'AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT': A sndtrak Video Interview

To coincide with his Street Corner Music debut, the Oakland producer gives an in-depth breakdown of his popular #YouWereMineFlipChallenge entry for the first ever Micro-Chop video interview.

Oakland-based producer and sessionin showcase resident sndtrak has long been interested in film and video. In high school he took an editing class with his friends and ran around with a camera shooting amatuer footage. As a self-proclaimed film buff he also has extensive knowledge about a wide range of movies.

More recently sndtrak gained widespread recognition for his innovative sample challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter. These short, imaginative clips have helped him win over new fans and tap into a different aspect of his creativity.

In short, sample challenge videos are a way of conveying a message that can’t always be expressed through music alone. “When I hear music, I see things in my head to go with the music, but [I’m not] always able to translate myself,” he explains. “The videos allowed me to do that.”

His clips first started to take off in the fall of 2020 when sndtrak tried his own hand at a few sample challenges that were gaining traction online. One of the first competitions he entered was the Micro-Chop #SwinginFlipChallenge. A flood of positive feedback inspired him to enter more. 

Subsequent sample challenge entries showcased enhanced creativity. When sndtrak entered the #RunToFlipChallenge less than a week later at the end of November 2020, he utilized rapid video cuts and synced the visuals perfectly with his elaborate sample chopping. 

He also injected bits of humor by pantomiming some of the more emotional Jones Girls’ vocals included in his beat. The funny elements and rapid-fire visual style enhance the music by drawing the viewer’s attention to the smacking drums, aggressive chops, and beautiful chords layered on top.

As sndtrak continued recording and posting flip videos, he realized the process of putting visuals to his beats helped him work through a mentally draining 2020 while simultaneously making the production process fun again. Instead of aiming for specific outcomes when he sat down to make music, the videos allowed him to create freely. “Throughout the year I've just been really burnt out,” he says. “Not that it hasn't been fun, but it's more so turned into a job, you know what I mean? The flips allowed me to be a kid again.” 

They also gave him a greater appreciation for the compositions he reconstructed by giving him time to sit with and think about each original recording. “The flips allow me to kind of see what's going on with the song,” he says. “You know, ‘Why did I pick this part? Why do these chords make me feel this way?’”

Though the sample challenges may have started out as a simple release from the daily producer grind, sndtrak’s take on Bob James’ oft-utilized “Nautilus” launched him into a new stratosphere of visibility. James’ atmospheric classic has been flipped over 350 times since it was released in 1974 and some might even argue that the song has been beaten to death at this point.

That didn’t stop the Oakland beatsmith from somehow breathing fresh air into very well traveled territory by providing listeners with an incredibly rich, textured, and ultimately unforgettable reimagining of the original tune. Once again, the accompanying video only enhanced the overall experience.

The “Nautilus” flip quickly took off at the time of its posting in December and caught the eyes and ears of many esteemed rappers and producers. Before long sndtrak was in touch with Street Corner Music founder and veteran DJ/producer House Shoes about releasing an album full of flips. And he recently took first place in a Tracklib/9th Wonder “Nautilus” beat battle. The competition was fierce but sndtrak’s interpretation of Bob James ultimately ruled the day.

Fans will have to wait and see what exciting opportunities come of the Tracklib/9th Wonder situation. For now the focus is on sndtrak’s Street Corner Music debut AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT, which drops on Friday, June 4th. The album promises a wide range of impressive flips from a diverse list of sources, including one song that deconstructs The Twilight Zone theme.

To coincide with the release of his Street Corner Music debut, I’ve decided to release the video for a Zoom interview I conducted with sndtrak at the end of 2020. Though the original plan was to release it earlier, it seemed to make more sense to put it out alongside his new album.

In the video sndtrak and I talk for a bit about the general process of making flips for sample challenges. Then he gives a comprehensive, in-depth breakdown of his creation for the #YouWereMineFlipChallenge by taking the beat apart and explaining all of the various elements he utilized to make the song.

I really hope you enjoy the first Micro-Chop foray into video. Many thanks to sndtrak for being so open and generous with his creative process.

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