Scratch Magazine – Issue 1
To put it bluntly Nottz Raw has one hell of a catalog. In a little over a decade the low key Norfolk, Virginia native has managed to supply backdrops for hiphop’s most notable names from Busta Rhymes and Method Man to Scarface and Notorious B.I.G. Although a career in production seemed ordained, (his father and brothers all dabbled in beat making) Nottz got involved with hiphop by rapping in lunchrooms and at school talent shows. His flirtation with beats only began because he needed something to rhyme over, so his parents copped him a little Yamaha keyboard with seven seconds of sample time. Every time he used that joint it would overdub whatever he did, but that didn’t discourage the young novice from breaking it out at his first contest where some original beats and borrowed rhymes stole the show.
“Back in elementary school when I had that seven second sampler they had this talent show,” Nottz remembers. “I wrote down the whole rhyme of Grand Daddy I.U.’s “Something New” and did that shit at the talent show. I won and then I did that same rhyme again a couple days later in the lunchroom when this dude Roy wanted to battle me. I lit his ass up with that rhyme.”
After winning the competition and taking out a few more cats with the help of Greg Nice’s verse from “No Delayin” the kids thought Nottz was the king of emceeing. He continued rhyming, this time penning his own scripts, and making beats borrowing heavily from his dad’s record collection. His pops was a DJ back in the day so there was always mad vinyl around the house. That’s where Nottz attributes his ear for music. Inspiration came in the forms of gospel, rock, country, and even old movies. It didn’t matter if the rhythms were from Young Frankenstein, The Mack, Cooley High, Foxxy Brown, or Dolemite they just had to be funky. With that education in sound, Nottz soon outgrew his first machine and started teaching himself how to use some real equipment.
“My man D got that SP-1200 and I went ape shit on that,” claims the beat smith. “Then one of my homeboys had an EPS 16 Plus and I was fucking around on that for a minute and then one of my boys bought me a keyboard (ASR-10) and I’ve been doing joints ever since. When my momma said that sounds good that’s when I got that this is what I’m gonna do.”
With his mom giving him the thumbs up, Nottz felt comfortable enough to start shopping his tunes. In the beginning, much of his work was relegated to the underground until he got his first break when he appeared on Rawkus’ “Lyricist Lounge Volume 1.” His sonic contribution to the compilation, “Holy Water” featuring Lord Have Mercy and D.V. Alias Khrist, led to more work with Flipmode and opened the door for a collaboration with squad leader Busta Rhymes. Busta, who was conspicuously omitted from the song, was in the midst of putting together on his third solo LP and approached Nottz about getting a beat tape. He liked what he heard and the first three cuts on the cassette ended up being the first three songs on the “E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event)” album. After that, the former LONS member spread the word there was a new cat on the scene causing emcees like Snoop and M.O.P to check for him. But despite the exposure he received from teaming with Bus, those early tracks were just the beginning of the producer’s development. He has since moved away from the conventional loops that were evident on the smash hit “Everybody Rise” and branched out by experimenting with new techniques and styles.
“Before it was like using old records and looping shit, not chopping it up, just using the bass line off of the record and filtering it out,” Nottz admits. “Now it’s on some other shit. My drums and snares are live shit. I play a lot of hi-hats over everything. I improved the way I do bass lines. Now I’m playing bass lines over and using a lot of live instruments changing the whole shit up. I might be like fuck the sample and play the whole thing over. [My style] changes like every year. I’m trying to be different from the next nigga because there’s a lot of em that will take your shit and run with it. I stay to myself and listen to my own shit. That’s why I stay different. You listen to your own shit [and see] what you could change.”
At practically any hour of the day you’ll catch Nottz in lab analyzing his work. When you step into the studio the first thing you notice is his audience, a wall plastered with stickers, CD covers, pictures and posters. It’s kind of bugged but when he’s knocking out instrumentals he looks back at those pictures to help remind him who he is making music for. Several keyboards line the room including an ASR-10, Korg Triton and a Yamaha Motif. Pro Tools and I-Tunes are loaded up on the Mac and a small drum set adorns the vocal booth. This is where it all happens.
“Every button on that keyboard is broke,” Nottz proudly mentions pointing to the ASR in the corner. “That keyboard ain’t ever been to the shop. I got a brand new one in the next room and I don’t even fuck with it. This is like some good luck shit. I’ve painted it, put granite and stickers all over it. I eat on this motherfucker and drink on the shit. That’s dirty music.”
“I don’t like the Triton now,” Nottz insists, resuming the tour as he wipes the dust off the Korg. “Motif man! Motif is the takeover right now. Everything in this motherfucker sounds so authentic. I’m trying to figure out how they put the sounds in there. You got the flutes that sound so real, a lot of horns, Rhodes, everything just sound real. I’ll play it, sample it into the ASR, put it in the computer, and have that shit looping. It’s crazy. Everybody needs to get one. I also got a bunch of beats up in I-Tunes. It’s a lot of stuff I’ve done for major artists that’s out. That’s what I make my beat CDs out of so I don’t have to go nowhere.”
Four or five DA-88 audio decks are stacked underneath the table replaced by Pro Tools, who’s cut and paste ability has reverted the rest of the equipment in the room to mere decoration. There are boxes and boxes of discs of old music for the ASR-10 and SP-1200, but all of the new stuff is punched up on the computer. In the last two years Nottz has amassed over four hundred beats and continues to crank them out on a regular basis.
“I used to do about five or six a day,” he says. “Now it’s to the point where I really dissect a lot of shit and play a bunch of shit over if I’m hearing it different. Now I’m down to three or four a day where everything is a keep. I don’t even want a nigga saying I heard one wack ass joint. I just stay right up in this lab everyday all day. No sleep. I come up in here about two or three o’clock in the afternoon and leave about seven sometimes ten in the morning. I work alone. I keep the door closed and bang the shit out. I hardly be at the crib. They only time they see me is in the morning. I’m here on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, my birthday, even my kid’s birthday. They’ll be in here with me.”
“The studio is like ten to fifteen miles away,” he continues. “If I go home I get times where I wake up at five in the morning or something and I might hear shit on TV and I’ll get up and go straight there. It will probably be an old record I already got and I’ll decide to go fuck with it. One of my mans passed on Christmas and I heard “Man’s World” by James Brown on TV so I came to the studio and made a joint for him. It came out hot with everybody rhyming on it as a lil dedication. But the studio and the crib are in two different places so that if I get the urge I can just go instead of it just being right there because then you get bored with it quick.”
Don’t expect boredom to set in anytime soon though as Nottz has plenty on his plate to keep him occupied. His main focus is on getting more shine for his homegrown crew, DMP, whose debut EP “Nottz Presents DMP” made some noise last year on the Norfolk based Teamsta Records. The group is currently negotiating a deal to release their full length, a project in which Nottz will supply all of the beats.
Aside from his work with DMP, Nottz is busy lacing artists in a major way. He is slated to produce a track called “I’m so Fly” for Lloyd Banks and will be submitting beats for 50 Cent’s next album. In addition to that, he will be working with a host of others including Ms. Dynamite, Infra-Red and Cross, Cassidy, M.O.P, Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad, Bilal, Ali Vegas, Ghostface and Sunshine Anderson. He’s also planning on contributing tracks to the long awaited “213” project featuring Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Nate Dogg as well as The Untouchables, headed by Dave Mays and Source kingpin Benzino. Finally, to top it all off he will be blessing Dr. Dre’s grand finale, “Detox.”
The story goes that one of the reps for Teamsta Entertainment (Nottz’ company co-owned with manager Darrel Sloan) was hanging around with Angelo Sanders, an A&R for Aftermath, and happened to be playing one of Nottz’ beat CDs. When Angelo peeped it, he was like Dre needs to hear this and proceeded to rush the CD over to the good Dr. who upon hearing one track in particular said he had to have it. The album is slated to have an exclusive crew of outside producers to contribute to the project. To be involved in one of the best producer’s final offering is a testament to Nottz’ dedication and hard work and serves as the ultimate compliment.
“That’s big shit,” he answers in response to being added to the lineup. “We got like the first shit on his album, that’s crazy. I was shocked. Some niggas might hate cuz I’m on it, but others will be like that’s hot. I seen Just Blaze at the Amphitheater and he was like he heard the shit cuz Dre played it for him. So if Dre is playing it for niggas it must be something crazy.”
While most dudes would get big headed over such accolades, Nottz stays grounded as he gets closer to achieving his goal of doing at least one joint for everybody in the game. Instead of lamping up in a club on this Saturday night, he is set to head out after the interview to support his boy J. Clyde Morris, a producer down with his team who is participating in a beat battle at Old Dominion University. He’s continually supports new talent, taking out whatever time he has to give out advice to heads just getting into the game. His main suggestion for new producers is to concentrate on learning the industry before getting caught up in deciding whether they want a Triton or Motif.
“Get a book!” he emphasizes. “That’s your first piece of equipment. Read about this business before you get your ass in to it. It’s more business than anything. Fuck the equipment right now and get a book. After that start out with a turntable and listen to some old records and experiment, but get that book.”