Monday, February 21, 2011

Nuthin' But a G Thang Remix

This past summer, one of the projects that I did for one of my classes at Berklee was a remix of Dre's classic hip hop track, "Nuthin' But a G Thang." At the time, I did the entire project in Reason. This weekend, I was listening to the original, so yesterday afternoon I decided to dig out my project and start fresh, by re-building it from scratch in Ableton (with some major changes), just for practice. Here's the result:

Dr Dre feat Snoop - Nuthin' But a G Thang (Bolivia's Beats) by djbolivia


The original was released in 1993 and is pretty well known. It reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts that year, and VH1 listed it as number 3 on the top 100 hip hop tracks of all time, just a year or so ago. It's also included in Rolling Stone's "forty tracks that changed the world" list.

The project is certainly not perfect. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a clean original acapella, so the one I used has some obvious artifacts, such as the female vocal harmonies that pop up occasionally, and some extra light percussion. I also mangled the layout slightly - the song is set up as eight-bar sections and I didn't tie the verses to those sections accurately for the first third of the song, just because I was playing around with things. I kind of wish that I had access to the original clean vocals so I could do this properly, but I don't know how I'd find those, short of asking Dre for the original vocal files.

On a positive note, I tried to keep this extremely simple, so the project only uses audio loops that are included in the Live Pack, and no external VST's or VSTi's. Ableton doesn't have good brass sounds, so I created the horn section in Reason and exported it as an audio loop, to make sure that anyone with Ableton can see how everything works in this remix with no missing pieces. Even Reason isn't great - I would have rather played the horns live if I had a trumpet and trombone here at the studio. And there are several shortcomings, such as generic reverbs instead of tailoring them to instruments, lack of global grooves, etc., which I was ignoring because I was trying to "speed produce." But whatever. You've got to stop somewhere. If you're going to be a professional at this someday, you'd better get used to the dichotomy between deadlines versus enhancing artistic creativity.

There is practically no automation in this project aside from volume automation the arrangement view. The only exception is a bit of automation of the wet/dry on the ping pong on the keys. No filters anywhere. My general view is that if you need effects to make your productions sound good, you need to work on your basics more. It's like DJ'ing - no matter how much technical prowess you have, 90% of the job is programming (playing good tracks). So with this project, I tried to make it sound decent in a "quick and dirty" session, without obsessing about effects.

By the way, the school course that I took this for was the Hip Hop Production course at Berklee, taught by Michael Hamilton. I really learned a lot from this course, especially since I'm not as familiar with hip hop as I am with some other genres. And Michael was a great prof - if you read his bio, you'll see that he has an incredible amount of experience in the genre (and he's worked with Dre and Snoop and Warren G, among many other producers.

Anyway, like I say, this is just an educational project for me, but it was fun to play with yesterday. Repost if you like it though. Here's a link to the original video: