The Producer’s Voice: YKKUB [@iamykkub]

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.

YKKUB is the man with a plan, pushing the boundaries of sound and what we expect from a producer.

South East London bred producer YKKUB sees his path to success through the path set by greats like Timbaland and Pharell. “They came into the game with a select amount of artists they could really focus on,” he explains, “then built a sound with them to really cut through”.

The artists YKKUB mainly crafts instrumentals for are Alté crooner Odeal and 90s nostalgia inducing rapper/singer R.A.E. The dynamism of this duo is potent and specific. With R.A.E., YKKUB gets to tap into his 90s R&B/Hip Hop influence from artists he loves (Brandy, D’Angelo, Method Man, Redman). Then with Odeal, he gets to craft with someone whose musical sentiments lie equally within his UK R&B upbringing as well as his Nigerian descent. The crossover then lies within his intention to make R&B cored music that is fully produced, contrasting the modern dichotomy of simple email beat sending. 

YKKUB grew up in a musical household centred around the church. He and his siblings would sing together in a group which helped him understand melody. Then his other love, percussion, was born it seems from nature as he found himself tapping on desks in school. This led to him teaching himself on a set in secondary school, a skill he brought back to church. When he heard the potential of combining both interests, it sparked the drive which has led him to where he is now. He’s accomplished all he has while studying to become a lawyer which may also help him as he also manages Odeal. Noone’s trajectory seems more organic, the second time he met Odeal was after having only made one song in a label meeting together. It’s safe to say YKKUB has caught lightning in a soundscape.

I asked YKKUB to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.

‘Answer Me’ by Odeal

“With coronavirus I was in lockdown with my girlfriend and it was made out of boredom. I always had a love for UK Garage music, but the amazing thing about Odeal is I can give him any beat and he’s gonna give me amazing melodies. So I made this garage beat but started with that vocal sample, which I recorded through my iPhone in my girlfriend’s closet. Then I sent it to Odeal and we wrote it on Facetime. He’s usually talking about a girl with quite a bit of emotion, but I wanted to capture something more fun and upbeat. With the drums I just wanted to make people move. I always use hi-hats and shakers to add the actual rhythm. But I wanted to make the actual drum punchy but sharp. Normally you can have a bit of a tail on a snare or something but I like my things to be really tight. It creates more space for the artist.”

‘Like This’ by R.A.E.

“When I made this song it had to be the happiest time of my life. Me Ibriahim (Kamara), and R.A.E. went on a music sabbatical. R.A.E. and Odeal are also producers in their own right and the sample on this song she had from a girl on a TV show. There was a scene where a kid said to a girl, “You can’t sing” then she was like, “Yes I can,” then they were like “Prove it,” and she sang that, “I like it I really really like it.” I think my inspiration behind that was Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G. because the feeling is deep but you can dance to it. Entertaining, but a reflection of where you come from. I like the duality.

One thing I did on that song I hadn’t done previously is I actually doubled up the drums with two kicks. It added a thickness to the low end. I wanted in general though, to keep it as sparse as possible. Timbaland and Pharell use like 6 or 7 sounds only. Like with ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ or ‘Grindin’’, simplicity is a real skill. I wanted to give her the space to say what she needed to say.” 

’24/48′ by Odeal

“At that time I’d just gotten my first studio and was trying to create new soundscapes. One important part about the transition into the producer I am now is putting a lot more time into enhancing as opposed to doing a lot in one period. For this one, I don’t play piano, but I took a long time to craft a chord progression on FL studio inserting all the sounds. Then I edited all the velocities to make it feel like actual chords were being played in, cuz that’s the base of the song. Then added a simple beat with light drums.

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Then we had a writing week with Odeal at my studio. End of the first day, I played it for him and the first thing that came to him was what’s on the song. We sat there and I didn’t have AC in my studio so we had to take our tops off and were there from 12 AM to 4 AM. It was a crazy moment. I knew the song had replay value cuz it was still playing while we slept from 4 AM to 8 AM and I didn’t get up to turn it off.

Later that day I played it for an amazing guitarist Gigi and asked if she reckoned she could play some on it. Her second take was what we kept the whole way through. Initially the drums were the whole way through, but when we listened back Odeal was like, “Can we listen with just the guitar?” So we did and we were like, “Oh my god this is mad.” Then I set it up to have the beat drop when it did.

I actually co-wrote part of the song as well, “I built my dignity, all my integrity,” that part. For Odeal to take it on, or have it in his song, I have to have something really really good. The song is about detailing a moment as if you’re about to lose the love of your life. What would you do?”

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