Behind The Beats: Mohamed Haniff
Behind The Beats highlights the variety of producers that make the island move with their respective sounds. This feature aims to find out such things as their aspirations, music influences, and how they feel about the local music scene.
Mohamed Haniff the man, the mystery, and the ruler of cool. I first heard about Mohamed after I was sent his EP ‘Nowhere Man’ to be featured on the site. This project introduced me to ‘chill hop’, described as electronic music characterized by is mellow style and mid-tempo beats. As someone so used to listening music with lyric content it was kind of strange taking in just edm-type instrumentals, but I liked it. When I conducted my respective interviews with Teff and Matt Cruz his name was also brought up, with the young producer having songs featured on each rappers project. His distinct style could be heard in these cuts along with his remixes of popular hip hop tracks. My favorite is the Missy Elliot. I finally met the man at Urban Spring Break where he joined Teff onstage for his whole performance. We chopped it up for a minute and its clear that this guy loves what he does, and he’s good at doing it. In this brief chat I found out about how he started, how he got into this niche genre, and what’s next after ‘Nowhere Man’.
See Also: Future- Honest (Mohamed Haniff Remix)
Interview by Carlos Brathwaite. Photos provided by Mohamed Haniff.
Carlos Brathwaite: How did you first get into music production ?
Mohamed Haniff: I was playing guitar in my dorm room in Canada while I did my first degree and I started messing around with production techniques to try to make it sound more interesting. Stuff that people like John Frusciante were doing at the time, then I just started getting more and more into the electronic side of things and playing the guitar less and less.
How long have you been into it?
I’d say around 3/4 years, focusing just solely on production.
Are you trained musically, classical instruments etc. ?
Nah I’m not trained, self taught.
So how did you get into production with no musical background?
I guess just from being a massive fan of music and a huge consumer of it for my whole life. I’m someone with really particular tastes in everything I do and I just wanted to hear a very specific type of music or at least more of it and I figured the best way to do that would be to try make my own.
Your EP ‘Nowhere Man’ introduced some site visitors, and myself, to the “ambient/chill hop” genre. How did you get into this niche laid back genre being from an island of high bpms (beats per minute) and heavy drums?
I think generally speaking I’m more of a laid back person and I think my music more or less reflects my moods at any given time. High bpms and heavy drums are fun for me to listen to but my music generally comes from a place of reflection and I like to see it as an extension of myself. It’s hard for me to do anything else because most of the time it won’t feel natural for me. I just do whatever feels the most in tune with myself in any given moment I don’t usually attempt to make a more chilled out track or a heavier track things just turn out how they turn out and I go with it.
Take me through your beat making process. Do you go into the studio and tinker around til you get the right sound or do you wait until you draw inspiration from elsewhere?
I don’t have a studio so it’s just me and my laptop wherever I happen to be-usually in my room. It’s different every time. Sometimes I will hear something in a song and I really wanna try out a certain technique or something but most of the time I work on music when I feel some sort of inspiration from somewhere else.
” I just appreciate people around here who are trying to do something different and there are quite a few, so I’m excited to see how it evolves over the next few years. “
Do you take on the same process when doing your remixes?
With remixes it’s also different every time but lately it’s been like working on a beat and thinking wow this would sound really good if it had a vocal on top and sometimes I’ll be humming along and the melodies will sound familiar, every once in a while I’ll remember what tune it is and see if I can find a way to make the original fit with my new beat.
Are there any producers who you look up to or inspire you?
I’m a really huge fan of Jamie XX and 40 (Drake’s producer). Flying Lotus was also a huge inspiration for me when I was starting out. Honestly this list could go on and on because there are so many people who are doing so many great things in production it’s actually a really inspiring time to be making music, we’re lucky to be living in it.
Are you looking to venture into any other genres outside of your forte’ (e.g. soca, dancehall)?
I’m just looking to make whatever sounds good, not really getting caught up in where it fits in terms of genre.
What are your views of the music industry in Barbados (Quality of productions, Artist lyrics, Radio play etc.) ?
Well it’s hard for me to speak about the music industry in Barbados because I don’t really pay attention so much. There are a few artists who I really appreciate for what they do, who work really hard but in general I’m not so on the pulse of the players in the industry around here. I’m kind of in a bubble when it comes to these things. I just appreciate people around here who are trying to do something different and there are quite a few, so I’m excited to see how it evolves over the next few years.
What more can be done in your opinion?
In a perfect world no one would compromise and try to do what’s most on trend. It would be really exciting if everyone stayed as true as possible to their own vision and not worry so much about making a name for themselves. That’s it, after that if it’s good then people will like it; if it’s not at least you like it. That’s all I really want to see.
Any local/international artists you wish to work with?
Internationally there’s a boatload with Drake being number one and then Sade. Locally I think that everyone I want to work with I have so far. Even if it’s not in the context of doing a song together, sometimes it’s just good to vibe on a level of mutual respect instead of trying to force a song.
CB: What’s next for Mohamed Hanif? A new EP? Remix compilation?
MH: Right now I’m trying to focus on other people’s music and how I can maybe add my own touch to their projects and create something better than either of us could do alone. I’m more in collaboration mode and then at the end of the year I’ll probably start thinking more about a new project. Also trying to get the live show on point so I can hopefully do something at home.
How disappointed will you be when Athletico Madrid wins the Champions League ?
Hopefully I never have to find out.
Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.