Beat Assembly is a night of show-and-prove for local producers. Every month, Crown & Harp on Greenville Avenue plays host to a meeting of musical minds. It's one half party, the other half a workshop of original instrumentals.
Producer battles aren’t anything new, but hip-hop ambassador Joel Salazar, aka Leo J, has put a spin on the format for Beat Assembly. “I did this event primarily because I was hosting beat battles for about a couple of years and I started finding a bunch of producers that just wanted to play their sounds and not battle," he says. "I thought there needed to be another platform for producers to just play their music and network with other like-minded people."
Beat Assembly is rooted in hip-hop but last Thursday's installment, dubbed “The EDM Edition,” focused on that genre. Non hip-hop artists have joined the fray before, and Salazar says Beat Assembly has always welcomed other forms of music
“This was the second Beat Assembly where we featured EDM producers," he says. "In the past I had hosted a couple of EDM beat battles with Tog Bomb of the Hi-Yahs, and when I switched the format over to just a producer showcase, Tog wanted to help again. I was all about it. He’s been amazing at curating the EDM showcases we co-produced."
The producer roster last Thursday included Yung Cloud, Slotz, Evolv3, Rayburger, Reign, KXZ, Paragrime, Stone Castle, Tony, Cable Gvys, Owl-B and Matt Lamb. Three panelists assessed the work: producer PrototypeRaptor, Austin Maddox of DJ/producer duo Lady Parts and Tog Bomb.
One by one, participants braved the stage to present their sonic creations to the audience and for critique by members of the panel. Any artist knows that having your work dissected while you’re present can be a daunting, gut-wrenching task, regardless of your chosen medium.
But the beat craftsmen participating said they weren't experiencing any anxiety. "I wasn't really nervous about having my work critiqued. I was excited for it," says Rayburger. "About a year ago I participated in a similar event, and that was nerve-wracking, because I'd never had a music critique before, especially not in front of a crowd. Fast forward to now, I'm more confident in my sound so I'm excited to show off my music."
Owl-B agreed, saying the comfortable environment plays a key role in calming nerves. “The atmosphere is nice," he says. “You’re around some fellow producers who probably struggle with the same exact problems that you do. We’re all just nerds in black V-necks who like loud music. The biggest takeaway I had was meeting new people. I believe a strong community is essential to a musician. One could have insane talent, but if they don’t have relationships with their peers, the road to success is limited.”
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This sentiment was echoed by the thick-bearded vape enthusiast Yung Cloud, who was mellow in both his stage presence and his responses to our questions.
"No nerves. I got over stage fright a long time ago, thank God," he says. "I wouldn’t change any of those tracks [I brought] — I only played heat. I love Beat Assembly; it’s a great space for producers to come together and share music. Many producers aren’t exactly social butterflies, so having a place where we can all meet up is awesome."
Tog Bomb hopes Beat Assembly will act as a training vessel where producers can hone their skills, and ultimately yield better artists. "One of the problems dance producers make is making music that’s popular instead of making music that they like listening to," he says. "When you do that you get stuck or put in this bubble of being a certain type of producer and it’s really hard to get out of that said bubble. Also, a lot of dance music producers start looking for management and labels too early, before their music production ability is ready."
He believes the coaching and networking opportunities supplied by the forum can help producers avoid these mistakes and prepare for long careers. With positive feedback from both participants and organizers, Beat Assembly is poised to be a formidable talent incubator in the DFW music scene for the foreseeable future.