Trap Jesus curated the latest Cypher 011 – “Off The Grid” mixtape and delivers an “all killer no filler” 16 minute mix of wonky goodness.
Luke, tell us how you became the curator of the Off The Grid Cypher and why do you think it was a valuable learning exercise for Producer Dojo members?
Credit for this awesome cypher concept goes to the man himself, ill.Gates. He wanted an opportunity to show the Ninjas that the quantize grid is there as a suggestion, not as a rule! There are so many cool grooves and pockets to explore in music, and all the best ones utilize the spaces between the grid lines to really push and pull the listener as they dance to the record. But by the time it came to execute this cypher, Dylan saw that he would have to delegate the responsibility: his plate was full building Dojo content, hosting live streams, writing music and handling top secret Dojo biz, all while preparing for the birth of his first child in March (welcome to the world, Asha!). When Dylan asked for somebody to help lighten his load I decided to step up. I had never done anything like this before, but I knew that the Dojo team would give me all the advice and feedback I needed to make this a success!
Out of all of the students on the Cypher, do you have a shout out for most improved on Cypher 11? Can you share the story of the student’s progression?
All the ninjas really impressed me with their ability to find really wonky grooves and unique pockets in their music, so shouts to the whole crew who made the tape! Shouts to DNA Proxi and WAVEMA, their tracks were the most improved during the course of this Cypher, because both of them kept sending in new drafts and asking for more feedback. It’s that kind of tenacity and drive that all the new members to the Class of 808 can really learn from. I’ve heard some students say they worry their tracks aren’t ready to submit to the Cyphers, but DNA Proxi and WAVEMA didn’t give into that fear. They showed up to get the critiques that helped them grow, and both had a lot of growth during this process!
And of course some special shouts to you, Spiderhound, for your amazing track “Tip It,” I just had to lead off with it, and to 6th Steet and Mitch Brady for bringing all the feels to bring the house down in our closer “This Kind of Monday.”
What do you think was the most common obstacle shared by most participants?
When the goal of the tape is to make things, wonky, unconventional and off the grid, it’s easy to get caught up over complicating things. In this case the main difficulty was getting strong buildups and smooth transitions in and out of drops. The whole point of a build up is to establish tension and anticipation, then to let the listener know exactly when the drop is coming. In early drafts of some songs the breakdowns and buildups had amazing sound design, great texture and really wonky pockets, but it wasn’t easy to follow the main rhythm of the track. It was actually because of this that Dylan did his Weekly Download episode on Buildups (TWD#113). I think all the Ninjas on this cypher, including me, learned some great lessons on the beauty of simplicity in arrangement.
Tell us about your two Trap Jesus tracks on the cypher.
Did you hear about the actress that stabbed a guy last night? Reese something… Reese wither… with… (Witherspoon?) NO! With her KNIFE! Lolol.
That wonderfully cheesy joke inspired the name of my first track on the Cypher, Reese Witherknife. I had the honor of writing this song with my friend Soliloquy. He and I met at an ill.Gates show in Seattle about a month after I joined the Class of 808 in early 2018. We had been in the studio and created some pretty cool jams before, but this one is by far our favorite, so we are very proud for it to be our first official collab release.
The other track is my solo effort, Lovestep. I wanted to create a song that juxtaposed dubstep bass wubs against more organic instruments. I chose that flute sound because it was so happy, you don’t normally hear that tone in dubstep. This is one of those tunes that just makes me want to grin big on the dance floor and hug a stranger lol. Funny story about Lovestep, it actually started off nearly 20bpm slower than it’s current version, but my good buddy Spiderhound gave me the advice to speed it up… waaaay up! Remember, if a song seems like it has all the elements it needs but still isn’t quite working, maybe a fundamental change like shifting the tempo or key is what the track needs to come to life.
How often do you create Off The Grid Beats and do you prefer being on the grid or off the grid?
Before this cypher I had already been exploring the possibilities of programming off the grid. I had learned from my production mentors that keeping everything robotically on the grid only makes sense in some situations, and most types of grooves and pockets require a more human approach. In other words, the imperfections are what make the groove perfect! Since I’ve been a part of the Off the Grid Cypher, though, I’ve been all about the wonky rhythms. In the few months since we began this project way more of my beats are way more off the grid, and I’m so happy about that!
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Don’t be afraid to be different! Make your music stand out, be the Purple Cow that people tell their friends about. And don’t be afraid to step into the unknown, because that is the only place to learn and grow. The Ninjas on this tape pushed their creative boundaries and it paid off. And I hadn’t ever curated a cypher before, but during the process I learned a ton about production, grooves, buildups, and giving constructive feedback to producers, as well as a ton of practice putting together a DJ mix where almost none of the tracks are the same tempo! Thanks to ill.Gates and the whole Dojo community for the opportunity and the honor of curating the Off The Grid Cypher.
Trap Jesus Loves You!