Words by Nick Slay

For most studio heads, it’s all about the equipment.

Any Hip-Hop purest will swear by the sampling power of the MPC from Swizz Beatz to Kanye West. Apparently, industry newcomer Steve Lacy is going to change that. Armed with a iPad touch and a gadget called the iRig, Lacy would lay the foundations of what would be Kendrick Lamar’s, “Pride.”

In a recent TEDxTeen TED Talks, the producer talks about the disappointment of asking for a MacbookPro for four years straight as a Christmas gift, yet was denied. Finally, he received a iPod 5th generation and it turned out to be blessing in disguise he needed. In a candid moment of pure honesty, the producer and guitarist talks about how the first beat he created weren’t really that good.

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“It was an iPod 5th generation Touch and from there, I started to explore music apps like iMPC, BeatMaker 2, GarageBand, and all that. I’ve discovered these apps and I’m exploring this world of sound with this little device in my pocket and I realized that I didn’t necessarily need what I thought I did. From there, I just started pressing stuff and figuring it out and just getting some really, really bad beats out at first before I found the piece called the iRig. That’s when I started to combine my knowledge on what a drum beat was along with my guitar playing skills and bass.”

However, that all changed when purchased an iRig, a device that allows users to record guitars and microphones as live music into their Apple mobile device. In a chance meeting set up by DJ Dahi, the young producer was able to play the skeleton track of what would be known as ‘PRIDE’ featuring vocals by Anna Wise. The vocals and guitars on the track were laid by Lacy and Wise and apparently the ‘DNA’ rapper loved it and asked him to put his number in Lacy’s phone. The dream of a lifetime came true when in Kendrick confirmed via text that the song was on the track list for the critically acclaimed ‘DAMN.’

If you didn’t know Lacy didn’t come from obscurity. Before blazing tracks for J. Cole and Kendrick he was part of a group called ‘The Internet’ and their album Ego Death garnered him multiple Grammy nominations. The takeaway is that even a hit record can be recorded with a rather bare set up. Considering that JustBlaze got his start making ringtones and beats for the Motorola 2 Way pager (Yes this was a thing, check Jay-Z’s, “I Just Wanna Luv U” featuring the Pharrell Williams) his success is plausible. Not to mention that some of hip hop’s most legendary tracks were created by poor teens in the hood, hip hop consistently defies what can be done with limited technology.

Watch Steve Lacy’s TedxTeen Ted Talk here: