Kenny Segal aka Syndakit has been in the beat scene for over a decade. In his early days, Segal deejayed at the Concrete Jungle, a drum ’n' bass club that was owned by LA’s Daddy Kev, a prominent and respected mixer, mastering engineer and producer. Since then, Segal has been in the epicenter of LA’s evolving hip-hop and electronic music world creating a style for textured soundscapes that push past boundaries and follow no rules. Segal has a quiet nature about him that makes him a bit of a hidden treasure, but once your ears discover his sound you won’t be able to get him out of your head. Segal and I were able to chat for a moment about his beat repertoire , creative process and the upcoming projects 2016 is delivering…
Kenny Segal's first taste of producing was when he was still in his birth state of Maryland. His friends had a drum ’n' bass group that allowed Kenny to tap into his experimental electronic sound. Segal planned to pursue a degree in computer engineering so he accepted a scholarship to the University of Southern California and moved to Los Angeles, CA. Drum ’n’ bass found Kenny on the West coast as he met friends who had a drum ’n' bass radio show at the USC radio station and they needed a producer for their crew. In the late 1990s, Segal crossed paths with LA’s Daddy Kev and was introduced to the Concrete Jungle, a club that helped shape the underground hip-hop and drum ’n’ bass scenes that were forming at the time. Daddy Kev became an influential friend and mentor to Segal when he introduced Segal to Freestyle Fellowship member P.E.A.C.E. This collaboration propelled Segal into the Project Blowed circle that was peaking in LA’s hip-hop circuit and Segal became a component to the movement.
“Daddy Kev brought over P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship. I had literally never worked with a rapper before in my life. That wasn’t really anything I was trying to do. He started free-styling on this beat and I don’t know if you’ve heard of the album I did with P.E.A.C.E., it’s called Megabyte, but the song “FakinDaFunk” on Megabyte was literally the first rap song I recorded. We recorded it that day. Kev was the one who showed me how to use the headphones to record the vocals. I was that green. I knew how to produce, but I didn’t know anything about recording or engineering at the time. And then P.E.A.C.E. started coming over and before you knew it, we were started on Megabyte and when that happened it was like a catalyst for all the other Blowed rappers because they all heard about this white kid at USC that had a computer,” shared Segal.
During that time, producers were still recording on 4-tracks and tape recorders. Segal and Daddy Kev were the only producers in LA in the underground hip-hop scene that had computers to record on, which made emcees and rappers want to work with Segal. “Everyone would be like, “I’m going over to Kenny’s house to record on a computer. Daddy Kev had Pro Tools and I had Cool Edit. That’s how I met Abstract Rude, Busdriver, and all those other guys. They were all coming over because they heard of me through P.E.A.C.E. It just blossomed from there,” recalled Segal.
Even though the Project Blowed era had phased out, Segal and its main founders still collaborate and have released projects that continue to shape hip-hop today. Before 2015 ended, Segal partnered up with rappers Busdriver and milo to produce their full-length albums. Segal produced the track “Worlds to Run” featuring milo and Anderson .Paak on Busdriver’s album titled Thumbs. Through Segal’s production an airy rhythmic foundation is laid out and aides in a soulful anthem sound that grabs hold of you all the way through.
Segal and milo teamed up on So the Flies Don’t Come released September 2015 and the project is a lullaby rap masterpiece. Segal lays down zen beats that enhance milo’s intelligent bars that hit you with meaning your conscious has to digest. The album took the duo six months to finish, and for Segal, it was an easy breeze to work in.
“Most projects that I have been involved with have taken a lot of songs to find the right ones. Maybe you make 15 or 20 songs to find the 10 that are right. Not necessarily because the other ones suck, it’s just that sometimes they don’t all go together. Too many slow songs and we need a faster one. Somehow, this album was not like that. We did ten songs and they all made that album. It came together really easily. There was definitely some rapport in the studio. I don’t know what it was. It’s like the more you try to put it into words the further it gets in your mind,” reflected Segal.
Segal is currently finishing up the Kleenrz’s second album, a project that has been difficult for the producer to complete creatively. the Kleenrz is a project Self Jupiter and Segal formed in 2012 and offers a darker sound and haunting concept. The second album is set to be released this summer and a national tour is in the works to promote it.
“I have faith in myself at this point that the creativity and inspiration I draw upon to work on music is definitely in me still all time, whether it wants to come out at that moment or not. To me, the worst thing is when I am trying to work on something and I’m not feeling motivated or creative. I don’t try to force things. I try to go with the flow with how things are and how I’m feeling, like we’re finishing up the Kleenerz album right now. We’ve already recorded most of it. We just need to finish all the beats and I’ve just been holed up in the studio, not talking to too many people, and not going out at all. I know there is going to be a period probably after this I’m not going to work for a week or so just so I can clear my mind a little bit. A lot of it is having faith in your own abilities. Not forcing it is the best advice I can give to anybody else. It sucks though. Especially if this is how you make a living. Because there aren’t so many jobs that are so dependent on your emotional state. It can be an emotional rollercoaster,” shared Segal.
Segal also has plans in 2016 to release another self-produced album in response to his 2013 release of Kenstrumentalz Vol 1: Look What I Found Under Kenny’s Couch. Segal described the album as an “oddball project” in the sense that it’s a collection of beats that span about 10 years. “That project, I tried to give it a cohesive aesthetic. That one is definitely all over the place in that it spans just a large era of time. I’ve been struggling actually. I already have the artwork ready for Kenstrumentalz Vol 2 and I’ve kind of put it together two or three times over the last 6 months and I keep stopping because I still haven’t figured it out. Part of me wants to make Kenstrumentalz Vol 2 like the first one. Kind of span older stuff with newer stuff and instrumentals from rap songs, but I also have aspirations for a different sound for volume 2 that I might go after to make it different,” explained Segal.
Segal has another project in the works to be released toward the end of 2016, but with Future Islands frontman Sam Herring. Herring unveiled his rap alter-ego when he teamed up with producer Madlib last year. The two put out a vinyl only EP and named the project Trouble Knows Me, and Segal and Herring plan to do something similar together.
“We have three really cool songs right now. We’re at a crossroads of we don’t know if we’re going for an album or what. I suspect that we will make another EP. I’m not a 100% sure where these songs are going like if it’s going to part of a full length with multiple producers or if we’re just going to do an EP. But I suspect that you will see something toward the end of the year, vinyl only, that will be me and Sam and like 4 or 5 songs,” shared Segal.
Whatever the project may turn into, it is in good hands under the unorthodox soundscape direction of Segal. “Some people will tell you, “oh, I have a process..I start with drums…then…” I don’t ever have a process. Every song I kind of approach differently. Sometimes it’s inspired by a sound, sometimes it’s inspired by a cool patch on a synthesizer, sometimes it’s a drum beat, an emotion. I try my best to not have a formula. I’m a big fan of reinventing the wheels to a lot of things. Some people have huge libraries where they saved every effects chain, I’m not really big on that. I think to just kind of start from scratch every time. Even if it’s stuff I have to redo, to me that’s part of the process of getting there,” said Segal.
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