself and my partner Kevin Watkins. It’s named after his mother who lost her battle with Cancer. I’m producing and writing the entire album. Originally the album was supposed to be a lot of tracks with other artists performing songs that I’d written, but it’s turned into a solo album. Trying to get everyone under deadline was really hard. “I Be” is being pushed as the first single. It’ll be an internet album, distributed digitally.
You created an organization called the FPA, Female Producers Association. What is their mission?
It was started in ’06 and it’s a networking and socializing organization for women in the entertainment industry. It’s singers, songwriters, MCs and musicians of that nature. It was created because as women we needed a platform to connect and network, and meet other women in the field. Unfortunately there are times when you’re not taken seriously or when people have other reasons for helping you.
What has been the biggest challenge of being a female producer?
Being taken seriously. When I’m in the studio people always want me to show them that I can use the equipment and that doesn’t happen to [male] producers. People think you’re doing it as a game or a hobby, not a career. That’s the main obstacle.
So how does your MCing effect your producing?
I think it plays an important role. Because basically you can hear someone rhyming over it, cuz you can rhyme while you’re making the beat. You can tell where the track is going to go. You know what works best for your style and voice. You have an advantage.
On your Myspace page you have a pic of you holding this keyboard…
The one without the mic chord?[laughs] Yeah, after you take the photo with the props you realize there is no mic chord. That’s the Axiom that died. Rest In peace. It was hard traveling with it. But this M-Audio 25 fits in my bookbag.
What is it like at a beat battle being the only woman?
It’s interesting. I’ve had positive experiences in the battles I was in. I want to do more, but I’m trying to focus on the album. I don’t think I was treated any differently. I was a little nervous. It was different from the MC battle circuit. When you’re an MC you’re vocal, you’re lyrical. In a beat battle your tracks are speaking for you. It has to have hills and valleys, it has to engage the audience because there are no words. It’s just you standing there bopping your head to your own track.
What’s the hardest part of a beat battle for you?
When you’re trying to make a beat with a time limit…I’ve never used MPCs or drum machines…so when I’m trying to do something under a period of time it’s a little different. If you have an MPC you can throw a sample in there and it’s chopped up. But I like to hear each individual piece if I’m sampling and take the piece and flip it into something else.
So if you had to choose between rapping and producing which would you pick?
I’d probably choose production because I’ll always be an MC. But when I started out my goal was never to be an artist per se, it was always to be a business owner and push other people out. Production isn’t just about the beat, it’s about developing an artist and creating a full project. That aspect is what I love about music. As far as MCing is concerned, I’ll always be an MC but being on stage after a while it can get old. You won’t be doing that forever [laughs].