Enter Cuns: meet the Tuff Kong Records’ head honcho and his beat-making science.
The name of Cuns to vinyl fans and hip hop records diggers of a certain calibre is certainly not new. The guy from Rome, founder and executive director of the indie label Tuff Kong, is responsible for a series of breathtaking productions between the United States and Europe. Other than label exec, Cuns is a beatmaker and producer of unquestionable taste.
As a national ensign of that timeless hardcore taste, so much a child of the Roman tradition as a disciple of the global sound among the international crossroads of Hip Hop culture, his touch releases a modern boom-bap, solid and without frills.
The man’s minimal and incisive approach, which we brought here to enrich our Production Specs column for the first time in 2018, is no secret to many, and still rings bells around the globe.
Fresh off his more recent release in couple with Boldy James, titled Be That As It May, we’ve got in touch with him to update the original discussion about his music production and approach to the industry. Enjoy the reading!
What’s the first beat you’ve sold/placed?
The first officially released beat I believe is in 2008, Non Ce Giocate, by Gente Di Borgata, contained in Ministero dell’Inferno, and co-produced with Lou Chano.
How long did it take you to produce something that you were proud of?
In general, I am proud of the whole journey and all the improvements that I have achieved along the way and of what, together with my partner Dome, we have built with Tuff Kong Records. Having said that, I always try to look at the defects and what can be improved in my productions, so I tend to listen to my old works mainly in this key.
Your favourite production setup?
Since I started producing I have used different media, also based on what I had available at the time. PCs, samplers and a few synths, but I’ve been playing mostly with Ableton Live lately. My ideal set-up could be a sampler (Akai MPC4000) and a synth (Moog) with the support of Ableton Live, even if the PC is not entirely necessary in the creative phase in my opinion. However, I am always open to trying new tools or software when the opportunity presents itself.
The best “digging advice” you’ve ever received?
My cousin Simone (aka Er Danno, from the famed Italian Hip-Hop act Colle Der Fomento), who first put me onto the first rap records (the “right” ones, LoL), and my bro SineOne, also a mentor since the beginning, have always been a point of reference to confront and to exchange info of various genres.
Always been digging in search of the coolest stuff to listen to. Surely the two of them helped me a lot to grow with their advice, along with all those with whom I had the pleasure of working these years. Apart from this aspect, as a rule, I have always tried to follow my instinct and train my taste through personal research, taking as much as possible wherever there is something interesting to learn.
The producer, in the last 3 months, that made you say: “Oh, shit, I have to get back on the machines”?
In the last 3 months surely DJ Muggs, who, after a brief period of absence from the purest rap scene, has recently come out with a lot of interesting things, I heard just a couple of days ago the single “ Shit I’m on ” from his new album with Roc Marciano…WHAT A BOMB! In general, I always hear new stuff from Alchemist, he is the boss for me.
The worst production mistake you ever made?
The worst thing is when you realize after the piece is finished and it’s gone out, that you haven’t listened to some details carefully enough. This is the thing that led me to make different kinds of errors that were avoidable.
An essential tip for mixing?
I’m not a real expert in the mix and mastering phase, so I can’t give specific tips. To my taste, a good mix is the “invisible” one, which enhances the piece without making its presence feel that much. It’s always the usual speech that I share 100%, “less is more”, you know? When something goes well all alone you don’t have to add anything else.
The mix is a very delicate phase and it is essential to enhance the work done upstream, so a tip could be to put your music in the hands of someone who improves it, rather than, as often happens, make it worse with an overmix or simply with the incorrect use of the available means.
And I close by just thanking two monsters in the field of engineering, Stabber and Bassi Maestro, who took care of most of the audio post-production of my most recent works. Thank you very much StrettoBlaster for the space you gave to me and my music. Peace, Cuns.