Chicago producer Rediculus has a certain respect for the classics. “I steal drums from Illadelphhalflife on almost every project,” he says only half joking. The one-time MPC afficianado has a Jay-Z-like resolve about this, considering that his own “workflow is foolish.” For almost 18 years he’s been plying his production and engineering skills via his company Knowledge Giving Birth (www.knowledgegivingbirth.com) and his Masters of Conversation album series. Nodfactor caught up with Rediculus to discuss his new album, Walking Down Broken Paths, and why the boombap sound works in some places but not others.
Nodfactor: Is your name based on the Roman Divinity or is it just a unique misspelling?
Rediculus: Actually it’s just a misspelling. I used to go by Todd 1 and then there was a DJ on MTV Raps [named Todd 1]. Then I got into producing and was like “yo I need to come up with a name” and the thing everyone would say when they would listen to my music was “yo ridiculous.” And I was a little under the smoke and when I wrote it out the first time I forgot the “o” in it because it doesn’t sound like it. Then at that point I was like well that’s hip-hop we misspell everything anyways so I’ll keep it.
Nodfactor: What’s behind the name of your album Walking Down Broken Paths?
Rediculus: I wanted it to be a combination of everything I’ve thought I’ve been through to get to this point. Working with MC’s over the years I found that I couldn’t get MC’s to get some of the things I wanted to say out. For me to get full ideas out I realized that I just had to do an instrumental album out. So I sat down and put a collection of music together that represented a journey from seeing something that you love then getting it and realizing what it means. That first time you find that spark and take people on the journey of achieving that.
Nodfactor: How did you get the distribution deal with Island Def Jam?
Rediculus: Honestly, just being in NY a lot and just really, really trying to work with as much people as I can. I spent the last couple years pretty much just giving every track I had and as much music as I could to get people to recognize my name. From there it kind of just snowballed into something where I was literally in NY one day and came across some body and a Brown Bag event (brown bag all stars) group out in NY. They used to work at Fat Beats before it closed. I exchanged a card with somebody and the next thing I knew they were like “Yeah we kind of looked you up. We like what you’re doing, here’s the type of situation we can give you. If you can turn that into something good we can give you a better situation.” So it wasn’t planned. I’ve been working years on end and it’s finally starting to pay off. I’ve been working with Hatch for 7 or 8 years now and all of those things tie into meeting good people.
Nodfactor: So you were in some of the iStandard beat battles correct?
Rediculus: I went to NY and did a few. I was in the first one here in Chicago. My release party is actually at the next one he’s doing in Chicago on Wednesday.
Nodfactor: Were those the only beat battles you participated in?
Rediculus: I don’t do a lot of beat battles, mostly because I don’t have a very commercial sound. My sound is a little more old school. Most of the people judging the battle judge it on whether they can hear The Dream or Lil Wayne over this. I’m almost 40 years old so I’m very comfortable in that lane.
Nodfactor: Given that you have a boombap sound, as you admit, what would make a company like Island Def Jam give you a distribution deal?
Rediculus: Because hip-hop is a culture a little over 30 years old now so there are actually adults that hear that and have money to spend. There is a huge resurgence in that sound. A bunch of artists who were doing work in the 90s are coming back. Big Daddy Kane is back in the lab Kool G Rap has a project coming out. Every ones coming back because there’s a market for 30 + individuals that grew up with the music and don’t relate to Lil Wayne. People at that age will take the time to find what they’re into.
Nodfactor: Have you seen any evidence that people are financially supporting this music again?
Rediculus: Realistically you can sell 10,000 albums in a year and make 70 grand and live really comfortably. That to me is a good living. To some people that’s not being in the music business. You can sell 100, 000 records and only make $15,000. The UK, Australia, Japan all those markets really help right now because they never really crossed over into this super commercial stuff like we did.
Nodfactor: How did you get started as a producer?
Rediculus: I was a B boy way,way back in the day and as music grew through the 90s, we really got that sound that defines to me what the culture is. I had a buddy who was in a band who was bass player. We were smoking one day and was like “here why don’t you play something now” So I picked up his bass guitar. Next day he took me to buy a sampler and it went from there, 18yrs ago. An Ensoniq EPS 16 plus. Still use it from time to time. It’s a grittier sampling engine.
Nodfactor: What do you use other wise?
Rediculus: Right now I’m using Maschine by Native Instruments. It’s amazing. It’s like fruity loops and an MPC. I was never a computer producer. We were using ADATS. Making music with a mouse was foreign to me. Finally Marco Polo told me that Maschine is nuts.
Nodfactor: If you’re an MPC head, what is it about Maschine that makes it worth using?
Rediculus: Because it has the MPC type surface and emulates a lot of what the MPC does. It’s like you took an MPC and Reason and married them. I’ll write my samples and drums and come over with samples and synths. Before I’d have to write that in Reason, sample it into the MPC, the process was convoluted. This just streamlines it.
Nodfactor: Give us an example of how you craft a beat.
Rediculus: All my drums I make my own with layer upon layer of sound. I’ll take 3 or 4 different kicks from Maschine, one of my ones from the MPC and something from Reason and layer them all together and that will become the kick in the track. What I’d generally do is make the drums from the track and find samples that are in the keys of the drums or if I have samples already I build the drums to be in tune with the sample as much as possible. Unless it’s something that calls for something crazy. Some have only two layers, others have five or six. I try to do as much of the fullness of the drum while I’m making it and not so much with the effects.
Nodfactor: You have a video for “Off Killter.” What was the inspiration for that?
Rediculus: Inspiration comes from anywhere. I live in Chicago. We have tons of street construction all the time. My studio is in the front of my apartment so I could just hear drilling in the street or there could be someone building a house and I’ll just hear a rhythm in that. I don’t have an extensive record collection anymore so I go on Youtube. It just sparks from anywhere.
Nodfactor: Did you get rid of your record collection or you just stopped collecting?
Rediculus: My mixer broke but I never collected wax because it takes so much space. I started producing when CDS were out. And I have an extensive iTunes collection.
Nodfactor: Once Serato came out every DJ I knew was getting rid of their records.
Rediculus: You should definitely have to learn on wax. You need to learn the finesse. I could be a DJ with Serato and I don’t know how to cut nothing. I like that you can place placers in the music and use function keys, it gives a lot of flexibility but I’m just old school. If I can’t use my hands with it, it doesn’t feel right to me.
Nodfactor: Being from Chicago have you ever crossed paths with no ID, Kanye or any of those windy city staples?
Rediculus: No, I honestly don’t do much work here because Chicago is a very interesting city it’s very cliquey. The biggest problem is that there is no label presence here. It’s not like NY.
Nodfactor: You have another installment of project Masters of Conversation on the way, correct? What is that exactly?
Rediculus: Masters of Conversation is a producers album I’m do. It’s a lot easier to get your name out and sell music to people if you actually have lyrics on it, so in the past I’ve worked with locals here in Chicago. This is different. I got anyone I’m currently working with on the tracks. I got Rusty Jux on a few tracks Stomach from Raekwon’s Icewater label on a couple tracks, Psycho Les, my guys 151, Gabe, Myers. We got blessed with artists that wanted to be involved with this. Should be out towards the end of the summer. The tentative title right now is Punchlines and Proverbs.
Nodfactor:What can we expect from the rest of the album?
Rediculus: The albums real diverse. I have a couple of tracks where there is absolutely no samples and I worked with all live musicians. I have an R&B song one of the first ones I did got a track called “Doing Thangs” about what girls get men to do. And a remix to it but besides that it’s all instrumentals. It runs the gamut.
Follow Rediculus on Twitter @Rediculus