Behind the Boards... With Cardiak
The genius behind Lloyd Banks and Kanye West's "Start It Up" reveals how he was working at Pizza Hut when he first made it big.
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 New Jersey producer Cardiak, who created a little record called "Start it Up" by Lloyd Banks, Kanye West, Fabolous, Ryan Leslie, and Swizz Beatz.
What beat are you the most proud of from your entire career?
"Start It Up" was my first big record and my most notable to date so a lot of people know me from that beat.
How did it get chosen?
That was actually an old beat. I used to rap a while ago and I did a song to it and it was sitting in my archives. When I was sending beats to G-Unit, I was sending so many that I was running out, so I just ended up putting it in one of the last batches I sent over. Lloyd Banks really loved it and the A&R ending up hitting me up like "Man, why didn't you send us this beat earlier?!" So now whenever I shop my beats I send everything I've got, new & old.
Did you think that beat would blow up like it did?
No I didn't even know where that song was going. At first it was just Banks, and then I heard a version with 50 Cent on it, and then out of nowhere they told me that Swizz, Fab, and Kanye hopped on it so I was just shocked. And when I heard it on the radio for the first time it was amazing.
Do you have a favorite musical instrument?
I'd say piano, because that's the only classical instrument I play. It really depends on the artist, for Rick Ross I choose a soulful sample and then play the keys on top of it; for Meek Mill I'll make something that's mostly horns & synthesizers, but the piano is my favorite sound.
What do you use to make your beats and why do you use that thing?
I use Fruity Loops because that's what I started out with and if it ain't broke don't fix it, so I've been using that for so long that it's become easy. One of my boys put me on Fruity Loops Version 3 when I was like 12 and then when I started rapping I was tired of just rhyming over instrumentals, so I just started making my own beats. I've used Logic before and I like it, but I mainly use it for the sounds and then balance it out and export that to FL Studio.
How long does it take you to make a beat?
"Start It Up" took about 10-15 minutes. I can get an idea done in about 5 minutes, but then I take my time and go back and structure it properly.
How involved are you in the process of making a song?
A majority of the time I just do it via email, sending the song and whatever idea I might have for it. If they rock with it, they use my idea, if not they just use the beat. I've been in the studio with Meek and Ace Hood a lot and they're receptive to whatever commentary I have, but most of the time what they're doing is already hot and I have nothing to add.
At what age did you decide you didn't want to work a real job?
Actually, back in like 2012 when "Start It Up" and "600 Benz" came out I was still working a regular job. I was at Pizza Hut but I had to get surgery on my arm, so I quit and started working over-nights at Wal-Mart, but the second I got my publishing deal I quit and started doing music full-time.
What misconception do people have about Jersey citizens?
I feel like New Jersey is overlooked a lot to be honest. We've had dudes coming out and do their thing for a while like Joe Budden, but a lot of people don't know that someone like Just Blaze is from Patterson, New Jersey. That's my favorite producer and the guy that inspired me, so Jersey's definitely got talent. We just need to make ourselves known.
What's your favorite era of New Jersey?
2001-2002, around the time Jay's Blueprint came out and Just Blaze was making crazy beats. I was getting into music at the time and it really inspired me to make beats.
What's your least favorite trend to come out of the Jersey in recent memory?
There's a lot of motherfuckers in New Jersey that still wear baggy-ass shit like long white tees, baggy jeans, dirty shoes, all that shit. We definitely do not do that any more, but a lot of people from Jersey still do.
What's one common thread that connects the sound coming out of Jersey?
Put it this way: New York is the Mecca, so when people look at Jersey they just see that it for being small and the fact are no real "popular" rappers. So we have a chip on our shoulder and we use that to prove ourselves I think.
Do you download music illegally?
I'm not even gonna lie, I do sometimes. I find all my new music through Twitter.
Do you Google yourself?
Not Google, but I'll put my name in the Twitter search bar from time to time to see what people are saying about me. I read the good and the bad, it doesn't really affect me much though.
Who is one artist from a genre other than rap/hip-hop that you want to work with?
I wanna work with a real big artist that touches all genres and lets me step outside the box. Someone like Rihanna or even Justin Bieber would be cool.
What are you working on right now?
I've been working with the usual suspects: Wale, French Montana, DJ Khlaed, Ace Hood, Rick Ross. But I've also been working on a lot of R&B records too trying to get stuff to Rihanna, Chris Brown and all them, so I'm just waiting to hear back on that. But as far as the palcements go, I'm going to be on Excuse My French and Wale's album dropping later this year, so look out for that.
Slava Pastuk is a noted wildlife enthusiast. He's on Twitter - @SlavaP