Somewhere between “We Are the World” recorded by charity supergroup USA for Africa and the glitz and glamor of The Academy Awards lies the star-studded list of groundbreaking artists Farid Karam Nassar—known professionally as FredWreck—has worked with. The sheer amount of talent oozing from his creative rolodex is enough to make even the most laid back individual fangirl/fanguy/fantheir a little. But when I connect by phone with the cohost of “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,” I’m struck by his humbleness and the way in which he views each artist he works with as an opportunity to engage deeply and create something memorable.
Over the course of our conversation, FredWreck details his foray into music producing, the impact of technology on the music business, and the positive impact cannabis has on society.
What initially sparked your interest in music producing?
FredWreck: When I was a kid, my family would get together every weekend, play different instruments and sing Arabic songs. I also lived across from an AM radio station. My dad would walk us to the backdoor and the DJ would hand me a stack of 45’s that I’d then go home and listen to. I always loved music, but it wasn’t until hip-hop came around that I discovered what I wanted to do in music.
Hip-hop was the fad of my generation. You were either a graffiti writer, a breakdancer, or you were involved in hip-hop. Finding your way was what made you cool. While I wasn’t good at it, I started out breakdancing, and I’d also make our mixtapes. I really liked reading the credits of an album and seeing the engineer and producer’s names. When I’d hear somebody say [Dr.] Dre’s name on a record, or hear LL [Coo J] call out his DJ—Cut Creator—I’d think, “Man, I want somebody to say my name on a record.” So, I started making beats.
With hip-hop being relatively new at the time, how did you know what next steps to take?
FredWreck: Once I started making beats, it consumed all of my time and all I wanted to do was learn more about the process. I started listening to albums I liked and would try to figure out how the record was made. I’d go down wormholes of finding records and breaks, stuff that nobody used. Then, I learned how to sample, and as I learned how to sample I became interested in how certain sounds were created. I’d try and discover what instruments were used, what pedals were used, and how the effects were recorded. I started making sounds from records like Parliament, Funkadelic, Roger, and Zapp and would save up money from DJing to feed my producing career.
So you’re DJing to fund your producing work. How do you eventually link with The Bomb Squad?
FredWreck: At the time, I was DJing on the radio, and when you DJ on the radio, you start hearing from record labels and other people who want you to play their songs. I would only DJ on the weekends, so I got a job at MCA as an intern, working in the room where they sent out records for radio promotion. When Hank Shocklee from The Bomb Squad became the senior vice president [of MCA], he and I hit off and he asked me to become an A&R. It was a cool experience, but ultimately I realized I wanted to focus on being in the studio.
At which point, you started working with Dr. Dre?
FredWreck: One of our artists signed to MCA was King T, a west coast legend. Hank and company were from the east coast, so even though they produced Ice Cube and all that, they didn’t really put much effort into [King T’s] record. Later, [King T] was like, “Dre is gonna producer my next record,” which was right when Dre had left Death Row and everyone was counting him out. Dre decided to start his own company, which is when I left MCA.
You were on the frontlines of Aftermath’s formation.
FredWreck: I always used to write my name and number on my beat CD, and I’d given it to King T, who had left it at the studio or something. Dre listened to it, and when he first called me, I didn’t believe it was him. I accidentally hung up the phone thinking somebody was messing with me. When we connected again, he was like, “Yo, I like your beats. I’m starting a new label. It’s called Aftermath. Wanna come up here and bump?” And suddenly I was one of the first people at Aftermath.
Around that same time, Snoop Dogg was leaving Master P and was starting his own label, and I got to be involved with both Doggystyle Records and Aftermath at the same time, even though I’d met Dre and Snoop separately.
How did you first meet Snoop?
FredWreck: I was roommates with Xzibit when he finally got a record deal. Soopafly was the producer on it, and he used to come over to our house and hang out. One day, [Soopafly] heard me playing my beats and took one of my CDs. A couple of days later, he called and was like, “Yo, I wanna use this beat. Come bring your drum machine to the studio.” I go up there and it’s Snoop, Nate [Dogg], Tray Deee, Goldie Loc, Kurupt, Daz, Battlecat—everyone was in there writing to my beat. Snoop was like, “These your beats, nephew? You got some more beats?” I said, “I got a gang of beats.” He said, “Okay then. Come out to my house in Claremont tomorrow morning for breakfast and bring me some beats.” So I wrote down his number and drove out there at 10am.
The first thing we did was play “Madden” for like five hours. We were eating this big ass plate of bacon, playing Madden and talking about beats. He can tell you, but I won a game and he started throwing the controller. I thought to myself, “Man, why’d I just go and beat him like that? Now he’s not gonna wanna make beats with me.” But he was like, “Alright, let’s hit the studio,” and I just started laying down beats and he started recording to them. Later that night, he was like, “You coming back tomorrow?” I said, “If you want me to.” And it’s been like that ever since. He and Dre are my big brothers, man. I love them both like my real brothers.
It sounds like being prepared with an arsenal of quality beats helped some of these opportunities come to fruition.
FredWreck: When I was an A&R, people would give me their beat CDs where the beat wouldn’t start right away, their shit was edited incorrectly, or the beat was too long. I knew when I made my beat CD, I’d make sure it started right away and was mastered really well. I made sure my shit was loud and clear in the CD player, and I wrote my name on the CD with a big ass Sharpie because some people would put a sticker on their shit and then it wouldn’t play. In addition to making the beats, the presentation of my beats was also important to me.
How important is trust amongst your peers when it comes to the creative process and being able to try new things?
FredWreck: When I lived with Xzibit, I had someone I could trust to listen to my beats and give his honest opinion. If I was unsure about a beat—and I played it for him—and he was like, “Nah, I’m not feeling that,” I’d be like, “Yeah, shit’s wack.” But if I played him something I was excited about and he didn’t like it, but I still liked it, I’d keep it. Some rappers are listening for something different than what grabs other rappers.
If I really like something, I stay with it, and keep creating things that make me feel good. When I play my stuff for other artists to collaborate, hopefully they’ll find the thing I liked in the beat and like it as well.
You’re creating beats that you first and foremost enjoy, and from there, hopefully someone else sparks to them.
Fredwreck: I don’t listen to the radio or go on WorldStar like, “Okay, I’m gonna make a beat like this one,” but I’ll listen to things – new and old – and if I like the hi-hats in a song or a particular drum pattern, then I’ll use those as inspirations. But am I going to sit there and make DJ Mustard sounding beats? No. That’s what DJ Mustard does. Anybody that tries to copy him or goes after his style is a biter.
Creatively then, what inspires you?
FredWreck: People inspire me. Movies inspire me. Listening to the greats inspires me. I love listening to the greats who came before me. I forget who said it at Michael Jackson’s funeral, but somebody said, “He studied the greats to be the greatest.” I really liked that. I feel like I studied the greats.
I’ve been blessed to be able to meet Bootsy [Collins] and people like that – people who I grew up listening to—and be able to call them and pick their brains. The learning experience of making music is just as important to me as being in the studio actually making music.
How has technology changed the music game for better or for worse?
FredWreck: There’s nothing but positive ways technology has changed the music industry. [Technology change] is always going to be part of the business. When they first made the piano, that was considered a technological breakthrough. When they first made the drum machine, that was a technological breakthrough. Technology is just a tool. You still have to come up with an idea and write a song.
The only thing I don’t like is “email music,” where you send somebody your beat and they lay tracks to it and that’s it. When you’re in the studio together, you’re tossing out ideas, you’re laughing, you’re feeling good, and that brings out the best in your collaboration with someone. Every song I’ve ever made with any artist – that song is like a baby to me. That’s how much it means to me to create a song with another artist and that’s why I always try to give it my all. If I’m going to have a baby with you, we gotta make sure this baby is the greatest, most beautiful baby anybody has ever seen. I want to make the song the healthiest baby it can be and make sure that when I release it into the world, it won’t become a Ted Bundy, but comes out to be a Bob Marley or a Snoop Dogg.
Being in the studio frequently, one can assume you’re around a good amount of weed. How is it part of your process?
FredWreck: I’m a situational smoker. If it’s a cool situation, I’ll smoke. DJing for Cypress Hill and working with Snoop…weed is just part of our lives. The bigger part of it for me is what [cannabis] has done for people. It’s opened up businesses for guys who were selling on the streets. You’ve got other guys now with brands, like Berner and B-Real. You go to cities like Flint, Michigan…all the buildings are abandoned, and at least some of those buildings now can be used by people to grow weed and have dispensaries. [Weed] has helped out the inner city. People pay taxes on it. It’s not hurting anybody. And what’s going to happen is, it will become so cheap and the fact everybody’s using it, it will just become a regular thing. I love the cannabis industry so much.
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