Our Class of 808 Ninjas and curator, Metasine, partnered with Tracklib to create original songs for Cypher 018 using a song of their choice from the Tracklib catalog as the starting point. I caught up with Connor (Metasine) to learn more about everything that went into it.
Connor, awesome job on curating Cypher 018: Tracklib. Tell us more about this Cypher Challenge and what important lessons did you learn along the way?
Woo! That was so sick. What a process. What an experience.
Ever since I started making music, I’ve been sampling. If you’re a music producer, chances are you have too. One of my favorite activities as an artist is digging at the record store. Dusting off old vinyl you’ve never heard but snagged for a couple of bucks because it had a dope cover. I used to always say you could find yourself in a record crate. Only problem was, I couldn’t license any of it. Well, I guess I could… I just didn’t have the time or the money.
Imagine a digital record store that you can dig through in the comfort of your studio. You find the perfect sample, make an amazing tune… and then license it for $50, sample and all. Well for Cypher #18, the Producer Dojo crew and I dove into Tracklib’s library and chopped up a sample of our choice.
I learned a ton through the process, but I’ll get into all that below.
Tell us about your song “On the Rocks” that you whipped up for the Cypher.
In all honesty… this one was a challenge.
Usually, when I dig for records, I just grab whatever feels right and will listen until something sparks. On this one, I tried to find the right sample from the start, which I think made it harder. I went through a few different ones before I made a beat that stuck. Once I did it fizzed out pretty quick and I felt like I was forcing it. I sorta felt a lot of pressure to make something sick since I was curating the cypher and the track just wasn’t hitting me like I wanted it too. I took breaks, rearranged over and over again, tried all sorts of creative hacks… nothing.
I didn’t give up though.
I ended up finding a new sample from Tracklib that was in the same key I was working in. It was like 3 minutes of saxophone solo. I put that sample in and took out the one that I had started with and boom, the whole track evolved and soon enough it took shape. It’s easy to get attached to an idea you spent a lot of time on. Sometimes a new direction is exactly what you need.
What was the most challenging aspect of curating a mixtape and do you have any advice for future curators?
Outside of the struggles with my own song, the process of curating a mixtape is pretty difficult, but ultimately super rewarding. Giving valuable and constructive feedback is anything but easy. From my own experience, it’s hard to have someone tear your project apart – but being on the other side of that is even harder! Not to mention trying to give good feedback while you’re struggling to make any progress on your own song. There were definitely a few existential crises baked in there.
All of that said, my advice for future curators is to just be as honest and helpful as possible. Shading your real constructive thoughts to avoid hurting someone’s feelings just isn’t helpful in the end.
Future curators and mixtape participants, take feedback well. If you only get positive feedback you’ll never get any better. Someone saying that your mix sucks does not mean that you suck… it just means your mix sucks… so you should work on your mixing. Bam… now you worked on your mixing… and your mixes are sick. Look at that.
Tracklib was a unique challenge considering there was the licensing process to manage as well. What important information did you learn about licensing?
Oh my god was this a process for me. I did not realize the amount of work that goes into licensing a sample. Thank god for Tracklib (despite a few technical difficulties on my end).
For anyone who’s interested, the rights to samples we chose from are owned by the writers and publishers of the original music. When you sample the song, you must pay them for the rights – which is based on the amount of audio you sample. Those rights need to be split up based on the ownership percentages of the writers (which my sample had 4 of…) and the publishing company. Oh and Tracklib. Whatever is left over gets split between you (the writer), and Producer Dojo (the publisher).
It all makes sense – but figuring it all out is quite complex. That’s why PROs (publishing rights organizations) exist. They basically keep track of a song’s performance and make sure that all the appropriate parties get paid correctly. I didn’t even know these existed before this process. If you don’t, and you want to make money from your music… get a PRO (for example, ASCAP).
Do you have any special shout outs/nods of recognition that you would like to give to any Ninjas for their efforts on this challenge?
Honestly, every single Ninja who submitted a beat did an amazing job. Everyone took the feedback extremely well, poured themselves into their projects, and created some truly amazing music – and hopefully grew a little as an artist!
The reality of a compilation is that there are only a few spots… if it was my choice we would be releasing a 30 track two-disk album. That said, big shout out to Cryptochronia, Memory Code, and Tao Moon for their work – their tracks are all amazing and really inspiring to me.
Is there anything else that you would like to share or promote?
Thank you so much to Dylan, Producer Dojo, and all the Ninjas who participated for giving me to opportunity to do this! It was an amazing experience and I am so proud of everyone!
P.S. Check out my Producer Dojo black-belt EP, “Transcend Sound”!
Lots of love <3