Dr. Dre, RZA, and Mark Ronson are only some of the staple names in the world of music. Referred to as producers, these individuals deliver a fresh perspective to an ever-growing scene, their music characteristic of their own identity.
In the university, there are those who follow in their footsteps. Let’s take a look at students here in Ateneo who have honed their musical abilities and utilized them in the art of producing.
At first glance, Mark Yap looks like your average hard-working student who spends most of his time studying in the library. Under that studious exterior, however, is his laidback personality and promising talent. One simply has to listen to his few but masterfully created tracks to see his passion for music. Each of his hip-hop tracks is meticulously made and he is scrupulous in choosing his samples. His attention to detail makes him a very promising up-and-coming producer in the scene.
Despite a career that includes a launched EP and several gigs with fellow student and rapper Claudio Lopa, Yap only got into producing music in college. “Like most people who like music, they try to play instruments,” Yap explains. “For guitar and piano I wasn’t the best… so I tried to do something else.” He had always enjoyed listening to hip-hop, which prompted him into try and make some beats. After graduating from high school, he started learning how to produce from videos on YouTube and has been working on his craft since.
The sound that Yap ended up developing is what he calls “soulful hip-hop.” He cites popular hip-hop artists such as Kanye, J Dilla, and Madlib as his main influences, but to add that soulful vibe, he looks to other genres for inspiration. His other influences come from genres he simply enjoys listening to, such as classic rock, the Beatles, or even 70s folk music; these are what give his sound a different flavor.
As of this moment, Yap is dedicating his efforts on his duo with Lopa: “No One’s Home.” Lopa’s rapping style is varied, ranging from light-hearted to angsty. Combined with Yap’s soulful hip-hop, the sound is quite distinct from what one would usually hear on the radio. Their versatility and creativity can be observed by comparing two of the songs on their EP. “Wonder(full)” is a whimsical love song with a bouncy rhythm and a scripted dialogue, voiced by Lopa, as an outro. “Late Nights” on the other hand is more reminiscent of popular rap with its snappy lyrics and straightforward beat. The two make a promising duo, with their creativity and dedication to their music, and are currently working on different projects.
In his own production, Yap is still improving and learning more techniques to add more diverse sounds to his music. He aspires to be a full-time professional and to continue developing his sound. “I hope it goes on for a long time. I don’t know if I can become a professional musician,” he says. “But it would be fun. It’s pretty much a dream.”
Bernard Pingol loves playing music, but has very strict parents. “I used to be in a band and it would consume all of my time. And there [would] be times when I would not be allowed to play,” he recalls. He decided to produce music in his own room instead, so his parents can’t complain and he still gets to make music. “When I got into college, I completely stopped being in a band. I focused on producing my own music,” he says.
Since then, Pingol has been producing hip-hop and trap music. He channels a lot of his emotions into his music and carefully samples both beats and vocals. He explains that music is the perfect medium to get a message across when words cannot contain the full meaning. Many might find trap music difficult to appreciate or understand, but Pingol uses it as his choice of genre to get his feelings across.
His latest single, “Video Games,” is one example of this. “Video Games was written specifically as I was experimenting with a lot of my stuff and from all sorts of influences,” he says. “That was a time when I was really confused with the direction of my music, so I kinda translated that confusion and variation into song.”
He characterizes his music as experimental. He uses a certain degree of spontaneity in translating his emotions into music and likes to incorporate different elements of genres in his work. In fact, he gets inspiration from his favorite band, Two Door Cinema Club, an alternative rock band and combines hip-hop/trap and indie rock, resulting in a sound with bouncy rhythms and electronic accents.
Pingol also works together with a group called the BLACKBOX Collective, which is composed of people who, like him, aspire to be professional producers. The group provides a place for musicians to share their music and, for Pingol, a place for musicians to learn from each other and improve on their craft.
A singer-songwriter and keyboardist for Devices, Andrea Ramos mentions that in her younger years, she began playing music by herself and with instruments that she was familiar with, such as the piano, keyboard, and guitar. “I would just record myself and play around with what I could do, and that got me into producing music in general,” she says.
Ramos developed her penchant for electronic music as a teenager and learned how to mix, master, and produce music through YouTube videos. On the other hand, she wrote her songs using her knowledge of literature and other written works. “My lyrics are mostly influenced by the kind of literature I read. Some of my favorite lines in literature have come from poetry and prose, which is why I tend to incorporate their styles in my music,” she shares.
Simply listening to music is enough to inspire her to make her own, Ramos shares. “When I listen to music that I like, I’m motivated to make my own music. I look for sounds and writing styles that I identify with and try to twist them so I can incorporate it in my music,” she says. She draws inspiration from different artists across all genres and names Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nujabes, and J Dilla as some of the artists she learns from. She mentions that her tastes are diverse and she incorporates elements from all genres into her work. “My main influences are RnB, hip-hop, jazz, pop, underground, and singer-songwriter music. It’s like this weird amalgamation of all of those,” she says.
Ramos also talks of how she has a deep appreciation for dream pop and J-pop as well. “I really love j-pop because it’s the weirdest thing ever; it’s just so odd sometimes,” she says.
Although ambient, reverb heavy, and ethereal sounds characterize Ramos’ music, her style continues to evolve and she aims to broaden it even further by constantly exploring all forms of music. “I thought when I started producing I’d stay in this weird indie, lo-fi, ambient kind of singer-songwriter style, but now I’m experimenting with hip hop,” she says. Ramos even taps into genres of music that are tribal in nature, and hopes to incorporate them into her own as well.
Though her efforts are devoted to playing the synthesizer for Devices, Ramos hopes that she will also be able to work on her own endeavors soon and is currently planning an EP release for the summer.
Connect with them through the following:
Feature photo retrieved from Ocean’s Telephone Co.