Droppin’ Knowledge: Behind The Boards With Irie-1

And we back…

California’s Irie-1 joins this week’s version of Behind The Boards to drop some science about producing and positivity. Irie-1 creates sample-based music that is good for both neck-snapping and chilling, with a versatility that runs from the dusty to the grimy, and every possible sound variation in between. Irie’s beats seep into your synapses and are guaranteed to stimulate the head nodding reflexes in your brain.

Irie-1’s primary work is behind the boards, but the man also possesses skill and fluidity in front of a mike.

Irie dropped the instant classic, Best Served Cold, on Cocareef Records, in July and the second volume is coming soon. In addition, Irie will be featured on the forthcoming, third installment of the American Poets 2099 series, Murderous Poetry Part 3. The collection is a who’s who of dopeness, featuring some of the best spitters and producers in the underground, and will be out Friday, from Know The Names Music Group, and is available from http://fatbeats.com

This interview of Irie-1 was lightly edited for publication. Photo of Irie-1 courtesy of Irie-1.

Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you every day?

Irie-1: I was inspired to create music at a very young age. MTV was always on at my house and I would watch my favorite artists for hours. Even staying awake for late shows to see bands like Pantera or White Zombie. My everyday inspiration comes from watching other artists/producers on YouTube and Instagram.

BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Irie-1 sound in one sentence, what would you say?

Irie-1: Instrumentals for people who love music.

BSM: Where is your usual or favorite place to create music?

Irie-1: My bedroom or office space. I have a small studio with Pro Tools and 2 laptops for production/video editing.

BSM: Is your music sample based? Are you a vinyl crate digger? If so, where is your favorite place to dig? Do you have a favorite record store? What was your greatest vinyl find? If you do not dig for vinyl, what do you use as sources for samples?

Irie-1: My music is heavily sample based. I have been a crate digger since high school. My favorite places to dig are usually thrift shops. Currently, my favorite record store is called Rasta Cowboy Records. The owner is very nice and carries my music in his shop. I’ve also performed there. Another of my favorites I’d like to mention is Pepperland Records which closed a couple years ago. It was a store in Orange, CA that opened before I was born. They had the best dollar bin.

BSM: What is your preferred music production software? Do you ever use live instrumentation?

Irie-1: My preference on music software includes a combo of FL Studio & MPC STUDIO. I have used live instrumentation, but it’s very rare. Usually, I pass that off to my friend Zero. He is a young producer I work with who did the live instruments and synth for 2 tracks on Best Served Cold.

BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear and why?

Irie-1: My laptop because I’ve been making music on a computer since I was 12. Got my first copy of Fruity Loops in High School, but I started on programs like Acid DJ, Cakewalk and Mixman Pro.

BSM: What is the one, non-musical item you must have with you when you are creating?

Irie-1: Coffee.

BSM: What track or album are you most proud of and why? Is there a story behind its creation?

Irie-1: I’m most proud of my 1st solo LP as an emcee, “Irie-1 Meets The Man with 12 Faces.” My friend Bootface and I collaborated for a full length release. He is one of the dopest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

BSM: Do you have a favorite artist or artist who you admire, in any medium?

Irie-1: Gary Alford is my favorite artist. He works with RZA & Wu Tang Clan, Marvel, The Ryders Cup and so many other cool musicians. Plus, he’s painted 3 album covers for me. “Irie-1 Meets The Man with 12 Faces”, “Here Comes The Monster” and an unreleased album I did with Pro The Leader. “Here Comes The Monster” was a special painting because it was the last Christmas present I gave my mom before she passed away.

BSM: Favorite music to listen to when chilling, relaxing or driving?

Irie-1: Contemporary Christian Worship, punk rock and 80s music. Currently, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd gets a lot of play on my iTunes.

BSM: Your new album is Best Served Cold. Can you take one track from the album and walk us through the process for creating it?

Irie-1: The process for creating “Wonderlust” was fun. I found a dope Japanese music sample from an e-digging site called Vinyl Frontier. Originally I had the track playing while my drum pattern looped over the song. It sounded so cool at normal speed. Then I sped the pitch up and did sporadic vocal chops. It came out super raw sounding with some Marco Polo “Pad Thai” drum kits.

BSM: When you were creating songs for the album, did you imagine different artists spitting over the tracks? Were you thinking to yourself, “Slap Happy” could work for Benny The Butcher, or “Blasting Thru” would be a dope track for 38 Spesh? Or, was the process more organic, and independent of any particular rhyme artist?

Irie-1: The process is generally more organic. I’ve tried to make the “emcee” type beats before. Usually my sound comes out nothing like what the artist raps on. I find ideas comes more naturally if I have a clean slate in my mind.

BSM: To me, Sacred Gems, from 2019, seems very different in style from Best Served Cold. I love both albums, but as a listener and a fan, they feel different. I’m not sure if I can articulate it, but Sacred Gems feels more like a beat tape, independent of hip hop, more jazzy and more of a mosaic. Does what I’m saying make sense? Was the process for creating these albums different from your point of view? Or was Best Served Cold just a continuation of your path, in a straight line?

Irie-1: Sacred Gems was actually a beat tape series I started in 2018. There were only supposed to be 6 tapes that led up to a skate video also titled Sacred Gems after the series which is currently on YouTube. I got bored on vacation though and decided to create a 7th edition. Which contains a couple unreleased tracks from Best Served Cold.

BSM: You’ve done some remixes. Is the remix process for you different from the process for creating a whole project like Best Served Cold? Do you approach a remix differently than creating your own album?

Irie-1: Remixing is pretty much the same process to me as making a beat or writing a song. The key is timing. I used to blend vocals with my turntables and I was always off time.

BSM: What is La Tumba?

Irie-1: La Tumba is the name of my home studio. It also means “The Tomb” in Spanish. [It’s also] my new Mixcloud show. I play exclusives from Cocareef Records, new artists and stuff from the Irie-1 archives. 

BSM: You have a new track on the upcoming American Poets 2099 – Murderous Poetry Part 3, “Fame and Hype.” How did you get involved with that project? What was the genesis of your song?

Irie-1: Oh man. lol. That would be a long tale, but I’ll keep it sort of short if I can. My involvement with AP2099 goes back to 2004 when I met Pro The Leader. He worked for my cousin John, so we connected when he saw I had a recording set up in my Aunt Yolanda’s dining room. That’s where I was living with my mom and brother when my parents got divorced. My first major artist collaboration was with him and Holocaust of the Black Knights. Pro has always been a good brother and mentor to me. He actually blessed me with the Fame and Hype track. Basically, I’ve been apart of the American Poets family for over a decade.

BSM: I think we all know now that social media can be pretty toxic. I only pay attention to Instagram and even there, I just follow music artists. Your Instagram page is one of the most upbeat, positive, encouraging and inspirational I see. You are very generous on Instagram and you are always shouting out other artists and trying to inspire creativity. How do you approach social media and what is your aim on social media sites? Does social media ever get you down? Do you ever take a break? Just wondering what your philosophy is when dealing with social media.

Irie-1: Your first sentence nails my feelings about social media. I deleted myFacebook page over a year ago. Too many battles and not enough positivity. Instagram is the only popular social media platform I use. Definitely appreciate all those nice things you’ve said. I’m always just trying to build up my friends and hope we all shine bright in this world.

BSM: Upcoming projects? Upcoming collaborations? Shout-outs?

Irie-1: I’ve got a couple things in the works. Best Served Cold 2 is coming very soon. A collaboration with King Who from Nuclear Garden. Another American Poets 2099 release, “World Of Tomorrow” Part 3 with our U.K. brothers, Mysterious. It will be a triple disc album. Hoping to collaborate with a few heads from the Cocareef team soon like Ray Swoope, DJ Hoffa and Mally Corleone. They currently have beat packs from me. Shout out to heaven for my Savior and my mom who I miss greatly. My dad and brother for always supporting my dreams. All my friends and relatives too. Much love to Sharif Lopez and his family for being a wonderful support system the last two years. Pro, Bootface, American Poets 2099, Eternal Jones, Young OGs, Backyard Roots, Phaizrok, Zero, Josh Green, Micro, Dopestyle, Basement Dwellaz, Ruben Days, a.d.d?, 5ar5oner, Maylay Sage, Nico Sauceda, Gary Alford, Louie Robles, C4mula, Prime Music, pro.graveface, Basement Dwellaz, Holocaust, Christ Bearer, Skarekrow, Boogie Kat, Mr. Washington(RIP) and the whole Beat Lounge Radio team wherever they are.

And we outta here…peace, peace, peace…

Purchase a copy of Best Served Cold here:


Purchase a copy of Best Served Cold on the Cocareef Records site:


Connect with Irie-1 on Spotify:

Irie-1 on Bandcamp:


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