Yinka Diz  
My Life

Yinka Diz

It's not a secret that having well-recorded tracks and good mixes is key to having great-sounding masters. Many times, I've gotten projects that were recorded and mixed by the artist sending me the work and I can't help to think that I'm going to have to work in "damage control" mode and not a "creative control" mode because let's be honest, artists are artists and their talent often times doesn't involve having great recording and mixing skills. This was not the case with Yinka's album, "My Life."

Not only was I really impressed with the recordings and mixes, I also thought that as an MC, he picked some really good beats for his album and then I was even more surprised to realize a little bit into the project that Yinka produced all but four of the songs on the album. With production by Keelay, Logic, Heatmakerz & Ta'Raach on the four tracks that he didn't produce, this album to me is very well-rounded. I like to think that with albums like this one, we achieve what I consider an optimal sound for what a Hip Hop release should sound like - not smashed and thin-sounding to sound as loud as the most loudest albums out there, but punchy and warm; you know - that good ass sound in digital.

Being able to go back and make minor tweaks to the mixes and him having the ability to make those changes made this a solid-sounding album. Yinka also asked me to work on a sequence for the album - and I was happy that he liked the order I came up with. The 128kbps MP3s that are embedded in the player above (all produced by Yinka) really don't do it justice, so I suggest you pick up this CD from Yinka and listen to it over a decent system to hear what I consider an optimal-sounding album in today's age when many artists/producers produce, record, mix and master their own releases with less-than-great results.

Yinka, I’m honestly curious to know how much thought you put into doing what you do. Your album is effortlessly dope, it’s 12 songs but it feels like every time I listen to it, only 15 minutes go by. How did you do it, man?

First, thanks and I’m glad you enjoyed the album. A lot of the flow of the album I’d have to attribute to Kwis and you respectively. We had a lot of songs to choose from for this project and Kwis and I went through a process that really took a couple of months to really nail down which records would sound good together. It was a lot more difficult than it sounds on paper. Being the artist, every record is like one of your kids, man. You may like one more than the other (joking…kind of) but you don’t want to leave any of them out. Kwis helped me by giving an unbiased ear to all of the songs so we could pick records that told the story and still fit together sonically.

I chose to work with you after hearing other projects you had worked on. When I brought the project your way, we had chosen the records but didn’t really have an order that we were both comfortable with. You were able to bring the whole project together using your expertise from a mastering perspective, so I trust your judgment 100%, and feel like the song order is just as important to the flow as the songs chosen for the project.
So yea, it was a combination of the records chosen and the order of the songs that created the flow of the album.

Thank you man, this is one of those albums that after working on it, I play regularly! I was surprised to find out that you produced most of the album, with only four of the songs done by other producers; what is your thought process for picking beats, since you also produce your own tracks?

I’m a self-proclaimed record nerd and a soul enthusiast. I love soul records, particularly from the 70’s (my favorite decade of music). Like I mentioned before, we had a whole bunch of records to choose from and only chose records that fit the frame of what we were trying to do with this album. In general, when I hear a beat it makes me feel a certain way. I’m able to translate that feeling into the lyrics to that particular song. The process for choosing my own beat is a little bit more complicated, as I produce all kinds of different styles of hiphop.

When I make a beat, I can hear an artist on the beat as I’m making it. Certain beats I hear myself on. Those are the ones that become my songs. Some of the beats I hear other artists on. I hope to eventually place with those respective artists, or similar artists stylistically.
When it comes to selecting other producer’s beats the process is similar. The beat “speaks to me” and I can hear myself on it.
When it came to working with Keelay, however, it was tough because I felt like EVERY beat spoke to me (laughs). He’s just such a talented producer. I had to be selective and find the beat the told the specific story I was trying to convey.

Your project is very personal, on a few songs you talk about your family, your Nigerian culture and even your Pop’s career expectations for you (especially on the track “Spitting Image”). Have you given him the final version of the album? What are his and your fam’s thoughts about it?

Good question. Tough question. No. My fam hasn’t heard the full album yet, to my knowledge. I would imagine that they’d have mixed feelings about songs like Spitting Image. I do know my folks have heard Akata. All I can say about that is that this is honest music. Music is sincerely an outlet for me. Whatever gets addressed just is what it is. I don’t really write with a filter.

Kwis actually selected that track (Spitting Image) for the project, and after giving it an honest listen I definitely understand his decision to select that track. I think that might be the most direct of an approach to personal material on the album, but also there’s past relationships, social commentary, and all types of self reflection on the album. Hopefully somebody listens to that and says, “This is what I’m going through” and just learns from it. If you notice, the song ends and it’s on to the next one. Everybody has their own personal struggles, man. I deal with them by acknowledging them and moving forward.

This I think, is one of the reasons why I really dig your album, and consider myself priviledged to have worked on it sir. What gear are you working with, and how long have you been doing the production thing, fam?

Pro Tools, MPC 4000, Roland Fanthom, Yamaha Motif and just cracking the seal on Reason. On the production end, I started in 2002 with software-based production. Ante’d up on the MPC in 2005 and didn’t look back. In fact, Cadillac Cruise was the first beat I ever produced on the MPC in 2005. Remember where you heard it first, folks.

Tell me a little bit about your recording process. Your vocals sound great and your mixes had nice headroom for mastering. I know we went back to do some minor tweaks (big ups to you for being able to recall everything), so tell me about some of the things you keep in mind while recording and mixing your tracks that allowed us to get such a dope sound?

Thanks, man. Recording is tough as I don’t really have an engineer or anything. I wear a lot of hats. Tracking out of the MPC and all the midi-ing of the keyboards and the whole nine can be exhausting. For all you software-based producers, the grass isn’t always greener. But yea, I typically get the beat tracked out and bounced to a two track. Import that into pro tools where I record the vocals. I have my own chain for my vocals. I believe it should be different for every artist. Whatever sounds good for that particular voice. Then I use the master fader to create the headroom to let you work your magic.

Good that you pointed the vocal chain thing out, I feel a lot of cats doing the recording thing for themselves have missed it. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it sounds to me like you’re not one of these cats that digs for samples from blogs/internet, are you digging for your sounds the old school way (from wax and other audio formats)?

Yes, sir. Again, I ‘m a wax junkie. I’m also a purist to a certain degree. The blog thing is cool. If it’s available to me, I’ll read them to get familiar with certain artists or instrumentalists that I don’t know a lot about. As far as where I get my source material from, I have about 3,500 vinyls at the crib. I go digging regularly as well. For those that don’t, there’s something particularly gratifying about milling through a rack of old records for hours, sneezing profusely, and coming home dusty with the perfect records. For one, there aren’t a million other would-be producers worldwide trying to create a beat with the same source material (to your knowledge). Also, the warmth created by the record, as an analog signal is not a myth. However, if I find a dope sample to flip and only have access to it on CD, I’m not going to nix the beat just because I don’t have the vinyl. (sorry Jay) - (laughs).

It definitely sticks out, again, the MP3 tracks on the player above aren't doing your songs justice, so for anyone reading this, who is seriously trying to get a great-sounding album going, please pick up this CD when it's available! Drums – do you chop your own or do you work with libraries only (or both)?

I make my drums in a hybridized fashion. I take pre created drum kits, chop drums from records, and then stack them the way I like them. I’m particularly proud of the drums on Another Way, in which I added an 8-bit Nintendo sound into the snare stack, though I doubt most will notice it.

It definitely stuck out to me as having that "Golden Era" flavor, but didn't imagine it would be from a Nintendo, wow! I know you lived in the IE out here for a while, any plans on coming back to “Sunny CA”?

I come back a few times a year, man. Kwis actually lives in Orange County, along with a whole bunch of the homies out there and in the IE. I was out there at the end of July, early August this year working on the New Money EP with Kwis and Thirsty. We plan on dropping that around Q1 2011.
I’m still undecided on moving back.

What’s in the works? Tell us when we can expect your next project and what you’re working on.

I have a project called: “YPM: A Day in the Life of a Young Professional”, which is the next chapter in the vein of “My Life” and kind of elaborates on the “Another Way” song. It’s a concept project and I’m aiming to drop it in 2011. The New Money (NMSO) EP will be dropping before then as well as another EP from yours truly which is untitled right now. So yea… massive work going on behind the scenes. Lots of music in the works. Add me to your timeline, folks…. @YinkaDiz on twitter for the updates. Otherwise check us out at www.yinkadiz.com .

Thanks Yinka, best of luck with everything you do sir!

Thanks for the opportunity.





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