In our blog series "USED" we are featuring established as well as upcoming artists and producers, who are using our vocal samples. In today's post we talk to Grand Lox - a talented producer currently residing in Daytona Beach, Florida. He is one of the first to purchase our vocal samples a couple of years ago, when we originally started and ran for a few months. He has been using samples from our "All Vocals" sample pack and is now also owning the "Vocals Starter". You can check his social profiles below and learn more about what he does and how he got there.
Producing For: 8 years
DAW: Reason 7, Pro Tools 11
Describe your music genre in your own words:
I am a hip-hop artist. My music is based on my life experiences and is intended to motivate people to be the best they can be regardless of their circumstances.
Did you have a single life event that got you into music production or did it happen gradually?
I started out exclusively as a rap artist in the early 2000s. I was a huge fan of Lil’ Bow Wow and I was at an age where I thought I could do what he does. I kept rapping over the years and eventually when I got to university
"I decided to take it more seriously and invested in some production equipment so that I wouldn’t have to pay a producer to make my beats for me – I couldn’t afford it."
It has been a gradual process since then, and even though I can afford to pay a producer now, I enjoy making instrumentals myself because it gives me full control over the final product and I can tweak everything from the beats to the vocals in my own time until I get the sound I want.
Do you think growing up in your location helped shape your music style in any way?
I’ve grown up in a few different places. I spent my early childhood between Kenya and England, and then finally moved to the USA to pursue my university degree. With the constant changes in geographic location it’s been tough to pin my style on any single culture but I think it has ultimately made me a more versatile artist.
"American hip hop is very influential in Kenya and I drew a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest hip hop artists today."
I also started playing the saxophone around the time I started rapping and had an opportunity to play with a band and an orchestra which game me an appreciation for strings and brass instruments that you don’t typically find in modern hip hop. I love listening to jazz music as well and would like to explore incorporating a jazz feel to my music.
I find it hard to listen to a lot of hip hop these days because so much of it is negative. I always try and leave the listener feeling empowered and so I generally make positive music and the artists I listen to now typically have the same feel to their music. I am a huge fan of positive hip hop. I do listen to other genres of music including R&B, jazz and some electronic music, but I primarily listen to hip hop.
How often do you find time to produce music and do you consider music the dream path of your life? Do you mix and master all your songs yourself?
Earlier this year I had a lot of time to work on music. I would spend a few hours every day either writing lyrics or producing an instrumental. However, I am a full time mechanical engineering Ph. D. student so I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like making music, but a lot of times it is the stress relief I need to stay sane as I work on my degree. I mix and master my own music, which makes the creation process a lot more time consuming but it does give me control over the final sound and has made me a much more keen listener.
I don’t think I would say music is the dream path for me. I will always make music, but I have other interests that make it hard to simply stick to music. Aside from being a full time student I am also a photographer – I love photography. I would like to do more with music, but making it a full time commitment isn’t something I see for myself in the future.
Can you name your top 3 plugins for editing audio you use the most?
Pro Tools stock compressor and EQ
Waves Q4 equalizer
If you could give a single piece of advice for music production to your younger self what that would be?
"If I could go back in time I would encourage myself as a young producer to spend more time listening keenly to songs that I like during the production process and try and pick out key elements that make those songs enjoyable so that I can incorporate that into my sound."
Initially, I would just try and build a sound out of from thin air with no direction and that makes the creation process a lot longer, and sometimes more frustrating. Some of the greatest producers today pick key elements from a few different songs and then add their own flavor to it to make it theirs.
How often do you use vocal samples in your tracks and what kind of vocals do you usually search for and enjoy using?
Recently I have started using vocal samples more because I think naturally when humans listen to music they can resonate more with human vocals above all other instruments. I prefer to use female vocal samples because it provides a good contrast to my voice and allows my songs to cover a wider range of frequencies which make them sound more complete.
Do you have a specific process for editing vocals in particular, or plug-ins you always use for that purpose?
I work with a template I’ve developed when it comes to working with vocals. I typically have two tracks dedicated to main vocals (per artist) and use parallel compression to get a fuller sound. In my main vocals template I work primarily with a stock Pro Tools compressor and equalizer, I have an expander/gate because I don’t have a dedicated vocal booth so I try and minimize some of the ambient sound with that, and then I use a little bit of reverb and delay to simulate the acoustics I want for those particular vocals. My background vocals often have a Waves Doubler which makes it easy to control the stereo field with those particular vocals. All of my adlibs are usually set to autopan.
How did you process the vocal sample/s in your “Working” beat that’s part of our “All Vocals” sample pack?
I processed those vocals using Reason. The first thing I did was equalize them use a high pass filter – I rolled off frequencies below 420 Hz because I wanted to provide more contrast between the vocals and the 808s. I then used Reason’s Automatic Retro Transformer to give the vocals more of a classic feel before applying some reverb to fill the sound field. Finally, I chopped up part of the sample and used it throughout the verses to interact with my main vocals.
Do you see yourself as a music artist touring and playing your music live, or rather staying in the studio and producing music for other people?
"I love performing"
I would definitely be interested in touring and getting people to listen to my music and hear my message. However, I’m a full time engineering student so I don’t have the opportunity to go out and do that. In the meantime, I’m counting on the people closest to me to share the music with those closest to them and growing the fan base that way. I don’t like to sit in the studio producing, I prefer to be out interacting with people – but the work has to get done, and the product has to be made before it can be shared.
Do you have any upcoming releases in the plans? Have you considered releasing an EP or even an album?
I released an album titled The Book of Lox on April 20th. The response has been fantastic so far which is very encouraging. I believe it has been my best work yet and also the one I have spent most time promoting and actively getting people to listen to because it’s more than just witty bars and good instrumentals; it has a message. I will spend the next couple of months promoting that, and then get back to the studio and working on other projects. I would like to work more with other artists so that I can broaden my sound and appeal to more fans so that more people can hear the message I have to send.