Producer Dojo has come through again with an impressive new 37-minute mix of original music and visuals inspired by Jamaica. iLL.Gates shares details on how this came to be.
Jamaica was the birthplace of an amazing amount of musical conventions that we take for granted. I caught up with iLL.Gates to learn more about the latest homage to Jamaican musical innovations on the new Producer Dojo mixtape, Cypher 010 – Jamaica.
Dylan, when did you come up with the concept of the “Jamaica” Cypher and why do you think it is a valuable learning exercise for Producer Dojo members?
Jamaican musicians pioneered many of the most fundamental musical concepts we enjoy on a daily basis.
Dub producers were the first to realize that the mixer and effects could be played like a musical instrument. What we know as Rap has its roots in Jamaican sound system culture “Toasting” where the DJ would introduce records with freestyle rhymes on the microphone. I wanted everyone in the Dojo to step outside their comfort zone and really connect with the roots of what we do as producers.
How many times have you been to Jamaica and what were your most memorable experiences there?
I’ve only been once but it was absolutely amazing. My wife and I subletted our place in San Francisco and spent several months traveling around the world writing music and making art. I wrote a lot of the material from Terminally ILL and Departures during that period.
We didn’t want to do the typical tourist thing so we stayed in Kingston. It was a bit rougher than I had really appreciated, but once we got the hang of it, it really was magic. We learned about a DJ named Gabriel Sellassie and his Kingston Dub Club Soundsystem up in the mountains so we moved to a rental within walking distance. We drank loads of rum and could get giant unmeasured bags of weed on the stalks for $20 at nearly every grocery stall, lol. Jamaicans love to party. It was an extremely inspiring environment. That was where I first started doing timers with the Seconds Pro app too. It changed my life!
Out of all of the students that you worked with on the Cypher, do you have a shout out for most improved on Cypher 10? Can you share the story of the student’s progression?
I was particularly impressed with the Vatcher Brothers “Leave A Light On” track. The vocals and songwriting in general are excellent. Considering how new they are to this style of music it is quite impressive.
Shadowstar had the real breakthrough I think. For someone who had never really done something quite like this before he managed to not only make a killer instrumental but to handle the vocals from Badmon Bishop like a pro. He handed in a ton of versions, got many rounds of feedback, and really made the most of the opportunity. The finished result speaks for itself.
What do you think was the most common obstacle shared by most participants?
To be honest it was a bit more challenging than I had thought it would be. There were more rejections on this mixtape than any other and I can’t help but feel a bit responsible.
I should have cautioned the members about cultural appropriation a bit more. There were several tracks that, although fairly well executed, incorporated the Jamaican samples in a way that didn’t feel right. Doing a geographically themed mixtape was bound to run into this issue in retrospect. My bad everyone. I’ll be more careful next time.
How often do you listen to Jamaican music and which style are you most fond of?
Every DAY! I absolutely love Jamaican music. I probably listen to Dancehall and Reggae the most but I’m heavy into a few modern ska bands like Gentleman’s Dub Club too.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
The main idea behind this mixtape was to help teach you the value of listening to music that is completely different from your immediate peers. As music producers we tend to focus too much on “beating the competition” and not enough on achieving greatness. To achieve greatness you must study greatness itself. Get to know the best of the best in all domains of music. We become what we perceive. If you fetishize excellence in all domains and fill your life with excellence you will naturally bring it forth within yourself.
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