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Old 8th March 2003
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Originally posted by Dave Martin
I dunno, Jules - I try, but I don't really hear much innovation in rap and what is laughingly called R&B. Tell me what I can listen to that is both innovative and musical; I'll pick up a CD this weekend. Think of me as your old Uncle Dave who doesn't like anything recorded after 1950, but who wants to understand what the kids like these days...

So I want not only demonstrable talent and creativity, but to hear an artist who has developed an innovative sound that's distinctive enough that I'll be able to recorgnize new material from them once I've heard a healthy sampling of their music - here's some examples: I don't have to know the song to recognize that it's the Basie Band, or the Glenn Miller Orchestra performing it - the arrangement tells me that. In the rock world, you don't have to hear the vocals to recorgnize the sound of a Rolling Stones record, a Van Halen record, or a Hendrix record; it's obvious from the sound of the instruments. In country music, the Judds records, Patsy Cline records, and Ernest Tubb records were all recognizable as such even before the singing starts. or tell me about a singer who is as instantly recognizable as Mavis Staples, Al Green, or Stevie Wonder.

I have a CD in the studio by an organist named Jimmy Smith, called Dot Com Blues. Most of the tunes have guest artists, and with one song, its obvious before the first measure is over that B.B. King is the guest; that's the sort of signature sound that I'm looking for in a new artist; are they out there? The rap stuff that I've heard (and worked on) tends to be fairly conservative as far as sounds and structure goes; the rhythm tracks seem to be mostly variants of a dozen or so samples, with little in the way of 'new' sound design. I am hearimg more virtual syth stuff, but it seems that most of the programmers are treading on familiar ground.

Or tell me that I'm an old fart who is out of touch...
Interesting post Dave. There's a couple things to consider. Dr Dre, DJ Shadow, Timberland, DJ Quik, Rockwilder, The Roots, and many others in the Rap and "R&B" side of things can in fact be as instantly recognizable as Van Halen, Hendrix, or similar artist's work. And as for "new sound design" in hip hop, it changes EVERYDAY in hip hop. When I mix hip hop, I have to be much more creative than if I'm working in the more 'live' music side of things because in 'live' music (mind you, some hip hop and R&B is live) because there aren't as many set ways that things have to sound: a kick drum can sound like someone punching a phone book into your chest. A snare drum can sound like someone hitting a baseball with a wooden bat. Everyday I go for a new thing. In 'rock music", you are stuck. I mean, you can make your snare sound more 'deep' or more 'tight', but other than that, the Black Beauty's and Noble & Cooleys still have to sound like snare drums. So in my opinion, hip hop, r&b, and even "pop" are harder to mix than most other genre's of music because it challenges your creativity to find a direction for the song you are mixing, not just make things sound good.
Now that I've probably lost all creditability with anyone that has bought an AC/DC record, let me say that "rock", "country" and the other forms of more live music are much more difficult to track. In urban music, you set up your MPC, your Synths,(and your earthliftable DI's, a step every other engineer seems to off up) and your mic and your more or less good to go. In say, rock music, you could spend up to half a day just getting drum sounds. Check the phase, switch the mic, get a better cue mix for everyone, put tape on this drumhead, re tune, switch amps, switch guitars, etc... More time is spent on it during the tracking stage so hopefully less time will need to be spent in the mixing stage. I think 'country' is a bit easier to track because the level of musicianship is very high. (at least the slight bit of country I have done, which ain't much) If you really would like a list of innovative artists in the HipHop and R&B market, pm me and I'll hook you up.