In 2018, Brooklyn spitter Rome Streetz released one of the best collections of hip hop that year, Street Pharmacy. The album is filled with hard-hitting street stories, told with precision and skill, a cautionary tale that expressed some hard truths and offered some hard-won wisdom.
Streetz is a skillful raconteur, but the album also featured menacing, ominous beats that fit perfectly with the style and content of his rhymes. The album’s producer? Farma Beats, the North London beat maker, rapper and all-around sound magician, who can create music to suit any mood and to accompany any rhyme artist. Farma’s production is often dark and gritty, which is why his production is favored among a diverse of underground and hard-core rappers, including Recognize Ali, Mooch, Mach-Hommy, Jay NICE and WateRR, but he can brighten things up when required, too.
Listen to So You Wanna Be an MC?, Vol. 1, Farma’s collection of instrumental tracks from late 2019. It demonstrates the range and variety of his sound. The Dispensary, the album he released with Chicago’s WateRR in February of last year, is another fine example of Farma’s grimy sound, spiced up with mournful piano keys or strings. Or, listen to The Shadow Man, a collection in which Farma produces tracks for a dozen of hardcore rap’s luminaries, such as Cousin Feo and Lord Juco, and you can witness the depth and breadth of his skills as a beat maker.
Farma Beats sat down with Backseat Mafia to talk about his music for this week’s episode of Behind The Boards.
This interview has been lightly edited for publication. Photo courtesy of Farma Beats.
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you every day?
Farma Beats: I was born into a musical family, My father was a well-known musician in the early 1980’s so music seeped into every last moment of our lives in some way or another. I loved pop music as a kid and would record my favourite tunes on tapes. In 1985, I discovered the world of Hip Hop music and all it’s elements, and life was never the same again. I bought records, practiced breakdancing in my bedroom and developed a long-lasting relationship with Graffiti art. I used to smoke weed and drink to catch the vibe but after leaving those addictions behind, it has become clear to me, that music is my true inspiration.
BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Farma Beats sound in one sentence, what would you say?
FB: I’m unorthodox, with a psychedelic disposition.
BSM: Where is your favorite place to create music?
FB: I have had 3 main creative spaces in the time that I have been making music, the first being “The Junkyard” aka Highbury Estate (My family home) where a bulk of the Task Force music was made. The second was “The Farmyard” which was my first home as a single father and the third is the place that I live now with my wife and children. This is where I became Farma Beats and is probably my favorite place to make music.
BSM: Are you a vinyl crate digger? If you are, do you have a favorite place to dig? A shout out to your favorite record store? What was your greatest find?
FB: Back in the day, there was only vinyl! My parents had a fantastic record collection filled with amazing 60’s hippy music, psychedelic stuff that was not so popular to sample in those early days. I used to raid the local charity shops and grab the usual cheap, easy listening/classical crap that everyone starts off with but I never got into mainstream ‘Digging’. I steered clear of the library records and the whole record fair stuff. I think all producers are nerds, as are graffers…We lead interesting lives collecting up old dusty shit that nobody wants or cares for anymore like some kind of musical magpies. In my time, I have dabbled in the vinyl bootlegging industry but I will save that conversation for another day. These days I sample a majority of my material from online sources. I have some huge digital crates that could keep me busy for the next 20 years. I’m not a traditionalist, I love vinyl and have 1000’s of records but I see no harm in using the resources that are available at your fingertips.
BSM: What is your preferred music production software/program? Do you use live instrumentation? What instruments do you play/use?
FB: I learned how to make beats on the Akai MPC60, then moved on to the MPC2000, then the 1000. I taught myself how to use Logic, Pro-Tools etc and gradually moved on to the NI Maschine MK1 which I absolutely fell in love with. I am now using the Maschine MK3 with Logic. I have a midi keyboard and an electric guitar that can be sprinkled on anything that needs it but more of the time it’s just me, the Maschine and the samples. I like to do the basics in the Maschine and then drag it all into logic where I can arrange it all and manipulate the sounds if need be.
BSM: Is your music sample based? Where do you dig for samples?
FB: Always sample based. I make huge playlists within certain streaming services and dig for days and days. It has it’s obvious pros & cons but for the majority of time, my experience with digging and storing material this way is super streamlined and suits my lifestyle as a father and a husband with very little space, money or time to indulge in a more physical digging experience. Saying that, I still have my Vinyl collection stashed away at The Farmyard in Highbury.
BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear or instrument and why?
FB: My favorite piece of gear has got to be the MPC, my love for making sample based music grew from watching people “magically” transform bits of music into brilliant beats. It inspired me to invest over two decades of my life trying to master the art of sampling. The MPC is still the undisputed GOAT and for me personally it always will be. I still have my MPC2000 and it has been restored to its prime, I am looking forward to spending some time with her soon.
BSM: What is the one non-musical item you must have with you in the lab when you are working?
FB: I don’t really have much that I need to be honest but I always have my framed photos of loved ones on my desk. I have my eldest son’s (28) baby photo, My Father (RIP) and my beautiful twins (8) Wilder Wish & Indie Wren. My daughter decorates my desk with her artwork, lots of love, hearts and kisses everywhere.
BSM: What album or track are you most proud of, or is most significant to you, and why?
FB: I have different eras as an artist, In the beginning, as a rapper/beat maker with Task Force, I would say I am most proud of the beats I made for MFTC (Music From The Corner) Vol.1-5, I am very proud of the tracks I did with my eldest son Remus, which we recorded when he was only 9 years old. In the newer guise of a beatmaker, I have been blessed with making music with Mach Hommy, Rome Streetz, Mooch, Conway and a whole bunch of amazing artists. My dreams as a 10 year old are coming true, I am making original, ground breaking music with some of the most important artists of their time and I consider every track to be a blessing. I hold all the artists I work with in very high esteem and they inspire me with their endless drive and enthusiasm to succeed in this industry. Notable releases are Mach’s Niggarati Manor, Rome Streets Street Farmacy and Mooch’s Heroin Farms.
BSM: Favorite artist or artist whom you admire in any medium?
FB: Nah, I am a man of many moods so there can never be a favorite. At the moment I have been listening to a guy called Ozgur Baba, he is a Turkish musician whom you can find playing live music on YouTube. There is a whole scene going on over there that he plays a big part of.
BSM: Favorite music to listen to on the London Underground?
FB: I’m not really in tune with what is going on over here anymore. I have no idea about who is doing what or how good it is.
BSM: You have produced music for a lot of great rap artists, Mooch, Recognize Ali, Rome Streetz, Mach-Hommy, Conway. How do you approach a project where you’re collaborating with another artist?
FB: If an artist comes to me, I assume they are looking for the “Farma” sound, which is odd to me because my beats are always really different but yeah, I usually send them a heap of beats and they choose what they want. They record, send me the vocals and then I arrange and finish off the track with whatever is needed. I don’t tailor-make beats…very rarely. Maybe if an album is missing one or two tracks then I will make the tracks specifically to be used but more of the time my vaults are full and there is never much need to look outside of what already exists. All rappers work in their own unique way and as a rapper myself I fully understand the process of how an individual wants to work. I personally always prefer to get the rappers vocal stems and arrange, mix and sometimes master it all myself.
BSM: Favorite London artist in any genre who you think deserves more attention?
FB: Not so much London, but my guys HobGoblin, NCL-TM and Giallo are the heads that I look to for inspiration…Beat Butcha is the man too, but he got a grammy so you already know that!
BSM: Can you take one track from any of you albums/productions/collabos, and break down how you created it?
FB: Making music for me isn’t such a magical experience anymore, there was a time when I would be making a beat with a gang of heads, smoking good weed, cracking jokes and catching a vibe and suddenly someone would sing a hook or throw out a couple of bars and within a couple of hours we would be drinking beers and rolling fresh zoots listening to a finished track. Nowadays, I wait for the kids to go to bed and if I’m not settling down to some TV with the wife I might just go through the sample folder and throw together a couple of loops, next day I will put my tags on them and send them to my chosen artists and see where it goes from there. I miss working with people who are actually in the same room as me but for the moment I am happy to work from a distance, It’s not ideal but it will have to do for now!
BSM: Dream artist to collaborate with and why?
FB: I would like to do an album with Mach-Hommy, He is special.
BSM: Shout-outs? New projects? New collabos? Tips for surviving 2020?
FB: No shout outs, Got a production project bubbling with HobGoblin (UK) Giallo (UK) NCL-TM (UK) PadScientist (US) Bohemia Lynch (JAPAN) FLU (OZ) called THE 7 featuring loads of great rappers. Hopefully that will see the light of day!!! New Mooch, New Ske The Heistman, New Bub Styles, New Machacha (Danish), couple of other things and hopefully lots more to come over the next few years. I would like to thank you guys for the interview and wish you all the best with your future endevours. Peace & Bless…Farma – SampleGods 2020
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