MichaelAngelo: «I’d like to think I’m more of a producer than just a beat-maker!»
We interviewed MichaelAngelo, a producer of Italian origins from the Boston (MA) area who told us about how he started making beats, the thriving underground movement in the Massachusetts capital, his next works, his frequent collaborations with Eto, Crimeapple, Estee Nack, Primo Profit, RLX and much more.
Peace brother, we appreciate the time you are taking to answer these few questions. We would like to know something more about your background and your city: which area exactly are you from in Boston and were you born and raised there?
MICHAELANGELO: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk my shit and allowing me to tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in Revere, MA, it’s right next to East Boston. I moved to a suburb about 25 minutes outside of Boston. I moved next to my grandfather and lived there for most of my childhood.
My family is from East Boston, so I would visit my noni (grandmother) and spend a lot of time out there growing up. After that I moved to Salem, MA, where I lived for about like 6 years. Salem is next to Lynn and It’s where I first met Estee Nack. While I was living in Salem I also started to connect with other MCs such as Al.Divino and Primo Profit, who I continue to work with. This is where I started my working relationships with these artists.
You have often collaborated with Primo Profit, Crimeapple, RLX who share some Colombian origins and we know that in Boston there is a large community from Central and South America… Do you also have some Latin origins? What is your cultural background?
MICHAELANGELO: I don’t have any Latin background. I’m 50% Italian/Sicilian and 50% German American. East Boston used to be mainly Italian but over the years it’s changed and now it’s majority Colombian, mostly paisa. A lot of my friends are Colombian and so I think a lot of people assume I am too, considering how I work with the three main Colombians in this game.
Boston and Massachusetts have a long-standing underground Hip-Hop scene. But in recent years, a solid “new” movement has been consolidating with people like you, Estee Nack, Primo Profit, Al Divino and others who are gaining greater visibility. How do you describe the Boston area’s underground scene today, from your point of view? Is that cohesive and strong ? Is it working well in your opinion or it could do better with its potential, in your opinion?
MICHAELANGELO:I was around for the older underground scene and this new wave, so it’s been dope to see. We got some heavy hitters in the scene, both on the MC side and the producer side.
We’ve built a strong foundation and we’ve all been doing this 10 years plus already, so it’s dope seeing some of the same people you worked with all continuing to grow throughout their career. We have all been knowing each other from the come up, day one shit. What would be better is seeing more promoters booking shows with this wave of culture and paying the artists correctly for the crowd they bring out.
When and how did you start to make beats and produce? Is there anyone who influenced and taught you when you started or did you do everything on your own?
MICHAELANGELO:I’ve always been into Hip-Hop from my older brothers – I remember bringing a Snoop Dogg “Murder Was The Case” CD into my third grade show & tell and I had a girl tell me maybe I should just show the CD and not the case so I wouldn’t get in trouble (she knew what was up).
But I really started my journey because I used to make mixtapes in high school. When I’d make these mixtapes, I would sometimes throw remixes on there. They were probably off beat but I had a homie tell me some of these tapes were the best selection of songs he heard, and he would tell me that how they faded into each other was perfect and that I had a ear for music. He would always tell me that I should try to do something with music.
Initially I used to brush it off, but before school got out for the summer, we were on the computer together in class and we were both looking into music schools. That summer he passed away in a car accident, and when I graduated the only stuff that was coming in was the music schools we were looking at together. That’s when my mother asked me if that’s what I really wanted to do.
Fast forwarding a little, my second roomate in college was an Italian kid from New Hampshire who really helped mold my sound because by then I was making Dipset type beats but he knew what sound I really wanted to make and he helped and guided me into finding my sound. I remember he would tell me to remake some of my favorite beats.
At that time there was so much sample snitching going on that you could download albums with all the popular samples. So I started to do that, and I started remaking all the classics. I got so dope with it that it got to the point where he told me, “okay, now do all that stuff yourself.”
Something snapped in me like, “he’s right, now I just gotta find my own samples and manipulate them in my own way.”
We had a beat crew of four people and every week he would bring a sample to the crew and make everyone beat battle. He is def one of my main inspirations and still makes beats once in a while. If you ever see any remixes on my vinyl with another producers name, that means that he did it or he helped curate it. Shouts to the Sound Scientist, that’s family for life.
What were your first concrete steps in the scene and the first works that allowed you to make a name for yourself?
MICHAELANGELO: I used to go by another producer name. I would try to work with as many artists from my city and all over as I could, but at one point realized that wasn’t the move anymore, so I rebranded my name and my whole shit. I got some WSG, Conway and Benny tracks early on and decided to rebrand the name and rebuild.
The first tracks that I got a name for myself was CRIMEAPPLE “Chepe,” Rigz “Leaps,” and Estee Nack “Excellence.” Those got picked up by FXCK RXP. If I had to say one though, that “Excellence” video really started it off for me. Shouts to Nack.
How did you get the name MichaelAngelo?
MICHAELANGELO: My name is Michael Anthony and my Italian grandfather would always say, “MichaelAngelo !!!!” to me. I lived right next to him for most my childhood. I used to go by another name with the same initials but it later became a record label name.
That was the main reason why I wanted to rebrand, I thought to myself, I don’t want to drop these WSG and Conway tracks off this name and have it confused with the record label and also didn’t want to drop the tracks off the new name being so fresh. I wanted to put some ground work in before those dropped. When I first thought of it, it meant more to me than my first producing name.
This year you have already released a couple of projects, for example your last one with Primo Profit and before with Eto. How did these albums come about? And what’s it like working with them? Have you found some main differences between their working methods?
MICHAELANGELO: I got at Eto around the time he dropped “Omertà” album with V Don. We built for a while.
We eventually started a track and then I flew him out to Boston to work on the rest of the project. I took some time off from the project to focus on some other projects and just life stuff, but everything came back together this year and I decided I wanted to drop all the material I’ve been working on.
As far as Primo (Primo Profit), I’ve known him since 2012, that’s family. So whenever we get together, it’s natural. The last project we did we started and finished in a month.
Yeah, everyone has got differences in the way they work. With me and Primo it’s more natural. We chill and hang out besides the music shit, so when we do our thing it’s pretty easy.
Eto works smooth, he’s one of the illest writers. I just made sure I had lots of Coronas on deck for him and to keep him comfortable and in his zone.
I think as a producer, that’s something that’s important: finding out how far you can push an artist but also keep them comfortable and in their element, and be willing to push ideas and create with them versus just making a beat and letting them do whatever they want on it.
How has your approach to beat making evolved over the years? And what about the producing equipment you use? What have you changed over the years?
MICHAELANGELO: Man, ain’t shit changed. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what’s changed is the flexibility with the sound/samples and the bpm range. Before I felt like I was always chasing a sound, now I just sample what sounds good to me regardless if I think a rapper will sound good on it.
In your opinion, what is the distinctive trait, the signature, of your artistic production that differentiates you from other producers?
MICHAELANGELO: I would like to think I’m more of a producer than just a beat-maker. Anyone who has been making music with me closely would agree. I try to bring a sound that will make them really stand out or showcase their abilities. I did this one project where I was pulling hooks out of verses and having them add to it and just really producing with the artist.
I have this other album where the artist’s normal beat selection isn’t what I make but for this project I had to adapt to their core sound and also keep the integrity of my own. Sometimes I hear albums where it just sounds like an artist on the producer’s style of production and sometimes that works but I think that’s the difference between me and other beat-makers.
Which artist have you been most inspired by over the years? And do you have a particular musical genre that you like to be inspired by when you have to sample for your beats?
MICHAELANGELO: I think WSG ( WestsideGunn) is a no brainer to start, just because of how he knocked down the door and helped make this sound pop again by adding new elements to it.
But I got a few: I can name that I work closely with CRIMEAPPLE is one for sure. He’s helped push me and made me realize it’s possible. Seeing how he moves and plots his next move is inspiring. RLX is another, when we dropped “DALÍ” I was getting a lot of love all over the world, so that was inspiring alone. Primo Profit another one who inspires me with just pushing me or keeping me sharp and on point.
As far as sampling goes, everything international for the most part. You can find stuff in almost every genre besides Country, in my opinion. I stay away from that. “Botero Statue” sample I believe was a techno or electronic song, so anything goes if it sounds right to me.
Are you already working on other projects? Is there one or more rappers with whom you would like to collaborate more than any other in the future?
MICHAELANGELO: I’m not working on anything new at the moment. Everything I got right now is done. I’ve been working with the same artists that some of these big name producers I’ve looked up to over the years are starting to work with. So it’s refreshing to see the same people I’m working with, these legends are working with too. It def makes me feel like I’m on the right path.
I would love to work with School Boy Q, Action Bronson, Roc Marci, and Larry June would be dope. But until then I’m still gonna be working with the people I have been working with over the last 5-7 years to keep pushing the sound.
Here’s a list of my upcoming projects: RLX x MichaelAngelo “RealLifeXperience,” BoriRock “On DogZ“, Primo Profit “On The Road”, Al.Divino “Wile E. Coyote”, I got some stuff with Griselda too, Estee Nack 7”, Elcamino 7”, Midaz the Beast, Bub Styles, got something in the works with MondayNight from Richmond, Virginia, and Shaykh Hanif from Boston, he’s one my favorite at the moment.