Gear

Behind the Boards With... Rico Beats

Behind the Boards

By Slava Pastuk

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Welcome to Behind the Boards, where we talk to hip hop producers about the tricks of the trade, their equipment, and perhaps even peek into their souls. In this installment edition, we talk to Rico Beats, who's produced for 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, The-Dream, Lil Wayne, and more.

What beat are you the most proud of from your entire career?
I would have to say "Exodus 23:1" [for Pusha T], most definitely.

So how much do you hate Drake?
Funny thing is, I have no issues with Drake or anyone on Young Money—I even produced a song for Nicki's last album that featured Wayne on it, so it's really just crazy-ass people taking things out of context. It was like a little trap that Pusha put out there, and whoever fell for it fell for it. Even if it was directed at any of the YM people, I wasn't aware of it.

What about the Southside beef? Where did that hate come from?
Crazy thing is, I've always been a big fan of Southside's work. When The-Dream, myself, and Pusha were in Miami last February working on a bunch of records, "Millions" came on and Kanye didn't like how the record was sounding. He wanted the drums to knock louder, some extra sounds, and a choir and shit, so he asked me to do it. I refused, because it's in the unwritten rules of producing that you don't work on someone else's track without their permission, so they tried to reach out to Southside but they couldn't reach him. So, a year goes by and my manager keeps saying, "Man, they need you to redo the drums" and I said, "Well, why don't you ask Southside. He produced it!"

About a week before the record drops, I get an email from the engineer at the GOOD Camp who's mixing the song, pleading with me to add my signature drums and the choir to it. So at that point, I just did it as a favor to Pusha, because we have a good relationship like that and I wanted the record to come out right, not even knowing that I would get credit for it! When the record came out, I only found out they had given me credit through Twitter because all of these people were hitting me up like, "Oh, you killed that beat," and I corrected them as best I could, but I guess Southside felt a way about that and he lashed out on Twitter.

How much Playcloths do you own because of your relationship with Pusha?
I don't know why, but I've never asked Pusha to send me a box of clothes or anything like that. But Pusha's like my brother, so it would be no problem. In the industry, you meet a lot of people who are real Hollywood, but Pusha's far from that. I could text him at any time of the day for no reason and he'll get back to me quick.

Do you have a favorite musical instrument?
I'm real big on orchestral shit; I like strings, brass, all that. If you listen to my beats, you'll hear a choir a lot, so I'm really influenced by that sound.

Do you go to the opera a lot? What's your favorite ballet?
I've never been, but that's something I should definitely check out just because I love the orchestral sound of strings and shit all coming together. Actually, maybe not the ballet.

What do you use to make your beats and why do you use that thing?
My main tool is Ableton, but I can use anything. Sometimes I'm in the mood to use Logic, or I'll be bored so I use Fantom or MPs; it really depends on how I feel. But for "Exodus 23:1," that was pure hardware; there was no software involved in that. I got into using Abelton because everyone around me was using FruityLoops and Logic, so I started messing with Ableton to stand out and be different. My mentor, Needlz, was using Logic at the time, and I saw his success with that but I felt like it took too long to make a beat on there, so decided that I'd rather do my own thing with Ableton.

How long does it take you to make a beat?
"Roman Reloaded" took me like 15 minutes, but sometimes it takes a few days to go over it and make sure everything is perfect.

At what age did you decide you didn't want to work a "real" job?
It was around my last year of college in 2004. I remember hearing Needlz produce "Bang Bang" by Young Buck so I started following his work, and it turned out that we had a mutual friend, so I was introduced and it went from there. But I really admire Needlz and I remember buying the same equipment as him so that I could recreate his sound as best I could.

What's your favorite Brooklyn era?
I'd have to go with the whole Biggie era. I mess with both albums. Life After Death was just an amazing influence on me.

What's your least favorite trend to come out of the Brooklyn in recent memory?
Baggy clothes and saggy pants and shit like everyone is stuck in the 90s. I wouldn't say my jeans are skinny now, but I'm on that Givenchy tip now.

What's one common thread that connects the sound coming out of The Brooklyn?
I'd say the grittiness, the grimy stuff. We're known for that street-centric, grimy stuff

What misconception do people have about the Bronx citizens?
People always think we're bad guys—that we're always up to something. When you're out of town and you tell someone you're from Brooklyn, they always assume you're in a gang or something.

Do you download music illegally?
I would say no.

I would say no too, but I do.
You know what's crazy is I don't sit around listening to music like that. The only time I even go out and find something is when someone says, "Oh, you've got to check that out."

Have you heard the new Justin Timberlake album?
Nope.

You've got to check that out. It's got a bunch of orchestral strings and shit.
Yeah? See, I didn't know that. Now I'm gonna check that out.

Who is one artist from a genre other than rap/hip hop that you want to work with?
Pop, most definitely. I've got some dope pop records saved up for Bieber or someone like that. I work with The-Dream pretty closely, so he's written to a lot of my R&B beats.

Did you help him pick out his Grammy outfit?
You're like the seventh person to ask me that! I was in LA and I just saw people posting shit on Instagram. That's my boy, though, so he can do whatever he wants. If I had money like that, I'd probably have EIGHT hats on, who cares.

Who takes direction in the studio better, The-Dream or Pusha T?
Pusha. He's the type to look at you and be like, "Is that a go? Do you like that verse?" My favorite record is Trust You; I really fuck with Kevin Gates after that.

What are you working on right now?
Me and Sean Kingston have been working closely for like a week, J.Lo just picked out a record from me, but I don't know what they're about to do with that. I'm working on stuff for Fab, I've got records with Jay-Z coming out later this summer. This year is gonna be my year, to be honest, because I've got The-Dream in my corner and he's picking records for people, but I can't talk on that too much because I don't want to jinx anything.

So maybe like a Rihanna?
Bigger.

Beyonce?!
Change subject.

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