When it comes to genres that have been allowed to flourish in the age of the online music cloud, few have risen to greater prominence than future sounds, better known to most as beats culture. An all-encompassing, chimeric blend of electronic, hip-hop and soul, beats takes DJs and producers of more traditional disciplines and infuses their aesthetics with the lush, groovy and unconventional elements of such sub-genres as dub, trap, chill, juke, house, tribal, sampling, chopped and screwed and many other lesser-known strata of club music and beat building.
While the spiritual home of beats culture lies in streaming services like Soundcloud, its true epicenter comes from the L.A.-based collective Soulection. But because this all exists online, there's been no regional limitations to the proliferation of beats culture. Dallas is currently enjoying an especially notable wealth of beats talent. Here are four such local artists leading the way for beats culture in Dallas.
Larce Blake turns 20 years old in November, marking 10 years that he's been creating music. A classically trained pianist since age 10, Blake was never the biggest fan of Mozart and Beethoven, holding a youthful preference for piano renditions of popular music. "I recreated 'Rubber Band Man' by T.I. in the fourth grade," he recalls. It's his musical proficiency and the sensibilities of a hip-hop and anime-influenced millennial generation that allows Blake to create compositions that are both ethereal and dope.
A seamless blend of hip-hop, electronic and R&B, he describes his music as a series of soundscapes ideal for studying and relaxing: "It's something you can just zone out to and let embellish in the background." Inspired by the production of Ryan Leslie and 9th Wonder, musicianship has always stood out to Blake. So when he was introduced to FL Studios in middle school, it wasn't long after that he began to produce rap beats for his friends. Five years later, Blake found himself growing tired of the confines of producing for others. "Making rap beats is kind of constricting, you know?" he says. "What I was allowed to make became based on what other people, particularly rappers, would like."
Upon graduating high school, Blake's rap clique disbanded and, with the room to create to his own standards, the 18-year old began to steadily flesh out his sound. It was after only a few Soundcloud posts and tireless promotion of his work to various beats culture tastemakers that Blake's "Nancy Wilson" composition was noticed by Complexion, the London collective responsible for the increasingly popular "Future Beats Show." The impact was immediate. "Nancy Wilson," just two months later, is now well over 9,000 plays and the exposure has introduced Blake to new fans and potential collaborators.
Blake credits this to the graciousness of the people who support his craft and his decision to empower himself just two years ago. "I just want to empower people and for people to empower themselves. I would have not been creating the type of music I'm making now had I not chosen to do what made me happy, had I not empowered myself."
Dream Child (dc)
Dream Child, preferably stylized as (dc), is the stage name of 21-year-old Sean Price. Originally from South Texas, (dc) found himself near Hurst-Euless-Bedford as a teenager, trying to flesh out a passion for music he's had since he was a child. After navigating the ins and outs of FL Studios, (dc) began producing beats for his rapper friends. Five years later, (dc) is no longer playing second-fiddle to emcees; instead he's one of the most anticipated producers in Dallas.
Heavily influenced by the production of Kanye West, the Neptunes and Mr. Carmack, his sound could be best described as spacey instrumentals that are intended to take the listener on an audio journey. (dc) incorporates everything from smooth R&B to gritty hip-hop and electronic elements. This formula, combined with his characteristic passion for everything he touches, has proven beneficial. His month-old composition "5AM" amassed over 2,000 plays in its first 24 hours due, in part, to the Future Sounds collective, Complexion (who'd just featured good friend, Larce Blake) reposting the track onto their timeline of over 18,000 Soundcloud followers.
(dc) credits Soundcloud for providing a platform that allows instrumentalists like himself to be exposed to audiences instantaneously. "I have a list of all the people and groups that I send my beats to when I drop them," he explains. "Complexion picked it up, reposted it and because of that, there are people that have become fans and supporters and, in turn, now subscribe to my Soundcloud."
When asked what he wants people to take away from his music, (dc) responds, "I want you to do you. Do what makes you happy. Don't live your life trying to satisfy what other people want. I had to pretty much change my performance name and identity because I'd fallen under the trap of making what people wanted to hear instead of answering to myself. Once I let go, that's really when things began to show their potential."
(dc) will be collaborating with Larce Blake on an instrumental EP soon to be released
Brandon Blue, better known to most as Blue, the Misfit, is the 28-year old emcee/producer responsible for this year's Best Local Album, Child in the Wild. But he's long since made it clear to us that he's a producer first and foremost. With credits that include his former role in Sore Losers, Dorrough and the Kendrick Lamar-led rap powerhouse TDE, there's an entire community of artists, fans and supporters that can readily attest to Blue's production mastery.
Originally inspired by one of, if not the greatest hip-hop producer of all-time, Timbaland, Blue credits his first venture into producing 10 years ago to the man responsible for virtually every instrumental graced by Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, Ginuwine and Justin Timberlake. "For one, you can always point out a Timbaland beat when you hear it," he says. "And for two, his production has really expanded the audio spectrum in the genre. Timbaland beats always add a completely different element to whatever he's a part of."
Blue feels his greatest strength is that he exercises his creativity to its outermost limit every time he commits to a project. "None of my beats are the same. You can't say any two beats are the same," he says of his production. "I'm always being as creative as possible and every beat is experimental, with that signature Blue twist to it."
Outside of the acclaim Blue has received from his strides in hip-hop, he is responsible for War Club, a series of electronic and hip-hop infused flips of popular songs. War Club, as he puts it, is an avenue for things that hip-hop artists and audiences aren't always receptive to: "For as long as I can remember, I've had beats in the vault that no one felt they could do anything with. War Club gives me the avenue to express and experiment."
The growth of the online beats community is something that both excites and inspires Blue. "War Club was also partly inspired by the beats culture movement," he says. "I'm a fan of a lot of creators in the Soundcloud community. It's a melting pot of people expressing themselves and it allowed me an opportunity to share my less-conventional stuff."
Blue's War Club remix of Portugal, the Man's "Purple Yellow Red & Blue" was re-posted by the original artist to their two million-odd followers and has currently logged over 49,000 plays. Blue's take on it all? "I'm all about putting your fate into your own hands. Do your own thing and your own stuff," he advises. "People that fuck with it will flock to you and those who don't, well, it's not for them. If you build it, they will come."
X the Misfit
X'Zavier Edwards, better known as X the Misfit, is an emcee, producer and creative that most have come to recognize as Blue, The Misfit's right hand man, lending his guest verses, ad-libs and unfailing energy to his compatriot's impressive debut album and even more impressive live performances. What isn't as frequently recognized is X's undeniable résumé in just three years on the Dallas hip-hop scene.
X, who describes his sound as experimental and limited to no specific genre, received his first beat-making program from a high school friend, who installed FL Studios into his computer and left him no instructions, no tutorials, no direction. "I was into all kinds of music in school, any genre," he recalls. "And more than anything, I loved the layers of the instrumental, the foundation of the beats. Half the time, I would get around to listening to the lyrics later because I was more so in touch with the music." Because of this, X found no problem putting together the elements that would become his first productions.
A skilled illustrator and writer, X put his other talents on the back burner and dedicated all of his energy into producing and in less than a year into his craft, he created what would become the instrumental canvas of A.Dd+'s "Can't Come Down." "That was easily my biggest accomplishment because whether you're dope or terrible at something, we all need that confirmation. That was my confirmation."
He's quick to credit the friendship and proximity of Blue, the Misfit in the development of his beat making. "He taught me everything I know. I've had the privilege of learning, taking and applying from his sound -- his amazing sound." Since "Can't Come Down," X has taken to perfecting his craft in lieu of pitching a constant stream of beats to rappers. "I still do both," he said. "But there's a freedom in experimenting that isn't allowed in just catering beats to rappers."
These experiments have found a home on X, the Misfit's Soundcloud page where one can find his unique brand of electronic instrumentals and remixes of artists from Alt-J to Outkast. It was on Soundcloud that X was introduced to Sango, the beats culture community's closest thing to Christ. "When I first heard Sango, that's when I realized things could change." From there, X began to flip popular tunes, including two of Chicago rapper Alex Wiley's songs, both of which he re-posted to his followers.
The result was a surge of both X's plays and confidence as a player in the future sounds community. "For me that showed the message behind my music," he said. "Do whatever you want to do. Whatever calls out to you, get good at it and do it."