Teddy Roxpin [Interview]

There’s a good chance if you listen to rap, you’ve heard of Mac Miller. Whatever your opinion of him, there’s also a good chance you’ve heard ‘Get Up’ which now has 11.5 million views on YouTube. Recently, I got the chance to sit down with the man behind the boards, Boston-based producer Teddy Roxpin. Along with his work for Mac Miller, he has crafted beats for other Pennsylvania artists, including Tayyib Ali, Moosh and Twist, and Ground Up, and is currently part of live band Sweatbox, who are in the finalizing their debut album. We got the chance to speak about his origins and influences, his productions style, and the current state of the production game, and a few other things. Check it out below:

Xhjyl: So Teddy, how did you get your start in the production game?

Teddy Roxpin: When I moved from Boston to Maine, I asked my parents to buy me a iMac and a keyboard for me to make beats on. When I first got there, I didn’t really know anybody, so I just kinda stayed to myself and made beats all day. That’s how I got good at it. As the months went on I started meeting people that were really into hip-hop and those became my homies. We’d just hang out, make music and talk hip hop at my house.

X: That’s pretty chill. Since then how has your production set up changed? What’s the lab look like nowadays?

TR: It’s pretty much exactly the same set up. I added an MPC and a [Korg M3] keyboard from my manager and the vinyl collection has increased, but I still use GarageBand and everything. A lot of people kinda freak out or get pissed when they hear that. They’re like, “What do you mean [you use GarageBand]? Why don’t you use something better?” That’s just what I’ve used since the day I moved to Maine; it’s really comfortable for me. I’ve tried Fruity Loops; I have Logic; I took ProTools, but I just like GarageBand, so the set up hasn’t really changed. Also, I use the MPC a little differently from other producers. I don’t make my beats on it; it’s just a gateway to my computer. I’ll go through my records and add a sample, a sound or whatever to MPC for the day, but it fills up fast. I have that old one and even with the memory upgrade, I only get like 190 seconds worth of samples. So I just put them into GarageBand and work from there. I don’t do any of my drum programming on the MPC.

X: Interesting. It goes to show that it’s not the tools, but the artist. I was reading a previous interview and you said DJ Premier was your favorite producer. You clearly have that Boom-Bap sound, so I was wondering where your influence comes from and if Primo is still your guy?

TR: (Laughing) I wonder how old that interview was. I used to say Primo was my favorite, now he’s a very, very close second to J. Dilla. Primo is one of the, if not the, greatest producer of all time, but he has a very specific sound and he’s mastered it. You know what it is that Boom-Bap with the cutoff samples.

So many people have bitten that or been inspired by that, including me a certain points in time. (Laughter). As I matured as a producer and listened to more types of music, started drifting more towards Dilla because he was more of a musician. He played like 13 instruments and had so many styles. I don’t know, you can tell when it’s a Primo beat, but there are times when it will surprise you that it’s a Dilla beat. He just has a large scale of different types of sounds and instrumentation.

X: I feel you. I fuck with Dilla. That “So Far To Go”/”Bye” beat is one of my favorites ever.

TR: Yeah, the first time I heard “Bye” I was like, “oh shit, he just made [So Far To Go], not as hard and more musical.

X: I was wondering, how has working with Mac Miller, specifically on “Get Up!”, put you on?

TR: Well, Mac is definitely the biggest artist I’ve worked with and that working with him is a great experience. You think of Mac now and he’s a celebrity, even beyond the Hip-Hop world, but when we got to him, people knew who he was, but not everybody. We, me and my manager, got him before he started blowing up. It helped me expand my fan base and gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of other artists, like Chris Webby, Hoodie Allen, Tayyib Ali, Young Chris, Moosh and Twist. While I’m at it shout out to Ground Up and my homie Andrew Milicia out in Philly. But yeah, Mac helped start it off.

X: I bet. Mac is crazy big now. On an unrelated note, what do you think of that Trap/Electro sound, like TNGHT that’s rising through the rap game? Are you a fan or do you stick to that old school, Boom-Bap shit?

TR: I love that old school Boom-Bap, but I also love a lot of stuff. I love the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, but I also live the crossover shit and how different artists are expanding and trying new things. When I heard the Trap shit, I didn’t understand what it was all about cuz Trap to me was that Southern rap, like in the trap or whatever. It definitely has influences from the South, with the 808s and the slower tempo, but it also has dubstep and other electronic music in it. They took the Trap that’s been around and tweaked it to make it harder hitting and more futuristic. I like most of the Trap music I hear.

Especially that TNGHT EP, that’s what I fuck with the most. It’s next level shit and I hadn’t really heard a full project that knocks like that. My girl actually found it on Spotify when it dropped and I was blown away. It’s perfect for the trunk, something to ride around to and something to throw on at parties, so I am definitely a fan of the Trap movement.

X: So I have two more questions for you. I’m sure there’s a lot of your fans or fans of artists in general that would love to live off music and I’m just wondering what it’s like to actually do it.

TR: It’s really tough and really stressful. There are times when you feel on top of the world and it’s going great. Then there are times when your’re stressed out and you don’t know what to do. I love it though. It’s just a lot of work and keeping you head up and the hustle going can be hard. It can really fuck with you cuz its your art, your craft and you don’t wanna sacrifice your creativity just because you can make a dollar. At the same time you do need to make a dollar, you need to keep a roof over your head and food on your plate. But you know, what’s the saying, “Anything that you don’t get butterflies in your stomach from isn’t worth doing.”

X: Yeah I feel you. My last one ties into that. What’s the best advice you’ve heard, or the best advice you have, for someone tryna come up off music?

TR: I would just say, keep working and keep that hustle going. Try your fucking hardest. People are gonna tell you that its not good or that sound isn’t gonna work or that’s not something people wanna hear. I fucking hate shit like that.  As long as you feel it’s the best you can do, that you have passion in it, then keep going. First they’re gonna ask you why your doing that, then they’re gonna ask you how you did it. People hate change, hate different shit, just keep doing you. Have faith in what you’re creating and keep that faith.

X: Good advice. Thanks a lot for your time and enjoy the Celtics game.

TR: (Laughter) Thanks man.

For more of Teddy, follow him on twitter and check his latest beat tape below.