When you hear the word “baby” in hip-hop, nowadays it conjures up one of two images; Cash Money’s very public rapper/CEO or Jay-Z and Beyonce’s newly minted shade of Blue Ivy. But Paul Anthony Hendricks, aka Bpzy, the artist formerly known as Baby Paul, makes a strong case to trigger your frontal lobes as well.
The prolific producer has spent almost two decades layering slaps in an MPC to be later poured into our ears. From early work with Smiff-N-Wessun and Heltak Skeltah to more recent work with Nas and AZ, the one-time member of Da Beatminerz is continuing to build his personal brand with new artists and a second installment of his Underground Veteran series.
But one of his earliest steps to continued relevance was a simple name change.
“It’s ebonics,” he says of morphing Baby Paul to BPZY. “I’d say it was a reinvention. If you don’t reinvent yourself you become stagnated. I wanted to be who I am and still experiment with different things, so I figured creating a new name for myself would allow me that room. So I borrowed it from the great E-40. The Ebonics King. When he did the “for shizzle my nizzle” and “sheezy my neezy” I felt like Baby Paul could become BPZY. Scratch mag was one of the first people to put it in print.”
But that doesn’t mean that he is distancing himself from his original namesake. In fact, the original name has more to it than many realize.
“I felt like creatively I always wanted to be new and fresh, be a chameleon,” he says of the original Baby Paul. “So the analogy was to be a newborn. And then because Large Professor was my hero and his name was Paul, I treated myself like his student. Not everybody knows that I was a student of him. Not like he took me on, I just became that. He inspired me to be who I am today.”
With Large Professor being a student of the late Paul C, Bpzy became the third in a distinguished line of producing Pauls.
“It’s interesting [because] I got to work with Paul C’s brother ,Tim, earlier in my career. I haven’t seen him in years but he’s a great, talented, good guy. Used to go to the studio and record, work on ideas. So definitely shout outs to the late Paul C and Extra P.”
Now living in Atlanta Bpzy granted Nodfactor.com some time to play catch up and give us a sneak peek into AZ’s Doe or Die 2.
NODFACTOR: What have you been up to, sir?
BPZY: In the process of closing a single deal with EMI for an artist named Illa. I produced his single along with my co-producer, Beat Fanatik. The song is called “I’m Blown.” (listen below)
I’m still working with AZ on Doe or Die 2, but since he’s working on a new label situation it got pushed into the new year. I gave Nas a few records and they’re actually working together on a bunch of new stuff.
I’m putting together a producer mixtape album called Undaground Veteran Volume 2: The Making. It’ll be featuring a bunch of artists known and unknown. Tracklist to be determined but maybe AZ, Consequence, maybe Nas, E-40. I gotta bunch of catalog that I’ve been working on. I’ll stop there.
That’s great. There are still some that aren’t familiar with your beginnings. Talk about your days at interning at Power Play Studios.
I started interning there around 1990. Definitely showing my age right there. KRS-One was working on the Edutainment album. Rakim was working on the Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em album. Right around the inception of Main Source when he had “Watch Roger Do His Thing” coming out. Shout out to Large Professor. He’s the producer that inspired me to wanna make music for a living.
Interning at Power Play I was running between the rooms, quietly, learning the equipment and working a 9 to 5. Building up my record collection, aspiring to get involved.
Did anyone show you how to use the equipment?
The SP-12 was self taught. The first MPC I invested in was the MPC 2000. I never had a MPC drum machine until the 2000 came out. I never had the MPC 60 or 62. I had the SP-12 Turbo that had the Commodore 64 external hard drive. Then I had the SP-1200 and then a bunch of AKAI racks. That was my starting gear.
Then when the MPC 2000 came out I called Evil Dee for some advice and pointers and then I taught myself (the rest) after he gave me some pointers. A lot of the gear was self taught. I feel blessed that I took initiative, experimented and I learned how to filter my samples myself.
As far as programming the drum machines I did watch Large Pro do a few tricks here and there on the 1200 and then I experimented and taught myself how to sequence, truncate my sounds, as far as my drums. As far as synching the Akai rack sampler with the Sp 12, the drum machine was the master and the Akai was the part I’d synch all my loop samples in and sequence everything in the 1200.
Eventually I started getting into integrating live sounds and midi synching keyboards, keyboard racks to now we’re in the software game.
Gear wise when I had my studio in NY–I live in Atlanta now–I had a recording studio for like a year in NY and I had all my gear there. Some of it is in storage and some at my business partners house. So I have a home studio now where I’m using certain software for recording and I keep all of my program stuff in files and master files. Software wise I have Reason, Recycle, Fruity Loops 8 and I still have my 1200 and my 2000. I had a 3000 but I sold it. I use Logic for recording, Pro Tools for recording and I use some of the sounds in Logic for sequencing.
You came up in a recording studio setting and they’re all but extinct. How do you think that has impacted production?
I notice people learning how to use software going on YouTube and getting instructions. The power of the internet has revolutionized things and opened up more windows of opportunity for people to get involved in music production. But I also think it’s causing it to be a little saturated and predictable because a lot of software has the same sound. So that effects how unique the music is. The only way you can be unique is if you downloaded or created your own sounds. The thing I like about the era I came up in is that you created your own sound library based on your own ideas and your record collection and you would sample your drums from beats off or records and create your own kicks and snares. You could even layer your own kicks and snares. When I used the MPC 2000 I’d layer the kicks and snares into two or three stacks. Clap snares with rim shot snares an make my own sounds. That was fun because it was like an experiment to see what kind of sound I could make and sequence it with music to see if it was viable sonically. I made a few records like that.
Download BPZY’s Mixtape Throwback City, inspired by J-Dilla’s Donuts, on iTunes HERE.
Record Stores were another part of your production history and as a music fan. Tell me about your days at The Music Factory.
I met Mr. Walt (of Da Beatminerz) at The Music Factory because he was handling a lot of the retail for the store. Back then I met Evil Dee once I built my friendship with Walt and started coming out to Bushwick to the home studio. Evil Dee was the younger brother following Walt’s lead. Once Black Moon broke it was history.
How do you think losing record stores has impacted production?
Record stores played a viable part for me in particular because as a fan of music I was the type of kid that was buying every 12 inch of every hot record. Collecting records motivated you to want to be involved in (music). You’d read the credits to see who produced it, what label it was on, read the credits of the musicians involved and being inspired by that. So if you ever got a chance to do business with these labels you could say you were a fan first. It’s not the same now. Buying music through digital stores you don’t have that physical artwork. I think that’s missing. And the art of turntablism from vinyl is missing. People do Serato and the whole nine, but technology makes things a lot easier. Digging in the crates was an important era because it taught all the musicians that were involved in the music at that time. It was a school within itself. Today a lot of cats have to take the time to research and download music from the past if they wanna really learn music that was out before their time.
What was the first beat you ever sold and to who?
“Wreckonize” for Smiff-N-Wessun. The original. I can’t remember the actual sample but I sequenced it with drums from the “Blind Alley” record by the Emotions and I sequenced it with the SP and the Akai. I remember I was in D&D studios playing beats on the radio and Tech N Steel were working on music. And Steele took to my work and supported me and said he wanted to work with me. That’s how I got on the first album. It was Steele who took the initiative to believe in what I was doing and gave me a shot.
So what’s your favorite beat from that Boot Camp era?
Sonically, mix wise? I gotta give Duro the credit…”Therapy.” featuring Vinia Mojica. I had put that record together though inspiration from a Milt Jackson sample, the same one Pete Rock used on “Carmel City.” But I did a two-bar sequence instead of a four-bar sequence. And then I played the bass line. Everything except those chords is played. Then I programmed the drums and sequenced these vocal snippets from this polish jazz artist, the same person Q-tip and Tribe was using samples from. The song, the lyrics, it just married so perfectly. Musically and emotionally I loved that record. I guess that’s why they made it a single. I gotta shout out Angie Martinez doing one of her first music video appearances as a nurse in that video.
The version they did for the video was different from the version I did. Dru and Buck wanted me to remix it and I said ‘no I refuse.’ I thought the original was solid. To me it was one of the best songs Heltah Skeltah made on that album. The message still holds true, two street dues being honest for once.
One other favorite was on Smiff-N-Wessun’s second album( The Rude Awakening) called “Blown Away.” I used music from Bob James and played the bass on that. Joe Quinde played the bass and the guitar for me on that record. He did a lot of engineering for Premier. It was like mood music. I like making those kinds of records. It puts you in a zone when you listen to it.
One of my favorites of yours from that era is Fab 5’s “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka.” How did you manage all of those MCs on one track?
There were so many vocals and you had 5 or 6 rappers competing on the beat trying to make the hottest verse possible. I gotta narrow down what I’m hearing in the studio and not hurt people’s egos and cut verses, and actually make it a complete song. If you notice when you have the HS album, they put the album version on there that’s much longer. The single version that went to radio is because I took the time out to narrow down the verses being that it was 5 people, and make it cohesive enough to listen to but stay in sequence of the chorus. I did what was called spot check. I asked each of them “What lines was your favorite?” Once they did that I kicked everybody out the studio and said let me work. I basically narrowed it down, made sure the chorus was where it needed to be and keep the song under 4 and a half minutes.
Any chance of you working with Boot Camp again?
I recently spoke to Dru Ha and he said they were working on a new Boot Camp album and he asked me to send some music so it’s possible. The last boot camp album I worked on was The Chosen Few. Steele and I have been in touch and we were supposed to do some work but it just hasn’t happened yet.
You produced the controversial “Destroy and Rebuild” on Nas’ Stillmatic. Were you worried about backlash?
I placed that record by submitting music way before I got the call back. The A&R at the time Lenny Nicholson randomly called me and said “Nas is using your record and we need to see you and finish it in the studio.” He was recording some music at a studio in the Bahamas. What happened was, when he decided to finish the record that’s when I got the call. He didn’t have the chorus complete, or the background. I got with him at Right Track studios in Times Square. He was like I got the record we worked on I hope you like it. Now me having an ego I was hoping I could get a single, cuz I know it would have been a great look to be a part of the project and get a single. So when he played it for me and I heard him going at Jay, Cormega and Prodigy I was like wow. But I realized the concept was him saying and what he was trying to do . So I sat with him [while] he finished the chorus and when he was doing the outtro he was just airing out his differences verbally.
Then I just was hearing what he was saying and tried to keep the context of what he was saying on the outtro, in a way that he was getting it off his chest but closing it out saying we need to get past all that and just rebuild. I had asked him to pull some of the stuff he was saying out and keep it as simple as possible. So it’s not too long. Then I mixed it. I mixed that record like my life depended on it. There was an imaginary gun to my head in that studio. This record has to be some of my best work. I kept asking Kevin Krause the engineer how does this sound. He said my sounds were real clean and I saved him a lot of work. I wanted to get that dramatic feel when the record ended that’s why I dropped the drums and let the chords just play out and fade, jsut to give it that extra feel. Shout out to Nas for that one.
What kind of sound have you given him for the latest project?
I kind of married that best of both worlds, the throwback sounds with my samples integrated with layered instruments and big sounding drums. I know one of the records is him and AZ on the record. We’ll see. Shout out to Salaam Remi so I know they’ve been workin.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in the studio and how did you fix it?
Funny story. That song “The Essence” featuring AZ and Nas, if you listen to the record you notice it t fades in with the vocals as the song progresses. There’s no beginning. The beat doesn’t start and then the vocals come in. The beat fades in and then the vocals fade in. That was an accident. When I gave them the master for that beat, shout out to Damien Deoblanded(SP) who was an A&R at Motown who placed the record for me with AZ. When I mixed the beat I was recording it to a DAT machine–you know when you finish making a beat and you want to make a mastered copy that you keep to shop—I was recording it and didn’t realize I had the recording volume all the way down on my DAT player. So when I was recording it, there was a couple of bars into the beat sequence with no volume. I had to turn it up, so I turned it up slowly. When I gave him the beat I forgot about that. So when I placed it they did a reference recording of it and they had it the exact same way. So by the time I was in the studio I said I gotta fix that. [but]They said “nah, nah, leave that shit. That shit is hot.” So that fade in is an accident that stayed there. Because I didn’t record my beat from the beginning when I mastered to a DAT.
So what can we expect from AZ’s Doe Or Die 2?
Conceptually Doe or Die 2 is his Alpha and Omega, kind of like what Stillmatic was for Nas. He’s gonna try to incorporate some of the vintage feel from the first album but make it progressive enough to be competitive in today’s market. Another record I gave him could be the new “Sugar Hill” if it’s done right. Musically I gave him a record I think is perfect. When you hear it you’ll now what I’m talking about.
I’ve run into you at a few iStandard events. What advice do you have for new producers?
I try to support as much of the up-and-coming producers as possible. Even in my productions I’ve collaborated with other producers because I have no ego when it comes to making a record and I have enough confidence in my capabilities that I can work with someone and still fulfill a vision for what I think is good music. I’ve collaborated with Jimi Kendrix and I have a co-producer that I collaborate with named Sean Conway out in the Mid West. He’s my version of J-Dilla. He can do classic hip-hoop but also be competitive with what’s out in the market. He’s a kid that understands music and can deliver whatever genre you want.
I’m in talks with J Hatch to put together a producer/DJ tour with Buckwild. You’ve seen the Alchemist and Just Blaze shows and the Pete Rock vs Premier…Given that me and Buckwild came from producer crews and we came out in the same time frame in the 90s I felt like me and him doing a DJ/producer show like that would be fun. So I’m working on that. iStandard is gonna help get involved. Stay tuned.
Check out more beats from BPZY on his YouTube channel!