Welcome to this week’s edition of Behind the Boards. Each week, Backseat Mafia sits down with a musician/beat-tape maker/hip hop producer to find out what makes that person tick. This week, we’re joined by argov, the mysterious Middle Eastern master of musical mayhem. There is no known picture of argov, but like Terminator X, argov speaks eloquently with his hands. Imagine Austin Powers, if he had an Akai MPK Mini and he could slice and dice samples of rare lounge records, progressive Israeli rock bands, Arabic pop music and speeches by Gold Meir, and you get some idea of the argov sound. To truly experience argov, however, you must listen to him. argov brings a unique vibe to all his productions and instrumental hip hop, and he has used his off-beat talents to enhance artists such as the No Clue Crew, E, Sleep Sinatra and Chimezie, all underground sluggers to whom you should familiarize yourself, if you haven’t. In 2019, Chimezie and argov released Peace & Blessings, an abstract rap gem. If you enjoy Earl Sweatshirt, MIKE, MAVI, ZekeUltra, Maxo or Medhane, you need to listen to Peace & Blessings, and argov’s collection of beat tapes. Expect big things from argov, who is slated to lend his production skills to future projects with some of hip hop’s underground kings. This interview has been lightly edited. Check it!
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you every day?
argov: When I started making music, it was just as a joke with my friends. I don’t think i was inspired by any artist. We were just trying to make some funny shit. Right now, I’m inspired by the music I listen to, which is mainly Navy Blue and Ka, at the moment, and the people around me, [like] the No Clue guys, [a hip hop and production collective composed of 98PREEM, Amir Bilal, argov, Bart Buurman, CRUZIN, Illohim and Riley Lamarre] and E, yes, [his artist name is] E. (Editor’s note: E is an underground rapper and producer, whose latest release is Something Happened At Lake Beer Lake.)
BSM: Where is your favorite or usual place to work/create?
a: My room. I never really made beats anywhere else.
BSM: Are you a crate digger? Where is your favorite place to dig? What was your greatest find?
a: I don’t crate dig. It’s all from YouTube. My favorite find is a record from an old Israeli progressive rock band. It had no views, but the music was really good and I made some special beats from that one.
BSM: What is your preferred music production software?
a: Image-Line’s FL Studio 12. I’ve got Ableton too, but I barely use it.
BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear/instrument and why?
a: My favorite that I own is the Akai MPK Mini. It’s the only one [that] I’ve got and its nice. I use it mostly for chopping samples. My favorite instrument is [the] bass. I want to learn to play that at some point.
BSM: What is the one-non-musical item that you must have with you when you are working?
a: A water bottle.
BSM: What track/album work are you most proud of? Why?
a: I’m most proud of Quarantine Dreams. The track was made when I joined No Clue, the group I am a part of). Everyone’s verses are really good and I love that beat.
BSM: Dream artists to work with?
a: There are a lot. Ka, Navy Blue, Sada Baby, Injury Reserve, Earl [Sweatshirt], Kanye [West]. There are a lot more. I can’t name all of them.
BSM: Favorite artist or artist you admire or influenced you the most?
a: Probably Zohar Argov, an Israeli Mizrahi singer. I don’t listen to his music very much, but my parents do. I took his last name for my producer name because I was called that in video games. I was making remixes of his songs, with Migos adlibs with friends, [and using it] as a meme. (Editor’s note: The late Zohar Argov was a huge star in Israel. His family immigrated to that country from Yemen, and despite the fact that he was Israeli, Zohar Argov was popular in many Arab countries. Mizrachi music is influenced by music from Europe, North Africa and the Arab world, and is sung in Hebrew and colloquial Arabic. The term itself comes from the Hebrew word for eastern.)
BSM: Upcoming project(s)?
a: I have a project that I just started working on but it’s not going to happen soon. I’m mostly excited for tracks that I produced for other rappers albums. I can’t tell you what they are!
Production by argov (uncredited on Spotify):