With Never Can Say Goodbye, Beatnick and K-Salaam Are about to Say Hello
What if you could take Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” and remix it from scratch, replacing it’s honeyed saxophone flutterings and cool guitar licks with funky arpeggiated organs and hip-hop drums? Wouldn’t that be out of this world? Well, guess what? K-Salaam and Beatnick beat you to it. The dj/producer duo recently released Never Can Say Goodbye, which reworks eight classic soul goodies. The result is pure audio gumbo. It’s a breakout project for a breakout duo, who has experienced an influx of commissioned work from major artists, film companies, and television networks this past year. In other words, OKP had a chat with these guys while their booking pencil was still sharp.
OKP: So what y’all got cooking lately?
K-Salaam: We’re really focusing on our live performance, live on the spot, or on the turntables. Whether it’s bass guitar, solo guitar or keyboard, we got our routine.
OKP: Besides live performance, how else are you guys publicizing yourself? Are you iTunes guys? Are you youtube guys?
Beatnick: We’re everything.
K-Salaam: If you search our name, we’re on every hip-hop blog, I would say we’re blog guys, but whatever’s gonna get our music out there, we’re gonna push.
OKP: I’m sure cats get intimidated by the quality of your beats. Does that ever effect whom you work with?
K-Salaam: That’s when the best music is made, when you have someone who is on the same level as the beats. That’s kind of a problem for us. Not to be arrogant, but I think artists sometimes feel intimidated by the quality of the beats. I’ve heard some big artists say you guys should dumb your music down on more than one occasion, and we decided that we’re not gonna do that. This came from mainstream wack artists, and also from some of the greatest MC’s. They said, “I’m not spitting on your track, I feel like I’m competing with it.”
Beatnick: That’s not something we can change. We’re not gonna set the bar down.
K-Salaam: If they said the beats were too busy and there’s no room to spit, that’s a different subject. But the beats are open for hip-hop and R&B artists to do their thing on it.
OKP: In no necessary order, who are the best artists you’ve ever collaborated with?
Beatnick: Well, two off the bat that came out of nowhere are these two dudes named Chavito and Pabey. I mean, people don’t know about these dudes, but they did this song over one of our tracks a while ago that actually ended up on the Where The Streets Have No Name project we just put out. The dude, first of all, was rapping in Spanish and his delivery was so on point. That just takes our music and multiplies it.
K-Salaam: I’ve been in the studio with Sizzla, four years ago when Jay-Z was trying to sign him. Everybody was trying to sign Sizzla. At that time, we had a bunch of songs with him that we hadn’t released. Working with him was crazy when he was in his prime. Being in the studio working with Pharoahe is crazy. Talib sounds great over our tracks. Young Buck, Lil Wayne, I mean we worked with the best of them, man. Things are starting to happen to us. I really feel like things are starting to fall in place. Like we can call such and such’s manager anytime and he’ll sit down with us. Things are looking good.
OKP: I’m definitely seeing your name more these days. So, what comes to mind when you hear the word “greatness”?
K-Salaam: Focus, hard work, dedication, talent, and luck.
Beatnick: The music that makes you feel tingles up and down your spine.
OKP: Over the summer, there have been a lot of celebrity deaths, which ones have been most significant to you?
Beatnick: Well obviously Michael Jackson. Except when I was younger, I’ve never really listened to Michael Jackson, but indirectly his music has influenced so many artists, such that I’ve been influenced by him indirectly.
K-Salaam: Obviously Michael Jackson. He had a huge effect on my childhood. My mom was a Michael Jackson fan. My pops he was an Iranian immigrant. He didn’t really even speak English well, but Michael Jackson was his favorite person. He took us to some big Michael Jackson concert and we had the best time of our life. My pop was in New York, staying with us when Michael passed and that was crazy, dude. I never heard [DJ] AM spin. I was really surprised that even when he had it all, he was coked out on drugs. That’s sad, man. It was really sad. He put up a production team, djing. He’s doing all these great shows and $30,000 [per show]. All that money and everything, but it doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.
OKP: Hmm, that’s serious. What were some the most memorable tracks you’ve collaborated on?
K-Salaam: I would say first and foremost is the Never Can Say Goodbye project, especially the title track.
Beatnick: Download it for free. I think a lot of people (including Okayplayer) said, “This is free, I wonder how I can pay for this somehow.” I would say if you wanna buy the instrumentals or buy the t-shirt, pay for it like that. If it’s a choice, you really don’t have the money, it’s all good. Spread the word. Spread the business.
OKP: Any other memorable tracks?
K-Salaam: I would say like Beatnick, it’s this Michael Jackson project Never Can Say Goodbye. I know people are gonna say this is arrogant and I gotta give Nick the credit, but we made it better than the original song and I know that’s a bold statement, but I really feel that way.
I don’t think it’s a biased opinion. In any other situation, it would just be like promotion or ego. I challenge people. If you don’t believe us, listen to it. See if it’s as good as the original “What’s Going On”. If you feel like it’s not as good as the original, let us know. We want to know as producers. To me, that’s what makes me proud to work with Beatnick. When you take a classic song by Michael, Marvin, or Stevie for something else and make it as good or better than the original song, that’s more hip-hop bragging rights than producing on someone’s album.
OKP: Oh definitely. That’s one thing I envy about DJ’s and producers, when I see projects like the one you guys came out with and J. Period does stuff where he does remixes of classic joints. If you can take a classic song, remake it, and give it a whole new blood, that’s just serious.
K-Salaam: Our production is from scratch from the ground up. Beatnick doing the instruments, playing the drum tracks, also doing a lot of structure, chorus and chord changes. That’s what sets us a part from taking little instrumentals.
OKP: True, true. On some of that other stuff, they’ll take an instrumental from one song and mix it with a totally different song, but yours is straight from scratch with original instrumentals tailored to the song.
K-Salaam: The other thing is every instrument is played. From the bass line to drum tracks. That in itself is crazy because we put a guitar over a sample and it has just the same chord structure.
OKP: Have you guys ever been approached to do a soundtrack to a TV show or a movie?
K-Salaam: TV stuff, movies, commercials and finally some major artists will be spitting over our tracks on their albums. We don’t wanna put our names on anything until the money is on our pocket, you never know these days. But to answer your question, we have a lot of stuff coming up. Movie stuff, all that.
OKP: Wow. I’m real excited. Anything else you guys wanna say?
K-Salaam: We’re going to be doing a Nirvana remix pretty soon to show our versatility. Also, if you want beats, you gotta have your money up. We don’t need you anymore. They think they can get away with shit that doesn’t quite clear the bar. Step it up.