Masse – keeps it simple

Published: 2008-01-07 by Sebastian Tiger

The KISS principle – ”Keep It Simple Stupid” – permeates everything, from web design to car production. The hip hop producer Masse has the same straight, unsentimental attitude—everything unnecessary has to be peeled away. Anyone who works with music, even if they never have uttered the word ”Yo,” can learn some things from the way he works.


Marcelo ”Masse” Salazar has dominated the Swedish hip hop scene since 1000. His productions have contributed to critically acclaimed CDs by acts like Fattaru, Ison & Fille and Advance Patrol. Lately, Masse’s music has founds its way abroad in the form of collaborations with respected New York rappers Cuban Link and Sean Price, as well as the soundtracks to QD3’s ”Beef” documentaries. He has also put together an internationally acclaimed collection package with a reggae flavor for the music program Reason.

It is perhaps not so surprising that Masse ended up as a hip hop producer; that there was talent in the family was already a well-known fact.

- My brothers were in The Latin Kings, says Masse. When they got their first big advance, they bought stuff for the studio with the money, a sampler and an Atari. I wasn’t really allowed to touch the stuff, but when they were on tour I learned how to use the machines. It took a long time before I played anything that I had made for them. But I had my own rap group and we won a competition, so I couldn’t keep my music making a secret after that. And my brothers have supported me since then.

What has changed since then?

That Atari sequencer I began with was a forefather to Logic, so I have really just continued the same way I started. Back then I worked mostly with samples, but now I make my own sounds. When you sample, you’re still kind of limited. Look at DJ Premier, who still works only with samples. I still like his old stuff, but he has not developed at all since then.

Masse is quick to dismiss all the nostalgia surrounding the hip hop scene; that would be limiting oneself. And the only reason that hip hop producers in the US still use the classic AKAI sampler, according to him, is that the maker has simply “brainwashed the whole US.” At the same time, he is careful not to get stuck in the constant chase after new synthesizers and software. If one by one’s own count makes 200 songs a year, there is not any time for that.

Are you disciplined?

- When we have worked with American artists, everyone thinks that I am really disciplined. I have never felt that I am all that good with the technical side of things, but they thought I was some sort of computer genius. So if you compare with the people over there, well yes, I guess I am disciplined. I am in the studio every day between 10 and 4, and then I go home and make more beats. I make maybe four beats a week and develop two of them. Sometimes I work with something for several hours—then I take a coffee break and do something else.

Is it important not to overwork the music?

- Yes. There is a guy who sits in the studio next to mine who always has to have the latest plugs for the music programs. He always wants the perfect sounds so he can work with something for a month. But he doesn’t make music. Spending too much time with technology is dangerous.

The latest feather in Masse’s cap is as a reggaetron producer. Reggaetron is most known from songs like Shakira’s ”La Tortura” and Daddy Yankee’s ”Gasolina,” and is a Caribbean inspired Latino hip hop that was big a few summers ago in Sweden but that is still a vital genre in Spanish speaking parts of the world. Reggaetron’s superminimalism is far from Masse’s usual intricate weave of soul samples, however.

- Reggaetron is one of the hardest things you can do. The actual beat is the same in all songs, so you have to do something special with all the other stuff. I see reggaetron as being a little bit like house in that respect. Anyone can make bad music. Nowadays there are so many preprogrammed computer sounds, and you can buy finished packages to put beats together, I myself have made one of those for Reason. In the end, it’s only those who do something themselves that are really good.

Sebastian Suarez-Golborne


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