Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer Doc Ish sits down with Akai Pro to talk about is work, his win and his MPCs.
Artist and music producer Doc Ish is relatively new to all of the fame he acquired with his Grammy win for Eminem's "We Made You." That hasn't stopped him from driving even harder for more success.
Akai Professional: Where did you get your name?
Doc Ish: I used to rap so Doc was like the mad scientist who used to formulate all the production and Ish was like the M.C. so it was like two different people put together.
AP: Tell us about how you got to be involved in music and who were your biggest influences?
DI: I got into music two different ways. One was I got really sick and had my athletic career stripped from me so I focused on music. I also came from a very musical family. My aunt and uncle are both very active performers to this day. My uncleís a drummer and my auntís a singer and my grandfatherís mother, used to tour way back in the day when they used to have the speakeasy. So I came from a very musical background. When I was younger I lived in my grandmotherís basement and my uncle used to just bang away on the drums so I got so many ideas from that I wanted to make my own music.
AP: "We Made You" seems to have represented a turning point in your career as a producer. How did you come to work with Eminem on that project?
DI: I was introduced to Bizarre by T-russell so I made a song that was really left field and I couldnít really hear too many different people on it and then when he introduced me to Bizarre from D12 it was ljke you know it was the perfect song for him because heís wild and crazy. So I sent him the song and Charmaign Trick whoís on the hook to this day you know she was already on the hook he sent it back to me the very next day said ďDoc, I love this. This is a hit. Mix this down, letís go.Ē
The only problem was that it was so vulgar and had so much swearing on it that thereís no way I would have been able to radio edit it, I mean it would have just been a beat with a couple of , ďepÖupÖayÖĒ on it. You know what I mean? It wouldnít have been much of a song at all. So I hit him back and I was like, ďThis is huge Ė we gotta get this on the radio. Weíve got to rewrite this.Ē He agreed so before he could even get back to me he hit me back and I was working in the studio working on another song. When I mix I just go in my own world. Certain engineers can mix down stuff with people around but I donít. I close off the studio and I donít let anybody around me. So he kept calling me and calling so when I answered he was talking about, ďMarshall wants your song. ď And I was just like, ďYeah right, whatever.Ē And I hung up on up and he called me back and you know, he always jokes around so much that I thought he was just joking. So he called me back and was like, ďDoc, Iím serious.Ē His cousin, who is an artist, Gambino, I know from growing up in Hartford. So he hops on the phone and is like, ďIsh, man this is serious, you know. This isnít a joke.Ē So Iím still kinda leery on whether or not itís true or not you know because I thought Gam might be in on the joke. So, next thing you know I said, ďYeah, sure give management my number.Ē And within five minutes they called and the rest is history.
AP: What a great sequence of events. What was it like to hear the announcement that you had won the Grammy? Where were you and how did you react?
DI: I was home with my family with my kids and I was supposed to go, but there was so much work and family stuff that was going on that I cancelled my trip and stayed home. They didnít announce the best rap album. There were a lot of parties going on because Charmagne is from Hartford and everyone knew that Eminem was up for a Grammy and people knew that Charmagne and I participated in on the album.
So I was getting a lot of phone calls left and right like, ďDid you hear anything? Did you hear anything?Ē and Iím like, ďNah, nah.Ē So I didnít really even find out until somebody texted me the info. I mean, Iím sitting there watching and watching with my mother calling me up, you know all kinds of stuff. They didnít air that part on the TV so I ended up finding out through a text. Thatís when everybody in my household went crazy and everything. It felt good but it really hadnít hit me yet. Itís kind of crazy and weird because it didnít sink in on me until later. Recently when Iíve been confronted with a lot of different projects when I got to New York and worked with a lot of people years ago that knew me from before I was a platinum producer or Grammy winner, to hear them say it or see their reaction, thatís when it hit me, ďYouíre really an award winner now.Ē
AP: Has your success brought a lot more people wanting to work with you?
DI: Itís brought a lot of people knocking on the door. A lot of different hip-hop and rock artists. Itís brought football players, like Tully Banta-Cain from the New England Patriots. Itís brought a lot of different projects from reality shows to movies, itís just a lot of different stuff. Itís been amazing to see the amount of phone calls and the amount of people coming out of the woodwork to do things. To be honest with you, Iíve been so focused on my project, my treatment, my first debut album that I was working on before this whole Eminem thing happened that Iím trying to get back to that and push it out because itís my debut album.
AP: You used to rap. Do you find yourself more at home as a producer?
DI: Oh I miss being an artist. Every day I want to be in the booth. I write constantly and I write for a lot of R & B artists and a lot of hooks and stuff like that. Iím always writing. I like being behind and creative. Itís kind of easier. Back in the day I had to write, and produce and hop in the booth and jump back out and engineer the whole song. Itís kind of a lot easier form a creative perspective to sit in one seat and do the production behind the scene than try to wear so many hats.
From the way that the pads are set, you can set them to chop each other off or each sample cuts each other off. The timing from the timing-correct button to the velocity on the pads, which enables you to give it more of a live feel.
AP: What was your first MPC?
DI: My first was my first love and I still use it to this day and it was the MPC2000. Since then Iíve had 2000XL. Iíve got three or four MPCs in the studio because I run an after-school program for inner-city kids who are going through difficulties in life or foster homes or been in trouble. Itís a program to help them to stay off the streets and find something productive to do. It also teaches them to do the stuff behind the scenes that people donít know how hard it is. You know, they just hear the music so Iíve got different room for the production so everybody has been on the MPC so thatís why I have so many.
I went from the ASR10 to the MPC, and it was like a whole new world I couldnít believe how you could chop up the samples. With the MPC you can move it fast, move it slow and you know the sample rate, I could sample the whole song on the MPC and then do a remix to it. Thereís a lot of things you can only do with the MPC. I made ďWe Made YouĒ on the MPC, I made the whole compilation thatís about to drop this May on the MPC. I dibble and dabble with different stuff but as a sequencer and the overall quality, you know you go with what youíre used to and what youíre most comfortable with and for me thatís the MPC. We had a 2500 in the studio and the MPC1000 at one point.
AP: How important is the MPC to your productions?
DI: Well for one, it always makes your drums hit harder. You know, the way you can hit the pads real hard and they react. Or you can hit it mild to where it sounds just like a drum. Because you know when you play drums, every time you hit the snare, or you hit the hi-hat, youíre not going to get the same sound at the same frequency every time and itís not going to be the same volume. And the thing about it is that a lot of other products donít have that. The thing about the MPC is that you can get that live feeling. For a producer that loves to chop up samples, you can chop it up so many different ways to where you can replay the music your own way. You can start off with a piano, and cut it off with a violin and cut it off with a trumpet and stuff like that. You can sequence, and you can play as you produce it. You donít have to stop and start every time, you can just sequence as youíre going. Thatís what makes it a lot easier because sometimes youíre just listening to it trying to figure out what it needs, and then youíre messing around playing with it and you like what it does so the then you just hit the record button as itís playing so it doesnít even stop and then itís just ďBoomĒ. I mean, you get in that one little crash or one little trumpet sound or piano or whatever it is you want you can continually keep listening to it. The functions, as you know, itís got so many functions and features that there are a lot of people trying to compete with Akai Pro like even the Roland years ago but nothing can ever compete with the MPC. Itís just a classic. Itís in a league of its own.
AP: Who are some of the artists you'd like to work with that you haven't worked with yet?
DI: To be honest with you a lot of people I have wanted to work with are on my compilation thatís coming out. Iím working on a compilation called, The First Treatment. Basically itís like the first dose to everybody of artist like Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Saigon, Ransom, ĎKwon [Raekwon], KRS One, Kool G Rap, Buckshot, Rockness, Sean Price, Bun B, Terminology, Nipsey Hustle, AC, Crooked-I, Planet Asia, Amil, Uncle Murder, Nature, Odyssey, a lot of people. Like the song that weíve got coming out, itís got Jon Bon Jovi on it. Itís like a hip hop kind of song and thatís going to be hot.
AP: When is it coming out?
DI: You know how the game is. Itís rush, rush, wait, wait, wait. Supposedly, Telly Basicaneís single is supposed to drop in April. My first singleís supposed to drop any day now. Iíve got a video and everything for it. Itís a choice between Izcalid, Joe Budden, and Bun B all in one song together, called ďIs it a Dream?Ē Then thereís another one called ďThese StreetsĒ that features Max B, Red Cafe and ĎKwon. We still have to finish the video for both of them. Weíre trying to figure out a concept with Max being locked up and all, we want to keep it hot where even though heís locked up to where heís still doing it. Thatís going to be interesting.
Iím working with his camp right now on that and getting the footage all together for the video. Itís a lot of work with the marketing/PR aspect, singles, sample clearance, sitting down with the companies, lawyersÖ itís just non-stop. You know, itís kind of overwhelming because Iím doing everything a record label would do. Itís a great learning experience and I love it. Everything else I kind of put on hold to get this out. Itís my baby. Iíve been working on it for a long time so everything else is kind of on hold.
AP: What advice do you have for up and coming producers?
DI: Grab your MPC and start being as creative as possible. Donít get stuck in the realm of thinking you canít do it. If you think itís a hit, itís probably is a hit. I have people on my team who are all fired who didnít think Eminemís song was a hit and I did. Always believe in yourself and try different stuff and donít let the game pimp you. Have fun, love music and do it because youíre passionate about it, not because itís a job or for money because the game is nothing but sharks. Watch your back, cover yourself and have your eyes glued to every piece of paper that comes across your desk. Just never give up on your dreams.