Veteran producer and LA beat scene pioneer Ras G doesn’t own a car. That means when he needs to get around the city of LA, he uses alternate modes of transportation. “I don’t drive man,” he explained in a 2017 Micro-Chop interview. “So when I’m in the world, I’m on buses and on trains. That’s how I’ll make up my time. Make a beat.”
To do this, Ras has embraced Akai’s iMPC app and given himself the freedom to turn the whole world into a makeshift studio. And he doesn’t just cook up iMPC beats on the bus, train, or any other place that feels right — he also enjoys snatching found sounds with his phone to use on future compositions. Instead of sampling an MP3 or something from streaming, Ras often opts to capture organic noises around him instead. “The stuff I sample on the iMPC with my phone is random,” he said in our previous interview. “I’m sampling stuff that I’m hearing in the world. I’m hearing sounds, I hear a snare, I hear something and I’m just collecting that shit.”
For Ras, the unique experience of taking field recordings gives the samples a special quality that can’t necessarily be re-created in his studio. “When I’m my house, I can get random shit form microphones, but it’s not like being out in the world,” he said. “You’re hearing all kind of things that you can sample and collect and throw it all into the little sampler on your phone and just hook ’em up. It’s a different feel, a different approach.”
“When I’m in the world, I’m on buses and on trains. That’s how I’ll make up my time. Make a beat.”
A different approach indeed, and one that seems to be catching on in the broader producer community. In other Micro-Chop producer interviews John Morrison mentioned using phone recordings of neighborhood arguments on his SWP: Southwest Psychedelphia LP, Seneca B talked about recording the sound of falling rain for the song “May” and capturing pineapple soda bottle percussion with her phone on Bloom, and ewonee . spoke of how he layered field recordings behind drum sounds on the track “1.10” from his Radiance album.
Using iPhone recordings in individual songs seems to be growing in popularity, but Ras also used his phone to create the bulk of one of his most recent projects. In a surprising reveal from our 2017 interview, he explained how he made the majority of his well-received 2016 Baker’s Dozen album with the iMPC app. Some Micro-Chop readers might assume that crazy amounts of post-production tricks were needed to get the songs to album quality level, but there was very little tinkering with the original compositions. “I just run it through my little board, run it through the 404, and into GarageBand,” Ras said. “I might need to do a few little tweaks in Garageband on somethin’ and there it is. It’s pretty much as is.”
Ras even likened the raw, minimalist process of using the iMPC to his extensive use of the Roland SP — another one of his favorite pieces of gear. “It’s like when I make 404 beats,” he said.
“I’m sampling stuff that I’m hearing in the world. I’m hearing sounds, I hear a snare, I hear something and I’m just collecting that shit.”
Whatever method Ras uses to construct music in the future, getting people to listen to his work is his primary goal. And he isn’t going to waste time coming up with fancy gimmicks to get people to tune in. Instead, he wants to let his body of work speak for itself. “I don’t speak marketing talk, I don’t speak industry talk. I don’t speak that shit,” he said in our earlier interview. “It’s hard to explain man, you gotta check it out. I’m a music man, I speak through feelings.”
With that in mind, make sure to check out some of Ras’ Baker’s Dozen tracks and other selections from his extensive catalog in the exclusive, 40-track Micro-Chop playlist above. Enjoy, get inspired, and cook up some dope shit with your phone.
Want more engaging narrative non-fiction music journalism and curated playlists? Sign up for the Micro-Chop Substack newsletter.
If you enjoyed this piece, please consider following my Micro-Chop publication.