If your head bobbed, shoulders shrugged uncontrollably, and you turned the volume up to a disrespectful level when Kany West’s “Power” came on, you can thank producer, S1 (Symbolyc One). West said, “No one man should have all that power,” but as you can see, the work of producing marvel S1 really does have all of that power.
In his interview with The Soundkillers, S1 took time from his hectic schedule to speak about his start in the music industry, how Kanye West changed his life, and how doing a good deed is never in vain.
TSK: What projects are you working on right now?
S1: As of right now, I’m working on a few things right now. I worked on the new Kanye album. I’m working on Stalley with MMG (Maybach Music Group) for his album, Raekwon, Ryan Leslie, Sevyn Streeter, Elijah Blake, Lupe Fiasco, and 50 Cent. I’m also executive producing Royce Da 5’9’s album with my man Mister Porter.
TSK: When did you know that you wanted to be a producer?
S1: I really didn’t start producing until right after high school. My first year in college, my cousin and I formed a rap group. I think maybe two years after that is when I got into the art of production and studying producers. All of that came from wanting to know how beats were made because I wanted to create a certain sound for the group we had. So, I would say around 1996 or 1997.
TSK: You mention that you mentioned that you studied producers when you started. How important is it to study other producers?
S1: I think it’s very important. It’s similar to anything that you want to excel in, and the only way to do that is by studying and researching other people. You have to observe and study people who are already at the level you want to be at. So, I think it’s crucial to progressing to do what you want to do.
TSK: When you’re working on a track, do you have a certain artist in mind, or do you worry about that afterwards?
S1: Both ways. Sometimes it’s a situation where I know someone is looking for tracks to go with the theme and direction of their project. But sometimes, I just get in there and make stuff. That’s usually when I make my best music because I’m going off what I’m feeling, as opposed to trying to create within a certain boundary.
TSK: So, what’s your process when you’re working with different artists?
S1: I would say they’re all the same, yet different at the same time. They’re all different because every artist has their own way of working. For instance, I haven’t been in the studio yet with Lupe, but I’ve created so many joints with him. He’ll have ideas, and then he’ll say he wants us to go into the studio to make it right. With Kanye, it can be anything. Most of the time he’ll be at a certain location and I’ll just fly out to him and we’ll be in the studio. We’ll just build all day, present ideas to him, and he’ll just keep whatever he likes. Or, I can send him stuff and he’ll tell me to hold stuff for him. I guess it just depends on whatever mood he’s in or however he wants to approach it for that day. So in a sense they’re the same, but it just depends on the individual.
TSK: Is Kanye picky about the beats you make for him?
S1: In a sense because he knows what he wants, especially with him being a producer as well. He’s really able to pick out certain things. He’s great at that. While I may have a beat, and he may hear one or two sounds that he loves, he may just pull them out and work with those two and build on them. He’s a blast to work with. I love working with him. He’s one of the best. There are no limitations on creativity with him.
TSK: How long does it typically take you to work on a track?
S1: It varies. Most of the time, because I’m more into arranging songs instead of just doing beats, it takes me a while. I’ll be in the lad one day and maybe crank out six or seven ideas. Then throughout the week, I’ll just revisit those ideas and build them into songs.
TSK: Tell me about Strange Fruit Project.
S1: Strange Fruit Project, that’s my family first, group second. We started back in 2002 and it grew to consist of myself, producer of the group; my cousin Myth, and Myone. We’re just a collective who create soul music, hip-hop music, or we just create music for however we’re feeling at the time. The initial idea when we started the group was do the music we love, put it out there, and the people responded great to it.
TSK: Are you working on anything right now, or have anything coming out soon?
S1: We’re working on new music now, looking to drop new music soon.
<a href=“http://strangefruitproject.bandcamp.com/album/a-dreamers-journey” data-mce-href=“http://strangefruitproject.bandcamp.com/album/a-dreamers-journey”>A Dreamer’s Journey by Strange Fruit Project</a>
TSK: You’re most known for the work you did on Kanye West’s song, “Power.” How did you end up working with him in the first place?
S1: It’s pretty crazy. I would say that it was built on relationships and doing a good deed. I started working with Little Brother, the underground rap group with Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder, and through that relationship, I was introduced to Ryhmefest. It was a typical situation where Rhymefest heard my tracks, he loved them, and he was at the end of the budget for his album. He said, “I love these four songs, but I can only pay you for two of them.” So, I thought about it and I said he could pay me for the two, and he could have the other two. So, his album came out and a few months later he was in the studio with Kanye. He called me and he was like send me some beats. Since he was in the studio with Kanye, he said if he got the opportunity, he would try and play some stuff for him. So, I sent him some beats and didn’t hear from him for another two weeks. Out of the blue, he hits me up and sends me a text saying Kanye loved my stuff and he was about to change my life. That was a Saturday, that next day I received an email saying my flight for Hawaii leaves out in about four hours. So, I went to Hawaii, and that’s how I started working with Kanye.
TSK: Wait, four hours? Are you serious? Does Kanye always tell you stuff on short notice? That’s like no time whatsoever [laughs].
S1: I know! No time whatsoever [laughs]! I remember my wife and I were out to eat. We had just ordered our food when the email came to my phone. We didn’t even have time to eat. We just left. I ran home, threw stuff in the suitcase, making sure I had my hard drives and stuff, and went straight there.
TSK: Wow, that is crazy. How do you travel with Kanye and still manage to have time for your family?
S1: It’s hard, but it’s cool. My wife is my assistant, so she goes a lot places with me. She’s able to keep everything in tact. That’s been great. I just think that my family is so supportive of my work and they’re so involved, I think that’s the difference. If I’m in the studio, they’ll come hang out with me in the studio. If I’m on the road, they’ll come. If it’s for the weekend, my boys will come with me too. So they’re so involved that it makes the time not seem much when I’m away. So, it’s cool.
TSK: a lot of our readers are aspiring artists and producers. Can you talk about the importance of life-work balance?
S1: It’s very important and difficult as well. You can have so many things going on, and you focus on one thing, then the other things start decreasing. So, it’s hard to be able to focus solely on one thing because you have a million other things to work on. That’s from a personal and professional standpoint. I focus on my career, but I realize I also have a family to take care of. So, it’s give and take. At the end of the day, you have to realize that none of them can be neglected, especially on the personal side. It has to be priority, and then everything on the professional side falls in place.
TSK: How has working with Kanye and other big name artists changed your life?
S1: It’s change my life because they have a large fan base and it exposed me as a producer, and my music to so many people. Automatically I’m attached to their work and that opens me up to a whole new group of followers. So, I would say that with the growth and increasing my audience comes more opportunities. I would say in that sense, that’s how it’s changed my life the most, creating more opportunities.
TSK: I see that you have a publishing deal with Roc Nation?
S1: Yes, I have a co-publishing deal with Roc Nation.
TSK: Ok, how did that come about?
S1: That came about through my relationship with Jay-Z. I built a really good relationship with him when I worked on Watch The Throne. I had the honor of going to London with him and Kanye. I went to Australia to record with Jay-Z. I was actually in the process of closing a deal with another publisher, and he found out I hadn’t done my deal yet. He told me to at least let him put an offer in. So, he did and we went back and forth. I waived the pros and cons about both. I prayed about both, and ended up going with Roc Nation, mainly for the relationship that I had with Jay-Z.
TSK: So are you still with Very G.O.O.D. Beats?
S1: Yes I am. I did that deal in maybe 2011. I’m still considered part of the team. It’s been really good.
TSK: I see that you’ve worked with our songwriter Dion Primo, and artist, Rachel Assil. What was it like working with them?
S1: They’re incredible. Dion Primo, I would say I’ve been working with him for a few years now. He wrote some songs for me and wrote some crazy hooks. Super talented and super good dude as well. Rachel Assil, I’ve known her for a minute. She’s an incredible performer. We actually got some things that we’re going to sit down and put some things together for the people, when I don’t have so many things going on. So yeah they’re two incredible songwriters, two incredible artists, and two incredible people.
TSK: If you could offer any advice to aspiring producers, what would it be?
S1: I would say that the main things are to believe in your work no matter what. You have to really believe in yourself, no matter what anybody says. Believe in your gift and craft. Be consistent and stick to it. Also, keep growing and maturing in your craft. Be persistent as well. Stay focused. There will be a lot of disappointments and setbacks. I’ve dealt with so many through my process and journey, but, I learned to use that to motivate inspire me to work harder, as opposed to pull me away from what I believe that I had a purpose in the gift that God blessed me with.
Andreana E. Thomas, Lead Blogger for The Soundkillers, conducted this interview.
Check out “Guilt Trip,” produced by S1, from Kanye West’s new album Yeezus
For more information about S1, please visit, www.symbolycone.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, @SymbolycOne