DJ Alkemy details making his album with Shark, "A Big Fish In A Bigger Pond," track by track



DJ Alkemy and Canada rapper Shark unite for "A Big Fish in a Bigger Pond", a ten track collaborative project that dives into pockets of depth to ripple effects. We caught up with one half of Applied Science and Wasp-18b, DJ Akemy, to discuss and break down the album, which is available to stream and download now.

"Mud Fight":

I won't say what the sample is but it features a sample from an 80's B-movie soundtrack. It was just a simple synth and I was thinking how do I add to it? How do I layer it once I put the drums to it? The more I listened to it, I thought no this is a track where you just let an MC do him and he can breathe without too many distractions in the beat. A couple of times I tried to add to it and it just didn't sit at all, so I thought I'd send him the beat as is, just with the drums and the synth, it's a very simple sample. It was just two chops on every bar. I told him that I could layer it, I could do this and he was like "no. Just leave it as it is". I think the story he's telling about depression and stuff is more important than having layered percussion all around the beat, so I just kept it as muddy and as dark as possible. Pun (Ra) will always say to me "forget layering on every beat. You don't have to layer every beat!". Some MCs sometimes like kind of just a blank canvas with just a nice sample going through it , or a nice melody. You don't need to overdo it with extra percussion, especially if it's a track that's so personal like this one. I think the only thing that I added afterwards was the actual "I'm the dirtiest thing in sight. Matter fact, bring out the girls and let's have a mud fight" from Wu- Tang. As soon as I did the beat, I wondered if that line would fit on here. I had to pitch it down because you could still hear the sample RZA used in the background on "Protect Your Neck". I wanted the drums to match up with the drums on the track. I think pitching it down works well anyway because the beat is very dark and a lot slower. 



"Off Limits" Feat. Adam Walsh, Ase More and Substance:

To be perfectly honest when I first did the beat for "Off Limits" I didn't like it. I thought the drums didn't fit the sample for a while. It kind of reminded me of a "Miami Vice" kind of vibe, so I was thinking of putting maybe softer drums in there, as a way to not be as abrasive and brash as the drums are in there. I worked on it for like four days and I could not find any other drums to fit it and was thinking "ah well, I'm just kind of stuck with this beat" and put it in the folder and forgot about it for seven, eight months. When I sent Shark a couple of beats I thought I'd throw it in there and he was like "that's the one!" and I was like "really? that was one of the beats that I wasn't so sure about". It's like I always say; when you listen to an instrumental just on its own and you're constantly listening to it, it can cloud your judgment after a while because you're already set in your ways, I don't like it, I've heard it too much but then when an MC breathes life into it, it turned it around for me to the point of it now being one of my favourite beats on the album. Strange!



"One Day":

I knew the sample I wanted, I was thinking "I hope nobody has taken it and used it already", so I just decided I'm going to do the beat first and I'll check if anybody has done it and if it sounds ultra similar than I won't use it. So I did the beat and I checked and it was used on Marco Polo and Torae's "Double Barrel". I was really gutted that it had been used but I listened to it and it wasn't too similar. Shark picked it and had actually written the lyrics and the story a good five years or so before, tried it on different beats and nothing ever fit. As soon as I sent him the beat, he was like "I think I know one that will fit this!" and so he did it, sent it back to me and I was like "Yes! That's the one. That's definitely the one". It was kind of the same with most tracks, in that I didn't send him too many, like twenty or thirty. He was near enough picking the ones that I was hoping he was going to, so there was kind of a good synergy. 


"Sunshine":

That's one track where I kind of went against myself imposed rule of sampling Gladys Knight, because I adore Gladys Knight. I said I would never use anything of Gladys Knight's because you can't make anything that she does better in my opinion. It's one of those stories where you think is this true but it is, ha ha! When I was in the shower and I had a Gladys Knight playlist playing on random and I know the track, it's "Ain't No Sun Since You've been Gone". I thought "why haven't I ever sampled this?!" and remembered myself imposed rule and I was like "nah, I got to go in and try this". As soon as I heard the sample I kind of knew what I wanted. I knew it was going to be more of a commercial track but I don't care about anything like that. If it comes out commercial sounding as some people would think, I don't care in the slightest because you know it's done with the right intentions. So, I chopped up the sample and one of the conscious things I try and do is, just because the sample is happy and commercial, you don't have to tone the drums down. I thought I want to make something that's banging and still kind of funky. I think I changed the drums about four or five times on it until I found the ones I wanted. Again, it was one of those instances where I put a snippet up on Instagram or Facebook and Shark within five minutes was straight in. He said "I could kill this one", so I sent it to him and he says "I've kind of gone a different way with this" and in me, I thought there was only one way that it could go because of the sample. He talked about his kids and stuff and I thought that's the type of track I want to be involved in because it's true to me. I've got my nephew who lives with me and do stuff together and I thought especially in hip hop I wanted to show a balance. 


"3 Story View" Featuring Ase Mor and D-Nick the Microphone Misfit:

I was watching a YouTube documentary; you know when you're in that rabbit hole on YouTube just clicking random videos. There was a dude in New York who was being followed around and begging but he still had a lot of pride. I was watching it and you really root for the guy, which is where the sample came from at the start: "I'm not a bum, I'm a human being", so I thought how can I make that into a song, because there was nothing in the documentary that you could sample. I was looking for something to sample and I think it was Lonnie Liston Smith I used, or at least along those lines and as soon as I did the beat I thought that's going to be the one and I wanted to do it about homelessness , but this is one the tracks that was like seven years old. It originally had Mello, Fernquest and Saykridd on there. I wasn't entirely happy with the end results of the track originally, so I kind of shelved it. I never thought about it until six or seven years later and Shark said "I really like that beat" and I said "I do as well. Let’s try and do something with it". The MCs featured told it from three different perspectives as well but it fit more because if you listen to the last MC on the track D-Nick he's more brash, he's kind of like F your problems I got my own type of thing, whereas I originally did the beat as being a bit more open to having empathy but they flipped it in three different ways, which worked out perfect because it doesn't matter what I want from the track, an MC is going to do what they do. I want that as a producer anyway, I want the whole truth and what they would be in that position, so I kind of like the difference in the three verses. They were three different verses but they fit much differently than how I originally did it. 



"Clown Problem":

That was just from watching "Gang Busters". I was watching all the "Gang Busters" episodes on YouTube and that's where the sample from at the start came from. I thought it would be great to squeeze some 50's or 60's gangster sample into a track and it was about two/three days later then I found the sample and thought I got to put that on a track, ha, ha. The track goes against the whole mumble rap thing because I think that was the hot topic at the time.



"From The Shadows":

As soon as I did the beat I was thinking this has got to be Shark, I was like "please pick this beat!". I think I put a little snippet on Instagram or something and he was straight on it!. I told him he was the first person I thought of. It's actually a Jethro Tull sample and is from the track "Budapest", which is like a ten minute track and I had the Jethro Tull album on the sofa and I was half asleep and seven minutes into it, it has this break down and I jumped up off the sofa. I would have never heard that if I wasn't laying down listening to the album in full. I might not have ever come across that sample. I find most of the time when people talk about beat block or writers block I never try to force it, I know within twenty minutes of going in and setting up all my equipment, I know if it's not the day and I can't do it but what I'll do is, from the computer or something, I'll watch a film or even just listen to other music. The next thing you know it's three in the morning and you think "I got to go in now" and you just get that feeling that you'll be able to make something.



"Big Fish" Featuring Pun Ra:

That's another one that was about four years old. It was originally a beat for Rich Quick, rest in peace. He was touring and asked for me to keep it aside and then it was forgotten about, so I just sent it to Shark and told Rich. He said "Oh yeah, cool, we'll hook up another time", sadly it can't happen now. Pun (Ra) actually doesn't like his verse on it but I like it because it's brash like Shark’s verse.



"Press Pause" Feat Cable and Oskeptical:


That was a beat originally made for the last Applied Science album but we had too many tracks on the album. We had twenty four and we were just going into like thirty or forty tracks and realised we had to stop, so I just put that to the side and played a snippet on WhatsApp to Shark and was like "that would be a cool one to get". It's a nice change up on the album, something that's not too deep story wise but has a nice flow to it and nice little sample and I like the guest spots on it as well.



"Dedicated":

It wasn't a track that was going to be for Applied Science but every beat that I do, whenever I go to Pun's, I've always uploaded new beats to his, just for him to check out and he had written a track for it, ha, ha. I said "Dude, that's not for Applied Science". I think the sample was an old Jazz sample, which is evident when you hear the track. It wraps up the album well and when we were thinking of the track listing and the order of it, Shark asked if I knew what order I want them in, I said I don't know but I know that "Dedicated" has got to be the last one. I like the way he says shout out to the girls in the Cipher and the producers, he's just kind of showing his appreciation for everyone else.


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