In a dark smoky basement, a bunch of boys wearing their pants low with baggy hoodies sit in chairs slouched over writing rap lyrics on their electronic devices while a rap beat shakes. This is a young group from Burnaby, B.C., who have released a self-produced album called “B-Town Clique.” My experience as a member in the somewhat tiring process of making an album has taught be a lot about getting started in hip hop.
Starting a rap group involves a lot of patience and hardwork. It began when a friend brought his rapping hobby to our school. He had already shared tracks on Soundcloud under the name Matteo from Atlanta. Our friend group thought an album would be fun to make. We got together and planned out the idea for the album. For some of the members it was their first time rapping. We chose the name to represent the city we all grew up in together which is Burnaby. We took photos for an album cover before we even started recording. Since there was a big group, we had a troubles making decisions together, but in the end, we came together and chose everything we needed.
Recording is the main and most important thing when making an album, and you should always have one place to record. For us, it was Matteo’s house, which we called the “stu.” The studio was perfect because we had a quiet room and noise-cancelling mic, which was helpful when people were talking in the background. We recorded using the editing software FL Studio, a free beat-making software that Matteo had used in the past, and was easy to navigate. When making songs, it is best to have a paid editing software, as you can save your work. Using just the free version, we had to make our songs in one day, as we could not save our beats which did not affect our work, but just made it more of a rush. We wrote at the stu, spending hours there at a time writing and finding the best sound and lyrics. We learned to be careful not to get carried away with joking around and writing vulgar lyrics, as you need to take your time and focus on the flow. For the best flow, the lyrics and the beat need to be on point. Matteo had to use his skill to rewrite some of our lyrics to get the rhythm right.
MFA’s experience making beats for the past two years made him a key part of the album. He did a lot of the work and organized all of the days we worked on the music. As a tip for when you are making music, it’s helpful to have an experienced person there to help with the beats and writing. MFA made a lot of previous songs before this album, he has also dropped two other albums by himself.
When we made a song, we would go step by step. First, Matteo would create or find a beat which took a lot of time because we needed to find beats that everyone liked. If we were making the beat, Matteo would usually make and edit the beat days prior from recording. The beat required a lot of work to create, such as finding the right amount of bass, snares and other sounds, background music and overall melody. After the beat was finished, we would then start to prepare our lyrics. Everyone in the song would listen to the beat while writing in the same room. It usually took an hour and a half to finish coming up with our verses.
After writing, we would record and edit the song. We would edit our voices over and over again with different effects if needed until it sounded the way we wanted it to. Usually our voices were deepened, in order to give a more aggressive effect. Once everyone was done rapping and we had the song put together we would listen to it and put in ad libs where necessary and any other details needed. Then finally, we named out song, which was hard because our songs didn’t have hook. So we often used a lyric which stood out in the song. After it was finally named, we downloaded the song to a file and uploaded it to Google Drive.
“B-Town Clique,” was uploaded to all platforms that we thought were important such as iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube. When posting it we found a lot of troubles. The album was suppose to drop on February 28th, but actually ended dropping a couple days later due to technical difficulties. To add to this, about a couple weeks into our release, our album was taken down from all platforms because they thought our songs were stolen and released without permission, but Matteo managed to resolve the issue and got them back up.
After the album was finally available we needed to make sure it got out to the public eye. Each of us in the group individually posted on our social media letting everyone know it had been released. The album ended up spreading around and gaining lots of views. Videos emerged from other students across the city were seen dancing and listening to our top tracks including “Drip” and “Babes.” We found the album was best promoted on Instagram. We got a lot of feedback and responses from people all in the area.
The lyrical content of our album caused a bit of static with our high school. The whole clique was called down to the school office and was given a talk about how this music could reflect our futures in many ways. When I was marched into the office, the principal lectured me with a kind tone saying our future schools, bosses and anyone who wanted to see it, could. When he brought up the way we talked about women, I explained that it was all jokes and just us having some fun making music. They tried convincing us to take it down, but we all agreed we would keep it up. They called home informing our parents about the situation, but there were no other consequences.
Creating and working on “B-Town Clique” was a great experience. Although we went through some difficulties, the group pulled through with some great tracks, and hopefully more are to come. The rap life is not for everyone–you have to be willing to risk your reputation on what you put out there and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but if you focus and put in the time, anyone can make a rhyme!
Image: B-Town Clique