I was put onto drkmnd’s music a couple weeks back, and I’ve enjoyed exploring his vast array of music. He let me shoot him a few questions about his inspirations, methods of creating music, and aims for the future.
1. Your latest project is Contemplations, an album that flows incredibly seamlessly track to track. Were you aiming for this vibe when you posted the project as a single track on your Soundcloud?
Yeah definitely. I’m a strong believer in the notion that an album should be a cohesive project, with connections and relations, as opposed to just a random collection of 10-14 tracks that sound good on their own. It needs to blend and it needs to feel like time and energy has gone into designing the concept of the whole thing. You can really tell if this has been accomplished when you post it as a single track.
2. Your music has a mystical vibe, and you called Contemplations ‘a spiritual journey’. What emotions do you aim to create when you craft your beats?
It all depends on the project or the reason for the beat. If I’m creating trap, I’m aiming for an aggressive sound. Similarly with boom bap, but with a more relaxed vibe. With lofi beats, the sub-genre is notorious for being nostalgic and chill, so I try to capture that to some extent. With ‘contemplations’, I aimed to create a meditative soundscape which reflects the virtues of zen philosophy and buddhism. I always start with the bigger picture and I’m always thinking ‘where is this beat going to go in the project? What will the listener be feeling at that moment? What chords/notes/instruments can I use to capture that?’ A lot of thinking goes into my creation process, which you won’t find with many other producers. I guess that’s why I settled on the name ‘contemplations’ too.
3. How long have you been producing for? Your Soundcloud only goes back 11 months but I’m guessing it’s been longer.
I’d say it’s been closer to two years, but for the first 10-12 months everything I made was pretty bad in hindsight. I removed all of it from my soundcloud when things started to kick off, not because I was embaressed but because I needed space for other projects and my earlier works didn’t really meet the standards of the new stuff I was putting out.
4. How long does it take you to make a beat on average? Your work rate is very consistent.
Thank you. It all depends on the end goal for me. What I mean by that is a beat I’m making for traktrain is going to take less time to finish than a beat for a 22 track album on wax. It can be anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on how well the idea translates into the DAW and how complex I’m aiming to make it.
5. Your production is excellent in its own right, but I’m a big fan of when you team up with rappers like on your Lord Apex collab ‘River Flow’. Do you prefer to make instrumental music in the style of the rest of that project or to have an MC go over your beats?
I don’t think I have a preference to be totally honest. Each style has its own merit. It’s cool to make a relaxing ambient piece or a lofi beat, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy hearing an MC tear up a hard boom bap track of mine. The track with Shaheem [Lord Apex] was interesting as his style fit perfectly with the beat I sent him. We have some more stuff in the works.
6. Do you have any projects on the way? I recall you saying you had a tape with Sekwence coming up but what else?
I always have projects on the way man! I try to stay at least 2-3 projects ahead of what’s releasing. But yeah I have a collab tape coming out with my boy slyme’ on April 2nd. You can find that on cassette via Tape Invader. It’s really nuts, and with a crazy concept. I also have a collab album coming with a dope mc ‘itsWeirdScience’, as well as the tape with SeKwence which is going to be mad. Further collabs are coming with the producer homies graves, spd, Dweeb and mid airrr. I have an EP on the way with Blayne B (owner of Cozy) and I also have some stuff in the works with Albany rapper, Rhakim Ali. Finally, Album 3 is going to be released via Inner Ocean records, which is coming soon, and I’ve begun writing album 4 this week. I’ve currently written 3 tracks out of about 22-24. This one is really going to show my versatility and artistry.
7. Who would you say has influenced you the most?
I try to wear my influences on my sleeve most of the time. In terms of net influence, when influence is made up of things like studying their beats and the extent that they inspired me to keep producing, i’d have to say Apollo Brown, 9th Wonder and Jonwayne. They’re all extremely unique in their own rights, so when a track which has been produced by them comes on you think to yourself ‘oh that’s a 9th beat!’ A lot of producers these days don’t have their own defined sound, and I think that’s important. You listen to tracks by Migos, Uzi and Travis Scott, and when you look up the production credits you discover that there has been 4-5 cats involved in making this really basic trap beat. A couple more guys who I look up to are Alchemist, Kirk Knight, AraabMuziik, Samiyam and Preemo (besides the obvious ones like Madlib, Dilla, RZA etc).
8. Although you are British like me I can hear influence from American producers like Knxwledge in your work. Who are some of your favourite contemporary producers? Is there anyone you feel is being overlooked at the moment?
When you say overlooked, 2 names come to mind. Apollo Brown and Daringer from Grisleda records. Apollo can literally produce anything; from a relaxing project such as ‘clouds’, to a really hard project such as ‘everything inbetween’. Even a modern classic, such as ‘The Easy Truth’ with Skyzoo, which is one of my personal favourite records of all time. Also, he dropped a collab album with Planet Asia last year called ‘Anchovies’ which is really unique in its production style and lack of prominent drums. Daringer on the other hand is helping to shape the entire sound of Buffalo rap by providing Conway, Westside Gunn and Benny with a modern, yet vintage, beat arsenal.
9. You seem to have strong connections in the UK hip-hop scene. Speaking to someone like me who lacks knowledge about the scene over here, which UK rappers would you say are your favourites at the moment?
I honestly lack knowledge of the scene over here too. Not because of lack of research, but I’m just not fucking with it the same way as the US scene. The LA beat scene is unmatched globally, and because of hip hop’s roots, it makes sense that they would have the best MCs too. With that being said, I’d have to go with Lord Apex as his style is similar to a lot of underground talent that I enjoy already.
10. Do you believe the UK has the potential to impact hip-hop culturally in the same way that the US has? Do you think it has made a mark in the genre outside of grime?
Definitely not to the extent that the US has. That’s a fact. For the very little I have listened to grime, I’d say it’s here to stay for a quite some time, but it won’t expand that much past its current popularity level, unless it tries to innovate. It all sounds the same over here. The beat scene over here however is slowly growing. I envision a tight-knit community of independent UK labels and producers in the future.
11. Aside from creating music, what else is going in your life?
Nothing that exciting. All my best mates are currently at Uni so I don’t get to see them much. Honestly music is my life, and so without it I’d have next to nothing. Good friends and good music is all you need.
Check out drkmnd on Soundcloud. He’s also on Twitter at @drkmnd_. You can find me on Twitter at @108mics.