Producer extraordinaire Vanderslice, has been releasing some head-nodding beats for over a minute now. From his early work to Access Immortal to his recent compilation Everything’s Awesome or his album with AWAR, The Winning Team, one thing has remained consistent – dude sets the bar high for himself and the artists he works with, and the word “filler” just doesn’t exist. The same holds true when talking to Vanderslice, taking time out of a lazy Sunday afternoon to wax poetic on a plethora of topics, from the worst ways he’s been asked for a free beat, building a cohesive album with AWAR, not wanting Troy Ave on The Winning Team, what a studio session with Freddie Gibbs is like, why the MPC Renaissance reigns supreme, and why he’s not the type of producer that bangs out eight beats a day. It’s worth listening to the end to hear Vanderslice’s thoughts on the one and only J-Zone as well.
On his new album The Winning Team with AWAR:
It’s like somebody lifted a rock off my chest. It took, like, 18 months to finish. We had an idea. The last song on the album, that was like the first record we recorded for The Winning Team. That’s when AWAR and I decided that we were going to do a project. It was only going to be 10 or 11 tracks. It was only going to be an EP. We just started making music. There’s songs that we didn’t finish that are coming out. We have a song with Scarface that we’re going to use for something else. We have all sorts of beats from Alchemist, Jake One, and Sid Roams that are also left in the pile that we’re going to do something else with. It was up in the air for so long. And then AWAR and I, we were just beefing with each other and shit, just arguing over the simple things, trying to finish up records. Just shit that, like, anybody that you work with, if you don’t argue with the people you’re closest with, I’d say you’re doing something wrong. He made a couple of moves that I didn’t agree with and I made a couple of moves that he didn’t agree with. And we were just at each other. We didn’t work for a couple of months. We were done. But all in all, it feels great to have it done. Production-wise, my partner Green Steez and myself, it was such an opportunity to display different sounds and just do things differently. The track with BJ the Chicago Kid is a legit R&B joint. There’s no drums on it. It’s very soulful and well-composed. And then we also got to do what we’re known for, the real gutter, street shit as well. It took a lot of time to produce but it was a learning process. And AWAR and I are really close personal friends, so I guess we learned a lot about ourselves. It was definitely a learning process.
On his worst experience in getting asked for free beats:
Oh my gosh! Dude, I have had people actually pass their phone over to my grandfather, who I take care of. I live with my grandfather. He was out shopping. I think he was buying a new pair of kicks or somewhere…it was a grocery store. And some kid passed him his number telling him, “Yo, tell your grandson to get at me.” Rediculous! That guy is stalking my Instagram because I’ll post a picture of me and my grandpops. I roll with my grandpops. I don’t care. He’s one of my closest friends. I take care of him. After my grandmother died, there was really nobody left. All his kids moved and shit like that, so I take care of him. To see me on Instagram rolling with him to know who he is, that just bugged me out, man. I got people hitting me for free beats all the time. That is like the worst! “Yo, I’m trying to work.” If I had been there, I would have laughed the guy out of the building and he probably would have gotten fired. Nobody goes through the proper channels in the digital age. I Instagrammed the picture of the guy’s phone number like, ‘The struggle is so real I got people running up on my grandpops to try and make contact.’ It’s crazy!
On when he felt he’d made it as a producer:
I still don’t feel that way. I swear I don’t. I work but I’m a bad month away from being homeless. I try to put as much work in as I can because I really don’t feel…I don’t know, but it’s strange. I don’t like to freelance. I don’t like to really freelance that much. I would much rather work on things that could build a legacy because that could be a payday down the road instead of selling beats for like $500 bucks. I try to pick and choose my spots and that will absolutely hinder me financially but creatively and artistically, it just gives me way more freedom. But I’m comfortable enough. I sell enough records on the side and I sell samples. I hustle here and there which is keeping me comfortable enough to where I don’t have to do the beat hustle shit. I’m not trying to make music and then try and sell beats. I guess that keeps me grounded because I definitely don’t feel like I made it to where I can call my own shots and all. I definitely don’t got it like that. We pressed 300 copies of Everything’s Awesome on vinyl and we’re almost sold out of that and it only dropped in May. To really make money off of vinyl, even if it’s a small dose, to me that’s a small step in the growing process. I take every day as it comes, man.
On how a Vanderslice beat comes together:
I’ll usually just sit here and listen. Whenever I buy records, my turntable has a CD burner and a flash drive on it. I put a hard drive on there and just upload and listen to it and I’ll just sit here and listen to a playlist at random. When I hear something I want to sample, I’ll go and dig the record out and get it off of vinyl. I lay out all my drums and then I send it to Steez because Steez plays keys, he plays bass, and he plays guitar. So we add certain layers to the music and that’s pretty much the process, just repeat. I’m in a vicious beat-block stage. I haven’t made a beat in the past 10 days, but I’ll snap out of it.