Christian Rich Break Down Their Favorite Beats
Chicago-raised, Nigerian-born production duo Kehinde and Taiwo Hassan, aka Christian Rich, are a force to be reckoned with in the music world, and you probably didn’t realize they produced some of your favorite jawns. They got their start while in college, working closely with producer EZ Elpee, producing mixtape cuts for the likes of Lil Kim and Clipse, although they didn’t go by Christian Rich back then. Shae Haley and Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. encouraged the duo to develop their own sound, and mentored the twin brothers while they were on the come-up, which eventually led Shae to begin managing the duo.
At age 33, Christian Rich are now Grammy-nominated producers on the path to releasing their first album, FW14, which drops on August 21. “It’s not some EDM shit,” says Kehinde of the project, “but it’s definitely us giving our take on dance music.” The two have came a long way since their days on the “Hot 97 Circuit,” as they describe their early work, having produced standout tracks for Drake, J. Cole, Earl Sweatshirt, and Childish Gambino. We chatted with them about the stories behind some of their best-known records and Kehinde did most of the talking, with Taiwo chiming in here and there. You know brothers have their own way of collaborating, as seen on their new track "Fast Life," featuring JMSN.
Lil Kim ft. Styles P “Get In Touch With Us” (2003)
“Aw man, this record was hilarious. They had to go to India, to go find the artist to clear it. It’s called Kasoor. My girlfriend back then was getting her nails done by this lady named Natalia. Actually she was getting her eyebrows threaded. I usually go with her and have to sit there for like a hour. I was watching TV in there one time while she was getting her brows done, and this song came on during this movie. I was like 'What is that?,' and the chick told me it’s an Indian movie, Kasoor. I asked where I could buy the CD from, because I wanted to sample the record. The chick directed me to this Indian music store right next door. I went to the store, grabbed the CD and bought, sampled the shit, and it got made. It was supposed to be the single [for Lil Kim’s La Bella Mafia album], but then Lil Kim started cursing all over the hook. When we tried to go clear the sample, they had to go all the way to India because of the way music is crafted there. There is no publishing established for older artists, so you have to get permission directly from the artist. It’s funny, because Kanye West produced a track on the album too. I remember going up to him one time, saying 'Yo, we’re on the same album!' and him just staring at me like, 'So?'”
Clipse "I'm Serious" (2003)
“That’s a crazy story. We were in college at the time. We’re from Chicago. I don’t know if you are familiar with Cabrini Green. We’re not from that neighborhood [laughs], but we were out there because I think someone wanted to buy a beat. Back then, we sold beats for like $150 or something crazy. We were meeting up with someone in the projects, and the shit was so fucked up over there. There was an abandoned nursery in the projects, in the side of the building. Somebody was filming the video, one of our friends, and said 'Yo you should go inside of there and grab some of that vinyl, they got vinyl in there!’ We go in the nursery and it’s empty, and there’s all this vinyl just sitting there. We took like 20 of them, went home, and started playing them. The third or fourth vinyl had like a Russian orchestra sample on it. The first thing we heard when putting the needle to the record was that Clipse loop. We ran it back, and started looping it, then threw all these drums on it. It kind of sounded like Timbaland at first. We sat with the beat at first, like maybe six or seven months. Then we met the production company, who hit us like 'Yo we need some beats, send us some stuff.’ They didn’t say anything about the Clipse, they just said that they needed beats. So we went back and changed the beat so the version you hear on the Clipse album is the scaled-down version. We had all these sound effects and snares going through, and we just took it out and made it gritty and dark, like a New York beat. It’s kind of like the way we see New York hip hop.
We sent the track, and we didn’t know what happened for a while. Back then, we didn’t send stuff on email, we sent the stuff out on CD. One day, I called the production company like 'Yo, what ever happened to that beat?’ They were like 'Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, Clipse took that. That’s gonna be on the Cradle 2 The Grave soundtrack. I’m sending a check to you next week.’ Sure enough, the shit came out, we got our check and bought all this crazy stuff with it. We went and copped the soundtrack, opened the book and saw our names in it.”
Young Gunz "Problemz" (2004)
“By this time, we graduated college already. It was our first month out of college, and we went back to our father’s crib in Chicago. He had a townhouse at that time, and he decked out the whole entire basement for us. We had our beds down there, we had a studio, and we had a living room. We chilled there for like four or five months before our move to New York. Elpee called us like 'Yo I got this Young Gunz record that I produced, but they don’t think it sounds finish. Y’all should add something to it.' So he sends us the record, and it’s just the beat, and all you hear is the kick and the snare with one beep-like noise. I was like 'This is the beat?' The joint was already crazy and they had a full song to it, but Elpee wanted us to add more. We had whole set-up in our basement: mad keyboards, MPCs, ASRs—the works. We’re going through all these different sounds, and when we make beats, we tend to get picky with sounds. So, our uncle just came from Nigeria and was staying with us before he got his own crib. He’s a musician, but doesn’t know anything about hip hop and the structure. He just saw me making the beat and adding stuff, and I took something off. He questioned me, like 'Yo, why’d you take that off?' I wasn’t really feeling the bass and synth sounds I added, so he said, 'Whatever you do first, always keep the first thing. Don’t second-guess yourself.' As soon as we sent it, they kept it and used it. From that point, when I make a track, the first thing I do is what I roll with.”
Raekwon "Big Spender" (2006)
“That record was supposed to come out as one of the singles. We were in college when we did that song. It was our junior year, and we had an apartment with our two other cousins. My brother surprised me one day, and he went and bought all this new equipment from the Lil Kim placement we got. One of the first beats we made on the new equipment was the Raekwon record, sampling the Shirley Bassey 'Big Spender' record. We chopped up the sample on a ASR-10. The Neptunes and Kanye used the keyboard version while we used the actual workstation. We made the track, sampled the snare from Usher’s 'You Don’t Have To Call,' which was a stock snare on the ASR-10, but sounded better from The Neptunes because of the way it was mixed.
When we sent the record out, Raekwon picked the record and everything, and said it was gonna be the single. However, when it was time get the track cleared, [whoever owned the copyright and publishing] wouldn’t clear the Shirley Bassey sample. We got paid the first half of the money for the record, which was cool, but I wish it made the album. They never used it as far as a physical album, but they ended up using it for the [Vatican] mixtape a few years later. That was pretty dope, because I wanted to hear what the track sounded like with his vocals on it. This was definitely one of those records that I didn’t trip about it coming out or not, because I figured it would get released any way.”
Earl Sweatshirt "Chum" (2012)
“That was literally a full collaboration between us and Earl. At that point, he had already picked like four beats already. He wanted to do a jam session, so I invited Chad Hugo (of The Neptunes) to join. We all started rocking out, and Thebe (Earl) started coming up with all these pianos. We started putting these drums and sounds together, then my brother went in the booth and started saying all these words, and we took the words and screwed them up and used them like an instrument. Then, we started jamming out some more. That portion ended up being the outro. Chad Hugo heard what we were playing and started playing all these instruments on top of it, then Thebe started playing a new drum pattern. That whole song was done in like 3-4 hours. We didn’t think it was gonna make it, we were just fucking around.”
Earl Sweatshirt "Knight" ft. Domo Genesis (2013)
“We were working on another song. At that time, we were working on stuff for Beyoncé, so my brother was like, 'Listen to this record I got for Beyoncé.' Thebe came in and heard us talking, and asked what were talking about. We were like, 'Nothing you would like, just some shit for Beyoncé.' He’s all like, 'Nah, let me hear it!' And it ended up being 'Knight' because he liked it so much.”
Earl Sweatshirt "Molasses" ft. RZA (2013)
“This track was made from Thebe having a session with RZA, and RZA sat everybody down and talked to us. He was just talking and talking and talking for like hours before we worked on any music. RZA had a lot of knowledge. Mad knowledge of self. He played all these Bobby Digital type beats, and we’re like 'Ehh, that’s not what we want.' My brother ended up going on RZA’s Roland MV-8000 and RZA had all these samples just sitting on there. My brother just started touching all the samples like 'What’s this, what’s that? Oh, this is crazy!' RZA was like, 'Yo god, I would trip that you on my shit like that, but it’s all good.' He was kinda tight, but nonetheless we found four samples that we liked and put them in the ProTools. We looped the sample we had and chopped it up to fit better. We were just listening to the beat we made, then we decided to just take the sample and loop it instead. Then my brother was like 'Yo RZA, lemme get a freestyle from you, you need to rap for us.' RZA was hype, so he went and grabbed the old-school microphone that made it sound like he was in the park jam, and gave up a five-to-six minute freestyle. From all of that, we grabbed the hook. If we didn’t go on there and start fucking with his Roland, there would be no RZA record.
We did a song called 'Supaman' with the leftover vocals from the freestyle, that was sooo fun man. RZA was ready to leave at that time. He was like 'I’m tired, y’all eating them chicken wings. I don’t eat them chicken wings.' Vince [Staples] was there too, we were all laughing at that shit. RZA is a funny dude.”
J. Cole ft. Jhené Aiko “Sparks Will Fly” (2013)
“That record had been in conversation since 2010. Drake did a verse and picked it for his album, Ludacris picked it for his album, J. Cole obviously, and Lupe Fiasco. It got really ugly with a few people, like Ludacris’ camp in terms of that record. J. Cole was the one who ended getting the record because he purchased it. With J. Cole, Shae [Haley of N.E.R.D.] was our manager at the time, and he knew someone who knew J. Cole. We weren’t trying to look for J. Cole, but there was this guy who heard our beats and told Shae he wanted to help us out, and wanted a piece of the action. Shae was like 'Sure, these are my guys, let’s work it out.' The first project dude brought to the table was J. Cole. He got it to him, and a couple weeks later we got a check via our lawyer. That record was supposed to be J. Cole’s second single. The first single was the Miguel record, and the second joint was supposed to be 'Sparks Will Fly.' That joint was supposed to have Rihanna on there but ended up going with Jhené Aiko. Rihanna wouldn’t do it because she had already did a record with Wale. The record came out great, but it never became a single. They made it a bonus track, which I was kinda annoyed with because we could have just gave it to Ludacris.”
Drake "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2" (2013)
“Drake has a few of our records, but he actually cut two records from us; 'Sparks Will Fly,' and the intro to 'Pound Cake.' That wasn’t originally an intro, that was a full song with our track. We weren’t in the studio for that, but we were going back and forth with Noah '40' Shebib. Shae connected us with 40 because Drake got the beat for 'Sparks Will Fly' years ago, and got 40’s contact in the process. Shae told us send him some beats and I’ll connect y’all on email. I sent the beats, and 40 responded about two tracks. He said 'Yo, I love this, I think Drake is gonna use this.' When it came down to the last minute, when they made the album announcement, they only used the intro, which was a little annoying, but it was whatever. Everyone has their own vision, you know? The beat was totally different from the intro. The strings on the unused track were similar to that of 'Worst Behavior,' and the drums were pretty hard.”
Childish Gambino "Crawl" (2013)
“By the time Doris came out, a lot of people who didn’t know about us knew us from that. My brother saw Donald at a show, and was like 'Yo man, I like your stuff, I think we should work together. We just finished wrapping up Earl’s album. I know you’re a fan of him, so I wanna play you some of the album and see if we can do some stuff for you.' They met up, and my brother played him some of the songs that didn’t make the album and Donald was ready to work. Donald is one of those dudes where you don’t know when he’s recording. He called us up like 'Yo, I need a beat like this. Come by the house.' So initially we went by Chris Bosh’s house, where Donald was recording out of, and we had a session where we were playing beats. He really liked the 'Crawl' joint, so we added more instrumentation, and had someone at the beginning of the beat talking, so that ended being Mystikal.”
Vince Staples “Señorita” (2015)
“When we did that beat, we had the Future vocal in there with the intention of having Future cut it again. I guess it sounded so crazy that they kept it in there, but I don’t like sending beats without hooks in it. That’s mainly because people don’t get it if you don’t give it any context.”
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