Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Beneath the brazy bars spit by Buffalo-bred brothers Westside Gunn and Conway, you will commonly hear sample-based soundscapes crafted by a buzz-worthy†producer†from the same cityóDaringer. In the past year, this three-headed monster has ushered in a new wave hard body hip-hop, keeping that real street shit many us grew up on alive and well. And Daringer has been at the helm, spearheading the production on celebrated Griselda Records projects like Flygod and Reject 2, not to mention a shitload Soundcloud loosies and EPs. And though they’re steeped in tradition, Daringerís beats are not just batches† recycled Ď90s nostalgia. Instead, heís putting his own stamp on the sample-flip style with a stripped-down signature sound that has earned the respect legends in the game like Alchemist and DJ Premier.
Itís not easy to go back to basics and still help push the genre forward, which is what intrigues us most about Daringerís discography thus far. So we hopped on the horn with him to find out how he constructs his tracks, and dug into some interesting personal history along the way. Plus, we got a feel for the vibe in his Buffalo-based, crib-set studio, the stories behind some our favorite cuts, and what itís like to record with two the illest new dudes†in the game. Letís take a trip upstate, shall we? Itís time to get In The Lab with Daringer.
Daringer: ďI started on the DJ route before making beats when I was 17, 18. I wanted to get turntables and a mixer and records and start scratching, and everything that came with DJing. So first thing I did was cop a couple Stanton turntables and a Vestax mixer, and I started digging and buying some hip-hop 12 inches. Thatís pretty much what got me hooked.
ďFrom there, I wanted to do it all. I wanted to start making beats, so I started figuring out how to go about it. What I need to get, and see if there was anyone in town I could talk to that could show me the ropes and what I needed to do to get that rolling.
ďI was working a kitchen job when I was younger to make a couple extra dollars. When I finally had enough money, I was able to finance an MPC from Guitar Center. I got the MPC2000XL, and it was on from there. One my homies from around the way, Tone Atlas, he knew how to work the MPC. I knew if I could connect with someone and learn a little something, I could at least get it working.Ē
ďIím working out my apartment in Buffalo. Itís not any special, crazy studio space that people might think weíre recording all this shit at. Weíre doing this shit in my living room. Iíve been making all my beats in this apartment for the past four, five years now, so damn near everything you hear has been made in this living room.
ďIím rolling with the same thingóTechnic 12s, MPC2000XL that I bought years ago, and I have a newer MPC Studio so I can be on the computer, working on the go. I mainly got into it for travel reasons, but it became more a permanent piece for me. Iíve been rocking out on the MPC Studio for pretty much everything now. Itís more tech savvyóeasy to chop up and keep it moving. The workflow is nice on those things.Ē
ďIt really started by getting into my popís crates. Thatís what got me wanting to make beats from the beginning. He had dope jazz, Blue Note recordsóhe was a jazz pianist, so he had a lot shit that was jazz-related, that he was buying when he was younger. So I started going through those records, finding samples used by guys like Premier and all the guys I was listening to at the time. Primo was a big influence on me at the time with all the piano samples, and Pete Rock and Alchemist. Those were my main influences at the time when I was in high school. So Iíd be sitting in my basement chilling, and low and behold, there were piano samples galore.
ďOne the first records I found in there was the Gary Burton ĎLas Vegas Tangoí joint. That was sampled numerous times. Cypress sampled that shit so Muggs was on top that, there was a song f Capital Punishment that RZA produced with that sample. Itís a popular song, but when I heard it I was like, ĎWow, this is crazy.í Once I heard that, it was like, ĎI want it all.í
“We have a couple spots around Buffalo, but there really arenít too many. Itís very selective. Thereís a record show that comes around twice a year, and some private dealers, but itís not like New York City where you can go to ten different stores and go digging. So Iíve been keeping it low-key with a couple record spots and record dealers. Record Theatre, and Revolver Records which is only a couple blocks away from me so itís very convenient. I donít have to go far to dig.
“And I do the online digging as well. A lot the shit from different countries isnít in the crates in Buffalo. But Iím not downloadingóIím going on eBay, Discogs, or something like that.
“But honestly, Iíve been collecting vinyl for so long that Iíve been constantly just going back to my collection and working f that. Any time I get frustrated with not finding what I want, I just hit my crates. Now that Iím just producing, I have a decent amount that Iíve been able to work f . I can always go back to that, which is crazy because youíd think I would have used it all by now and there wouldnít be anything left.”
“I try to have a set schedule, but sometimes it winds up being something else. For the most part, I try to get my day started early. Iíll listen to some records, and try to find something that I like. Get a groove going, get inspired. Once I throw on a couple records, Iíll fuck around and usually start hitting some beats up. Sometimes Iíll stay up late making beats, and Iíll wake up early and start messing with what I made the night before. It depends.
“Sometimes, having to transfer my samples from the box to the computer, Iíll go through records and stack samples up. But sometimes Iíll find something, and Iíll be like, ĎI gotta work on that shit immediately. I donít even wanna wait. I got an idea for this now, let me see if I can find some drums. Or shit, I might just be looping this motherfucker.í You already know the signature Daringer loop is definitely getting out there. So as much as I want to show everybody I can be an ill producer with the drums, weíve been doing a bunch these loop joints and these shits have been working out for us, so you never know.
“Weíve been working so hard, I donít get a chance to sit and listen to music as much as Iíd like to. I gotta be whipping up beats right now. But I gotta do what I gotta do. So I just get the shit cracking, and keep cooking. Weíve been working on the Conway album for the past couple months now, so mainly everything weíve been doing has been going for that. Weíve been dropping a couple loosiesówhen Westís in town weíll record something new and put it out on the fly. Iíll play some beats, and before you know it, weíll have some songs done. I always gotta keep a stack with me for when West comes into town, because we get busy.
“We come from a town where nobodyís really been able to make anything happen. So for heads in the city to see what weíre doing, and see me getting praise from the people that inspired me to even start this, itís mind-blowing at the same time. This is very, very new to the city, so weíre tapping into a vein thatís never been touched before. Weíve got something to prove.”
Keeping It Simple
“Thereís a lot to learn still, too. All the programs, all the new technology. Iím kind doing it the throwback way, more simplistic. Youíre not hearing me play all sorts instruments on top it, or adding synths. Iíll do my crazy sounds over the top these beats, but Iím not sitting here with the keyboard playing some magnificent chords over the top like some producers can. Not saying that I donít want to or canítóI can definitely play a couple notes, and my pops is a piano player so I want to learn the instrument more and progress as a produceróbut weíre just keeping it simple for these records right now. Iím not into the overproducingóIím trying to stick with the formula and keep doing what people want to hear from us.”
“Weíre constantly smokingóthatís a fact. Thatís definitely a method behind the madness. Smoking weed crazy all day every day here, from the moment we get up until we pass out. Laughs.] Whether that has an influence or not, thatís just something we do regardless.
“We get some good strands. Weíve got some kids getting some shit from Cali, so we always got some good Cali strands coming. Itís not like weíre stuck with some boo-hoo Buffalo homegrown shit. We donít get the best shit from Cali, but the kushes and Girl Scouts and sours, that all comes around.”
“We got a little hole-in-the-wall Irish bar called Kellyís Korner, thatís pretty much our favorite wing spot out here. Thatís our go-to spot for the wings. They got like a weird hot sauce with crazy crushed red pepper and Frankís hot sauceóitís not your average hot sauce. Itís a unique taste.”
Working with Westside Gunn and Conway
“Theyíre definitely two completely different individuals, but they come together and both work the same. Theyíre very fast writers. They work on the spotótheyíll hear something, and theyíre damn near ready simultaneously.
“Conwayís an amazing writer because he can just keep going. West is a great writer too, but Con sometimes gets into writing more and having longer verses on some these songs, and pushing the limit as far as giving people the bars, the delivery, the punchlines. Heís always been like that.
“They love the references. Between the two them, you never know what theyíre gonna say. Thereís always some fresh references that theyíre thinking at all times, so itís like, how are they gonna fly Ďem.
“I wouldnít say theyíre competitive, but they do like a lot the same beats. So thatís why we get the Hall & Nash joints.”
Session with Alchemist
“When we went to New York in January, I was able to finally get in the lab with Al. The boys got to get up with him and work on a couple these Hall & Nash joints. So I was able to actually kick it and chill with Al. That was dope, because heís always been someone Iíve been influenced by for years.
“Alís still doing everything on the MPC2500. I thought he was doing more in the Pro Tools with all the crazy sounds and effects heís got going on. But heís just killing shit in the MP still. So that really made me think a little bit differently about everything going onójust keeping it ill, and doing everything in the box still.”
ďThe TownĒ ft. Conway, Westside Gunn and Sadat X
“We had Sadat here for a show, and thatís how it started. He came and did a show here in Buffalo at one the hip-hop spots around the wayóDBGB. Theyíve been holding down all the hip-hop shows lately, bringing in legendary artists, thatís been their motto. We wound up linking with Sadat that night, and Conway and our homie Melec went and spoke with him, checking his temperature and seeing what it was. And before you know it, that next morning, we got him in the studio, right in my apartment.
“He came through, we got some 40s crackiní and a couple blunts in the air, and we played that beat which I was working on at the time, a soul 45 joint. We already had a Conway verse on it, and we had sent Sadat the beat the night before, so he already had something prepared for it. He didnít write it on the spot, but he revised it. But Conway already had his verse over it, so I think that definitely helped with the process.
“Once we got Sadat on it, West heard it and jumped on it as well. Then we did a quick mix on it and dropped it. When I hear it now, Iím like, ĎDamn, it couldíve come out a little bit better.í But itís another situation where we mixed it here and let it fly. And people loved it. So I donít really take anything back, other than maybe I can do another mix for it.
“You never know, it might wind up on a collective mine. Iím gonna start working on a Daringer project soon.”
ďRex RyanĒ ft. Conway, Westside Gunn and Roc Marciano
“Itís like, ĎWho wouldíve thought?í Because that was something that was made quickly. I didnít think about it much, and didnít think it would get to where it is today. Con just happened to pass out on the couch over here, and Iím here just trying to come up with something for the album. I heard a couple sounds, and threw them together real quick. I cooked that beat up fast, and didnít think much it when I did it. I saved it and went on to something else.
“A couple hours later, Con was trying to work again. So I pulled up the beat, and he knew right there that was it. And Iím over here scratching my head like, ĎReally? You sure?! This is probably the fastest beat I ever made, or one them.í But he wanted something stripped down. Plus we wanted to get Roc on a track, so that was the mottoósomething stripped-down and simple but still raw.
“Conway laid his drum to it, and we shipped it f with the hopes getting Roc and West on it. Roc wound up fucking with it, and we got the audio back like, ĎYeah. We got us one here.í
“Weíre really excited about the response itís gotten. We put the video out, which has the most views on it. Itís one our more popular songs, for sure.
“I had my thoughts about it. I thought I couldíve done more to it. I couldíve added the big drums, but the boys wanted to keep it simple. It worked out. It sounds ill, with the snare kind peaking in, the kick is still in there a little bit. Itís not like itís drumless, itís just not a boom bap track.”
“That was West in the studio, coming in from Atlanta and legit just pulling through everything I had here. A lot those beats were already made, some were new. It was a collective everything going on at the time, and some songs we had already started within that month we were putting together. We worked on it for a couple months, he was cooking on the spot.
“The ‘Dunks’ joint is definitely one my favorite songs on the album. Itís got the ill bassline. People were going ballistic over it when we performed it in Boston. They performed it with Just Blaze, and that was one his favorites on the album too.”
“Cooked In Hellís Kitchen”
“I was going through records, and that dark bassline just popped out. I was like, ĎThis is kind ill, let me see if I can find some drums.í Iíve gotten so many questions about what I did with that beat. Itís another simple one, just the bassline and a guitar. I didnít really do the toppings over it like I would normally do with the extra sounds on it. I just chopped those guitar sounds and threw a crazy effect on it, and people are thinking I got a live guitar player in here, hitting pedals. Or they think I got a crazy plug-in. I can hear a rock band playing that shit, it sounds like some ill metal shit almost.
“Thatís going on Conway’s album†The G.O.A.T. Thatís a good thing too about dropping it on the Soundcloud, in terms seeing whatís album-worthy and whatís just gonna be a loosie.”
“Iíve been getting flooded lately. The love has been overwhelming. Itís been crazy, anyone you can think . People I donít know, people I do know. Itís just been a huge array. Itís flattering.
“As soon as we started getting it in with Roc and he started inquiring and actually paying attention, that was big. I always wanted to do a song with Marc, heís one my favorite MCs. And then, we started getting it in with Action and Meyhem and they started getting to know us and our work. Those are two the newer MCs that have been killing shit and paving the way. I still have yet to do an Action record, but heís definitely listening and has inquired about some beats as well.
“Iím trying to keep working and get some other ill records done this year. They did the Prodigy joint, and all a sudden heís looking for a batch. We just put the EP out with him and Conway earlier this week]. Itís all across the board. We were just kicking it with Ras Kass and Planet Asia, theyíre showing dumb love. Royce showing love and getting the boys†on his mixtape. Itís dope to see these legendary artists co-signing our music. And not just the musicóreally fucking with it as a collective, wearing the merch, talking about the boys in interviews. For them to be showing that kind love, we gotta be doing something right.”
“The G.O.A.T. is next. Thatís the cream the crop. Weíve been working on it for months. There are some exciting pieces on it. Thatís gonna be a special one.”
Pics Official Crate Music, Daringer, and Conway‘s Instagram.