The short version: I play all of my own instruments, including keyboards, guitar, bass, and (electric) drums. I also produce all of my own music (except for a few collaborations), and write all of my own lyrics. For the long version, read on.
When I was 13, I was walking to play basketball with a friend of mine named Cleveland “B.J.” Fuller. He had already been rapping for a while, and he told me to “kick a rap.” I replied, “I can’t rap man.” He said, “Man, just kick a rap.” I freestyled a 30 second verse, and that became my first song, “Inventor.” I didn’t know how to play instruments at the time, so I used my Yamaha PSR-500 to make some beats. More or less, I just chose the tempo, the key, and the accompaniment. Then I hit play, and had a couple different options for the intro/chorus, verse, and ending. I made music this way until 1998, writing all of my own lyrics, but not really playing any instruments.
In 1998, a guitarist friend of mine saw me recording and asked if I could record his stuff. We tried, and it didn’t really work. I told him, “Well, it works fine for what I’m doing.” His reply was the single most important thing anyone has ever said to me from a musical development standpoint. “It may be fine for what you’re doing, but it won’t work for music.” The words stung, but he was right. I really was only a lyricist and emcee at that point. So, I decided to learn how to play instruments.
Those instruments include a Yamaha DTXPress electric drum set, fender short scale music master bass, Elvis replica guitar, and various keyboards. I also taught myself to produce in 1998. When I first started, it was with a soundblaster live card. The quality was awful, and I knew basically nothing. The next several albums, “Delve Deeper,” “Transitions,” and “Out of the Shadows,” were very experimental, as I was learning how to play instruments and produce. I completely taught myself instruments, except for one finger exercise a friend showed me, and a quick online video on how to play funk guitar (just the muting the strings part). I have never learned music theory, nor have I ever learned how to play any other musician’s music. At this point in my development, I don’t plan on ever learning theory or covers. I just make music from my heart.
In terms of recording equipment, I use an M-Audio Delta 1010 24-bit digital sound card. I use Vegas 1.0 for my software, and generally play the parts from start to finish with one particular instrument, and then move onto the next instrument. I don’t use loops because I feel like the most beautiful aspect of music is humanity. Playing a song from start to finish, and keeping the occasional error keeps the music human. That’s also why I don’t Quantize (correcting minor imperfections in timing using computers). Being slightly off the rhythm sometimes yields fantastic results.
It is because of how I make my music that makes my music uniquely reflective of myself. Music theorists may scoff, and music purists may orally lose their innards, but for me music is about self-expression and I cannot properly express myself if I’m confining my music to a predetermined set of rules administered by others.
I have collaborated on 3 finished songs, and tried to create 2 other collaborations, since 1994. The 3 finished songs are “A Little About Me,” which was musically created by a friend of mine in Columbus, OH who wishes to remain anonymous. “Ready For Tomorrow” which was a collaboration with a singer (Birgitta Lindsey) who found me on garageband.com. She sung and created the music. Finally, Eli Roth played the drums on “Prime Time Players.”