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What Songs Redefined Your Sense of Time?

Rhythm, groove, beat, tempo…

So many musical ideas are intrinsically linked to the way we perceive the passing of time. A percussion part locked tightly to an eighth-note grid has an entirely different feel than one that lays just a bit behind the beat. Music’s relationship to time can impact the way we physically move to it, as well as the way it moves us emotionally, and so much more.

For the latest episode of our podcast, Themes and Variation, Carter Lee and Martin Fowler sat down with pioneering producer and composer, Jlin to talk about “Songs That Redefined Your Sense of Time.” The episode features tracks by The Pharcyde and J Dilla, Youssou N’Dour, and Curtis Mayfield.

Listen in to Episode 42 in its entirety right here:

And if you’re a fan of Jlin, or a producer looking to expand your rhythmic compositional capabilities, especially in electronic dance music, you really can’t miss Jlin’s online course exclusively here on Soundfly, Jlin: Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability.

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Episode 42 Highlights

1. Martin on Dilla (and, as a bonus, Questlove on Dilla).

Martin: “It’s all over the place. If you write that down, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s untranslatable in a way that’s meaningful. That fact points to the gooeyness of it, and the humanness of it, and the precision of it. He came with that full intention, like Jlin was saying, you know. In terms of Dilla and Dilla beats, I mean, I always think of that segment of Questlove on video, talking about how he heard that for the first time, he heard a beat, a Dilla beat, and he was like, ‘Wait, so the kick and the snare can be here. And then you can just take the hi-hats and just move them over here. And that’s okay? You’re allowed to do that?'”

2. Jlin on the power of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love.”

Jlin: “Every time, for me, when I listen to it, it’s such a learning moment. It’s a reflective moment. It’s almost like whether it’s a personal or, you know, coming from a place of creativity, it’s such an audit moment too. I missed that feel. I miss that frequency and we don’t have it now, musically. I was telling my parents, ‘You guys are so lucky. You’re so lucky.’ Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of music that I love that’s out now, but I haven’t heard anything that makes me feel like that in a long time.”

3. Carter shares an anecdote.

Carter: “Dilla’s in LA working on this record with The Pharcyde. Tre, a member of The Pharcyde loved the beat for ‘Runnin.’ It was like the first thing that he heard Dilla make. And the kick is like a pretty unique kick drum pattern, particularly for the time, like mid-90s hip-hop and Dilla just like injecting his unique approach to rhythm. Fatlip, in The Pharcyde though, hated it. Didn’t think it sounded right. So while the group’s on a break, Dilla and Tre are out of the room, Fatlip goes in and just deletes the drum kick, like the whole track. He doesn’t just like mute it or anything. He just deletes it. It’s gone. Tre didn’t like that. They got into a bit of a fist fight apparently, outside of the studio. Tre eventually gets his way, Dilla redoes the kick, and what you end up with is the track as it was initially intended…”

Episode Playlist

With every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more. Here’s this episode’s Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

But don’t stop here!

Keep learning about production and beat making, composing and arranging, theory and harmony, mixing, songwriting, and so much more, with Soundfly’s in-depth online courses. Subscribe for access to all, including our exciting new course with boundary-shattering artist, Jlin: Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability.

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Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.