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Mustard On The Beat
April 15, 2014 12:47 AM   Subscribe

Who is DJ Mustard? And why is he "The Sound of 2014."?

In the world of popular hip hop where dancability is prized over lyricism, producers are reclaiming territory from MC's and becoming household names in the process. Currently, the DJ wearing the Ass-Shaking crown is 23 year old Los Angeles native Dijon McFarlane. "What Lex Luger was for 2010-2011, and Mike Will was to 2012-2013, Mustard has become for 2014, the default sound of popular hip-hop, reclaiming the title from Atlanta for the West Coast for the first time in many years."

After a few years of Hip Hop Maximalism and EDM freakouts DJ Mustard's stark minimalism is an abrupt departure from recent club music. According to Mustard: "The gangbanging shit is over. You can't have fun because of it, I create my music so you can go to the club and have fun. There's too many girls in the club for niggas to be banging and shit."

Here's a primer - (most links NSFW)

Tyga - Rack City
This was Mustard's first breakthrough hit and is a great example of the simplicity that makes his music so appealing. With just a few bass notes and handclaps, he creates a beat that gets booties shaking and makes Tyga sound better than he ever has.

2 Chainz - I'm Different
This is the platonic ideal of a DJ Mustard beat. The simple piano figure that loops throughout gets people moving and then a blast of synth adds a wall of texture. The beat gets even more minimalistic on the chorus with 2 Chainz shouting "I'm different" over the unadorned earworm piano hook.

Kid Ink - Show Me
A great example of the Mustard style coupled with modern R&B. (Chris Brown Warning!) For more Mustard R&B see Ty Dolla Sign's Paranoid.

Also, he released a critically acclaimed mixtape entitled "Ketchup" which can be downloaded for free (!) here.

Mustard's latest endeavor is his critically acclaimed contribution to YG's latest album My Krazy Life. Mustard used to be YG's personal DJ since YG was "one of the first people to do my beats." They recently performed a censored version of YG's monster hit "My Nigga" on Kimmel together.

Bonus: video interview with Hard Knocks where he discusses giving Kanye West the beat to Rick Ross' "Sanctified."
posted by R.F.Simpson (17 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

beautiful post. thank you.
posted by coaster at 1:10 AM on April 15

Fun post, thanks. Tyga and I go to the same driving range, doncha know.
posted by carsonb at 5:07 AM on April 15

Hey, thanks! I've been wondering about that tag (I thought it was "murder on the beat"). Lots to check out in this post...
posted by coupdefoudre at 6:19 AM on April 15

He seems like he really has his shit together for someone so young
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on April 15

this is a great video of mustard breaking down his production process. I love seeing young guys know their way around a mixing console, it's an art, so much more than just "making beats".

He really loves that 808 though.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:56 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]

coupdefoudre: You weren't the only one wondering about that.
posted by carsonb at 9:39 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]

Love that minimal sound... Hopefully it helps kill over auto-tune as the style propagates throughout the different genres since there's less place for shitty vocals to hide.
posted by Jacob G at 10:01 AM on April 15

Most awesome is that his birth name is Dijon.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:32 AM on April 15

Hopefully it helps kill over auto-tune as the style propagates throughout the different genres since there's less place for shitty vocals to hide.

isn't this an outdated criticism? autotune is now a fully fledged sound color/instrument, like synthesizers, or guitar distortion (both maligned at first I'm sure).
also, modern, expressive autotune is mostly found over minimal beats, just like these dj mustard ones; like 808s and heartbreak, bon iver, or the canonical imogean heap song, which was acapella!
posted by coaster at 1:47 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]

Synthesizers are STILL maligned by people, but primarily 13-year-olds who only like classic rock and think using a synth = you can't play.

I'd be stoked to see DJ Mustard do a track for Young Thug.
posted by gucci mane at 5:25 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

carsonb: I love seeing young guys know their way around a mixing console, it's an art, so much more than just "making beats".

I'd definitely say that knowing your way around a console is art, and a decent amount of science too, but "making beats" is an art form in itself that doesn't require scare quotes around it. Making beats is hard and somewhat requires music theory knowledge or a damn good ear.

What's interesting about right now is that the current crop of up-and-coming beat makers are guys like Mike Will Made It (who just turned 25) and DJ Mustard who have probably mostly grown up with hip-hop their whole lives, rather than soul and funk music. That isn't to say that they've never heard soul and funk or blues or anything, but that hip-hop has been around for their entire lives in its most modern forms, from gangsta rap to now. It's neat.
posted by gucci mane at 5:37 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

Hey gucci that was actually BlerpityBloop doing that saying.

FWIW I found it interesting that he built the track up from the bass line that someone else brought to him. So, not only is Mustard crafting a sick-sounding song, he's doing it by riffing on someone else's choice of elements, putting his own, uh, spin on it, so to speak.
posted by carsonb at 7:28 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

Gucci, I'm guessing you didn't watch the clip I linked, where mustard goes in to the difference between producing and making beats. :-)
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:32 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

this is a great video of mustard breaking down his production process

30 minutes to make that YG beat!
posted by rossmeissl at 8:01 PM on April 15

isn't this an outdated criticism?

Maybe. I'm not going to pretend that there isn't a little 'get off my lawn-ishness' going on. But I have a hard time acknowledging the overt usage in some songs as a positive artistic progression. I'm not talking about those people that use it a safety net, rather those where even the casual listener can recognize the entire vocal is processed with auto tune. Despite arguments to the contrary, every time I hear it, i assume the person just flat can't sing. It's completely off putting and the tracks I hear on the radio are non-minimal beats, with over processed nasal male vocals nearly indistinguishable from one another to a casual listener.

I'm probably just crabby because I have no musical ability whatsoever.
posted by Jacob G at 8:51 PM on April 15

Great post, thanks!
posted by cmicali at 7:00 AM on April 16

Jacob, the auto tune that's featured in, say, T-Pain's songs is a vocal affect, its noticeable because it's supposed to be noticeable. It's part of the song style and is prominent for effect, like wahwah on a guitar or a phaser on the bass line.

There are countless other pitch-correction tools used frequently in the studio that are virtually imperceptible to the casual listener.

I'm not a big fan of the effect, but it really has nothing to do with hiding a poor vocal track.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:11 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]

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