Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the very first lecture ever given by hip hop artist/producer Darealwordsound. He made the trek from California over the mountain to Northern Nevada. His lecture and workshop was part of the Live Performance Series hosted by the UNR Audio Engineering Society. About half of those in attendance were Audio Engineering Society members. Other attendees included those who are part of the UNR Music Industry program.
Darealwordsound uses computer technology to create his music. This can be done using a laptop or tablet and software, such as Logic. His focus is hip hop, which he pointed out has moved from existing as mainly part of the black community to becoming part of the worldwide stage. Music is an important part of Darealwordsound’s being, stating that “Hip hop to me, is life.” Hip hop music is not a gimmick, but is a person’s way of expressing their story to the world.
When he creates his beats, he stresses the importance of staying true to the arts. Hip hop is a way for people to have their own voice, and to add their own feel to the sound. “I like to make it (the music) breathe, like it’s alive,” Darealwordsound pointed out to those of us at the workshop. He encouraged us to “Be innovative with music,” which is pretty easy now with the technology available.
He had some examples of music he has put together. He uses quite the variety of music, cuts it apart, and gives it a hip hop sound. There’s all kinds of music that he uses from Star Wars to Johnny Cash. And, even though it may not sound all that much like hip hop at first, when Darealwordsound puts his vocals to it…all of the sudden, we have hip hop! When he adds his words to the beat, it really does draw you in, because you want to hear what he has to say.
He really enjoys what he does. “I like to have fun. I am a big nerd.” And, I have seen that for myself both here at his first lecture, and when I had the pleasure of meeting him last October at SNAFU Con in Reno. He enjoys inviting others to join with him in this fun. During the workshop he asked attendees to come up and collaborate to add beats for a track. They had a lot of fun with this, and it sounded great! He also encouraged them to “Allow yourself to get better…this is a marathon…enjoy the process.”
This was a fun workshop and very informative. Near the end of our time together, Darealwordsound went around the room and asked each of us to name one thing we learned. Every single person learned something about the music making process using computer technology, and it was great to hear their enthusiasm to put what they learned into practice. We ended the our workshop time together with a freestyle challenge for Darealwordsound. He found an easy beat on his tablet, and rapped a bit. As he walked around the room, each of us held up an item. As he passed each person he created lyrics about our items…very entertaining, and very fun!
After his lecture, Darealwordsound and I met for a few minutes for an interview. It went a little like this…
G33k-HQ: Has music always been an important part of your life?
Darealwordsound: Oh, yeah, since the day I was born. When I was a kid my uncle got me a little mini keyboard, and I remember as a kid I would hit those buttons, and it would play songs. I would hit those buttons, and sing around the house all day. For me, music was just nonstop. I would lay beside my dad as he would work on his blueprints, since he was an architectural engineer. I would lay there with my comic books and color and just listen to records over and over again. Music has always been an important part of my life. There has never been a time when music wasn’t an important part of my life, I grew up with it.
G33k-HQ: Who of your family or friends was influential regarding your interest in music?
Darealwordsound: The biggest influence has to be my Uncle Clifford, rest in peace. He was a professional pianist. I remember that any time he would visit, if there was a piano nearby I would beg him to play Flight of the Bumblebee. (Makes sounds imitating this piece)I loved when he played that song! Yes! Again, again! Hearing him do that inspired me to get into band and jazz band and all that stuff.
G33k-HQ: So when you were in school, you were in band?
Darealwordsound: Yes, I was a band geek, yep.
G33k-HQ: Have you always worked on your music using tech and computers, or when did you start?
Darealwordsound: I always wanted to be in the studio. But we moved around a lot, so I was never able to get into the studio. But growing up, my dad bought me a bass guitar. And that bass was all I really had. I would write songs, and memorize my songs so that the day I could get in the studio I could just play them all. Finally, in my college years I was able to get into a studio, and that is when I could get my hands onto recording and mixing. Then, when the ipad came out, I was like ‘Yesss, Garage Band!’ And then I could use technology to make my own tracks and my own music. And it went from there. That was about 2009, 2010.
G33k-HQ: What is your focus when you are working with kids? How did you get into working with kids?
Darealwordsound: Working with kids came about through my mentor. He does a summer camp for kids in the area. He works with them on making beats. And I was making my own tracks, and he said to come work with the kids, and I’ll pay you and you can get more experience. So, I started doing that and it just kinda clicked-working with kids. As we began to work with them, he said that he works with schools in the Bay area and asked me to work with him there. I started working with a couple of schools. And from that I started working with another organization, Today’s Future Sound, and they work with schools in Oakland and ‘Frisco working with a lot of black and Hispanic kids, using hip hop to get the creative arts back into education. I’m totally for that…music helped keep me more driven. So working with these organizations allows me to impart knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. It helps them understand that when they are sad or happy, they can turn that into a song. There’s a more creative way to express yourself. Working with kids, for me, has been a blessing.
Before we ended, Darealwordsound had this to say…
The biggest thing I would tell anyone is that being able to pass down knowledge to the next generation as artists is crucial because the sad thing is that in the music industry they try to hoard information. They try to tell you how to do things. But when we do that, we see a decline in the perfecting of the skills. I understand competitiveness, but if you see a kid who is wanting to learn, take them under your wing… Seeing girls in music is important. Get these kids back into music. Don’t deny anyone. If they have the passion, let them do it. If they are interested, encourage them. Don’t tell them they can’t do it. Let them do it. You don’t know, this child could be the next Chopin, or Mozart, the next Miles Davis, the next Rolling Stones. Don’t deny anyone the opportunity to be great. It’s not an opportunity only some should have. Anyone should have access to it. That’s how we get such wonderful music to listen to.