Representing the GTA West, Hamilton based artist DBLCRSS was one of the best things to happen to the Canadian production scene this year.
After landing himself as a regularly featured artist on The6Track, the Nu Faith Inc. co-founder made a name for himself by delivering a slew of 2016 collaborations with guys like Ramsay Almighty, Bane, Van Hill, LEO., and more.
Artistically, DBLCRSS is still a bit of a mystery. He doesn’t show his face in association with his music, and it seems like he just kind of came out of nowhere this year. And that’s because 2016 was the year that DBLCRSS actually decided to premiere himself as an artist.
“Selling beats often results in your production being slobbered on by half-wit engineers who refer to YouTube tutorials every single time they mix.” – DBLCRSS
DBLCRSS produces in Logic X Pro and FL Studio 11, and draws a lot of his inspiration from older films and books. He almost always starts his compositions with a drum line, and builds the beat from there. He’s one of few producers I have come across who A) actually has his own distinct sound and B) has enough diversity within that signature sound to slaughter any kind of beat he touches; from dancehall, to Afrobeat, to trap, and everything else in between. But for some reason, the guy’s sound is totally left field from what we’ve come to associate with “the Toronto sound.”
This week I caught up with DBLCRSS for an exclusive interview to break down the year 2016. We talked about DBLCRSS’ massive rise to Internet fame, his work process for making beats, his forthcoming debut EP, his decision to branch out from working with rappers, why you can’t just pay him to cop a beat and more.
HipHopCanada: Start off by telling me the story behind how you first fell in love with music and decided you wanted to be a producer.
DBLCRSS: I’ve always been in love with music. I couldn’t tell you when it started. However I started making beats in elementary school… like grade four or five. So I must have been nine or 10 years old, right? I remember making beats that were so epic in the production with violin melodies and angelic choir samples… and some loser kid in my class tried to say that I was jacking my beats from the internet. Not longer after that I made another epic beat right in front of a bunch of kids at my house after school. And the face on that one kid was priceless. The moment I actually decided to take this seriously wasn’t that long ago to be honest. But the decision wasn’t that I want to be a producer; more like deciding that I want to be a musician – a musical artist, a professional entertainer. For the longest time I focused on making music as a hobby but with the ultimate goal of one day pursuing a career in it. I’ve also learned to play various instruments such as keyboard, guitar, and some drums as well. Going through different phases as a teenager I also got to dabble in making all sorts of music from R&B to metal to house. Even dabbled in dubstep. There’s probably countless benefactors that led me to want to be a musician.
HipHopCanada: What do you produce on, and what is your work process like? How do you typically build a beat from start to finish?
DBLCRSS: I produce in Logic X Pro and FL Studio 11. I get a lot of my inspiration by watching older movies or reading older books, which builds this creative motivation that I would then express by portraying what I experienced back in my music. I usually start out with drums. I believe if there’s one specific thing that grabs a listener’s attention in current and modern times, it is definitely the overall groove of the track. Most of the time I try to create a drum rhythm that I haven’t heard yet, and I love to experiment with various sound effects in place for drums, as well. Next I lay out other sounds or samples like progressive build ups and other sounds to fill the production. And it goes from there to tweaking every little component until it’s finished.
HipHopCanada: Talk to me about your relationship with Sean at The6Track. Because I feel like that guy has been so key to a lot of your success this year. How did the two of you meet and decide to build together?
DBLCRSS: Him and Cam (that’s my brother and manager) connected first. Cam does a lot for the entire movement. He does a lot for a bunch of other people’s movements too, and various other people know that. It’s only a matter of time before one of those connections outweighs anything we’ve seen so far. It’s a tastemaker thing. His connection with Sean was one of those instantly clicking connections, though. Both dudes are really about this whole digital music game. And they connect based on the mutual interest, being Toronto and GTA West. People need to know about the local artists outside of the main Downtown Toronto area. Those guys do that. My relationship to Sean is that I make music in an area that him and Cam focus on to bring real local sounds to people who might not normally catch them.
HipHopCanada: Talk to me about your biggest milestone from 2016.
DBLCRSS: Debuting as DBLCRSS in July. I’d say it was definitely that, including dropping the audio for “Young Moses.” Until that point, there was really only two of my tracks out and they were both bootleg flips of Drake and Kendrick songs. “Young Moses” was the first original beat of mine with original vocals on top of it that weren’t published to another name or label. It was my debut release that I composed the instrumental for, recorded the vocals, [and] mixed and mastered the entire track to the version that’s out there right now. It was my first iTunes and Spotify release.
HipHopCanada: What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in 2016 or are still overcoming?
DBLCRSS: I’d have to say it’s the ability to make music well enough for people to actually care about it; enough for them to buy tickets to my shows in the future, enough for them to have bought all the merchandise I made in 2016, and enough for them to buy the beats I pitch. [That’s] the reason why [producing] was a hobby for so long. Imagine being so aware of your own craft because of how long you’ve studied other successful people as you’ve grown up that you can identify that your craft is only “good”… but not yet “good enough.” That’s what I’ve had to deal with. It wasn’t until I became DBLCRSS that I actually decided that being a musician is what I want to do for a living. Because I felt that my craft was actually worth releasing into the world.
HipHopCanada: One thing that’s very interesting about your branding is that you don’t show your face in association with your music. What’s that all about?
DBLCRSS: I don’t know. Not really my thing, I guess. My face doesn’t make the music sound any different. I know it’s been done before for marketing. But it’s not a gimmick I’ve planned. I just don’t want to do it because I don’t feel like I have to. I’ll show my face soon but it’s not necessary for you to see it to get what I’m trying to do right now. The work I’ve released so far isn’t personal enough to put my face out there. You might see my face in a video for a track from the EP. But who knows? Because I could be totally against it when the time comes, and I don’t want to promise.
HipHopCanada: My favourite song you worked on this year was “Resist” with LEO. and Chivas Kimber. Everyone I showed it to didn’t believe me when I said it was Canadian. Because the way you engineered that beat was such a different take on the type of dancehall-Afrobeat people are used to hearing out of Toronto. Talk to me about that.
DBLCRSS: Where I grew up and the people I grew up around. My next-door neighbours. The hype with Caribana every year recently is funny to me because I was there every year as a youngin and it was just a natural part of my life. I didn’t desire to be there but I soaked it all up. I embraced it. See my mom made friends with our next door neighbours and they had [a] close family that lived a two-minute walk from The Exhibition. So it was a thing for like three or 4 years straight. To add to the “different take” comment, my dude Chivas Kimber provided the perfect vocals to make the overall island sound feel that much more alive. It was a true collaborative effort.
HipHopCanada: How do you decide which artists you work with? Who do you hope to be able to work with one day? Can anyone pay you to cop a beat or are you particular with who you work with?
DBLCRSS: I actually have a list of five or six artists that I will be working with in 2017. All of them are singers [and] songwriters. There’s only two more rap-focused hip-hop tracks left that are being finished very soon that will be dropping with my name on them. Those will be the last two rap-focused releases for a while. Who do I hope to work with one day? There’s too many people to name. But definitely Rick Rubin. That dude is Merlin. And no; unfortunately not anyone can pay me to get a beat. I’m stern on that for a reason as it’s been a reoccurring question lately. Like I said before I’m trying to become a musician rather than a beat-maker. I like to have more control over the final product. Selling beats often results in your production being slobbered on by half-wit engineers who refer to YouTube tutorials every single time they mix.
HipHopCanada: What’s in store for you in 2017? I know you’re dropping your debut EP in February. What are you able to divulge, on that front? And what’s the reasoning behind releasing an EP, as opposed to a full-length project or beat tape?
DBLCRSS: Many people have been asking me what I’m planning to do for this. It’s actually not what anyone has guessed so far. I’ve got three original tracks being composed right now. I’m actually going to be recording my own vocals on to the tracks. I’m really just trying to do something original; something sick and fun and full of numerous influences from my life so far. I don’t have a title for the EP yet. The track titles are only codenames and the actual concepts are still being finalized. It won’t take long to craft from this point, which is why I recommend both an organized workflow and workstation to all artists. You need to know exactly what you are doing and fully understand why you are doing it. [Then] you can eliminate intricacies in the way of your ability to close a deal so that you can pinpoint your strengths and become the finest tuned version of yourself.
Follow @DBLCRSSmusic on Instagram.
Written by Sarah Jay for HipHopCanada
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