And we back…
For this week’s edition of Behind The Boards, western Michigan producer and graphic design artist Jacob Barlow is in the house. Barlow uses a wide palette in his production work. He is adept at creating trappy beats that would sit comfortably underneath hardcore rappers like Westside Gunn, and the other members of the Griselda collective, Migos or 2 Chainz. But Barlow is also gifted at looping and chopping old soul and R & B samples that seamlessly blend with more introspective rhyme artists, such as Earl Sweatshirt, MIKE, MAVI, ZekeUltra or Chimezie.
Barlow is also one of the featured producers on the new We Like Chops project, We Like Chops V2: Yemen, a beats for charity compilation in which the artists used samples from Yemeni music for chopping, slicing and dicing. You can find and purchase the mixed tape here: https://welikechops.bandcamp.com/album/we-like-chops-v2-yemen
In June, Barlow and Yonkers rapper Jay Cinema released the EP, Peace of Mind, Mind of Peace, one of the best albums of the year so far, a criminally under-heard record that is beautiful and heartfelt, an elegiac meditation on art, struggle and survival, in the United States of America.
At the beginning of the month, Barlow dropped a new single with MORGAN, the bouncy “Lava Lamp,” an infectious slice of trap, with squiggly synthesizers and a chorus that sounds as though Goodie Mobb snatched the mike. MORGAN spits triplets over over minimalist keyboard lines and snappy drums, and the hooks rides out the song, demonstrating Barlow’s range and inventiveness.
Photo courtesy of Jacob Barlow. This interview has been lightly edited for publication.
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you every day?
Jacob Barlow: Hearing all of the artists I enjoy, making such cool music. [T]hat continues to inspire me to create. Listening to different genres and the ways that different elements work, can be used also for [inspiration].
BSM: Where is your favorite or usual place to work/create?
JB: I do most of my work from home, just using Image-Line’s FL Studio and some Apple earbuds.
BSM: Are you a crate digger? Where is your favorite place to dig?
JB: Yes, I enjoy looking through samples often, and while many songs have not much to work off of or work with, finding a great loop makes it worth it. I almost exclusively use YouTube right now, looking through playlists. Another site is whosampled.com, where I’ll find a song or sample I like and look into more pieces by that artist that might have potential.
BSM: What is your preferred music production software?
JB: I haven’t played around with many DAWs (digital audio workstations) much because FL Studio works great for me and I am comfortable in that setting. I’ve learned it well enough that I don’t need much more at the moment.
BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear/instrument and why?
JB: Probably my laptop because it is set up just how I want it with FL Studio. It does not interfere with workflow at all. It feels awkward using a different computer because the setup feels different.
BSM: What is the one-non-musical item that you must have with you when you are working?
JB: I’d say being in the mood to create is a big thing because forcing it doesn’t work for me. It just has to come naturally, either through catching inspiration or just feeling ready to make something.
BSM: What track/album work are you most proud of? Why?
JB: My favorite piece of work I’ve done is probably the Peace Of Mind, Mind Of Peace EP, with Jay Cinema, because I feel like the production of each track compliments each other, as well as the artist, to work together nicely.
BSM: “Realize,” the first track on the EP, is one of the best tracks of the year so far. That song and album should have a hundred million streams.
JB: Appreciate it. When I sent the pack over to Jay, it had a whole different order. “Realize” was the otro, and after some discussion, the order changed up and it became a great intro.
BSM: Dream artist to work with?
JB: Probably Westside Gunn at the moment; his style feels like it flows nicely with the stuff I enjoy making.
BSM: Favorite artist or artist you admire or influenced you the most?
JB: Production-wise I’d say, Madlib, Kanye, Flying Lotus, Knxwledge, Dilla, Camoflauge Monk, I enjoy seeing the different ways they tweak and cut samples to make them work.
BSM: Favorite music to listen to when relaxing or chilling?
JB: Donuts by Dilla is timeless, Madlib & Gibbs albums are both great, Standing on The Corner’s Red Burns or the self-titled album, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Westside Gunn, Kanye, Drake, Smino, Young Thug, Knxwledge, Earl, Brent Faiyaz, MAVI, Anderson .Paak & Thundercat. Those are some of my favorites.
BSM: Dog or cat?
BSM: Upcoming project(s)? Plugs for new stuff? Shout outs?
JB: I have a few projects in the works right now. Been putting together a beat tape for myself, Lava Lamp, as well as a project of track flips (both out now on Bandcamp). I also have some tracks with other artists coming out soon, and plan on working with Jay Cinema more in the future, too. And making new music with [Rochester emcee] SkitzoLuvHartD, [as well].
And we’re outta here…peace.
Jacob Barlow Design: https://galleries.page.link/Rqb1W
Connect with Jacob Barlow on Bandcamp: https://jacobbarlow.bandcamp.com
Purchase Peace of Mind, Mind of Peace: https://jaycinema.bandcamp.com/album/peace-of-mind-mind-of-peace