After the release of Dart’s latest track, “Better”, on Monday, I thought it was worthy of a write-up about the process behind creating the song. It’s one of my favourite tracks that I’ve made to date - the lyrics in particular are a stand out, well done to the homie Dartel for crafting those.
The basis of the beat is a sample of the Jose Gonzalez song “Crosses”, which I first heard on a TV show around 2006. Ever since I heard that song, i’ve wanted to sample it and turn it into something new. Jose’s vocal tone and the guitar sound together make it a pretty magical song. Sadly, every attempt I made to sample the song never worked out. I probably tried to flip that sample about 5 or 6 times.
Then, out of nowhere one day, I decided to try it just one more time, and instead of chopping it to pieces, I just looped it up and added drums, almost as though I was remixing the song rather than sampling it. By keeping it really basic, I was able to maintain the essence of “Crosses”, which is something that always got lost when I chopped it up too much.
That experience taught me a valuable lesson about sampling. On the rare occassions that I sampled, I used to try and chop it up and flip it really differently, mostly for the sake of trying to impress other producers with the way I had flipped it. As a result of making the “Better” beat, I learnt not to give a fuck about all of that and just go with what sounds good. Ultimately, in my eyes, making a good song is the role of the producer, regardless of whether or not the “good song” required a lot of technical ability or not.
After getting the base of the beat down, I added the second half of the chorus which is just a pad (from Absynth, best soft synth around) and a synth in place of the sampled parts. And that really was the beat done. It didn’t need anything else to convey what I wanted it to, so I just left it as it was and gave it to Dart. All of this was around March 2012.
I remember him texting me the same day after he went home with the beat saying the track was finished, which was pretty amazing, particularly given that he normally likes to take his time with getting everything right. I was a bit sceptical to be honest, because I thought if he’d done it that quickly the raps couldn’t have been very well thought out!
We recorded the vocals (which were just meant to be demo vocals) a week or so later on a mobile setup at his place, and he nailed them pretty much straight away. When I first heard them I was particularly excited by a few lines, namely:
"My new address, will always become second best"
"Not tryna be Something Awesome, just wanna be something great"
"I know that people talk, but that’s just in their nature"
That last line was particular poignant, because unbeknown to Dart, Jose Gonzalez’ second album (the album after the one Crosses is on) is called “In Our Nature”. I thought that was a really interesting coincidence that sums up how naturally and easily that song came together from a creative stand point. The “demo” vocals ended up being perfect and we rolled with them for as final vocals. We had to re-record a few small parts a couple months later after having time to really go through the track in detail.
I’m still adamant that this is probably Dart’s best songwriting effort to date. The things he says in the song are sure to be common across so many different people. It’s a summary of a lot of the challenges that nearly everybody faces in some form or another in their life.
Sonically, the song was a pain in the ass to mix. To be more precise, trying to get the kick and bass to work together was a real challenge. A big thanks to the mastering engineer Matt who helped with getting that tidied up. I sent him the kick as a separate stem from the rest of the mix and he mixed it in as part of the mastering process.
The rest of the mix was straightforward. On the rap vocals I experimented with a touch of bit crushing to give them a more rugged feel that I thought paired them better with the sample. With the soft vocals on the chorus, I added a widener (S1 Shuffler from Waves) to really help them fill up the spectrum and contrast with the more-or-less mono verse vocals.
I swear I’ve listened to the song at least 300 times (no lie) in the course of testing mixes - so I’d kill to be in the position of, like everyone else, hearing it, as a finished product, for the first time ever. Hopefully it’s an enjoyable experience!
A free download of the track is available at:
Noho ora mai rā,