Words By Miki Hellerbach
The Producer’s Voice is a new series for GUAP where we highlight the stories of instrumental crafters. We hope to bring their stories to the forefront instead of kept behind the artist they are producing for.
LIKE is a producer with over a decade of work behind him and his production across that period clearly stands the test of time.
The brother duo of Pac Div rapper Mibbs and rapper/producer LIKE were the westside darlings of the blog era in the early 2010s. While they both came up in the game rapping, LIKE emerged as a producer on his own merit with a one two punch of producing “Family First” by Mac Miller feat. Talib Kweli and then soon after the first half of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” by Kendrick Lamar. The two brothers started their musical journey watching their father sing in church groups like one entitled Spirit Filled. By five years old Mibbs would rap while LIKE beatboxed at local gatherings channelling the Kool Moe Dee videos they’d seen on BET. From elementary to high school in the Inglewood, California area LIKE says they were known as “the rappers.” They’d continually battle and even individually form other rap groups with their friends.
After high school though, when LIKE’s hoop dreams dwindled, he and his brother began to pursue music full time. They’d eventually link with producer/manager Mark Sparks who famously composed the instrumental for Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before” and Grand Puba’s “I Like It”. Sparks would then introduce the guys to LA legend Kurupt who became a bit of a mentor.
They would then, with some backup to their direction, fully lock in their sound as LIKE would continually bring J Dilla loops to their main Pac Div producer Swift who would craft the perfect instrumentals for the brothers to rap over. A few mixtapes, and tours with Q-Tip, Cool Kids, N.E.R.D, and The Roots later, they were cemented by reputation.
Fast forward to 2011, LIKE and Pac Div was crafting their debut album with some help from contemporary LA producer mastermind DJ Dahi. Dahi introduced LIKE to the software Logic and opened up a whole new organic world of legit production to him. On the Pac Div debut album The Div he flexed his producer chops with tracks like “High Five”, “Brown”, and “Move On”. He also co-produced a bit with Dahi on the track “Posted”, one of Pac Div’s biggest tracks to this day. The instrumental crafter bug had caught LIKE, and this led to over a decade more of producing noteworthy tracks for a variety of acts in Hip Hop and R&B.
I asked LIKE to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.
“Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” by Kendrick Lamar
“I made that beat while we were on tour with Mac Miller over Thanksgiving. I sent it to K Dot at the time cuz I had his direct line. He was bugging out like, “This is crazy! I’m writing in the room with candles right now!” I was like, “Bet, that’s wassup.” At the time, he might’ve had section.80 but a few months later my boy Tunji, who’s now at RCA, was like, “K Dot wants the stem to the file in that beat.” Then that was my first major placement.
I had an mp3 labelled “Track 2” I think I got from Dahi. The thing about using Logic for it was the way I was chopping was to each individual key. So I was able to maximize like 88 keys worth of chops. With that particular sample, I heard so many different chords within those pieces and I was like, “I’m gonna take these chords, chop them up individually, then make something else out of it.” I think that’s the fine art of chopping samples. I think they should change the law for that. That’s interpolating but it’s different bro. I was able to make that record a whole new song. It wasn’t like I just looped it.
Because of my gospel background I can hear melodies, chords, and progressions. Like a 2 5 1 progression. Even though I didn’t know the theory technically I could hear it and piece it together. I came with the sample first but then came with some drums on some Bill Withers shit. I wanted a rim shot instead of a hard snare. I kept hearing that Bill Withers break and was like, “I’m about to do that over some jazz shit.” I knew it was tight cuz when it came out, one of my heroes Pete Rock was like, “WHO MADE THIS BEAT?!”
“Off The Lot” by Earthgang feat. Mereba
“That was dope. I remember going to that session, the homie from Chicago plugged me. I remember Malik Youssef and Mereba were in there with Earthgang too. I played them the beat and they came up with some shit. I remember I really liked their angle cuz they really make music cuz they’re passionate about it. I had made that beat at my studio and I was just tryna get weird. I remember my homie was there that day and he’s kind of a weird guy (laughs). A good weird ya know! At that time I was trying to make 3 to 5 beats a day. It was a loop that I pitched down and slowed down. Then I programmed those drums in. Sometimes I program drums over a drum break then kinda hide the break to give it more layers. Then I added a small bassline. It was a simple one because I didn’t wanna crowd it with too much.”
“Room In Here” by Anderson .Paak feat. The Game & Sonyae Elise
“So Anderson, previously Breezy Lovejoy, was a Pac Div fan and we used to do shows at The Key Club in LA. He had a band and would play live for us while we’d perform. He was on the come up and always super humble and respected our creativity and pioneering. He had reached out for beats and one I sent was this one. At the time, he already had a rough for Malibu and Nxworries [album]and he sent them to my email. When I listened I knew he was about to pop and then he had also met Dre. On his way up he grabbed me for this joint and I’m proud to be part of that album cuz it took him to the next level.
I made that beat in 2014 and I made it on Machine. It was like 2 or 3 years old at the time when he sang over it. When I make beats a lot of them don’t have an expiration date on them intentionally. I like shit like Camp Lo that still doesn’t sound dated to me. It took me like two years to get comfortable on Machine til I got to that sound where I was comfortable. I used Soundcloud as the barometer. I would throw beats on there and when they started doing numbers I knew I was ready. Machine isn’t linear so you have to chop audio pieces into segments. But I was with all that at the time. It was my first time using pads and a drum machine. I integrated the software with the hardware.”