"I Just Ride the Wave and Roll with Vibe": A Buscrates Interview
The multi-genre artist breaks down his production origins, early work, and the making of his 'Eternal Ridin'' collaboration with Libretto.
Born the son of a Pittsburg DJ, veteran keyboard player and producer Buscrates developed a connection with music at the very beginning of his life. After an extended stint DJing and record collecting, his foray into production began in his early 20s after he picked up an Ensoniq EPS keyboard sampler before eventually shifting focus to an MPC 2000XL.
The hybrid style of sampling and exquisite live playing his fans are familiar with today started to take form in the late aughts after seven or eight years of mostly sample-based production. A production credit with the late Mac Miller’s former group The Ill Spoken provided an early breakthrough moment, as Buscrates deftly handled composition dutes on “The Real” form their 2008 mixtape How High.
Not long after a chance encounter with Black Ivory and Ace Spectrum songwriter Eugene Lemon at Manhattan’s Union Square Guitar Center led to increased interest in playing live keys. The two musicians hit it off and Lemon taught Buscrates some chords during their ensuing meetings.
From there he put out his first solo release in 2009—the self-titled 7-inch single BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble. A variety of albums, EPs, guest appearances, and singles have since followed.
In 2019 Buscrates entered an exciting new phase of his career by producing the entirety of Eternal Ridin’—a collaborative LP with Portland, Oregon-based MC Libretto released on Liquid Beat Records. According to the album liner notes, it’s a record where, “every song has its place, and every song tells its own story.”
In addition to telling a seamless musical story, Libretto & Buscrates sought to challenge themselves by taking often-used sample sources and making them sound fresh. “That’s what the whole premise of Eternal Ridin’ is,” Buscrates says. “Finding a bunch of samples that everybody knows, just trying to do it in a different way.”
Throughout the album Libretto & Buscrates provide listeners with a captivating listening experience by turning the familiar into something novel. On the record’s third cut “Sentences,” Libretto and guest MC Vic Spencer paint a somber picture of life inside the federal penitentiary. To provide them with an appropriately stark backing track, Buscrates meticulously put the beat together with sample that fans of EPMD, Jay-Z, and YG will recognize. “That’s actually the original sample, but I layered it—like some of the bass parts,” he says. “I used a KORG MS-20 mini with some other little synth sounds and stuff.”
In addition to the KORG MS-20 mini, Buscrates utilized another important part of his production arsonal to make the beat. “I actually started that on my iPad in Beatmaker 3,” he says. “I hadn’t really used it that much, but for some reason that day I was just messing with that record and I said, ‘Let me see what I can do with this, let me chop this up.’”
On “Rappas,” which is also assisted by Vic Spencer, Buscrates sought to emulate the sound of his early production. He also wanted to provide listeners with little bells and whistles to make the music stick in their mind. “That's one of the things I get from when I was on the MPC back in the day,” he says. “You get the track going, but you always want to have what we call stickers—just these little vocal stabs or little noises to hit you out of nowhere.”
“Stuck in Time” featuring Rich Hunter and CEG is an incredibly beautiful instrumental that stands tall as one of the finest pieces of production from Buscrates’ career. Surprisingly, this reflective and somber track wasn’t born out of any significant or emotional life circumstance. Instead, it came to Buscrates during a session where he let himself create freely and without expectation. “I think it just comes out of the music,” he says. “I just go wherever it takes me. I just ride the wave and roll with vibe, you know?”
Though the entire Eternal Ridin’ project and subsequent 2020 instrumental version are both points of pride for Buscrates, the selection “Culture” stands out to him as a unique creative moment that revitalizes a well worn Bob James classic. “I was really happy with how my interpolation of ‘Nautilus’ came out,” he says. “That's a sample that's been used and abused a billion times since 1987. So for me to be able to put my own spin on it and still sound fresh, and also the way Libretto rhymed on that and what he was saying, it was the perfect. It was the perfect match.”
After such an impressive debut together, time will tell if Libretto and Buscrates have another join effort up their sleeves. For now there are plenty of other projects to tackle. In addition to Eternal Ridin’, Buscrates kept himself busy recently with a co-production credit on “From The Start” from Wiz Khalifa & Curren$y’s 2009 album, his 2020 LP Blasting Off, and a variety of other creative endeavors.
Whether making an entire album with one MC, guest producing a single cut, or working on a full-length solo record, the mission remains the same for Buscrates. He’s just, “trying to bring some beauty to an ugly ass world, man.”
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