by Geoffrey Granka
If you hang out regularly on The Come Up Show, I promise you’ve heard Ric Notes’ productions. He’s worked on records with Shad, Blake Carrington, Drake, Smile, K-os, and many more. He’s also taken home three titles from the “Battle of the Beatmakers” and has been on the jury with Boi-1da.
We sat down with Ric to talk about about his collaborations with his approach to hip-hop production, about how he makes beats on his iphone, and his collaborations with artists like Blake Carrington and Shad. “He’s probably my favourite artist right now”, he says of Shad, discussing the rapper’s latest single “Keep Shining”. “Shad actually got at me through MySpace maybe about half a year before The Old Prince was released, so I was like ‘YO, LET’S GET TO WORK MAN!'” After sending “30 to 50” beats over IM to the London rapper, he finally landed a placement with “Get Up”, the last track on The Old Prince.
TCUS: 30 to 50 beats. Is that normal?
Ric Notes: Depending on how much I’m feeling the artist, I guess. If I really, really want to get on someone’s record, I’mma keep sending stuff until they pick something. I’mma never give up.
TCUS: Do you make beats for certain artists? Or do you sit in the lab, bash something out, and then decide who you’re going to send it to?
Ric Notes: I usually just make shit for myself, depending on how I feel and just keep banging them out. But eventually when you build relationships with artists, they will eventually throw feedback your way. We will eventually come up with a sound that really fits together. I’d still say 90 percent of the time, I’m doing stuff for me. Unless I’m in the studio with a certain artist, and we’re trying to bang out certain sounds. I find I can create better when I’m not thinking too much, ideas just flowing, doing what feels good. Sometimes when I try to force it, it just doesn’t happen.
TCUS: There are some nice YouTube studio moments on CarringtonWorld (the internet home of Blake Carrington) that don’t seem forced at all.
Ric Notes: Yeah man, well I’m really comfortable working with Blake as an artist. We’ve been working together, almost exclusively for like 5 years now, but it’s like I’m a totally different person when Blake’s around. The stuff I’m making with Blake is way different from the usual stuff that I used to make. I never give up [laughs].
When I mention that Blake Carrington’s “Colour Her” one of my favourite productions of his, he seems a little bit surprised, seems to agree that he likes it, then pauses.
TCUS: Do you wish your favourite productions were also your most successful?
Ric Notes: Definitely, I think we all do. But I know if I played you my top five absolute favourite beats of mine, you’d be mad surprised. My favourite beats would have to be my most innovative, creative, well-produced beats. But most of the time, I find, it’s not what most other peeps are feeling.
TCUS: Sounds like you need a solo album…
Ric Notes: That’s why I’m starting to release my own stuff instead of trying to get to artists all the time. I released a Valentine’s Day thing where I sampled New Kids on The Block’s “Valentine Girl.” That was one of the funnest things I’ve done in a while. I got to be completely free creatively and it turned out dope.
When we talk about Ric Notes’ future aspirations, it’s evident that it’s something he’s thought long and hard about.
Ric Notes: I obviously want my music to be heard by everyone. But you know, I’m happy even if I remain somewhat under the radar and have somewhat of a cult following or something like that, y’ know? I mean really, really loved and respected by a smaller fan-base.
TCUS: The Shad of producers?
Ric Notes: Yeah man, exactly. Except, I have a feeling Shad’s gonna blow up. He definitely deserves to… I mean if you really, really listen to what the dude is saying. It’s unbelievable man… and the way he puts it together; delivery, flow, all that. Smart as hell too. I can’t listen to a lot of rappers these days, to be completely honest.
“‘You made that?!’ is a phrase I hear a lot.”
TCUS: Is Canadian production ahead of the curb or behind it? Are we excitingly retro or are we musical sticks in the mud?
Ric Notes: I can only really answer for my production and the production I’ve heard. If you’re asking about my production, I don’t wanna sound cocky or anything, but I think I’m definitely ahead. There is a lot of talent too that I’ve heard that is just insane, Rich Kidd for one. But I think for the most part, as with most rap not just in Canada, producers aren’t moving forward at all. So even with my beats; I’ll maybe make five at the most that sound similar in style and then get really sick of that sound. [I] try to come up with something totally different, I have a lot of beats where it’s just one track that sounds like that…. “you made that?!” is a phrase I hear a lot. It’s weird though, ’cause I can listen to Primo all day.
TCUS: Good music is good music.
Ric Notes: I came up on Primo, he’s one of my main inspirations to get into making music.
TCUS: Do you work with Tech 12s and an MPC too?
Ric Notes: [Yeah] amongst a slew of other stuff. Most of what I’ve been using the past couple weeks can fit into my pocket.
Ric Notes: Yeah, shit is just ridiculous. The capabilities and interface is just crazy. Yo, [it’s the] same with [as with] music, with gear I get bored easily. Once I started discovering some of the iPhone apps it was like I just started making beats again… the energy and adrenaline… took me back to when I first started. It’s totally new and just the way some of the instruments work, the controls are way different, so it’s capable of producing sounds that you would never be able to make on a computer or on any hardware. I’ve been messing with “Aura-flux” a lot. Very hard to sequence on, but the end results of stuff are usually out of this world. Some of the shit is just so easy to use. I let my son play with it a lot (he’s just a year old) and I work off his ideas on the thing sometimes. I’m thinking of doing a collab album with him [laughs].
TCUS: What’s your usual creative process like?
Ric Notes: When I chopped up that NKOTB record, it ended up being 250 slices. I ended up using maybe 15-20 tops.
TCUS: It seems like a lot of hip-hop production is trying a million things to have a few work.
Ric Notes: Yeah man, at least for me. I don’t know the workflow of a lot of the other producers out there but yeah… I’ll chop it up on the MPC, add some drums, then add like a million sounds on the computer, then take 999900 sounds out. When I get back to the beat after that, it usually sounds totally different from when I last left it, so I’ll pick at it again for like another hour. I’ll finally bounce it and send it off to some of my trusted people with ears I trust for feedback.
TCUS: Do you have an MC in mind by that point?
Ric Notes: Naw, you know what? I usually don’t think about that really until way later. Maybe not until I have an opportunity to get it to a certain artist then I’ll go through all my beats and pick certain ones out. Lately I’ve just been creating for my solo stuff… and not worrying about artists at all. I’ll start with maybe one of my keyboards or maybe I’ll record a drum track on the drum set or on the piano downstairs, it’s always different. I can’t complain… y’ know what? Life is great.
Take another listen to Shad’s “Keep Shining”, Drake’s “Doin’ His Thing”, Smile’s “Doin It All ft. Mr Cheese”, and K-os’ “Fun! (Official Remix)” to listen to more Ric Notes productions. The album with Blake Carrington that has been the culmination of many hours of hard work from Blake and Mr. Notes will be released this year, as well as a track with Shaun Boothe and possibly an instrumental album.
*Thanks to Ric Notes (@ricnotes, ricnotes.com), Kara-Lis Coverdale and Chedo.