Afrofuturist B-Boy Shash'U shares with POP Montreal his top three favourite pieces of gear for new beat makers. Find out more during POP Symposium's Cooking Beats Friday September 25th at 2pm, online at popmontreal.com. This special edition of Cooking Beats will feature Montreal beat king Shash’U in conversation with SOCAN A&R Executive Widney Bonfils.
1 fav gear, a dj controller
*“The Megazord" *
The DJ-808 by Roland, I actually played a part in its release. I was invited by the CEO's of Serato and Roland Japan, to present a worldwide broadcast of the DJ-808 in New Zealand. Let's hop in the DeLorean real quick. It all started when my friend Matt at Serato offered me to test it, before it hit the market. He knew my work & how I could fit with their first collaboration, so I signed the NDA. After a month of testing, they liked my results, so they first flew me to L.A. to film a teaser of me demonstrating the features. The bosses loved it, so I then got the New Zealand gig. Though it was advertised as a dj controller with extra perks, It's actually a great tool in the studio. Today I can head to any studio session, I can lead or follow, with the DJ-808 & a laptop. Using Serato has a giant "sampler" I can manipulate sounds hands-on, in most cases faster than using a mouse & keyboard. Serato's fx are designed by leading brand Izotope. I can add lush reverbs or spaced out echos on anything that goes through the DJ-808. The bpm can be dialed to match the current session & ideas can be recorded into Serato or my DAW in a simple ecosystem. That's not all, Roland also raised the bar by creating Aira - It's a protocol which enables audio & midi connection between a wide selection of instruments, through a single USB cable. I can plug up to two Aira compatible instruments directly into the DJ-808. Make it double.
2 fav gear, a groovebox
"all flavours, batteries not included”
Concerning sequencers, fixed grids are still a hurdle for many musicians & beat makers who understand advanced grooves - we want flexibility. We want to make Flying Lotus/J Dilla swings without relying on a software. If I want to make Krump music, I'll need a machine that can let me add notes between notes & more. Which brings me to my 2nd favourite gear, again by Roland: The MC-101. It's a small, four channel groovebox packed with thousands of great sounds, to fit all sorts of genres & styles. It can take batteries so it can jam in a park & work on the go. Sounds can be imported as an instrument, a drum kit or a loop. Its sequencer is flexible with lots of room. The pattern clips can be programmed to loop the length I want, to jump to a specific clip of my liking so my hands are free to do more without stopping the music. The MC-101 is part of the Aira family (yeah), so I can plug it directly into my DJ-808, creating endless possibilities. The Zencore is Roland's new flagship sound engine - I can import Zencore patches into the MC-101 & they'll sound exactly the same everywhere. I can now perform my songs just like the released versions, by trading off stressful-computer-handled .wav playbacks , for hands-on flexibility of a standalone machine - The MC-101.
3 fav gear, a software.
“As pixelated Thug Life shades slowly drop down on the black sheep of DAWs,”
I've been down with Image-Line since they released FL 3 (back then it was called FruityLoop). Now FL 20, they've celebrated their 20th anniversary not long ago. I can record multiple tracks, build full songs, create soundscapes for theatre, film or video games, even create visuals for VJ’ing. I do it all in FL Studio, the most shaded-on audio production software on the market. Why? cause it's "too easy" to use. Regardless if it won numerous awards for its features, destroyed leading recording softwares in the race for “beat making software”. Still today I get shade by biased musicians & producers who don't want to accept reality. I'm not here to complain, but when was the last time we all had a chat about DAW wars? and how stupid they are? They’re still creating havoc in our communities.
“Oh I use names other app cause it gives me more of a challenge, I find FL is too easy.” Said a fellow classmate once. How does that make any sense? Do I need to explain the benefits of time efficiency? Some folks love to pride on how difficult a tool works, as if it makes their work more valuable.
When it comes to audio production apps, there's no point of claiming which one is the best, by shaming others with our personal preferences & opinions. To me, it shows a form of insecurity & self doubt, which can turn into spec shaming: (bullying/shaming of one’s equipment & their specifications). There’s others who love to “max out” on gear rather on their skills. They often feel the need to purchase the latest of everything to fill a void & brag on the specs. Let’s compare this to car racing. What are drivers going to do with all that turbo & boost if they can’t even turn corners properly? Or if they bang the car on sidewalls all the way to the finish line? Pros will say it’s all about the journey; and I agree. A pro-minded beat maker or producer can learn about who they are & what they like by participating in different circles & communities - instead of creating divide & endorsing only what’s cool to have. Don’t let the machine define who you are or what your skills are. You’re the creator. Become the driver who can take corners in a stock car & beat the race with sheer skills. That’s what I learnt with FL Studio, to hone my music & audio production skills with bare necessities, and add tools only when necessary. I find it builds confidence & character. That’s why my beats are so different, I get to stay focused & be creative - a great workflow. With FL Studio, I feel like I can be myself.
Afrofuturist B-Boy, remix alchemist, legit funk phenomenon… Montreal’s Shash’U is truly one of a kind. He’s been burning down stages from Boiler Room to underground street dance competitions Internationally. With his DJ & producing skills, Shash'U loves to turn your favourite playlist jams into bass shaking battle weapons. His approach to street dance & club music associated him with artists like A-Trak, Chromeo, Dām-Funk, Kaytranada, What So Not, C2C, DJ Q-Bert, JustBlaze, LesTwins & Rihanna. Shash'U recently released Battle Anthems 2 - an EP of 7 blazing tracks fully produced by him, featuring street dancers Slick Moddy (Nicolas Stewart) & 7Starr (Vladimir Laurore).