The Cream City Beat Battle

The Cream City Beat Battle

Sometimes it’s a sound. Other times it’s just the vibe. Whether it’s heartbreak, happiness, a deadline or a dope sample, producers have been crafting beats for emcees since the beginning of Hip Hop. And, for DJ Main.Key it was the beat battle that brought him inspiration.

As a prospecting producer, Milwaukee’s beat battles pushed him to perfect his craft as a fan and competitor. He went to several events early on in his career—he wasn’t at the level to battle yet, but he enjoyed the atmosphere and competition.

 “Honestly, it’s a fun ass thing to do and just to be out in the crowd, it’s another experience,” Main.Key said.

Beat battles pit two producers against each other. Whether it’s one-on-one or tournament style, the beats do the talking and the crowd sways the vote.

From 2005 to 2015, the Miltown Beatdown opened doors for many local producers. After a three-year lull, local music blog, “Breaking and Entering,” hosted the MKE Big Beat. Main.Key took on the opportunity, and after the eight-day tournament style battle, he came out on top.

“For me it’s like, why aren’t we having more of these,” Main.Key asked. “Preparing for this really leveled me up because of the amount of work I put in and I think other people should have the opportunity to experience that.”

Main.Key making a beat. (Picture by Dylan Deprey)

Main.Key is hosting the Cream City Beat Battle on Saturday, March 16 at Company Brewing. The event will be also hosted by Mic Crawf with music by Moses. 

Battlers include: DSHN, Dev Diamond, Arrogant, Godxilla, Richy Slims, Ave4, KD, Shogun Hua, James Ashen, Lean Beatz, Spice God, Cade Zube, Triv, Datraj, Wabi and Scylla.

As a producer and beat battle fan, Main.Key wanted to send an open invitation across Milwaukee to showcase their craft. From bedroom producer to local hitmakers, he wanted the best Milwaukee had to offer.

“For the Big Beat, other producers would be like, ‘if I knew about it, I would’ve won.’ I barely heard about it, so this time around I was not letting that happen,” he said. “I was going to shove this in everybody’s faces. Every rapper and ever producer I knew, I was sending it multiple times to people to spread around. I just want to give everybody the ability to pass on the opportunity instead of just not seeing it.”

The submission process included creating a beat from one of two samples, either from CameOne, 2012 Miltown Beatdown Champion, or from Main.Key himself. Producers also had to submit an original beat or song.

 “I’m able to hear what they’re capable of when making a beat from scratch but also something they’ve made before,” Main.Key said.

 Along with a slew of submissions, he received some flack at first for hosting a second beat battle.

 “Though Milwaukee has had its fair share of beat battles, it was kind of a one-off, once a year type thing, and having seen other Hip-Hop scenes across the country, I saw how important they are to progressing music,” Main.Key said.

Allen Hallas, Breaking and Entering owner, said he was thrilled to hear that the MKE Big Beat champ was creating another platform for producers in MIlwaukee.

 “Main.Key won our first edition of Big Beat MKE last year, and when I heard about the Cream City Beat Battle, I was thrilled. We'll still be returning our battle this year, but it's great to know that Milwaukee is developing an environment where not only musicians, but also producers can thrive,” Hallas said.

 As Main.Key preps for the premiere of the Cream City Beat Battle, he hopes the event catches on and to eventually host several a year.

 “Doing the battle more than once a year is definitely an option. If people are interested, I would even try to take it to other cities around Wisconsin,” Main.Key said. “There’s a lot of people up in Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay. It’d be cool to bring it up there, maybe make a stop in Madison?”

For Main.Key it’s about pushing the culture forward and giving producers a platform to showcase their craft, while also providing a place for networking and building a fan base.

“This is one of the nights of the year where a producer is the star of the show. We’re doing it all in one night, at a venue with a quality sound system, and no one is fucking rapping,” said Main.Key jokingly.

Battlers:

DSHN

  • What’s your Government name?

    • Joquan Rowsey

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Born in Milwaukee, WI but lived in Ellenwood, GA

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Broken HP Envy Laptop, Fl Studio, Novation Keyboard, and Broken Headphones

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Omnisphere, Novation Keyboard and Headphones

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Andre 3000, Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Wondagurl and Kanye West

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • Musically my music takes you to another dimension, I believe my experimental nature is what set me apart from others.

DEV DIAMOND

  • What’s your Government name?

    • Devon Agarwal

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Whitefish Bay, WI

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Maschine, Omnisphere

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Neumann U87 (vintage), Nieve Preamp/1176 compressor, Whiskey

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Murda Beatz, DJ Premier, Mike Dean, Southside, Metro Boomin

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • In addition to production, I’m an audio engineer and solo artist, so I have a deep understanding of what a record consists of and how to take it there. Working at Hi-Five Studio has allowed me to contribute to the scene in many ways, from hosting our monthly networking events (Hi-Five Live) to partnering with a music app (LÜM).

 Arrogant

  • What’s your Government name?

    • Shawn Evans

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Milwaukee, WI

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Fruity loops, guitar (acoustic & electric), Blue bluebird, Akai mpk mini midi controller...to name a few

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • DAW, waves plugins and my mic

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Metro boomin, nick mira(internet money), Zaytoven, Scott Storch And Xaphoon Jones

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I think one of my strongest aspects is my versatility... that and I just have a natural ear for music. Those two things along with my passion for the craft.

Godxilla

  • What’s your Government name?

    • My name is Chris "Godxilla" Taylor, iMDB has me listed as such [because] my name is way too common

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)  

    • 9th Skreet in Milwaukee, WI

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Pro Tools, Native Instruments Maschine, Logic, Bass, lead, keys, whatever makes noise

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • George Clinton, Quincy Jones, DJ Quik, Organized Noize and The Dangerous Crew

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene

    • A distinguished style of music. I like to think that there isn't a lot I haven't seen in a production situation, so I'm gonna go with experience.

 RICHY SLIMS

  •  What’s your Government name?

    • Richard Melton Jr.

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Born Atlanta, GA and raised in Milwaukee in Hampton neighborhood

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • FL Studio & MPC

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Sports news, snacks, or a podcast playing in the background

  •   Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Neptune’s, Zaytoven, Cardo, Southside and Timbaland

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I’m a producer/rapper and it’s not too many here. I can do all types of genres of music.

 AVE4

  • What’s your Government name?

    • My name is Aaron Holton

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’m just a Northside guy, that’s where I grew up. 16th and Capitol to be exact. Currently residing in West Allis.

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    •  My go-to DAW is FL Studio 12. I’ve gotten so used to it, I don’t think I’ll upgrade for a while. My favorite plug-ins would be Effectrix and Izotope Vinyl. Both very essential for getting my sound and the distortion I love.

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • My favorite producers: Atu, Sango, Knxwledge, Monte Booker and Dilla. 

  • What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene? 

    • What I’m trying to bring to the table that’s different is simply a different sound. We’re so used to hearing bangers and trap, and I want to usher in a more Lo-Fi and Lush R&B sound you don’t hear too much of here in Milwaukee. I’d love to be a forerunner of that.

 KD

  • What’s your Government name?

    • Kordell Singleton

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Milwaukee, WI

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Just a laptop and headphones

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • A computer, headphones and mouse

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Clams casino, boi 1da, t-minus flying lotus and derelle rideout

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene? 

    • An ambient sound with hyper drums.

 SHOGUN HUA

  • What’s your Government name? 

    • Anonymous

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Anonymous

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use? 

    • I use the standard equipment for production. I dabble with a few DAWS.

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Top three studio must: creative mind, open mind and a good work ethic

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Don’t have a top 5, my top 3: Pharrell, Kanye and Dre

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene? 

    • I will always bring good music and a fresh take on the Hip-Hop culture.

 JAMES ASHEN

  •  What’s your Government name? 

    • Patrick McCoy

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Born in Milwaukee, living on the Eastside near UW-Milwaukee.

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use? 

    • FL Studio 12, a cheap MIDI Keyboard, KRK Speakers

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch. 

    • A good studio needs a reliable, uncracked DAW. It needs a MIDI keyboard or drum pad to add that human element to a track. And finally, it needs...well I don't know to be honest. I've never owned my own studio and do everything via my speakers, keyboard, and laptop and I'm always on the move. I guess some nice sounding monitors and headphones so you can properly mix your tracks for both live stereo knocking sound and headphone knocking sound. Maybe the most important, however, is a good whip to see if your beats knock on the road.

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • OvO 40, Timbaland, Boi-1da, 9th Wonder and Ludwig

  • What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?  

    • I respect the classics, and even though I'm always excited to see the new wave and what my peers are doing, I will always take my inspiration from the GOATs who came before me. My sound is heavily inspired by 80s music and classic video game soundtracks. There's just something about old school soul and funk like Gil Scott Heron that really can't be replicated by today's artists. I don't like my music to sound too automated or overly polished because the human touch is always going to be what gives your instrumental a soulful feeling. If the wave is Tay K slap, I'm always gonna find a way to add some soul or funk into the mix because someday I want to make my own wave with my group "Lakeside Sound," consisting of my longtime friends who write, produce, and perform vocals. I like to be weird and that's a hit or miss for a lot of people.

 LEAN BEATZ

  • What’s your Government name? 

    • My name is Damari Coleman

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • I’m from Milwaukee WI, UPT (Uptown) right off Sherman and Locust

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use? 

    • I use Fl Studios to create my work for beats, recording and engineering

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.  

    • When I’m in the studio I need a lot of weed, I need good energy whether there’s people or I’m alone, and water

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • My favorite producers are Zaytoven, Mannie Fresh, Southside (808 Mafia), Kanye West, and London on Tha track, if I had to pick five off the top of my head

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?  

    • Well, I brought a southern sound, more of an Atlanta vibe to the sound in Milwaukee rap. Being from Milwaukee and having lived in Atlanta a big part of my life, I was able to blend the sound together. Making a trap sound that wasn’t in the city and helped shed a greater light on other trap sounds in the city. I don’t limit myself to just trap music, but that’s what got me poppin.

SPICE GOD

  •  What’s your Government name?

    • Noah Lookatch

  •  Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood) 

    • Mequon, WI

  •  What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • I do my best to integrate live instrumentation into my production, sometimes tracking guitar, bass, and drums. Really though, all I need is my laptop with Ableton Live loaded on it.

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch. 

    • Food, water, and good vibes. I'll be in the studio for hours on end, and I've found those are the only things I really need every time.

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter. 

    • My list is always changing in my head, but right now I'd say it's these five: Lido, Monte Booker, Kenny Beats, Haywyre and Killagraham

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I have a background in many different types of music. I've performed on guitar and drums, spanning from metal to jazz. I've DJ'd Hip-Hop shows, as well as EDM shows. I don't like to limit myself. I'm open to working with musicians of all backgrounds. We all stand to learn something from each other musically.

 CADE ZUBE

  •  What’s your Government name?

    • My government Name is Cade Zube

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • I'm from Oconomowoc, WI

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • My setup consists of two Rokit 5s, a Korg Padkontrol MPC, and a 61 key Yamaha midi keyboard—all running into Fl Studio.

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • It's important to be comfortable when you're producing a track. I like to produce in low light, so I have a couple color changing light bulbs that I can turn down low and set to match whatever mood I'm in. I also like to have a snack and a drink with me while I’m working because I know I'm going to be in my room for hours. Sometimes you lose track of time and go all day without eating because you've been focused on grinding out beats. Lastly, I think it's important to have access to other music when you're in the studio. I am always listening to music for reference and inspiration so I always have my Apple music library as well as racks of CDs and my collection of vinyl all at arm’s reach.

  •  Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Kanye West, Timbaland, Just Blaze, The Alchemist and Tyler, the Creator (Araabmusik is a close 6)

  • What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I've been involved with music my whole life. I took piano lessons for 10 years and music theory classes for a year after that. During that time, I was involved in my school's band where I played both solo and ensemble. Right now, I'm in school working towards a degree in audio production. Having over a decade of formal and informal music education has shaped me into a well-rounded artist, and I bring this passion and experience to every new collaboration because it’s what I love to do. Communication is the most important part of working with other people and unfortunately, artist-producer relationships are often times impersonal and disingenuous. The way I run my business, I like to get to know the artist I'm working with and build a relationship before we even start working. I like to meet with artists and work together face to face as opposed to an online back and forth. I think my responsibility as a producer is to be the artist’s other half. I challenge them to try new things and push themselves while providing a helping hand and a second mind. I want to set a precedent for artists that shows making music can be an experience and not just a transaction.

DATRAJ

  •  What’s your Government name?

    • Suraj Joottu

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Madison, WI 

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • FL Studio 11

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Omnisphere, good studio speaker and midi keyboard

  • Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Nick Mira, Metro Boomin, Wheezy, Southside and Pi’erre Bourne 

  • What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • My style of melodic beats with hard drums isn’t something that seems to be present in Wisconsin.

 TRIV

 What’s your Government name?

  • Nick Trivison

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • Brookfield, WI

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • Ableton Live with an MPD32 and a Launchpad

  • Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Good monitors, good herb, and good vibes.

  • Give us you’re your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Monte Booker, Mr. Carmack, Sam Gellaitry, Montell2099, and Chromonicci

  • What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I try to make music that is totally different from other producers. I don’t just stick to one genre. I prefer to mix up the genre or even blend different genres together to create a unique vibe.

 WABI

  •  What’s your Government name?

    • Matt Keene is my gov’t name

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • I’m from Green Bay, WI but have been living on Milwaukee’s east side for a few years now

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • I use Yamaha hs8 monitors, fl studio, serum, and focusrite.

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • Studio essentials are coffee, some relaxed ambient lighting, and my cat who’s usually posted up at the top of my desk chair while I’m writing

  •  Give us your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    • Favorite producers are Nick Mira, Royce David, Joji, Svdden Death and Taz Taylor

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • I bring smoother melodic sounds together with the swing of modern day drums by applying this extra musicality and emotion. I hope to work with artists who are looking to capture that similar feeling instead of just the same hype shit.

SCYLLA

  • What’s your Government name?

    • My name is Jesse Peters

  • Where are you from? (if Milwaukee, throw in your neighborhood)

    • I’m from Milwaukee WI in the Riverwest neighborhood but recently moved to Germantown WI to raise my wonderful son!

  • What type of equipment/programs do you use?

    • My gear are as follows: Propellerhead Reason 9.5, 2013 Mac mini running mojave, Alesis elevate 3 monitors, M audio m track 2x2m, M audio axiom 25 midi keyboard, Schecter Hellraiser Diamond series, Sterling audio s50/s30 microphone, Shure sm57 dynamic microphone, Audio-Technica ATH-M30 headphones, Alesis DM5 electronic drum kit, and Plugins from waves, izotope, fabfilter, cableguys, soundtoys, xfer records, and native instruments

  •  Top 3 studio essentials. Don’t worry if it’s illegal, we don’t snitch.

    • As for my top three studio essentials, Reason of course is my number one. I’ve been working in this DAW for over 10 years and have become very proficient in using it. It’s sound design capabilities are second to none. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without it. My second would be the fabfilter proQ2, definitely the best equalizer on the market. And my third studio essential would be my hard drive. On it, I have my entire sample library from all my drum kits and my own synth presets that I’ve created, to random audio bits of unused melodic ideas of mine from the past that I can recall on at anytime I feel like cooking up something new. 

  • Give us your top 5 producers, order doesn’t matter.

    •  Listing a favorite few producers is a difficult task for me because I look at it as a matter of being consistent and great at what they do, rather than being able to make a hit or two. With that being said, my favorites, in no order, have to be 40 with his large catalog with Drake and Mike Dean, and with all his work with Travis Scott. Anything Murda Beatz has touched this past year has been amazing. Wondagurl has been a force lately. And finally last but certainly not least, the production team of Doc McKinney and Illangelo with their amazing work with The Weeknd, who is arguably my favorite artist out there right now.

  •  What do you bring to the table that’s different to the Milwaukee music scene?

    • The thing that I bring to the table is a strong music background and discipline that started from the early age of three. I learned drums as my first instrument and was self taught with it and then later went on to teach myself guitar, bass, keys, and how to use my voice as a vocalist. With a music history that runs as deep as marching band in high school, to church worship bands, to metal bands to where I am at right now with production of anything you can think of, along with being more comfortable onstage than in my own car, I’d say that not too overconfidently that I am a force to be reckoned with here in Milwaukee, and those who show up to the battle are going to recognize that.

    Admission is $10. For more information visit Cream City Beat Battle’s Facebook page.

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