EXCLUSIVE: Kino Beats Talks Working With Juelz Santana, Jeezy & Lex Luger + The Business Side Of Producing Tracks
Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY)
According to the state’s license plate slogan, "Virginia Is For Lovers." Going by the wide-ranging success of several homegrown boardmasters, Virginia is also for producers.
VA serves as the stomping grounds for platinum-selling Hip Hop producers like Timbaland, The Neptunes, Nottz, Lee Major, and Lex Luger. But the commonwealth is not done spawning hit-making production wizards just yet. Out of Norfolk comes another talented musical architect by the name of Kino Beats.
Kino knew he wanted to be involved in making music from a very young age. His initial passion was to become a rap star, but he later realized that was probably not the best route for him. He dropped his emcee dreams and discovered a new option to pursue his goal of breaking into the industry - producing.
By the time he was 12, Kino was crafting his own beats. Fast forward over a decade later, and the 24-year-old producer now has credits that include Jeezy’s “Talk That,” Nipsey Hussle’s “Success,” and his breakout track “Everything Is Good” by Juelz Santana and Wiz Khalifa.
Kino may still be on the grind of establishing his name among Hip Hop's production elite, but he is already lending a hand to help other show biz aspirants. He partnered with J Braye to start Radio Ready. Since 2005, the recording studio and production company has provided professional level services to rising performers from Virginia’s southeastern region.
Producer and businessman are not the only labels listed on Kino’s résumé. He recently decided to tackle another area of entertainment by adding the art of DJing to his repertoire. AllHipHop.com spoke with Kino Beats about his advancement in the music business, working with established acts, and a track’s sometimes unpredictable journey from a beat to a released song.
How did the Juelz Santana and Wiz Khalifa “Everything Is Good” song come together?
I always had a relationship with different guys in Dipset. The first record I ever produced for somebody in the music industry was NOE. He’s signed to Jim Jone’s ByrdGang. I always had connections to artists in Dipset, but I emailed the beat to Bounce from SlowBucks. He told me was in the studio with Juelz.
Within 45 minutes of me sending him the beat, I got a phone call. He had Juelz on the phone. Juelz said, “I need that beat. I want to put Wiz Khalifa on it.” I said, “Alright, let’s do it. Let’s turn up.” Within in an hour and a half, they hit me back like, “Wiz Khalifa already laid his verse down.” It was a dope situation.
You also worked with Jeezy. How did that track happen?
I did that record with the producer Childish Major. I heard "U.O.E.N.O." on Rocko’s mixtape. When I went to listen to Rocko’s mixtape that was the first record I listened to, and I said, “This song is going to be crazy, but this beat is so different.”
I figured out who the producer was, and I reached out to Childish Major. I told him, “We need to work. You got you one.” He hit me back and said, “‘Everything Is Good,’ you got you one.” I was like, “Cool let’s work.”
We literally collabed on one beat. That one beat is Jeezy’s “Talk That.” Shout out to Carbon 15. He always showed love. Carbon 15 connected all the dots and got the record to Jeezy.
What is your process like when you’re creating your tracks?
I will create ten beats, but producers understand that making the beat is the easy part. Anybody can make the beat in ten minutes. The difficulty is the sequencing, the mixing, the little tedious things that take the track from being “pretty hot” to being “whoa.” That’s the stuff that takes time.
I’ll do a bunch of tracks. I’ll have all the ideas that I want, all the elements of the beat. Then I’ll keep on going. Probably the next day or whenever I come back to another session and load up everything that I’ve done, I’ll listen to it. If I like it then I’ll work on sequencing it. Making tracks for me is like a two-day process. Just so I’ll have time to come back and really listen and figure out if I really liked what I produced.
What inspired your “Rework” series?
I slowed down, but I’m actually gonna pick back up on that. Basically, the “Rework” series was just my take on popular songs. I did Meek Mill’s “Levels,” Future’s “Move That Dope.” It was kind of all a ploy, because I actually started to DJ. I never DJed before.
I started making beats to new a capellas of these popular songs. I said, “If I’m gonna make these reworks, I want to be able to play them in a club.” I was tired of having songs and telling DJs to play it when I could just play it myself. I woke up one morning, went to Guitar Center, bought equipment, and taught myself how to DJ within 2-3 weeks.
After 2-3 weeks, my boy Brendon Hill had me come up and do a club in DC with him. That was my first gig. I’m only four months deep, but I’m doing 3-4 gigs a week in my hometown.
A lot of times it seems to go the other way - people start off as a DJ and then go into production.
It took my production to a whole other level. While DJing you study crowd control, so you see how people respond to certain records. You see what parts they really go crazy on. Whether it’s how certain words are said in the song or the way a beat drops.
For me it was just a way to promote my brand. Being from Virginia, it’s harder to stay as active. Being in a major city you come across more artists. In Virginia, it’s kind of slow. I picked up DJing to keep everything flowing in between doing tracks for other people.
There haven't been too many emcees that have come out of Virginia. You have Clipse, Skillz, and others. But there have been quite a few producers that have made it big out of the state. Why do you think that area of Hip Hop has done a little better than the emcee portion?
The analogy that I use is Virginia has no professional football team. Since there’s no professional football team, it is literally impossible to have an NFL player in Virginia. We don’t have a professional basketball team, so it's literally impossible to have an NBA player. Our market hasn’t been set-up for professional entertainers.
Why? I’m not entirely sure. You see the producers that do make an impact, they’re dealing with talent from different regions, because there’s more of an outlet. Or they would have to take an artist from the area, take them to a major outlet, and branch them off there.
The business portion doesn’t get handled the way it should, because there’s no real knowhow. It’s just no set up for it.
What’s next for you?
I'm in the studio nonstop. I’ve been working with Lex Luger.
How did that relationship start?
That was something that was bound to happen as far as us crossing paths. I’m cool with the Ur Boy Black which is the lead member of Lex Luger’s group V.A.B.P., and Lex was always working with High Def Razjah. Me and him have a good relationship too.
They were in Ur Boy Black’s studio, and somebody called me like, “Yo, come through. Lex is here.” I pulled up, chopped it up with him, and we’ve been rocking ever since. We've been building a catalog of beats. Some things are in the works where the ink hasn't dried yet.
But I was in the studio with A$AP working closely on their projects. I still talk to Juelz very often, and he’s gearing up to work on some new projects.
I’ve been gearing everything toward DJing. Just going to different markets to do parties. There’s so many tracks in the pipeline, but it’s all about the release. So far in this game, I’ve lost more tracks than I've had released from industry artists.
Is that because they ask for the track and then never use it?
This is the breakdown. You’ll have an artist that releases 2-3 projects a year. An artist might release a 15-16 track mixtape, then an EP, another short mixtape - which is usually just a bs mixtape to keep the promo going - and then their album. So you’re looking at 45-50 songs.
You take those 45-50 songs from an artist that’s recorded 3,000-4,000 songs. However many of the thousands or hundreds of songs that person may be recording, you’ll have songs that get laid down that they never use. It something that doesn't fit a project or whatever, that’s just how it turns out.
If they don’t purchase the track you can then sell it to someone else?
Yeah, the thing is you can make your own rules. [laughs]
What made me think of that was the Bobby Shmurda situation with the Lloyd Banks' [“Hot N***a”/”Jackpot”] beat.
I wanna say that was a mixtape track. Then it’s a situation where everybody handles their business a different way. Everybody’s not tip-top on their business, so you might come across somebody that - I don’t know that situation - but an artist may use a beat from a producer and never get in touch with the producer.
There’s been times I went to LiveMixtapes and heard a track that I produced that I wasn’t credited for. I had to get people to make the calls. That’s just the risk you take and why you copyright your stuff. But when you’re sending out beats to different artists, they have different situations going on. They’re on the road touring, so they just hop on the beat. It then somehow gets released.
I’m sure the reverse has happened as well. Where you put a beat out, but an artist you didn’t expect to pick it up says, “I want to use that beat" even though they may have heard it from somewhere else and not directly from you.
Placements happen the weirdest ways. At the end of the day, all artists have one general thing in common - they’re all trying to work. That’s why they’re artists. They need to make songs, and in order to make songs they need beats. It don’t matter if the barber gives them beats or the dude on the tour bus gives them beats. It’s no telling where it comes from.
Would you ever be interested in going back to try rapping?
Nah, I’m good on that.
So no Timbaland/Pharrell type career?
Nah, that’s why I picked up DJing - to push the brand. Pushing the brand as a producer is one thing, but as a DJ you’re an artist as well.
Seeing Just Blaze DJ and perform songs that he produced - you’re looking like “This is the guy.” That song I've been rocking to for years, this is the guy that did these records.
[Just Blaze is] eating nice off of DJing.
I caught him and Cam’ron at the Broccoli City Festival in DC. That was an epic show. They had their differences, but they came together to perform. Then I caught him in an upscale club in New York. His range is crazy. I don’t think anybody has that type of range in music as far as who he’s able to play for. He doesn’t have to make another beat a day in his life.
Do you want to get to that point?
I’m 24 years old. I operate a recording studio in Norfolk. I deal with over 2,000-3,000 local artists in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia, and I see all different types of artists. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m a 35-40 year old aspiring artist or producer. But you can be a 35-40 year old DJ.
It’s just about not being complacent in one thing. I know I have the talent to do more than just this. So let’s add a different arsenal to it.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Five years from now I see myself maybe touring as a producer/DJ. And just working. My drive is consistent. Every year I look back at that past year to see if I've grown. I try and grow every single year. So five years from now I want to have those hit singles under my belt and just go around the country spreading my brand.
Listen to a playlist of Kino Beat's productions below.