Boi 1da (center) with the 808 Gang.
The Toronto transplant from Jamaica behind Drake’s “Best I Ever Had,” Eminem’s “Not Afraid,” and Soulja Boy’s “Speakers Going Hammer” fine-tunes clanging, percussive beats that are deceptively simple—and exquisitely loud. Somehow, he does it all in Image-Line FL Studio 9, which is still known to its fans by its former moniker, Fruity Loops. We caught up with him to find out how.
With so many beatmakers working in FL Studio, how do you create your own niche sound?
I spend a lot of time re-recording stuff, and pre-making sounds before I put them in my beats. Also, I really spend a lot of time mixing. People say, “Oh, your stuff sounds so loud, it smacks so hard, even though it’s Fruity Loops.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because I spend a lot of time turning the volume up and leveling the beat.”
How do you get your drums so loud?
Leave the beat open and give the rapper a lot of room to rap over it. I don’t really “cluster” my beats. People enjoy the simplicity. Simple always wins. Drake likes his beats very open. For most of the songs we’ve done together, he’s actually taken sounds out of my beats.
Do you mix in Fruity Loops, in addition to using it to create beats?
I mix everything in Fruity Loops. The only thing I don’t do in Fruity Loops is chop up samples. I use Adobe Audition for that.
Do you think MPCs and nuts-andbolts drum machines are done with?
In a way. I don’t think I would ever use one. FL [Studio] is what I’ve been using since the start. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
How do you find new drum and synth sounds that other producers aren’t using?
If I have sounds that I downloaded, or if I hear something from a song, I’ll combine it with other sounds that I previously had. I fuse a lot of sounds together.
Drake’s “Over” has a really unusual marching band snare that you might hear in dancehall, but not usually in hip-hop. How did that come about?
Yeah, that was the idea, but the end result was actually a mistake. I accidentally dragged the snare into the kick box and it sounded like reggae. So I kept it there. It has a new kind of bounce that hasn’t been implemented in hip-hop before.
You’ve been working with Dr. Dre. What have you learned from him?
Somuch! I’ve learned to sit on ideas, to never throw anything away, because something could come of it. He’s also why I think mixes are so important. They really matter. You need everything to be loud. A Dr. Dre beat is really, really loud.