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Home » Mag » DJ Spinna: looking for the perfect beat

Antonio Sol - DJ Spinna: looking for the perfect beat

DJ Spinna: looking for the perfect beat

Music production and practical tips from Spinna

Antonio Sol 10/04/2014

It is impossible to summarize in a few words the musical importance of DJ Spinna.

A Brooklyn-based product of the environment, Spinna is a great producer, remixer, digger and deejay.

Able like very few to juggle between the most sinuous and the rougher sound, ranging from the darkest hip hop to the most refined house music, between underground and mainstream, among his productions, we remember those for artists of the level of Michael Jackson, De La Soul, George Michael, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch.

He has released records as part of the cult underground groups Jigmastas and Polyrhythm Addicts, and as an executive of his own label, Beyond Real Productions.

As a soloist, he released, among other things, the celebrated Heavy Beats, Volume 1 (which in 1999 was one of the best sellers of the then highly successful Rawkus Records) and From Here to There, in which he chiselled a super-smooth sound.

Parallel to this, Spinna has always played and still carries out the activity of an eclectic and sophisticated DJ club, appreciated worldwide.

First commercial beat sold/placed:
The first one would probably be Everybody Bounce – Rude Rydims Experiment which actually came out 20 years ago. It got a lot of play from Funkmaster Flex and became a club party break anthem.

The other I was most proud of was the Stakes is High Remix for De La Soul. They are one of my favourite groups of all time and they sought me out based on the Das EFX remix that was right before that.

How long did it take you to produce something that you were proud of:
Well, considering I’ve been going to studios and recording since 1985 I would have to say the Bounce record was my proudest moment. It got tons of airplay and I felt like I was on my way after so many years of working hard and struggling.

Favourite production set-up:
Back in the 90’s my favourite set up was the SP-1200 and Akai S-950 combination, for most of the 2000s I lived on the MPC 3000. For about two years now I’ve been killing Maschine.

I feel like I can make that piece do anything. It’s my best set up at the moment along with Ableton for building tracks. I still prefer Pro Tools for mixing.

Best crate digging advice from someone ever:
The best advice I got was from Kenny Dope years ago. If you’re in a spot where the seller knows what he has and the records are not priced, don’t get too excited when you find something incredible.

Prices go up real fast! LOL. Unless the seller is cool. I tend to get excited and he’s more of the ice grill type. So I had to practice my ice grill, hahaha.

Producer, in the last 3 months, that made you say: “Oh, shit, I have to go back to the lab!”:
Hmm, hard question. To be honest the only person that really made me work hard was Jay Dee aka J Dilla. He was the best and a beast on many levels. If you know records and technique then you know why. There are great guys out there doing it, but I think I’ve heard the best already.

Your worst production mistake ever made:
One thing that bugs me till this day that no one knows about…On the instrumental of Beyond Real by the Jigmastas, you can hear me spinning back the record I was cutting up at the beginning of the last verse section.

It was faint in the mix but I know it’s there. By the time I noticed it, it was too late. We were already in vinyl production. That said, always listen down to your mix for detail. It’s worth it in the end.

One essential mixing tip:
Leave a lot of headroom when you’re mixing inside the box. Digital distortion is not pretty and it could be a mess when it’s time to master. I constantly find myself pulling levels back, but that’s me, I like clean sound.