Coming across a vinyl recording of obscure Asian flute music is like striking gold for Sylvan Lake-based hip-hop producer Young Aspect.
The 25-year-old, also known as Reece Zazulak, can find an interesting hook in virtually any kind of music — from ethnic folk tunes, to a Beethoven concerto, or old movie soundtrack.
He creates new beats by electronically remixing samples of old music into something fresh and unrecognizable.
His hip-hop arrangements are so good they’ve ended up on two Swollen Members albums, as well five solo recordings by the group’s MC, Madchild.
Young Aspect has also produced music for Moka Only, Snak the Ripper, Merkules and other rappers.
Through YouTube, his beats have been heard around the world; Five songs he created for Swollen Members and Merkules have each had over a million views.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” admitted Zazulak from a home studio in Sylvan Lake, to know that “something that fires me up” is also appreciated by hip-hop fans in Holland or Bulgaria.
Advocate reporter Lana Michelin asked him about his music:
How does a young man living in Sylvan Lake become a sought-after producer for veteran Vancouver rap group Swollen Members?
Zazulak: Well, technically, I’ve been doing this eight years prior to living in Sylvan. I was born and raised in Medicine Hat.
What are some of the other artists you have worked with?
Other than Swollen Members (as a group), I do a lot of Madchild’s solo music. Other artists I’ve worked with include Moka Only, Snak The Ripper, Merkules, Caspian, Spesh K, Doom Squad, and a few more I might have missed (sorry).
How did you get your start in music? How did you get into record production?
My older brother Jamie “Sixfire” Dexter got me into music. He was so talented, he just passed away on May 5th. Rest In Paradise bro. I started out as a hip-hop emcee (rapper). When I first started, I would download instrumentals to songs I was listening to at the time. I got tired of using beats that were already popular, and became really interested in how the instrumentals were being made. I ended up spending more time on the production side of things. In rap/hip hop music, the producer is the person making the beat/instrumental that the emcee is rapping on. I still do both, produce and rap. I enjoy them equally but my beats have got me more noticed than anything. In 2006, I started talking to Rob The Viking online. That’s the producer of Swollen Members. I had no idea who he was at that time, it was just cool to talk beats with someone. He asked how old I was, I was 16 at the time. He said, “Wow that’s good for being so young” and we kept in contact. I ended up going on tour with them in 2008 and meeting them finally. Madchild and I started building a working relationship and I ended up moving to his place in Vancouver in 2012 to get his solo career started. I have done probably over 30 songs for him to date. I also work closely with Merkules. He is super talented and I believe in him more than anyone right now because he’s young and he’s hungry. You will see him put a dent in the industry without a doubt.
What is your approach to working with various artists? Do you consider yourself a collaborator, since they bring their own ideas to the table, or a leader who can take them in a new direction?
Great question. A bit of both. When I collaborate with someone, we inspire each other. Every song is different though. I like to think I have a formula (which I do) but sometimes you pull inspiration from thin air, or from something that happened that day. Making a beat is the first step. The beat sets the mood or feeling of the whole song. As soon as a rapper hears the beat, they write lyrics that suit the mood of the beat.
I consider myself a leader, but when it comes to my crew, we are all leaders. That’s the magic of it all. I have had experiences with certain artists where I feel like I’m just working for them, not with them. The real magic comes from seeing eye to eye with the people you create with.
What do you consider your greatest strength or contribution?
Right now, production. I have made a bit of a name making beats, but that’s the thing about my music is that I am constantly trying to “one up” myself. I am my only competition. As long as I always look at it that way, then I am always winning if I work hard. People tell me I should either focus on production, or focus on rapping. For me music is therapy, so I need to do both.
What brought you to Central Alberta?
Just over a year ago, I was in a completely different situation. I was doing drugs and not taking care of myself properly. I ended up getting into a situation, and I caught a couple (of assault-related) charges. When I was released from the remand in Medicine Hat, I was homeless. So I moved up here (to Sylvan Lake) to get away from all the negative things in my life and start fresh. I’ve been clean from drugs for 13 months now. It was a blessing in disguise. Sometimes young people make poor choices and have to learn the hard way, I couldn’t tell you how happy I am to be on a positive path now. I wasn’t focused for two years after moving back to Alberta (from Vancouver). I was clean in Vancouver, Madchild kept me out of trouble and away from drugs. When I moved back I got into a relationship with a girl and we partied way too much. For anyone reading this right now remember, negative choices result in negative consequences. I feel like I have a new life to start fresh with and do what I have always dreamed of doing with my life. Making music. When all my legal issues are cleared up, I want to move back to BC. I’m just taking it one step at a time for now.
Is it possible to live in a small community and have a significant role in the music industry?
Absolutely. Everyone thinks you have to move to a big city to make it, but that’s not true these days. It’s not where you live, it’s where you’re at. I have heard of people making a living off playing video games out of their home from YouTube. My point being is that the Internet has made the whole world connected. (Hip-hop artist) Classified is someone I look up to. He makes a living making beats and rapping and he lives in Enfield, Nova Scotia. There are 5,000 people living in that town. It’s still important to go to the city still though for the big events, etc., because you never know who you are going to meet. The Internet is only a tool.
Was music always playing in your house as you were growing up? Who were your influences?
Yeah, I remember my Dad playing Johnny Cash at home as a young child. I always loved Ring of Fire and A Boy Named Sue. My Mom would play her cassette tapes in the car. From 90’s dance music (maybe that’s why I love beats) to Cher, and Melissa Etheridge. My parents divorced in 2000, I was 10 years old, so I became an angry teenager listening to more and more hip hop. I liked the really gangster stuff. The really angry stuff. It made me forget about all my problems. My influences included Wu Tang Clan, The Beastie Boys, Eminem and Tupac.
What did your parents think of your career choice?
Ha ha. I could only imagine what they were thinking. “Wow, my son wants to be a rapper …” It took me a long time to tell them I was even creating hip hop music. I was embarrassed because you never heard of anyone doing it where I’m from. People would look at you and say, “Do you think your from the ghetto or something?” Choosing to become a hip hop artist you have to deal with the closed-minded people. These days there are more styles of hip hop and people started realizing it’s an art form, a way to express yourself. Not a stereotype. You don’t have to be from the ghetto’s of L.A. or N.Y. to express yourself in this art form. So no, at first they were skeptical and not really sure how to support me, they just let me do my thing. Now that they see the accomplishments I’ve made they are way more supportive and think it’s pretty cool.
Is there any advice you would give other young Central Albertans who want to do what you do? Did some advice you received helped you in life?
Be you. As a fan of rap/hip hop it’s easy to rap about something you haven’t actually done. Once you find yourself in the music and talk about real things, it’s much more rewarding. Stay focused, stay healthy, keep a positive mind state, and always be professional. Also, don’t try to rely on music as a career, it’s very hard to make it in the music industry. If you got it, you got it, but even Eminem had to flip burgers till he was financially free. All dreams require hard work, patience and significance to you. I read as much as I can, you can never stop learning.
And anything else you want to add or talk about ….
I want to dedicate this article to my older brother Jamie Dexter. He was also a music producer. He was VERY talented, as he was the one who got me into music in general. He did a couple beats for Snak The Ripper called Final Step and The Mirror. Check it out on YouTube. He also produced for Ibis Giant, from Denver, Colorado, in a group called FIREGIANT. Lots of stuff with Ill Roc Records too from all over America. Shout out to Danny Diablo and Diggy. Rest In Paradise JAMIE “SIXFIRE” DEXTER
Check out Aspect’s music and comments: Youtube – youtube.com/aspectbaxwar, Instagram – @YoungAspect, Facebook- facebook.com/YoungAspectBaxwar, Twitter – @BeatsByAspect