Known widely for his drumming with Lettuce, John Scofield, Nigel Hall, Break Science, Pretty Lights, and others, Adam Deitch is also a prolific music producer, crafting tracks for artists like Jean Grae, Matisyahu, Ledisi, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, and 50 Cent. His recently released album of hip-hop instrumentals, I Get a Rush, is an interesting window into his taste, his aesthetic, and the mechanics of his beat making.
“I was so obsessed with hip-hop when I was in junior high,” Adam Deitch tells Modern Drummer while on a break from a recent string of Lettuce dates. “Even earlier than that, I was already into music production. My goal up until recently was to get a track to an MC, to have a rapper validate it by buying a piece of music, and putting their vocals on. Then we share the publishing, and it goes out. That was the old goal. The new goal is not waiting for a rapper to cosign or validate my music. It’s just putting out these tracks very much in the style of how J Dilla released thousands of his instrumentals to the public. Now hip-hop music has become an artistic statement as an instrumental thing, to be appreciated on its own. That was the idea behind I Get a Rush. Being a drummer, it makes sense, because hip-hop is drums.”
“Joe Mode” pits a sample of saxman Joe Henderson against a big, slightly sloppy beat, celebrating resourcefulness and restraint as well as the legacy of a jazz giant. “The way I got into jazz in the first place was through hip-hop records that mentioned the jazz records that they sampled,” Deitch says. “It was more of a treasure-hunt thing for me, an entry point to jazz.”
Deitch explains his process this way: “I like to mix prerecorded samples, whether it’s a piece of a Lettuce song or ringing some chimes at a friend’s house, recording it on my phone and bringing it home. Taking random sounds from different places that give the track a color, and then creating a layered drum part that feels really good. It’s not a goal to make drummers go, Wow, the programming on here is kicking my ass. The goal is to make your head bob the entire time, and just to feel really good. I spend a lot of time with the intricacies of the feel of the tracks, how the hi-hats lay, where the snares go, what the kick pattern will be, whether it’s a four- or eight-bar kick pattern. Making sure that the feel is human, not quantized or computerized.”
Pro Tools is Deitch’s “method of madness.” “I’ve been using it for ten years,” Adam says, “and I’m very comfortable creating that style of music with programs like Battery, which has a lot of great drum sounds in it. You can also place samples in it and play them on your keyboard or pads. All of my drums and all my keyboard sounds and samples are triggered from my USB keyboard. I’ll sample bits and pieces of my live drumming and throw that in as a live flavor, to go with the Battery drums. So it’s a combination of live and prerecorded drum sounds that I’ve picked over the years.
“I have a bunch of the drums that I recorded for Pretty Lights, on the Color Map of the Sun record, which they spent months EQ-ing,” Deitch continues. “If you hear live drums it’s most likely a chop or a piece of that. A lot of the drums that were recorded for that album weren’t used, so I like to take those very analog, dirty drums and layer them with even thicker sounds to make them really hit.”
“Slippin’ Into Science” features a snippet of Lettuce covering War’s “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” and that track, like the raucous “Obey the Crowd,” is distinguished by beats dropping out and starting up in unexpected places. “You really can’t enjoy the bass and the drums if they’re in the whole time, as much as you would if you take them out,” Deitch explains. “I’ve noticed that from the live touring producers that I look up to. Once they remove the drums and the bass, the crowd feels this emptiness. It’s incredible. If you do that for the right amount of time and bring them back in, it’s like a rebirth—it breathes life into the track.”
“Boom ’n’ Pound” features the drummer’s trademark ruffs, drags, and ghost notes, taken from the Pretty Lights session. “I’m hoping that a renaissance comes back, where people start using live drums on hip-hop records—you know, if you want to hear those ruffs, those little things that make it feel like a human being,” Deitch says. “The 808 drum machine will always be there, and it serves a purpose, but I’m trying to bring a little bit more balance to the hip-hop scene.”
There’s even a drum fill on the track. “I found some fills that made sense with the record,” Deitch says. “That’s what it’s about. If you find the right fill, and it works with the music, great. If not, I’m going to stay on 2 and 4.”
The title track features some nice kick-pattern variations and dynamic shifts from the hi-hats. “It has to always vary some way, even if it’s subtle,” Deitch says. “And I like to layer drumkits. That particular beat is based in the triplet swing of a go-go kind of sound, and DJ Premier’s swing and tempo—just that heavy, deep triplet feel.
“The head-nod factor is everything for this music,” Deitch concludes. “There are a lot of other styles out there, and I appreciate all of it. But at a certain point I just like the drums to serve their purpose—to create forward motion and to feel good, and to allow you to move and sway to the music in a way that you can appreciate all the other elements.”