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Sher7ock – It’s all a matter of intuition

A man who has been actively involved in creating the Polish music scene for over two decades. He has collaborated with many artists, including Quebonafide, Gedza, KęKę and Kaz Bałagane. Sher7ock told me about the evolution of hip-hop, the mentoring role of producers, and building a network of contacts. I invite you to read.

Tell me, what’s it like with these music producers and their popularity? It seems as if only young producers strive for this.

The rules are the same for everyone. We fight for attention with YouTubers, fighters, comedians and other people promoting themselves on the Internet. No one forbids a producer from having an image, being noticeable, promoting things with his face, appearing in clips or giving interviews. It’s all a choice. Music producers are more introverted by nature and most of them still end up in a situation where they produce music, stay at home and receive transfers. Of course people know what they look like, but nothing more. However, there are also those who are more interested in going out into the world and I am in this group. At least for now. I would like my person to be more recognizable.

It’s interesting that you have this attitude. I have noticed that producers who have been on the market for a long time do not like to leave their comfort zone.

Of course, I also have many barriers to overcome and acquire specific business and marketing skills. In everyday life I tend to dress like a clown and that’s my problem, but when it comes to making funny videos, I really like it. Invent, record and edit. I see something in it for myself and the audience. It is a good medium when it comes to reaching people. Especially since I have too much to say.

It is precisely on your social media that you time and time again adopt a specific position, which often negates specific attitudes.

Yes, because in some cases I see what negative consequences it may have now and in the future. If I don’t like something, I start talking about it and it even has some small impact on the environment. People respond to these relationships and identify with them. This way, information spreads and there is no impression that everyone has only one position or none at all.

Nowadays, there is a strange habit where everyone just sits in their own company and is reluctant to get involved in any other projects.

Ok, but you even just said that producers often have a more introverted disposition. Such biased reports are not some kind of openness to others?

You know, I’m a few years old, I turned 40 this year and at various stages of my life I have been more or less extroverted. From moments when I focused heavily on what I was doing to moments when mixing and meeting people were a priority. So I can’t clearly say whether I’m an intro or an extrovert, but I definitely like talking to people, especially those who listen to music and are interested in what I do. I also don’t care what they think. Communication, an important thing.

Important, but you are also in that group of people who express extreme opinions, which is becoming less and less common. People don’t like to stick out.

Yes, that’s true, but being Swiss was never in my nature. In fact, I’ve recently started wondering why I don’t use nicknames more often. I think this is because I am formulating thoughts that will be universal and will apply to similar cases in the future.

It makes sense, but I think that most people don’t use nicknames because they don’t want to end up hurting themselves.

This is an obvious situation. In this case, it’s usually you against the entire internet. There will always be those hundred people, or even just one person, who will prove you wrong. I think that the approach to the topic changes with age. I’ve noticed that rappers, especially in their thirties, start to fear that they will no longer be relevant and understand the culture. That kids will start talking about them as grandparents. This often inhibits them from speaking out on various topics. This is not good, because ultimately the point is to get freshness and original ideas from young people, and experience and professionalism from older people. The best numbers come from the combination of two worlds.

However, there are also people such as O.S.T.R., who in the single “CRISTAL” throws, among others: nicknames Mata or Quebonafide, who didn’t make it onto his album. You see, unfavorable comments were immediately thrown his way. There are always two sides to it.

People react differently to such things. If you put yourself in the position of OSTR, who has a discography, a lot of listeners and, without looking into his pocket, enough money to show the middle finger to the entire rap game. In fact, he is in the best position to tell us what it looks like behind the scenes and what he thinks about it. I’m not in his shoes, but I understand the reactions, because I’ve been in a situation more than once when I agreed to do something with someone, and in the end, nothing came out of it. Nowadays, there is a strange habit where everyone just sits in their own company and is reluctant to get involved in any other projects. Obviously, when someone is not very recognizable and has a small reach, they really want to record with people around them, but when they are already big, they don’t care much and stay in their own bubble. This has negative consequences, because in this way they do not develop and do not confront their ideas with the ideas of other people. Apparently, however, it is more profitable. Having been making music and observing the market for so many years, I have come to the conclusion that it used to be much easier to convince rappers to cooperate. On the other hand, maybe it’s just me, because I’m among those less recognizable?

Well, how do you establish collaborations such as those with, for example, Kaz Bałagane?

Kaz is an exception to the rule. It all started when my friend sent me information that Kaz was looking for beats for an album. I sent a few and that’s how the issue “Znałem Type 2” was created. On the next album, Kaz asked about the beats himself and then we made “Blueface”. Most collaborations are established through friends. For example, the last one with Gural came out so that I sent the beats to Sheller, he wasn’t looking for any, but Gural was. So I got an e-mail, I played about 100 bits, DGE chose 5 or 6 of them and finally recorded 2 pieces. All this is a network of contacts built over the years.

I think it’s interesting, considering that currently most producers just send beat packs to all the rappers’ emails they find on the Internet.

This is most likely the case, but there are also other methods, e.g. being in publishing. To put it very simply, it is an agency that connects those who make music with large entities that want to buy it, such as majors or advertising agencies. There is also BeatStars.

It’s just that BeatStars is currently so crowded that it’s hard to get ahead there. Unless you’ve been consistent for a really long time.

That’s true. If you create an account today and start uploading beats, you must be prepared to see the results only after 2-3 years of systematic and conscious work. The big advantage is that after this time you earn money, which you probably won’t make on placements in Poland. Of course, luck, skills and good market intuition are important.

Well, the situation with this money is different, because I have heard many times from producers that they are fleeced, for example, from zaiks. I don’t know what it’s like for you.

My publisher is currently taking care of my work. I have already recorded almost all profitable songs. The exceptions are literally a few that have a complicated history. This is the case, for example, with the piece I wrote with the late. Brazenly. The procedure requires an heir who is still a minor, so he or she must have a representative, everything has to be done on paper and passed through three voivodeships. I also have problems with some individual songs where someone does not have an account in ZAiKS and is not very interested in having one. Overall, it looks good, because I always watched my percentages.

It’s probably not always that simple either. Some songs are made by whole teams, with several people responsible for the beat and others for the lyrics.

It’s become an interesting, or maybe uninteresting, era now, where one beat is made by several people. The consequences are that sometimes you have to determine whether someone is the co-author of a beat because they have contacts with artists and brought someone else’s beat to the studio. There are also cases where someone wants to be the co-author of a given beat so much that he changes 3 hi-hats to get his 5%. Such situations happen, although perhaps not very often. Then, in ZAiKS, you divide the 50% allocated for music among 3-4 people, and sometimes it is difficult to determine who contributed what. I myself have pieces where, for example, I built the entire base, and someone added 3 not necessarily key elements and it was not clear how to divide them. On the other hand, there were also songs where I built a foundation on which someone made a piece, but changed almost everything in it. Then the dilemma arises whether the ship in which every single plank has been replaced is still the original ship or a different ship.

A complicated matter. In that case, it would be easiest to make these beats yourself, but it is often the case that hits are created thanks to such collaborations.

This is not the rule. There is a theory, which I agree with, that when a beat passes through the hands of several people, it is enough for only one of them to not notice some fresh, new idea or not understand what makes the beat unique and start changing it to lose the chance for a unique piece of art. With a method where you have several producers, you can certainly make a song that is current and sounds good at the moment, but more often than not, you end up with something similar to everything else. The only question is, does anyone care? We now have a multitude of producers who are primarily interested in placement and a high position on Spotify. There are also funny stories, such as that of Kanye West, who showed his early beats to many rappers who did not understand them and rejected them. He eventually included all of them on his debut album and they all turned out to be hits, popularizing chipmunk soul in the process.

And if he were a different person, he could simply throw them into the trash after receiving such feedback…

Yes, and the world might never hear them. Ye was determined, he played them on his album, people heard them, they loved them and it turned out he had something special.

That’s true. And speaking of the beginnings of your career, do you remember your first successes?

My history of releasing music goes back 20 years. I remember from that period, for example, cooperation with the German Tokyo Dawn Records, who included my instrumental track on their compilation. It was somehow unique at the time. With my friend, Szymon Folwarczny, we did a number with Novika as Drift. This was during Novika’s greatest popularity. Thanks to this, I heard my song on the radio for the first time. But when it comes to rap, I did so much of it that I don’t even remember it all. Several issues were memes, e.g. Mes’s issue “Trze’a było” or Kaz’s “Blueface”. They had a broader effect than just a numerical one. I have good memories of songs with American rappers, e.g. Inspectah Deck (which probably never came out), King T, Kokane, Knoc-turn’al. Polish ones include songs with, for example, Gedz, KęKę, Quebo and Paluch, which were created just before the explosion of their careers. It felt nice.

Well, the fact is that a dozen or so years ago hip-hop was not yet that mainstream.

True, and I remember the first attempts to commercialize hip-hop, after which all the media turned away from it. For several years it was really difficult to get anything off the ground.

What was that time like from your perspective?

There was a big fight against hip-hopolo in those days. Rummy and UMC Records and Camey Records fought to get onto the radio – in my opinion, at the expense of quality and, above all, aesthetics. Back then, the market looked a bit different, and labels and artists earned primarily from sold records and ZAiKS from radio and TV. There were no willing distributors or streaming platforms. A chance for success appeared when they started playing you on the radio or playing your clips on Viva. This was the case with Mezo, Liber and Trzeci Wymiar. The scene was different, it still had its own sound and a clear line separating quality from trash.

Hip-hop has changed over the years. Many even say that it ended a few years ago when it went mainstream.

Today’s hip-hop in Poland is a strange cousin of the American hip-hop. It’s supposedly subsidized, it’s supposedly surrounded by marketing agencies and the big three majors, but it produces appallingly little quality music. In general, it has a different definition, because a large part of it consists of guitar shanties, love songs and some kind of pop house, but without noble sounds. Hip-hop has a similar story to rock music. It lives for decades and has its better and worse periods. Sometimes it’s a renaissance, sometimes it’s a disaster. Currently, in Poland there is the opposite tendency than in the USA. There, people are complaining that rap is dying, but brilliant things are coming out, in our country there is a ball on the Titanic, everything is beautiful, but you have to look for good albums in the darkest areas of the Internet.

Some time ago, drill definitely took hold in our country, with several artists making a name for themselves. But as quickly as it came, it went.

Drill died quickly for us. But this is a situation where a given trend either has to suit us culturally, or we have to make something of it into our own so that it stays longer. And can such a New York or British drill created by gangsters appeal to local boys? In my opinion, it’s worse with things like Jersey Club or Rage, because they have absolutely no basis in our culture.

A few in Poland tried and ended up with only a few good singles.

Rage is actually smaller than it might seem. Everyone knows Yeat to mention him whenever they are accused of being out of touch, sometimes someone will reach for Trippie Redd and if you push harder, maybe they will mention Ken Carson. Quality varies, but in an era of singles with expiration dates of about two weeks, it’s nice to have an album that will sweep the year, and that hasn’t happened yet in rage. Due to its instrumentation, Rage is difficult to interpret for a wider audience, and this is also a place in music where you walk a fine line between genius and kitsch. Either you know how to walk this line perfectly, or you die. It’s all a matter of intuition, which I don’t blame many people for.

Well, these are big calculations, but it also results from the availability of this knowledge on the Internet.

This also brings us to the next thing. The market used to be more evenly distributed in terms of listener attention and money. There were a lot of rappers who earned decently from their music, played concerts, etc. and this was their main source of income. Currently, however, there is little room for such a middle class in rap. If you play this game very well, suddenly you join a small group of people who are making a lot of money, but if you don’t play well, you can fall out of the loop very quickly due to the lack of any profit or interest. There’s not much in between. People are also afraid to invest everything in success that may never come.

Obviously, people make calculations so as not to fall out of circulation, and at the same time, this is often accompanied by fulfilling a contract with the label. If you’re signed, you have to release songs, preferably popular ones.

In Poland, large labels quickly “buy out” young, little-known rappers. All they need to do is release one more catchy track and gain some popularity, which opens the door to the majors. And you know, when someone offers you a 20-30 cents advance payment for signing a contract, and you previously went to high school, maybe worked on a construction site for a season and didn’t have much contact with larger amounts, you know that you will go for it. But then such rappers end up in large labels, with a manager who takes care of 10-15 other artists, but in fact it is only one who earns the most. The rest wait for someone to call them back. They are blocked and they can’t do anything about it themselves. There are also different conditions for releasing a single, e.g. featuring someone more famous.

As a rule, the producer always has the purest intentions towards the artist (…)

It’s a pity that those who are just starting out and could have scored a few nice hits end up signing, and as a result, their career often dies.

This fits into the labels’ strategy because they can afford for 1 out of 10 or 15 rappers to make a career. It’s all calculated and it simply pays off – although not for everyone. It is also profitable to hunt for staff from smaller labels and create sublabels that externally look like independent ones.

Are you signed?

I’m not and I hope I never will be. I have a publisher and distribution, and that’s enough for me, both to cooperate with others and to publish my own stuff.

However, you probably have a list of things that you would like to achieve on this market.

I have always had such a list, things are regularly dropped and new ones are added. Considering that all these smaller and bigger breakthroughs, such as songs on the radio or diamond albums, have already occurred, and I still derive great satisfaction from what I do, I have some lofty goals left, e.g. a stronger emphasis on artistic value, more experiments , next level, but I wouldn’t mind attacking Spotify’s list of top producers either.

There are a few rappers I’d like to do a song with again, but I’ve never done it before. This year, for example, I managed to record with Gural, who was on my list.

I also have an open ear for new artists, maybe I could help one of them avoid the pitfalls of the music industry and, above all, save their career for one season, one hit.

The worst thing is when an artist starts making new songs almost the same as the one that became a hit.

Well, this is a technique that makes a piece complementary to the first one. But unfortunately this is a procedure used by people who do not believe that they will be on stage for more than 5 minutes. They are just trying to squeeze as much out of this time as possible. The most optimistic situation is the second piece, different, but at the same or higher level. Unfortunately, not everyone knows about it and even fewer people know how to do it. That’s when an older, knowledgeable friend like me comes in handy.

Well, such an artist needs some guidance, but I think that in this rapid surge of popularity it is not that easy.

Sometimes one well-timed piece of advice is enough. I have already had cases in my life where I gave someone a tip about flow and years later I heard from someone much more famous that it opened their eyes and he evolved. I also wonder what real impact the dozens of hours spent talking with him had on Gedz’s music, and whether my wisdom was useful to him. I hope so.

Does this give you a sense of satisfaction?

It’s definitely very nice. There are different definitions of a music producer’s job, and one of them is the mentoring role. As a rule, the producer always has the purest intentions towards the artist and when he gives him suggestions, they are usually those that will help him make the best song. Managers and A&Rs rarely calculate the artistic value or even the strategy of constantly fascinating audiences with music. More often, these are tables, mood maps, focus studies and monthly, quarterly and annual balance sheets.

Changing the topic a bit, I would suspect that, having so many contacts with rappers, you would release a production album to which you would invite them. You, however, made your own EPs, such as “Warm Tape” and “IMAGE”, which were completely instrumental.

“Warm Tape” was a beat tape that was intended to contain lighter, summer beats, matched to the season in which it was released. I didn’t empathize with him very much, the secret was in the selection.
However, “IMAGE” was a well-thought-out, short and entirely my project. There was no mention of feats or silting up. When it comes to solo projects, I strive to do things that are timeless and of the highest possible artistic value. In the conditions we currently have in Polish music, the only way to implement these assumptions is to create projects such as “IMAGE”.

When I collaborate with a rapper or vocalist, my work is in some sense a service. I try to understand someone’s vision and do everything to make it as clear and accessible to the listener as possible. Working on an instrumental piece is completely different, where I tell the story from beginning to end. It’s no longer a service, but building things from your own head.

I understand that you spend similarly more time on such a number?

Sure. The skeletons of the pieces are made very similar to the bits. Later, however, building entire songs out of them that are interesting and intriguing for listeners takes much more time, counted not only in hours, but sometimes in weeks and years. There are also ambitious issues, such as polishing the sound or cutting out all unnecessary elements and listening to them a trillion times over and over until all the mistakes are found.

Well, one more question at the end. What is your biggest dream right now?

I would like to provoke and maybe even lead a renaissance in Polish music. So drastic, after which the quality of music will increase by about 20 times. Kind of like taking all my mean and critical instastories and fixing these things one by one. A new trend in music that is fresh and everyone will be excited about it, but at the same time it will be so undeniable that people will want to be a part of it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something I like, as long as the music evolves and gets better.

IG: @sher7ock

FB: Sher7ock

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