conducted by Hugo Lunny
Having worked with the likes of Ghostface Killah, El-P, Talib Kweli, Murs and Living Legends, Belief has had his fair share of beats sold and the odds are you’ve heard the songs he has produced. Recently, this talented producer put online an album/mix entitled “Let It Breathe” which can be downloaded for free here.
MVRemix: For those that are now hearing about you for the first time, tell us about yourself.
Belief: Whattup? I was born and raised in L.A. Moved to NY for 10 years, and just moved back to L.A. I love music.
MVRemix: As a producer, who has influenced you?
Belief: I’m a fan of all types of music and production. I like to think that I’m just as much influenced by Phil Spector or George Martin as J Dilla and Dr. Dre. I study timeless music from the 50’s and 60’s as much as my favorite Hip Hop. That being said, I’m a big fan of Nottz, Buckwild, Alchemist, Andre 3000 and Timbaland. Also Nigel Godrich, Air, Switch and the DFA.
MVRemix: Do you remember the first beat you made?
Belief: Not the first one, it was a long, long time ago. But I do still have every beat I ever made. I started with a Gemini DJ mixer with the 4 second sampler button in the middle and a 4-track. I have a bunch of 4 track tapes and a gang of ASR-10 floppy disks too.
MVRemix: Did you have any formal teaching about chord progression and things along those lines or did you learn composing music all by experimentation?
Belief: My parents forced piano lessons on my from the age of 3 to 13. Pretty much the whole time I rebelled against it so I didn’t learn nearly as much as I should have, but I did get a sense of pitch and I am comfortable on the keys.
MVRemix: How did you first go about getting rappers and more established artists to listen to your beats?
Belief: I was in a crew in high school with Scarub, Murs and Eligh from the Living Legends, among others. When we got a little bit older and they started putting out records they hit me up for beats. At the same time as those records were coming out, I was in NY just hitting artists up that I liked. I had tapes or cd’s with me wherever I went. Also I worked at 555 Soul in Soho for a while while and rappers were always coming through, so I would put beats on, or give out CD’s right then and there. Later, I worked at Electric Lady studio’s in the Village, and artists would hit me up for down low studio time, while they were there I’d make them listen to beats.
MVRemix: Who chose the first beat of yours to use with their music? How was that experience and how did that come about?
Belief: Even though we were recording tons of tracks in my parents house during high school, the first song that officially came out was a track I did for Scarub on a Japanese label called Mary Joy Recordings. It was called “Freak What You Feel” and featured Tiombe Lockhart – who went on to be featured all over the first PPP album and on the cover of magazines. We recorded and mixed it at my boy Ariel’s studio in his parents garage – who went on to be the Grammy nominated producer of “Hey There Delilah.” The song was very different. I felt like I was doing something innovative. And that kind of set a precedent for what I would be, and still am, going for.
MVRemix: How did the name Belief come to be?
Belief: Deciding on a name was very uncomfortable for me. I’m still learning to relax about the idea that people call me by a name other than the name my parents gave me. But I needed to do it, mostly cause my real name doesn’t sound cool, but also I’ve always wanted to keep a certain level of separation between my work life and personal life. Belief is a word that evokes a lot of different things and ideas and can be interpreted in a lot of positive ways and that seems like a good thing.
MVRemix: Tell me about the album, “Let It Breathe.” Why was that title chosen?
Belief: The title came from the Jay-Z and Nas song “Success,” (“Let that bitch [beat] breathe!”). The it in my album title refers to the beat. One of the concepts of my album was to use vocals in a different way. More to draw you into the beat then as the dominant feature of the track. That’s why vocals are used sparsely, often times fading in and out or phrases being chopped and repeated. I’m letting the beat breathe. Also I think “Let It Breathe” sounds epic because it sounds like “Let It Be,” the Beatles album, or “Let It Bleed,” the Rolling Stones Album.
MVRemix: How long did the record take to record and how planned out was it?
Belief: It took about 10 months and the plan changed constantly. Originally it was a mixtape of unreleased, or under-released songs I’d done over the past few years. Eventually I started cutting vocals out because as it is a project under my name, I wanted the lyrics to represent me, and most of the time they didn’t, or they weren’t universal enough. Then I started adding other beats that I felt like I needed to release, some of which are 7 or 8 years old, some of which were brand new. Then I started adding some acappellas of major artists and chopping them up. Eventually I cut all the vocals out because I felt like it was gimmicky to do remixes and instrumentals represented me better, but when I listened it was boring and dead. I put the vocals back in, mastered a couple versions, and stepped away for about 6 weeks. When I came back to it I was happy, except that I trimmed 5 minutes off of the end.
MVRemix: How does “Let It Breathe” compare to your debut album, “Dedication”?
Belief: They are completely different formats. “Dedication” is an album with 12 songs. “Let it Breathe” is basically one long mix. Also “Let it Breathe” is all me. What I had trouble with on “Dedication” was the limitations that collaborating with people cause. They weren’t just my songs, they were me and Murs and Words and C-Rayz and Vordul’s songs. On this project it was all me, being the meticulous control freak that I am. The other difference is that is a consciously, black-market project. I am stealing vocals from all kinds of major artists. I’m taking liberties and doing whatever I want. 90% of the tracks have samples. I didn’t want to stress it anymore, so I did an album that I couldn’t directly make money on and did whatever the fuck I wanted on it.
MVRemix: Any videos planned?
Belief: Not for this project, but for my next release, a group I’m in with Sumkid Majere called the Lone Wolf coming out early next year, we will be doing a couple videos.
MVRemix: Do you have any plans to step out from behind the boards and perform over your own material?
Belief: Hell nah. Wouldn’t be fun for anyone involved, trust me.
MVRemix: In a sentence or less, what do you do to relax?
Belief: I organize my sound library and/or watch movies.
MVRemix: Have fun with this one, a la “Fight Club” – “If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight”?
Belief: Mathey McConaughey, something about that guy really irks me.
MVRemix: Who would win?
Belief: Probably not me.
MVRemix: Do you have any non musical aspirations?
Belief: I want to be involved in helping to make Los Angeles a better place, somehow. Also I’ve got an idea for a documentary film that I would love to pursue.
MVRemix: What next do we have to look forward to from you?
Belief: “The Lone Wolf” album coming early next year. I’m doing another CD starting where “Let It Breathe” left off, a whole CD of baby-making music tentatively entitled “Love Beats.” I have a few other ideas for projects I’m conceptualizing as well, an instrumental album of darker more aggressive tracks a la stuff I’ve done for Def Jux and a David Bowie remix album.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Belief: Fear is the mind killer.