There’s one thing to love and admire the golden era and draw influence from it while incorporating it into contemporary sounds, and then there’s having lived it—and building/adding to a sound that never truly died. Enter Ras Beats, a producer who’s making some of the hottest underground New York flavors out right now; he’s just getting started.
He has a track record of dropping some super flame singles on his imprint, but 2016’s Control Your Own is his first full-body of work, and it features an impressive cast of rappers, including Elzhi, Roc Marciano, Masta Ace, Sadat X, and more.
Ras had a Q&A with AAHH last year when the project dropped but linked up with is again recently to chat about his past, his motivation, and what’s next. Check out the interview below, and if you’ve been sleeping on Control Your Own—[*slap]—wake up!
Your music is very nineties hip hop. Have you been doing it since that era?
Yep, I have. I spit out the first record on my label in 2003, and I was at it before that. I was doing stuff in the nineties. It’s a tradition I follow, but I always tell people, I try to add on to it, make something new out of something that came before what I do, so that’s it. Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a minute.
What keeps you motivated? Because you’re completely not following the wave at all—what makes you go that route, and keep it so traditional?
Making music to me, it just comes organically. A lot of times, I’m listening to a record, and all of a sudden, I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m going to start messing with this right now.’ I kind of just go by stuff that I would like to hear. To me, there are trends that come and go, but I’ve figured out what I think I’m good at, so I try to keep working on that, keep getting better at what I do, and not worry about trends. Trends come and go, so I feel like there’s going to be a time the grittier production style might be a little more in fashion than it is right now. I’m just doing what I do, and sticking to what I think I’m good at, and really working on that part of the craft.
Do you see a shift in the industry more towards your style? Because I do, in a way. There’s a lot of younger artists coming in that are jumping on it.
Yeah, to me, it’s like with listening to music–from doing production to digging–I listen to all kinds of shit. I’m wide open. I listen to anything, and if I feel it, I feel it. But with hip hop, I like different styles, but I like it to have a little bit of grit and be authentic to whoever makes it. If you’re an MC or a producer, and you just follow what everybody else is doing, you might still make some good stuff, but a lot of times you don’t, because you’re just doing a carbon copy of what everybody else is doing. Sometimes it comes to a point that people are like, I want to hear some stuff that’s you. I think that’s what happened with Alicia Keys, just to switch to another style of music. Artists like that, people were starving for somebody who wrote her own songs, played the piano, sung her heart out, so it was lacking that authenticity. So, I think that style in most of my production has been around, but definitely getting more attention now than it has in the last couple years for sure. I definitely agree with you on that.
What have been some of your highlights so far?
Personally, the highlight for me was the album. It’s the biggest piece of work that I put together myself, and I took my time with it. Before that, there was a single I actually put on the album as well with Master Ace and Sadat X, that was a big highlight for me.. A couple of lesser known records that I put out on my label as well that just meant a lot to me personally, but definitely the album so far. Most definitely. Not even close, that’s the biggest piece of music for sure.
What are some of the other things that you’re putting out on your label? Do you have artists on your label?
Yeah. There’s a guy on Control Your Own named JBiz who was on two tracks; the first record I put out with him, was a song called “Ninety Five” that we put out in 2003, which did well. That was the strictly vinyl era, so we made some noise with it back then. That was a dope thing, and goes back quite a bit. That was the first thing we put out. I put out an EP also in 2006 that was vinyl, and we did some digital with it. That was five songs, and JBiz was actually on it too. I did a song too with Neek The Exotic who’s down with Large Professor and stuff a couple years ago, and that was pretty dope. That was on his previous album, too. And then I’ve done a lot of under the radar stuff, so I’m trying to be on the radar these days. That’s what I’m trying to do now [*laughs]. I’m trying to focus on that part.
So, what are some of the things you’re working on now? Because the last couple times we were trying to connect you were in the studio. What do you have in the pipeline?
I’m in the early phase of the next project–it’s going to be me and one MC. I’m almost ready to let it out of the bag, but I’m still keeping it under wraps because I don’t want to say anything until it’s official. Also, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for different people—a joint here, a joint there—and some of that should start coming out in like March and April!