“Get a simple two-bar beat going with 8’s on the hat kick on 1 of the first bar and snares on 2 and 4. Build a loop with whatever you’re working with, knock out a b-line, and then knock the kicks up to the b-line. Then work on any different sections if there are any, then arrange it. After that it’s all down to what the vocalist does with it.” “Get a simple two-bar beat going with 8’s on the hat kick on 1 of the first bar and snares on 2 and 4. Build a loop with whatever you’re working with, knock out a b-line, and then knock the kicks up to the b-line. Then work on any different sections if there are any, then arrange it. After that it’s all down to what the vocalist does with it.” Confused yet? I was after I was given this explanation of how to put a hip-hop track together from London-based producer Circumstance. The 23 year-old Cornwall native has been making beats for four years. During the last eighteen months he has contributed to ‘Neon Verses’, the debut LP from Birmingham rap group The Elementz, and has provided excellent production on the ‘Substance presents… Lyric Superbrand’ compilation album.
If you have heard any of his work, you will be aware that Circumstance’s production has a rich, soulful sound to it. This is probably due to the fact that, as well as making hip-hop beats, Circumstance is also a jazz-funk musician. He has been playing the bass guitar for a decade and has recently started learning to play the piano. Though Circumstance believes that his musical training has definitely helped him with his hip-hop beat-making, he also values highly the art of sampling. “I think there are too many people that don’t think making tunes out of samples is talented,” he states. “I’ve heard it said to me loads, ‘Oh that’s where you knock out a loop and put a heavy beat behind it’. ‘So what?!!’ is what I say. Loads of the classics have been just that. I do think it’s a good idea to make your own ish up, but I’ve knocked out straight loops and I don’t feel that it’s anything less than the stuff that I’ve spent ages chopping up.” Circumstance adds strongly, “If it’s a straight loop, it’s one hell of a compliment to the original composer.”
Circumstance was first introduced to hip-hop when a friend lent him a copy of Nas’ seminal ‘Illmatic’ LP, and he began making beats soon after he enrolled in a music course at college. “At the end of the course I did a remix EP… you know just matching acapellas over tracks that I’d knocked up,” he explains. “Some of it was really simple stuff – Beatnuts beats that I’d chopped up… and old funk loops… The production wasn’t that great, but, it was my first effort. I got my own set-up after that and just started making beats.” In addition to several jazz-funk artists, Circumstance cites hip-hop acts like People Under the Stairs and Dilated Peoples as musical influences. He admires the work of Rodney P and the Nextmen, and dreams of working with Black Thought, the lead rapper for The Roots. Although it is clear that he has developed a definite taste for the music, Circumstance freely admits that he is still a relative newcomer to rap music. “I’ve only been into hip-hop seriously since about ’95 which in hip-hop [terms means that] I’m a bit of a baby. I listened to a lot of acid jazz before that just cause I liked the sound of it and didn’t know where to look for the proper stuff.”
Circumstance is now making up for lost time. He has recently completed production on a track for an artist called Michaelis Constant and he is also working with a female vocalist on a sample-free soul album. “I just like making music and my life has got to be the main source of inspiration,” he declares. “If I’m in a bad mood I’ll throw myself into beats. If I’ve been stupid enough to get weeded at the wrong time and my PC is there, I’ll make beats. That’s how [the track] ‘A King with Words’ came about.” The tune that Circumstance talks of is the debut effort from his new hip-hop group Beat Rhyme Connection. He describe his group’s music style as being ‘soulful’ and breaks down each member’s role as follows: “[There’s] myself on production, Taharka writes and performs the flows and [DJ’s] Sneakee and Clockwork do the cuts. We started the project about April of this year  and Taharka has been writing the lyrics since. Taharka’s background is in Birmingham where he hosts Thursday nights at the Medicine Bar… Sneakee and Clockwork are from my home county of Cornwall and we’ve known each other since school. Sneakee has entered all of the major DJ battles this year and he’s also just teamed up with Tiger Style and Dare Devil to form the DJ team ‘Untouchables’. Clockwork is a show DJ [and performs] excellent cut patterns with phrasing that really blows my mind.”
2002 is set to be a busy year for the Beat Rhyme Connection because after dropping the ‘A King With Words’ 12”, they are planning to release a three-part series of records. “The trilogy is going to be a set of vinyl releases consisting of two 12"s and a 5-track EP,” explains Circumstance. “The idea is behind it is to get maximum exposure for Beat Rhyme Connection by creating three releases, released in consecutive months. All the releases will be linked by [their sleeve design] and musical style. The basic idea behind it is just saying to everyone ‘we’re here!’”
All of the Beat Rhyme Connection’s material is to be released through UK Records Ltd, an independent label that Circumstance has recently set up. Although releasing homegrown hip-hop is not always the most lucrative of enterprises, he is still confident that his record label will be successful. To him, his goal is very simple: “To release phat tunes for the people, stuff that people in this country can relate to. I’m not disrespecting gangster rap, but it’s so far removed from this country that it’s not that real to us… [I just] wanna write tunes about phat nights out, old friends… stuff that anyone anywhere can relate to. It’s just about the music and pushing the UK scene.”