By: Mut Asheru
Born in Los Angeles to Lebanese-Armenian parents, Beirut first began playing the piano at the age of 6. After receiving formal training in classical music, Beirut, 26, currently works are a producer/writer/arranger, working with Hip-Hop, R&B, and Pop artists, as well as producing music for film and television. Known for always bringing his unique brand of Funk inspired tunes, while incorporating a hint of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation, Beirut’s star is rising fast, and is definitely someone to watch out for in ’08.
Knowshi: How has being classically trained helped you in the beat making world?
Beirut: It gave me a better sense of music, as far as rhythm, and arrangements are concerned. Reading music on paper helps you visualize what you hear. So once I started dabbling in production, I had a clearer understanding of how I wanted to structure each track. Classical music is also very melody driven, so that part of it always kind of stuck with me, especially when I started composing music and getting more into live instrumentation.
Knowshi: What are some of the projects you have worked on that people may know you for?
Beirut: I produced a record called “Heavy Grounds” a couple of years ago, for an up and coming emcee out of Los Angeles named Human. I’ve since put out 2 volumes of remixes, featuring songs by everyone from Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson, to Jay-Z, Nas, Ludacris, The Clipse, and Lil’ Wayne. They were initially just distributed locally throughout the Los Angeles area, but thanks to the internet, It’s since spread to countries all across the globe. I’ve gotten an incredible amount of feedback from people throughout Europe, Japan, and Australia, all the way to Mexico and Brazil. It’s really been overwhelming.
Knowshi: Is the goal fame? What actually is the goal for you as far as your music is concerned?
Beirut: Fame hasn’t really been much of a goal for me. Sure, everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do, but it’s all about the music. Making music is like creating a mood or emotion. It’s all about that feeling you get when you hear a song you love, and it just puts a smile on your face. It’s such a thrill to be able to spread that feeling to someone else who appreciates it as much as you do. The best I can hope for is being able to convey that feeling to as many people as I can. Anything that comes along with it, like fame or money, is just a perk.
Knowshi: What are you working on now?
Beirut: I’m currently working on a collaborative effort with an emcee named Ali Baba. It’s a Middle-Eastern themed rap record which is like nothing people have ever heard before. Musically, It’s a mix of Middle-Eastern melodies and instruments, fused with Funk and Hip- Hop. I don’t want to give much away as far as the lyrics or content, but I will say that Ali Baba is one of the most talented emcees I’ve ever heard, so expect something huge.
Knowshi: How do you know when a song you’re working on is perfectly finished and ready to put out?
Beirut: It’s real similar to painting on a canvas. You try and layer and arrange everything until it all comes together to form something new. It’s hard to explain how to know when to stop because all it is, is a feeling. Certain sounds just feel right when they hit certain notes, and when you have the right combination of sounds complimenting each other, it just feels good.
Knowshi: Name your essiential equipment? (outside of yourself)
Beirut: As far as production equipment, the MPC2000 has been my main piece for years. I’ve since picked up some keyboards, a guitar, bass, and various percussion, but the MPC is still essential to me.
Knowshi: What else would you like to get into doing career wise?
Beirut: I’d like to eventually start my own label and be able to produce and release records for different bands and artists. Even though the record industry is steadily declining as far as sales, genuinely good music will always have an audience. It’s just a matter of how to get it out to them.