The production duo of K-Salaam and Beatnick have been heating up the internet for the past few years with production for everyone from Talib Kweli to Young Buck and remixes for songs by Michael Jackson among others. They’ve recently released a new album, titled Where The Streets Have No Name, generating a buzz and helping them land sponsorship from various companies.
It also generated enough interest that a distribution deal may be locked soon, where they’d re-release the album with re-vamped versions of their songs with international artists and again, giving it away free around the globe. The duo say it’s just the beginning.
The chemistry between the two, who’ve collaborated for years, is remarkably good. Beatnick being the beatmaker, now maybe even more than ever. “I’m more the dude in the executive chair that oversees it and guides it and makes things happen, like Dr. Dre” says K-Salaam of their partnership. “The fact that I come from a DJ background, and I know the art of beat making, makes it all come together. Beatnick is real easy to work with. He’s a real laid back dude. He’s easily the most talented person that I’ve ever met in my life. And I’ve been around a lot of talented people, from Pharoahe Monch to Buju Banton.”
Whether it’s for releasing online mixtapes or playing overexposed records in clubs, it seems like everyone easily goes by the name of “DJ”. Anybody can call themselves a DJ these days, but you still have to be dope to be considered a producer. K-Salaam pretty much accepted that the art of DJing is dead. He doesn’t even fret about it anymore. “New York created hip-hop, and New York killed hip-hop, especially with the DJ scene. I could talk about it for hours, but it’s just a part of life. I just learned to accept it. That’s why I’m focusing on producing with Beatnick,” says K-Salaam.
Despite K-Salaam’s feelings toward the demise of the genre, his move from Minnesota to New York was a plus for the twosome. Being in New York, they now have more opportunities as producers than they would have elsewhere in the country. New York is a huge media capital with many things going on. “We definitely have more opportunity to make moves here than we did in Minnesota. We’ve literally ran into people here. On many occasions this has happened. That would not be happening if we lived in Minnesota,” Beatnick says.
Not only did the art of DJing change throughout the years, the hip-hop genre also underwent a needed change overcoming race and class boundaries. However, the hip-hop that we listen to today definitely reinforces class boundaries. “It’s very self-destructive the way that rappers talk about money. It creates a culture where you have to be rich in order to be considered ‘somebody,’ and very few people truly live like that. I don’t know how much longer that type of rap is going to last,” Beatnick predicts. “People go to the club and they try to live that lifestyle. They spend all of their money on bottles, and then they go home and they have no food to eat the next day. It just confuses people’s priorities. Even Scott Storch went bankrupt off of that.”
The duo’s first album, The World Is Ours, and the social political message behind it was well received. K-Salaam and Beatnick addressed issues like poverty, war and racism as well as situations beyond the US borders. Both learned a lot from the project, including business tactics. “On the business side, I couldn’t even begin to start on what we would have done differently. But honestly, you live and you learn. I don’t have any regrets,” explains Beatnick. “We are using that experience to move forward right now. We’re more confident in our business moves and strategies now, and more focused. The business of the music is just as important, if not more important, than the music itself. We understand that now.”
Reggae played an important role on the album. While recording it, the guys were very positive about the creativity and pureness of Jamaican music. When it comes to working with different music genres, K-Salaam is down for whatever. “With reggae, I really listen to reggae music. I mean, I really love it,” he explains. “I didn’t consider our album a hybrid. I’m good friends with DAM from Palestine. I might work with them, but because they are dope, not for any other reason. I don’t care where you are from, I’m into dope music.” Nowadays Middle Eastern hip-hop is developing, and seems to be finding its way to the mainstream. The main thing about the Iranian culture that K-Salaam, who has Iranian roots, holds closest to his heart is their desire to resist. “Iranians do not give up or back down to anyone. That’s the trait that really defines us as a people and that trait also defines me.”
K-Salaam and Beatnick released their last album, Where The Streets Have No Name, in August. The album is street oriented and has a more simplified, home-based political message than their previous effort, talking about the harsh realities of what is going on every day. “We are in a recession — a lot of the artists are talking about that on the album. All of the songs have something to do with survival on a street level. Even the song by Demarco, which is basically a drug dealer anthem, but it’s reality. We don’t try to hide the negative. We deal with reality and turn it into honest music that moves you. That’s what we are about at the end of the day,” Beatnick says on the new album.
For the concept of their previous albums, K-Salaam and Beatnick had a list of artists that they wanted to try to get on the albums. Eventually most made it to the final track listing, which — looking at the high-profile names: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Saigon, Papoose and more — is quite an achievement. Putting together the guest appearances for Where The Streets Have No Name was easier than it was with The World Is Ours, especially since the two have more connections and respect now.
“Lil Wayne, Bun B, K’naan, Talib Kweli … these are artists from all scopes of hip-hop. We did that on purpose. We don’t have one specific sound. I don’t think there are really many other producers who could get away with putting such different artists together and making it fit,” says K-Salaam. “We can do that because we see it all as music and we encompass so many styles. We feel like our music is endless. We have so much more to do and to prove. We’re really hungry and excited at the same time.”
Now that it’s making noise on the streets, K-Salaam and Beatnick started to work with a whole bunch of new artists, including musicians that don’t have a hip-hop, reggae or R&B background. Their latest project is is called Never Can Say Goodbye, a remix album featuring songs from Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder over their production. The album will be debuting on Okayplayer.com on September 24th. No matter what these beat makers are cooking, we’re sure it’s something big.
Download Where The Streets Have No Name here.