A track by track from Adelaide MC Koolta on his album, 'Revolutions Per Minute'.
The beat for this track was built (no pun intended) around a Kendrick Lamar vocal sample. Kendrick say's "Every verse Is A Brick", as in his verses are "dope". I really liked the way that vocal sounded, so I took it, pitched it down so it is much slower and deeper and flipped Kendrick's idea to every verse that I write I am building towards something greater.
It's the first track on the album so I wanted to grab the listener's attention and basically showcase what I do as an MC and Producer. The drums completely switch up half way through the track too, just to keep you on your toes.
Every verse I write, I try to make it better than the last. Constantly building, constantly elevating.
2. All Together
This was the first taste people got of the album last year.
I chose this as the first single because it's basically the way I like my hip hop - a banging beat with lyrics that have a message.
The beat is based around an old Cabaret style sample with my own heavy bass and drums over the top. I wanted to contrast a sultry hip hop beat with confronting lyrics that force the listener to think. The first verse is the perspective I’ve heard spouted frequently by the angry and intolerant; the second verse is my view; that if we are empathetic to our fellow man or woman, the world would be a better place.
Look around the mainstream media at the moment and this track is just as relevant now as it was when we dropped it a year back.
3: Leemealone featuring Prime and Tommy Illfigga
When I make music, it's a pretty personal thing and I don't actively seek out guest spots that much. But I knew from the get go I wanted Prime on this album. He is super easy to work with, a pleasure to mix and record and he's a friend. He was on my first album with the track "Poison" which is still one of my favourite tracks that I've ever produced.
After I produced this beat consisting of a bunch of horn stabs and funky vocalisations, I though it would suit Prime and I well. It would have been easy to just jump on a beat like this and spit some bragging raps but I wanted to do something a little different. We ended up doing an anti-brag track - every verse is highlighting our flaws as artists and humans. I still am eating peanut butter by the spoonful!
Around this time, the homie Tommy Illfigga aka Tom Thum was in Adelaide for the Fringe Festival. The timing seemed right so I hit him up thinking he would definitely suit the track and could round it out with a third verse. Tom was absolute king to work with - he rolled through to the studio before one of his Fringe gigs, wrote his verse and recorded it in less than an hour, then proceeded to write another verse and record that one in less than an hour for a collab he was doing with some Brissy artists. Then he went off to perform to the masses in the city. I've never met anyone that embodies this hip hop culture more than this guy. It was cool to get him on the track and showcase his skills as an MC. Most people know him for his incredible beat box skills, but not everyone knows how talented he is as a rapper (and breaker and graffer for that matter).
4: You Need This
This beat is nothing but 808 drums samples arranged and pitched in ways I wouldn't normally mess with. I don't think I have ever rapped on a beat that is just drums. This song is really an interlude to lead into the title track of the album. The lyrics are basically just me venting about the "gatekeepers" of this music industry and really I just want to be left alone to do my own thing in my own way. DIY values are really important to me with this art and I think that is definitely reflected in this little jam.
5: Revolutions Per Minute
This is the title track of the album. As people's attention spans get shorter you've got to think outside the box to keep the listener engaged. The production is built around a heavy synth melody. The beat starts off at 140bpm and then half through just completely changes to 90 bpm. The drums also change up. This makes it a real fun one to do live.
The first verse is about 10 people all working together in a kitchen to make a pie. Each person has a different role to help out. But in the end only one person eats the pie. This metaphor can be applied to basically any industry.
The second verse is a bit broader and delves deeper into the ideas of verse one and how this scenario is unacceptable. I also play around with ideas of time and how we use it in our every day (hence Revolutions Per Minute).
Let's not waste the precious time we've been given.
6: Pigeon Lady
This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. As a fan first and foremost, I've always loved storytelling songs so it's no wonder it's an approach I so often take with my lyrics. It's also one of the first songs I wrote for RPM. A good chunk of the beats and lyrics for this album were written while I was overseas in the USA and Canada. Visiting places like the hip hop mecca NYC definitely inspired the style of writing and production.
On the trip, l had a little tablet with me that had FL Studio on it (my software of choice). I made the beat for Pigeon Lady on this tablet while waiting at an airport. I started with the piano for the song, but the string arrangements ended up taking the priority in the mix.
I wrote the lyrics a few days later in a park in Toronto on a bitterly cold day. There was an elderly lady feeding squirrels that inspired the story behind the song.
I've had the chance to do this song acapella at a few spoken word poetry events and it's without a doubt my favourite song to do in that format.
I wrote this song while overseas to a different beat to the one you hear now. I think the constant travel on plane, bus, train and car inspired the story behind the track. I was also thinking about driving in peak hour back home and how strange it was to see the same vehicles coming and going at the same time of day, but we are all strangers to each other. I liked the idea of having three verses with all the same structure and only minor changes in lyrics for each verse depending on the character.
When I got home from overseas I re-made the beat. It started off with just that cracking echoey snare drum and everything else was built around that. To keep that snare popping in the mix I kept the beat really sparse. My vocals are very sparse too. It's a simple piece of production but of all the songs on the album, this is the mix I am most happy with.
Sometimes less is more.
8. Decent featuring Sinks
Sinks is such a dope MC. A few years back, I had never heard of dude and he sent me a hard copy of one of his earlier EPs. I was blown away with his skills on the mic. Then he dropped his LP Backlash in 2013 which I would rate as one of the best hip hop albums to be released in Aus.
G Force from Down For the Count (the label Sinks is on) hit me up and said it would be cool to get Sinks and I on a track together. It was an idea I had had in my head for a while anyway so it was good timing. I told G Force I would let him know when I had a beat that would suit...
We ended up with this track, Decent. I'd already laid my vocals on it and was talking some positivity in the track. Sinks wanted to do the Ying and Yang kind of thing and come with a darker first verse. His vocals are ferocious on this.
This is a heavy beat. I made this on the tablet with FL Studio whilst overseas. I used synths and drums sounds I wouldn't normally mess with within FL Studio because I was limited by not being in my normal home studio. These limitations fostered creativity with the sounds I used for this track. I had to make stock FL sounds unique with the limited tools I had with things like distortion and reverb and layering.
9: Keep On
This was the second single off the album. Keep On marks a significant change in sound and visuals from my previous work. It’s the first song I've done that features entirely sung vocals.
I spent a lot of time on the string arrangements to get a "big" orchestra type feeling. When I was producing the music, I felt the beat needed an extra layer; I jumped on the mic and started humming some tunes that might fit and then ended up freestyling the singing that you now hear. I stepped back and thought, there is something in this. I tried to re-record the main take but just couldn’t capture that original unrehearsed, unwritten feeling. It’s ended up being my favourite track on the album.
10: A Couple of Words
This is another song that I originally recorded over another beat and then decided I wanted a much "bigger" sound with lots of synth layers. This song easily took me the longest to mix, I think due to having to take time to get all the layers to sit right with the vocals (that also have a lot of layers). Lyrically, I took inspiration from George Orwell's 1984, the concept of the destruction of language, and the mainstream media's role in our way of thinking. Too often complex issues are simplified to three word slogans or 140 character tweets. Life isn't always that simple.
I think the track is summed up best in the last four bars of the second verse:
Newspeak got our vocabulary shrinking
Dumbing down so much our imagination's sinking
They want brainless worker's decapitated drinking
If we don't have the words we don't have a way of thinking
11: Big Brother Is Watching
Another track inspired by Orwell. The first verse talks about my childhood and the impact that was had when my Mum bought me a copy of the novel 1984. I also talk about how only a short time ago, privacy was an important value for us as a society as a whole. The second verse talks about how we are just giving our lives away to social media (I am ironically writing this on here) seemingly voluntarily. I for one think some things don't need to be put out there for the world to see and should be only shared with close friends and family. It's also definitely having an impact on our ever shortening attention spans and we all find it harder and harder to just be in the moment.
With the beat I aimed for a party kind of vibe with a hint of melancholy. Kind of like, we're screwed, so we might as well go out having a good time. It's built around an old soul sample that my long time homie Rafael Camatta hooked me up with a long time ago.
12: Little Big Brother
The title for this flows on from the previous song. This is the first time I recorded live piano on a song of mine. My parents' in law have an old upright piano at their house. I was playing around with it, did a rough recording of some chords to then go an redo on my keyboard at home. When I replayed the chords at my home studio it just didn't sit right with me. I much preferred the original recording of the real piano despite it being so out of tune. So that's I rolled with. Imperfection is sometimes what keeps things unique.
This isn't a fun song, but I loved the time I spent making the beat for this. I think it's the longest song I have released and I kind of just went crazy with various string arrangements towards the end of the song. It's all built around the hook which I found myself one day humming in the shower. I've said it before, the shower is an ideas factory.
I wanted to round out the intensity of the album with something a lot more laid back - a love song. The lyrics for this came easily. I originally recorded the hook myself but knew from the get go my vocals weren't strong enough for the final recording.
I met Jesse Francis a few years ago through our mutual affiliation with GTNBZY. But it wasn't until I saw him play a small acoustic set at a country pub in Willunga that I realised how amazing his voice is. I knew then and there that was the voice I needed for this song.
He rolled round to the studio for the first time, we ate some pizza and he flawlessly smashed his vocals out in minimal time. Such an easy voice to record. Jesse really reminded me the importance of collaboration and sometimes there are things you can't always do yourself. We've got a lot of other things in the works together.
If you listen to this track through you might be in for another little surprise too!