Words By Jonathan Hailey (@jayspeakeasy)
Some say ambition and work ethic trump formal education. In most cases, that would be a fallacy. In the case of New Jersey producer, Ayy Pii, truer words have never been spoken. On Kanye’s track, “Spaceships,” he raps, “Lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers. That’s different world like Cree Summers.” For those of us who aren’t in the business of creating music, Kanye’s rhyme is true. However, for a a hardworking insomniac, like Ayy Pii, that’s child’s play. After starting out as a hobbyist, the creative beat smith is getting serious about his craft.
Ayy Pii spoke to NodFactor about his start in producing, why he limits his use of samples, and goals for the future.
NF: How did you get into producing?
AP: Around the age of twelve or thirteen I was introduced to this program called FL Studio, version three at the time. I started messing around with it. I didn’t really start taking it serious until I was sixteen or seventeen. I always hung around local artists and kept hearing them say, “I need beats.” A friend heard some of my beats and told some local artists I was nice with the production and we started working from there.
NF: Were you in band during your school years?
AP: I was in concert band. I had a little part. I played the bass drum. It wasn’t anything too serious.
NF: How do you feel about sampling? A lot of the beats I’ve heard of yours don’t include sampling at all.
AP: I used to be big on sampling records, but at times, the business side comes into play. You hear about publishing. Basically, when you sample, you’re taking a piece of somebody else’s creation. You know, everybody gotta eat. So samples cost you more than gas prices. [laughs] You can take two seconds of a song and the producer can charge you $50,000. Plus, I wanted to be more into making my own melodies and my own sound. I want to learn chord progression and how to actually play the piano. But sampling is cool because that’s what hip-hop originally started from. You know, two turn tables and a microphone. It’s the pioneering technique in hip-hop music.
NF: How would you classify your style of producing?
AP: Me. I can’t really say because I’m always trying to do something different from the beat before. I try not to keep one sound. I don’t want to get pigeonholed in one lane. So I don’t think I have a signature sound.
NF: I was thinking of how Kanye West did the sped up soul sample. For him, that goes everywhere with him–rap, R&B, and pop. You don’t have a common thread that runs through all of your production?
AP: Not really. When I listen to my beats, I try to listen for a certain sound, but I want to be different every time. When you hear
records I’ve produced I want you to ask who did the track each time. Once you hear I did the beat, I want you to be surprised. That lets me know I’m doing my job.
NF: What equipment do you use?
AP: It varies. Right now I’m using the basics–my laptop and my little keyboard. I do mess with the MPC, keyboards, the Roland Phantom keyboard. Sometimes, I use Pro Tools. I’ve dabbled with Reason, but I’m not really a big fan of it.I’ve experimented with quite a few different programs. Anything I can get my hands on, I’ll experiment with.
NF: Have you ever produced using live instruments?
AP: At this time, no. I’m getting there. I just haven’t yet. Although, I do want to. I want to learn to play some instruments because there are a lot of things to use in production I haven’t been able to use, but I will use in the future.
NF: What influences your music? You make mainly hip hop and R&B records, but what do you listen to outside of that to give you inspiration for what you make?
AP: I listen to crazy amounts of jazz records. Miles Davis is the music I put on and always am inspired by what I hear. I don’t have a set artist to play for inspiration, but he is a main one. I don’t listen to rap music when I’m not creating rap beats. I like to be mellow to allow myself to receive any ideas that come to me. I listen to a lot of Nina Simone. Her voice is powerful. I listen to a lot of classic records.
NF: Who have you had placements with?
AP: I’ve had placements with Universal Recording artist, Money Malc. I did a track on his mixtape, Inspired By Her. The joint I did is “The One For Me.” I’ve worked with Kay M. He was a finalist on 106 & Park’s Freestyle Friday in 2009. The record we did was called “Do What I Gotta Do.” That’s on his EP entitled Green Lights. I haven’t had any major placements up until now. I’m still working on that. Some major artists would rather go with the super producer, like Just Blaze or somebody, instead of tapping into the raw talent out there.
NF: How do you feel about that? You have talent and beats local artists are clamoring for, but major artists don’t want to do
AP: I look at it like, “Thanks for the hate.” I look at certain artists that are on top and think they were once in my position. They
know what we go through, as far as making a name for ourselves in this industry. I mean, it’s a billion dollar plus industry, so people are particular about who they spend their money with. But I do music out of love first and money second. But at the end of the day, they may not know me now, but they will.
NF: So you would be good with never working with a mainstream artist and just dealing with local underground talent?
AP: Pretty much because mainstream is mainstream and underground is underground. It’s two different levels. The underground cats put in a helluva lot of work. And that’s what I like. So if I never get a big name placement, I’m still living my dream. Being a contributing factor in this business has been a dream since I was young. Just because I haven’t gotten a placement on a major artist’s project doesn’t mean I’m not contributing to the music industry.
NF: How important is branding for you?
AP: It’s one hundred percent important. It’s your brand. Nobody knows more about your brand than you do. You can’t be in the house with thousands of beats because nobody knows about them and nobody will care. You have to put yourself out there. You have to promote and if you don’t have enough financial backing, you can go on Twitter, Facebook, and even Myspace. One must always push their brand in order to make money off of it.
NF: What are some of the goals you have when it comes to producing?
AP: Longevity. Just to keep my name in people’s mouths and houses. I want to be the hip hop Quincy Jones. Also, I want to be like Diddy, in the sense that he is a businessman. He keeps his name relevant through the liquor brand, his music, and clothing company. I hope to explore other ventures because of my talent as a producer. I want to put my name up there with the greats and to get a top slot.