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Beat Box: From California To Joburg, Draztik Still Pays His Dues

February 25, 2013
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Draztik Pic 1

From Unreleased Records, Draztik has mapped his way around this South African music industry, and in the process he’s earned the respect of his peers and gained loyal fans. Having paid his dues, it hasn’t stopped him from making the swiftest moves on this here industry chess-board. CHEKA Digital chopped it up and took the convo all the way back to the days of Cashless Society.

CHEKA Digital: We’ve come to know you from the days of Cashless Society, how much has the SA industry in terms of production changed from the days of “Hottentot Hop 1,2″?

Draztik: I would say a lot has changed in the sound. Production has evolved and expanded a great deal now. Producers are experimenting so much more with different sounds. Before most folks would just flip a sample, drop a baseline and add drums, now there’s a lot more live composition. The tempo of the music has also changed, it’s slowed down and has also sped up. When the Cashless record came out most records I was hearing were in the 87-94 bpm tempos, now you hear a lot of records at records at 72, 74 and as fast as 160bpm.

We see guys come up from a bedroom producer to a co-sign by respected artists in the game. In your own opinion, what are the dues a producer needs to pay in the industry?

Part of paying your dues is really taking your craft seriously. I spent of a lot time creating records but eventually realised I needed to spend enough time picking quality sounds, understanding what goes into a hit record, the importance of getting my productions properly mastered and creating your own signature sound that folks can identify. I also feel you need to put the time in and invest in yourself, equipment, sounds and whatever else will get your sound right, and I don’t mean you got to break your budget here but invest in a descent setup. You see if your setup is limited and you’re always struggling to compose, you most likely limiting your creativity.

I made sure I would get my beats into folks who are really putting out the music. There’s no point in producing songs for artists that don’t ever release product. The point is you want to get your name out there. Paying your dues is really something you’ve got to earn by mastering the art and getting the respect from other artists.

We saw Rick Rubin’s practices during recording on “Fade To Black”. We also saw the input he has in the record. Is it mandatory for the producer to be actively involved in a record or is it a sale that’s it agreement?

Well you got 2 things here; you either a beatmaker or a producer, so it really depends who you are. Indeed, most of us started as a beatmakers and transitioned into producing records. Rick Rubin is a producer, legendary at that. Having said that, as a producer you have vision for the record, whether it’s at the beginning of making the beat and recording the vocals, or at the end when the vocals are laid down. A real producer will go back and make subtle or majors changes to the arrangement, maybe take out some sounds, add some sounds and overall shape the vocals and beat so it’s a complete song. It’s in your blood as a producer to do this. This is where you separate the men from the boys. On the real there’s nothing wrong with just being a beatmaker and selling beats as there are, but as a producer you will be compelled to want to finish the record and add necessary touches it needs. A lot of times these changes are what turn it into a hit record. You can say Producers pay their dues and make money and Beatmakers, well they just make money LOL.

Trends. There was a phase when crunk beats were everywhere, J-Squad were kings. Now we have David Guetta beats and trap. How do you think international trends affect local producers?

Well the trends will always affect us, especially if radio and media control the playlist. SA radio we all know just doesn’t play enough local music; the support is minimal compared to that of other countries. So yeah it’s unfortunate so as a producer we are affected, you are almost forced to comply with the sound you hear on MTV in order to get playlisted on radio.


We saw Amu sampling David Thekwane & The Boyoyo Boys “Township Jive” for Wikid’s (who is David Thekwane’s son) “Bump Jive”. What do you think we transition the sampling of local music in SA? What is needed to make sampling local music easier by producers as we saw Amu sample Wikid’s father?

You know this is the toughest thing as a producer in SA. It’s very easy to sample local music, now the hard part is getting clearance for it. I was lucky when I sampled “Zwakala” by Ray Phiri and Stimela for Young Nations debut album. We had to go through Gallo Record Company at the time when Sipho Sithole from Native Rhythms was the CEO. We were lucky to get Ray Phiri and Llyod Lelosa from Stimela in studio to replay the parts/chops I had done. The important thing is to explain to the label representing the artist how they will make benefit, i.e. publishing, radio and promotion etc. Unfortunately sampling local music you almost gotta go big with it and it almost always needs to be a radio single for the owners of the copyright to even accept a clearance deal from you. In some cases you may have to revoke all your publishing to get the deal. Most the time if you can get the clearance from the original artist/composer then the label will almost guarantee you get it. Remember if you going get the clearances, you going to need to get one from the artist/composer and the other one from the label representing the artist.

Rappers/producers. Kanye did it. Erick Sermon did. Amu did it. What are the pros and cons of being both a rapper and producer?

Being a producer and artist at the same time is really hard work. I respect people who do this. I know this from being a full time artist before I got into production. When I started producing I found I had no time to be an artist, it really does swallow you up. You get so involved in the technical aspects of music that, you always trying to find better ways to improve your productions, you might also be getting work from other artists or even as in myself producing music for commercials from corporate companies. Once you get paid by one of these huge corporate clients, well LOL you’ll think twice about what direction you want to take. So to sum it up I wanted to really establish my music and make an impact. It’s a personal choice you need to make and like I said I applaud folks who can do both.

You have a California upbringing and the scene there is known as gangster rap. How did that upbringing influence your production style to SA perimeters?

Well growing up, the scene was definitely influenced by your NWA, Ice Cube, Dre, Digital Underground, Pac, Snoop, etc. But they were a lot of other artists in the west though, Pharcyde, Xzibit, Rass Kass, Too Short, Souls Of Mischief, Luniz and we were also listening to the EPMD’s KRS’s, Wu Tang, Das Efx, Black Sheep Tribe Called Quest among others. So my influences (funny enough) borrowed from West Coast, East Coast, South Africa and also from just traveling a lot when I was a youngin.

Imbizo Street Mixtape. You produced the whole tape during the time when mixtapes were not prime commodity in SA. How has the game changed for producers in terms of providing beats for mixtapes as opposed to albums?

I think its dope because it’s given producers a broader platform to disseminate their music. I’m glad to see a lot of artists and producers empowering themselves. It helps to get your brand out there and some folks are seeing a bit of money from it. That’s a hustle we didn’t exploit so much during the time of Imbizo Street Mixtape. However it’s gotten harder to pitch music for an album as there’s a lot of producers banging out real dope stuff. Artists get so much more beat submissions than it was before. This is because the level of production in SA is really gotten dope!

One word that comes to mind when you hear: Swizz Beatz

Hard to put it one word because he has constantly stayed relevant for so long and has flipped his sound over and over so hmmm…. one word – Re-Invent!

Interview By: Siphiwe Zwane (@SDotJR_)

Check out Draztik’s new single featuring Whosane titled “Slate In” here.

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