Veteran producer NAMELESS still vividly remembers his earliest days crafting instrumentals as a teenager growing up in Flint, Michigan during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Like many sample choppers who came of age as computers became a staple in American homes, he started making beats by testing his skills on a demo of a now-famous digital audio workstation. “I actually started with Fruity Loops, the box computer and all that,” he says. “It wasn’t even the full version, it was like a trial version.”
Although there wasn’t a huge hip-hop scene in his local community, NAMELESS was fortunate enough to have a few key people nurture his love of music. His close friend and fellow Wu-Tang fanatic Brandon encouraged him to try his hand at beatmaking while Beats x Beers founder B.Corder showed aspiring producers from the Flint area they could achieve widespread recognition through perseverance and hard work. “Everybody was fucking with him, he was pretty much the most respected coming up out of Flint,” NAMELESS remembers.
Though he had encouraging peers and example to follow in B.Corder, his early phase as a beat fanatic was far from easy. Limited by the trial version of FL Studio, he had to record into a makeshift setup if he wanted to keep any beats. “It was like a science experiment,” he says. “It was hectic.”
“That’s always how it starts with a producer. You always create the dopest shit when you’re bored.”
NAMELESS pushed past his setup limitations and continued honing his skills as he worked through high school. It was here that a teacher and eventual father figure named John Rhymes took a mentoring role in his life and blessed him with some advice that continues to stay with him to this day. “He didn’t necessarily tell me to stick with music,” NAMELESS says. “He was pretty much just like, ‘Whatever you feel like doing, whatever your passion is, keep doing it.’”
Over time NAMELESS developed a knack for shirking conventional beat arrangements and sample sources — a technique that continued to blossom as he graduated high school in 2001 and headed off to college. It’s an approach to production that he still prides himself on. “I always try to find the most unorthodox sound when it comes to sampling,” he says.
After college, NAMELESS spent years posting beats on his MySpace account during the platform’s golden era, back when it served as a springboard for many talented producers in the beat community. He eventually decided it was time to drop an official release and put out BE[ats]ORIGINAL Vol. 1 on Bandcamp in March of 2009. Though much of the project holds up, he doesn’t necessarily seem to think so. “I know if I listen to that again, I’ma cringe the fuck out,” he says with a laugh — adding that he still appreciates cuts like “Tried To Say Somethin,” and “Flint Town 2009” despite his reservations about the rest of the album.
“It was like a science experiment. It was hectic.”
Incredibly, NAMELESS produced the entirety of BE[ats]ORIGINAL Vol. 1 on another trial version of FL Studio, an interesting piece of trivia that he’s even surprised by. “Now that I’ve said it I’m thinking, ‘Dang, how did I do that from a trial version?’” he says.
Though releasing a full project to a potentially broader audience on Bandcamp was a bit unnerving at first, it ended up paying dividends and helping NAMELESS build his confidence. “That project for me was trial and error, either they fuck with it or they don’t,” he says. “Thankfully I got a whole lot of positive responses.”
Another notable release from his extensive catalog 2009's 16-BIT — an album that exclusively samples vintage video games. Unfortunately, part of the initial recognition came from people accusing NAMELESS of jacking another notable producer’s style. “It was a little bit of controversy when I came out with 16 Bit,” he says. “At the time it was a few cats that thought I was kind of biting off of Dibia$e.”
“I know if I listen to that again, I’ma cringe the fuck out.”
Little did the album’s detractors know, NAMELESS had communicated with Dibia$e about the songs he wanted to include on the album to make sure he wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes. After having a chance to preview them, Dibia$e gave his enthusiastic approval.
Though NAMELESS wishes he could have sampled straight off of Nintendo for the beats contained on 16-BIT, he hopped on YouTube for samples instead. Once he started going down the video game music rabbit hole, he was blown away by how much amazing source material there was. “I played Gauntlet and Super Mario of course, NBA Jam, Double Dribble and all that, but it was some theme music on same games I didn’t even know about,” he says.
He is still proud of the entire album, but one song sticks out as being particularly special to him. “The motherfuckin’ ‘Samus Comin!!’ beat, that was my baby right there because that was the first 16-bit beat that I’ve ever made,” he says.
“I always try to find the most unorthodox sound when it comes to sampling.”
Interestingly, it was “Samus Comin!!” that caught the ear of Clear Soul Forces, who ended up connecting with NAMELESS and rapping over his instrumental. The creative chemistry was so strong that the Detroit rap group enlisted his services several years later to produce their entire 2015 project Fab Five. “They made me appreciate that beat even more because they ripped that beat to shreds,” he says. “They came through and demolished it like it wasn’t shit.”
After putting out 16-BIT, BE[ats]ORIGINAL Vol. 2, 16-Bit: Bonus Stages, and Adobe Dillastrator: CS1, 2011 saw the Dusty Pads EP — a collection of beats from various years that had no special purpose or targeted album release. “This project was basically just chilling on my laptop collecting dust, so I might as well share it with you guys,” NAMELESS wrote in the liner notes.
Despite the nonchalant attitude behind Dusty Pads, the album brought one of the most important beats from his career to light.
And as is the case with many sparks of creative brilliance, the “Rainbow Read” instrumental was born out of simple boredom. “That’s always how it starts with a producer,” NAMELESS says. “You always create the dopest shit when you’re bored.”
“This project was basically just chilling on my laptop collecting dust, so I might as well share it with you guys.”
One day while he sat around the house as his young son watched YouTube videos, NAMELESS heard a famous children’s TV show theme song coming through the speakers. Something about it caught his ear and he decided to load it into his sampler to see what he could do with it. “I had hella doubts when I started it too,” he says. “So I took the little part at the front, at the beginning. I’m like, ‘Ey, this is kind of groovy.’ I just stuck with that and then pshhh — ‘Rainbow Read.’”
From first seeing the light on Bandcamp and SoundCloud when the Dusty Pads EP came out, “Rainbow Read” entered its second act of discovery when Street Corner Music founder House Shoes included it on The Gift: Volume One. Serving as the first release in the label’s extensive discography of instrumental records, “Rainbow Read” found many new listeners when The Gift dropped in late 2015.
Now, as his 10th year of putting out official projects comes to a close, NAMELESS is excited to share his GA$ MONEY joint effort with Los Angeles-based drummer, MC, singer, and songwriter Lyric Jones. The impressive long-distance collaboration between Fort Worth, Texas (where NAMELESS resides) and L.A. happened in between Jones’ Lyft and Uber shifts and NAMELESS’ long routes as a truck driver.
“They made me appreciate that beat even more because they ripped that beat to shreds. They came through and demolished it like it wasn’t shit.”
The title, which is a partial expression of both artist’s frustration with people not respecting their art and expecting it for free, seems to be doing well thus far. Jones took to Instagram to say she was “overwhelmed with the support and love,” when GA$ MONEY first dropped in March 2019. Meanwhile, HipHopDX’s Riley Wallace awarded the album a 4 out of 5, writing that “GA$ MONEY has an undeniable charm.”
An entirely unique effort, NAMELESS’ latest collaborative record seems like perfect project to kick-start the second decade of his career.