Making beats with P-Money (+audio)

By Chris Schulz

P-Money has two new records out, so he invited Chris Schulz into the studio to watch him make some beats. Here's what happened ...

P-Money.
P-Money.

P-Money's head is nodding as his hands move quickly between a laptop, a sample pad and a turntable to manipulate the swelling bass beat booming out of his speakers.

Sitting at the helm of the studio in Dirty Record's Kingsland offices, it's fair to say the Kiwi hip-hop producer is in his element.

After 10 beatmaking minutes in which a chipmunky sample from a dusty 1970s record has been caressed into a storming hip-hop beat, P-Money stops, swivels around in his chair, smiles and says: "That's the f****** shit."

Phew. If P-Money is happy, that makes TimeOut happy. We'd jumped at the chance to make some beats with him, but walking up the stairs to the studio, it's fair to say there were nerves.

P-Money, aka Peter Wadams, had asked us to take records up for him to sample. So we thought we'd give him a challenge.

Among our selection is the kind of castoffs you'd find for 50c at a garage sale, like shameful Swedish Brass, earnest 70s folk and a selection of "contemporary" 60s soul crooners.

There's also something called Exotica: Manuel and the Music of the Mountains.

As TimeOut hands the torn and worn vinyl collection over to P-Money, we were having seconds thoughts. Getting laughed out of the studio was a serious concern.

Thankfully, P-Money doesn't just embrace the records - he already owns some of them. Turns out he loves old records - the more random, the better.

"Digging through records and finding beats and breaks and samples and cool bits ... that's the fun of it," he says, eyeing up the collection excitedly.

"When taken out of context and looped up they can become really rhythmic and cool."

If anyone should know, it's P-Money. He's been sampling records to make beats since his teens, and his success as a producer has taken him from the top of the New Zealand charts to, more recently, New York, the home of hip-hop where some of his favourite records were made.

It's there that he made Backpack Travels, his latest record, with Buckshot, the Brooklyn rapper P-Money has been a fan of since he was 15.

It's one of two releases he has out this month, with The Baddest an EP he made with dancehall singer Gappy Ranks.

So, while he was busy making beats out of TimeOut's bad records, there was plenty to talk to P-Money about.

TimeOut: Your new album Backpack Travels is a throwback record to 90s hip-hop. How did it happen?

P-Money: (My record label) Duck Down presented me with the opportunity. I'm very much a fan of Buckshot. In my mind he's on a par with all the rapppers of that era. Nas, Jay Z - I always see Buck in the same place. I was listening to it as a 15-year-old and I'd think, the way he raps, the beats - this is the best music I've ever heard. So I said yes quite quickly.

Did you feel pressure to live up to Buckshot's legacy?

It's a huge honour, a real thrill and internally, there's a lot of pressure that I put on myself to live up to my own expectations of how good that music should be. And, as an artist, there's crippling self-doubt. But the first two tracks we've leaked have been received really well, and fans are saying the things I was going for: 'Oh it reminds me of back then but it's new', 'It's really raw', 'This is what Buckshot should sound like.'

How was the album made?

I went through my batch of ideas of what he might sound good on and sent him 10 tracks. He chose two, so I really had to put on my thinking cap. What does he like about those two? Where are we going with this? I'd send him these New Zealand-style emails: "Hello Mr Buckshot, this is what I'm presenting you today." He'd reply: "I need the big drums." Eventually we landed on 10 [beats].

What does he think of the album now it's finished?

He came into the Duck Down offices and said: "P-Money, you've given me my best album since (rap trio Black Moon's) Enta Da Stage. That's his debut album - the one I used to listen to. That was goosebumps. Even the guys there, they were like, 'That's a huge compliment, he doesn't say stuff like that'. I didn't believe it but then he said it in press. From that point on, I didn't care what happened with the album [because] he's happy.

You've also released an EP with Gappy Ranks that's very different to the hip-hop sound you're known for. How did that come about?

I've always been a low-key fan of dancehall voices but I've never done anything like that because I've never met a legit ragga vocalist. This dude's the real deal. We had one day in Red Bull's studio [in Grey Lynn]. We got to the studio, I had tracks ready, and he's a spontaneous character. He'd listen to a beat, walk behind the mic and start singing the song, no pen and paper. Honestly, 45 minutes to an hour, first song done. We did four more songs.

These are very different projects - are you trying to challenge yourself more and more?

I'm taking projects on that I'm interested in - if the artist has something special. Buckshot's a no-brainer. I know the New York sound - it's the foundation of my sound. Gappy's a remarkable writer - I haven't worked with anyone like that. His voice - that was exciting, I like the sound. It's special, it's a challenge. I'm always looking for new things, but I also want to cross off some of those things on my bucket list.

And with that, P-Money gets back to the beatmaking. After sizing up the artwork of TimeOut's selections, he chooses the Exotica record - front cover: seductive redhead holding flowers - and lays the vinyl on his turntables.

It takes just seconds to find what he's looking for.


DJ P-Money, right, and rapper Buckshot.

As a swelling orchestral intro booms out of the speakers, P-Money declares: "I told you this would be good. We've hit the jackpot."

What follows is 10 minutes of what TimeOut can only describe as madness. The sample is cut, sped up, looped and tweaked so fast P-Money's hands are a blur as they speed around the table, working the equipment like the pro he's become.

By the time drum patterns and bass parts are added, the sample is unrecognisable from that which he started with. He's turned it into the kind of brash, bombastic, hard-hitting symphony you could imagine Ghostface Killah doing amazing things with.

Click below to listen to the beat:

We're impressed, but we want to know, how did P-Money know that sample would work?

"You just develop a taste and an ear for things. I could sit here all day with this just coming up with things but sometimes you've just gotta go with what sounds cool."

Who: P-Money
New albums: The Baddest EP with Gappy Ranks and Backpack Travels with US rapper Buckshot, both out now.
Further listening: Big Things (2002), Magic City (2004), Everything (2010), Gratitude (2013).

- TimeOut

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