How taglines are finding their way onto local beats
Words: Ndu Donsa |Photographs: Supplied
How many times have you heard "Metro Boomin Want Some More", "We da best", "Holla at me" or "Mike WiLL Made It" before a track? These are producer drops, also known as tags and they're nothing new in hip-hop.
Just like DJ Khaled and Mike WiLL Made-It, there are numerous producers in South African hip-hop who also use tags. We sat down with Psyko Beats, Mr Kamera, Ameen Haron, Air Dee Global and Leslie LAE.
Leslie produced Cassper Nyovest’s "Ng’yekeleni" featuring Black Thought and also produced L-Tido’s smash-hit "Oh No" featuring WTF. What makes Leslie stand out is how he uses unique drum patterns and melodies on his tracks. He believes that not everyone is clued up on the importance of tags in hip hop.
TWoU: In your opinion why is a tag important and what are the most memorable tags?
Leslie: Well I think what truly makes a great is the hit records behind the tag. Like Metro Boomin been having his tag for a while, but it only got it's respect after Future's mainstream success.
TWoU: Do you feel people understand tags are in hip hop?
Leslie: Only a few people really understand producers tag and their beats. I mean It's not really important for certain genres like electronic dance music. I think it's really helpful for hip-hop producers to get recognition. It helps build a fan base.
One producer making moves in the industry lately, Psyko Beats is part of the Russian Bear Next Level Campaign and probably produced his biggest hit for "Ayeye", which featured Dj Vigi, Carpo and Cassper Nyovest. The story of how he became a producer is special, where he'd make beats in his mother's bedroom, where the computer was. He spent so much time there that she got an ear for his production without the need for a tag.
TWoU: How did your tag come about?
Psyko Beats: I was in studio with a friend who had brought a photographer. At that time I was new to the game, had no tag and so I asked the photographer to jump on the mic and give me a couple takes saying my name. Fast forward to a few weeks later where I'd produced a song alongside DJ Sablo for E-Jay and a guy called Sil. Guys were booming and Dj Sablo hit me up asking for my beat tag. I quickly looked for the voice recording I captured from the photographer and put something together. I only had 5 minutes to do this, but when the song came out it was well-received and I ended up leaving it exactly as is.
TWoU: Why is it important for producers to have a tag?
Psyko Beats: Tags are signature sounds for people to recognise you without having to look up on the production credits. I also look at it as free advertisement for my brand.
TWoU: Besides the tag how else do you make yourself stand out?
Psyko Beats: If you know me and follow my work you'll know it's a Psykobeat. Every producer has a sound. It's something you pick up after listening to their work for a long time. It doesn't matter which genre.
Ameen Harron has produced and written for Kwesta, AKA and more. Ameen is one of the producers in SA hip-hop who positions himself as an artist, songwriter and a DJ. His latest release 'Cold Summer’ is a rhythmic laidback track that fuses rap with singing.
TWoU: In your opinion why is a tag important and what are your most memorable tags?
Ameen: Tags are important for business as they let the audience and other artists know who did the beat. It's essentially branding, and that's important in any business.
TWoU: Do you feel listeners understand what tags are?
Ameen: I think people definitely know what tags are, although I’m not sure if they know it's called a tag?
Mr. Kamera has produced for the likes of Ma-E, Ice Prince, AKA, Bucie, Yemi Alade, DJ Maphorisa, Patoranking and more. He's going beyond our borders and working across the continent.
TWoU: Is there a story behind your tag?
Mr. Kamera: My tag is a camera click because my production name is Mr. Kamera. I got this tag because naturally that's what goes with my name. I put my tag in the beginning of a song just before the drop because this is where people's anticipation has been built.
TWoU: Why is it important for producers to have tags?
Mr. Kamera: The more a song is played the more your name is heard. Also, once a brand is built, having a tag on a song benefits the artist as well because some people would literally pay attention to a song because of the producer.
TWoU: How do you make sure your sound stands out?
Mr. Kamera: I always try to have a unique sound be it hip-hop or any other genre I produce. So, if it's going to be hip-hop I'll put a unique bounce to something that's unlike what is currently out, but still relatable. For some reason, people are starting to identify my sound, even without the tag, and that's fulfilling.
Air Dee Global
Our final producer calls himself an "Award Winning Super Beatologist". His tag was created back in 2010 while working at a friend's studio and a toddler walked in.
TWoU: Can you describe your tag?
Air Dee Global: "Mna ndiyayi thandi imali" which is isiXhosa for "I love money" or "I'm about my money". I was really amused by how clean the kid's take was. So all I did was tweak it and make it an intro for a song that I was working on. When the song premiered on radio, people really loved it.
TWoU: Why is it important for producers to have a tag?
Air Dee Global: Having a beat tag is the simplest way for any producer to gain a fan base. Although we've had producers like Dr Dre, who did it without one, having a beat tag is important these days. Your fans need to know when you're on production. Back when Dre did it, I think there weren't too many producers doing his type of beats, and that's why he made it without one.
TWoU: Can you describe your sound?
Air Dee Global: I grew up listening to kwaito and most of my hip-hop beats have that kwaito element to them. I really mess with that old school kwaito bounce. If you listen to 'Sorry Makhe' or 'Ayeye' by DJ Vigilante, you'll definitely hear what I'm talking about.
Got a favourite producer tag or is there someone that we left off this list that should've been there? Let us know in the comments below.