Joe Wize

This week’s featured producer is Joe Wize. He is a rarity in the rap world: a classically trained pianist from Berklee who brings a true professional’s approach to beats, just like the rappers he works with, as he says. The song is “Popular Demand”, with Wize on the beat, and Adolph Johns, K reem, and Koron handling the rap.

“Popular Demand”

Below are thoughts probing Wize’s musician brain, trying to figure out how he does what he does:

1. How did you make this beat?

I was thinking that I needed something hard and gritty for the artist to represent on. My production feel is geared towards a commercial sound, so I had to scale it back a little. When I first start making the beat my approach is three different ways. 1) Just start and the feel just comes, sort of like a expressionistic painter paints by putting things together until it feels right. Got to be wary of over doing it. 2) I have a general idea and I create towards that idea 3) A rapper or a singer comes in with a song written and I make the beat or track around it.

2. Are there any samples? Did you have any specific influences (songs, producers) on this beat?

I’ve been trying to steer away from samples although I see the necessity for them. Actually, in my upcoming track making I will be including them a little more in length. I didn’t have any influences on this beat but I’ve always been a fan of Premier, Dre and Timbaland. My favorite producers are Dre, Timbaland, Kanye, Premier, and Alchemist. I’ve worked as a professional engineer with Easy Mo Bee around the time of Biggie.

3. Did the rappers have the beat first when making this, or did they write the raps first?

I gave the rappers the beat first.

4. What’s your musical history? Do you have any formal schoolin?

Yes, believe it or not I’m a classically trained pianist who went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I can definitely read music even though I haven’t done it in a second. But if I need to make charts I can. Keyboards and piano is my instrument.

5. Did you “coach” the rappers at all on the beat, letting them know what you wanted their flow to sound like, or what they should rap about?

I coach the rappers a little to get them in the feel of the song. But they we’re all professional doing in 1 or 2 takes after they got the feel for the beat. I would just say ‘go a little harder on this’ or ‘add some character and enthusiasm to this part’, but we’re professional enough that I didn’t have to repeat myself .

6. What was the interaction process between the beat and the rappers? That is, did you give them the beat, they rapped over it, and that was it, or did you give them the beat, they rap, you might go in and fix the beat a little, and back and forth?

No, these guys are professionals they come in with an idea and I play the beat and they formulate it in their head. After about a half hour they go in a spit 1 or 2 takes and it’s done. I only deal with professionals and where I live I have many rappers that are that good. Only point is their (the rappers other then the ones in the video) dedication is lacking, but they are all skilled. As for the these 3 you can’t question their dedication, they go hard!

As far as fixing the beat, I think every track might need a touch on the final mix to make sure everything sits right. (That’s my engineer hat, talking) drops, arrangements, echos, etc

7. How do you think about the rap when you make a beat? Do you imagine someone rapping over it in your head

I don’t think of any flow when I make the beat, I do tracks that I love to hear even without anyone spitting on them, a track that I can vibe to doing most anything while listening to it. I’m a firm believer that a track should make you feel something before any lyrics go it. I also do pop, r&b, rock and all types of genres. I’m a studier of music, I break everything down in my head. For a period I couldn’t listen to music because I would break everything down, transcribe it, before I started vibing with it. I still do that now.

I make beats everyday, usually when I meet with the artist I listen to their taste and just pull a couple of feels to see if it fits them. Some artist sound better over certain types of beats, so if I hear something that gets me excited then I move on in.

8. What are your current projects?

I was working on documentary on radio dj’s last week so was at the Hot 97 and WBLS in NY (top stations). Also trying to complete the other artist album, which is on my label Indiggo Child.

—-Check out the rest of his youtube vids for more!

Martin Connor is a music teacher & writer from Philadelphia, PA, with a music degree of high distinction from Duke University who is currently studying for a master’s degree at Brandeis University in Boston, MA, while focusing his research on the vocal melodies of the rap genre. He has contributed freelance articles to HipHopDX, Complex, and Pigeons and Planes, and had multiple articles from his website, go viral on BET, The Source, XXL, and MTV. He teaches rap lessons online through the music school LessonFace, and has a book, The Artistry Of Rap Music, forthcoming from the McFarland Publishing House, scheduled for release in late 2017, as a follow-up to his 2014 contribution to their anthology "Eminem & Rap, Poetry, Race." He welcomes all comments, compliments, insults, and restaurant suggestions at [email protected].

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