Baltimore hip-hop producer j.robb is another local artist to love

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | September 28, 2017


PUBLIC DOMAIN Producer j.robb is part of Baltimore’s vibrant and growing hip-hop scene.

We live in a globalized world. The music industry, which used to be more local and regionalized, has become a melting pot of influences and mishmashes. People rarely care where an artist is from, and if they do ask, it is simply to add context to their music rather than to dismiss them.

Nonetheless there remains a sort of hometown-pride that occurs when an artist from the place you associate with starts to become successful.

This pride flared up for me recently when I discovered the producer j.robb. He is an insanely talented Baltimore-based producer who has just begun to make a name for himself across the internet with his booming beats and creative remixes.

j.robb’s work can be found littered across Soundcloud and Bandcamp. He seems to drop his fun loosies on Soundcloud while releasing full projects on his Bandcamp page.

zzHe also released a whole lot of music under the alter-ego Mr. Surf after there was a problem with his main Soundcloud account.

Like most producers, it can be hard to reach his complete discography. For the most condensed and clearest introduction to  j.robb, I recommend that people sit down and listen to the Soulection Radio Show #295, where j.robb drops a great mix including a bunch of his best music. It’s a great and easy listen.

j.robb’s style is most obviously influenced by Knxwledge. This goes as far as the titles of the tracks on the projects, with his consistent use of lowercase and lack of spaces.

Also like Knxwledge, j.robb consistently uses compressed or filtered a capella vocals over layers of samples, synths and basses to create thick beats.

But j.robb is not simply a derivative of Knxwledge. Whereas Knxwledge works to create a dirty, dingy collage of sounds — even going as far as replaying his samples through a tape recorder in order to get an even more analog sound — j.robb incorporates modern sounds, rhythms and a purer mixing style to create songs that are cleaner and harder-hitting.

j.robb tips his hat to the history of the genre though, especially clear in his “trash mix of trash beats” that he uploaded to Soundcloud recently. In it, he interpolates some classic samples into his own remixes.

j.robb has a great talent with chops, finding fun grooves and interesting melodies that he fleshes out with fat 808s and rattling percussion.

With each sample he moves in a completely different direction, sometimes using a dance-type, four-to-the-floor type rhythm, other times opting for the trap kicks and hats. This creativity is great to see.

j.robb puts a capella vocals on nearly every beat he makes. Bad producers will often do this because having words on the beat makes it more interesting to listen to. It is one of the most common amateur producer sins.

Any trash beat sounds a lot more professional when you throw a Missy Elliot verse or some Sade lyrics on top.

j.robb is not a bad producer, and he does not use acapellas as bad-beat-savers. Rather than just tossing a verse with the same BPM over a boring beat, j.robb seems to build the beat around the specific cadence and rhythm of the a capella, while simultaneously morphing its sound into a new and unexpected direction.

This is exciting to listen to and can shift your perspective on songs that have already been solidified as radio hits.

This is most apparent on his song “ooooo (webster hall)”, which incorporates Young M.A.’s “OOOUUU” and layers it with tinkling pianos and a choral singing. j.robb somehow manages to mellow out the aggressive anthem into a smoother, more rounded piece that still somehow slaps.

The sliding 808 builds up to a powerful kick rhythm that causes involuntary head bobbing in almost everyone who you show the song to.

j.robb also uses R&B a capella tracks to make some great remixes. Out of these, “saywhat,” his remix of Donell Jones’, “U Know What’s Up” is probably my favorite remix. The sound is exceptionally layered, but each part can still be clearly heard through the mix.

The vocals are pitched up and supported by some heavenly piano harmonies and angelic pads. The kick pounds through all of this, making space for the 808 to slide wildly. It’s a great track.

While being immensely talented, j.robb doesn’t shy from showing a great sense of humor across his projects. Artists can often get overly serious and consequently, pretentious and uninteresting. j.robb, on the other hand, recognizes the fun and joy of making beats.

Many of the covers to his Soundcloud tracks include funny images, like poor stock photos, or a haphazardly cut out TerRio (the kid from “Ooh kill em, TerRio”).

One of j.robb’s tracks is called “knockoff,” a reference to his attempt to incorporate some of Mr. Carmack’s style into his music. Another track, which j.robb made under the alias of Mr. Surf, is called “i miss tpain tbh,” a sentiment that really hits home.

Production is becoming far too saturated. There are thousands of artists all eagerly searching for the specific four bar loop that will bring them fame.

Youtube and Soundcloud are littered with stale “Lo-Fi/Future Bass/Trap Mixes,” all of which bastardize the genres that they claim to represent.

j.robb is successfully separating himself from the massive crowd of new producers with his talent and creativity. With his novel sounds and his youthful, fun demeanor, j.robb is sure to blow up within the next few years.

Since he is from Baltimore, j.robb does a lot of shows in the nearby area. If you like his music and you want to support this young artist, you should stay on the lookout for any upcoming performances.

If you don’t want to go out to see him, just stream his music while studying or relaxing and notice how the grooves make you feel. If you don’t instantly have the urge to bob and nod, you might have some deeper-seated issues.

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