6) Profit

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Sometime during my senior year at Stanford, I got into a debate with a friend of mine over whether or not the overall effects of technology were positive. His argument was that technology is slowly making everyone free due to the increased power it gives an individual to accomplish their goals (much like how I made all of Origins on a $440 budget by doing everything, except for the mastering, by myself on my laptop). While this is definitely true to a certain extent, I countered with the fact that the very laptops that we benefit from are made at the expense of miners who work in inhumane conditions to extract raw minerals in Africa and factory workers who work long underpaid hours to assemble our electronics in China. This debate birthed a song concept that would call out Silicon Valley’s doublethink on this subject by describing the inhumane working conditions that people face for the sake of making technology. I was not capable of writing this song at the time though so, much like “Assembly Line,” I shelved this idea indefinitely and finished the rest of The Bigger Picture instead.

Two years later during my first year at NYU, I moved to Paris to study abroad at IRCAM for a semester. While I was there, a took a class that taught various topics in sound synthesis, composition, and spatialization using Max/MSP. This class made me a near expert at programming in this language and the final project resulted in me making an epic software sampler/ synthesizer that was designed for the Ableton Push. Basically, the 64 pad grid on the Push was split into a 32 pad sampler section and a 32 pad synthesizer section. The wave type, pitch, amplitude modulation, frequency modulation, length, and some other stuff could be manipulated for a sound in each pad on the synth side (meaning that you could have up to 32 radically different synth sounds if you wanted to). All of this could be done on either the Push or with the user interface that can be seen in the screen shot below. There were a bunch of cool features on the sampler side too, but they’re not important to this story. Even though the patch ended up working really well (and resulted in me getting an A in the class) I initially never tried to use it for music production, mainly because there was (and still is) no way to save the sounds that you create.

Working on Max/MSP patch in Paris in 2015.

While I was home for the holidays in 2016, however, I decided to give it shot. At this point, the overall feel of Origins was too chill and melodic for me and I had just produced “Bacon” in a effort to combat that. There still weren’t enough bangers though so I decided to make another noise beat that mostly consisted of drums and weird synth sounds from the IRCAM Max patch. After playing with the Max patch for awhile, I created the synth sounds that come in at 0:09 and the drums that come in at 0:20. This did not hit hard enough though, so I ended up layering some existing one shot drum samples on top of the synth drum sounds. I eventually added the synth drone to fill in a hole in the mid-lows (which I maxed out and resampled to preserve its clipping effect). All of this had the desired effect of creating a mostly rhythmic instrumental that sounded like nothing I had ever rapped on before. It was super repetitive though so I decided that the chorus had to be some sort of dramatic sounding interjection. After looking for ideas, I listened to Kanye West’s “New Slaves” and decided on using a monophonic melody consisting of a choir and string section playing in unison. Once I finished a draft of this beat, the first thing that came to my mind was “Damn, this would’ve been the perfect beat for ‘Assembly Line.’ Too bad that concept has already been used.” After some more thinking though, I decided that the old Silicon Valley doublethink concept would work for this. That was when I decided to call the song “Profit” and talk about how companies use inhumane working conditions to increase their profits.

Much like “Belligerent,” however, Trump winning the 2016 election caused me alter the scope of this song. Since many of his appointees were wealthy CEOs of large companies who champion deregulation, I decided to broaden the song’s concept so it could be interpreted as being about deregulation and the effects it would have on working conditions for the sake of increasing profits. This resulted in me writing about the following three scenarios: 1) A manual laborer (miner or farmer) who works long hard underpaid hours to increase the profits of agriculture or raw minerals. 2) A factory worker who works long underpaid hours to increase the profits of tech companies. And 3) a banker on Wall Street who works long hours in order to gain more wealth and purchase their happiness through the act of consumption. The first two verses were inspired by the aforementioned debate that I had at Stanford while the third verse was inspired by a banking intern who worked himself to death one summer. I ended up handling the scratching on this song as well, which turned out to be much easier than “Midnight Metropolis” and “Trance.” Lastly, there is an easter egg in this song that no one has discovered yet, so I’ll leave the following image as a clue:

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