You know a music trend has lost its sparkle when even a guy who’s benefited from it starts looking elsewhere.
Two years ago, Salva got his big career break after he and RL Grime dropped a trap remix of Kanye West’s song “Mercy.” The track arrived right when the trap beat was making its ascent in EDM. But as time passed and trap’s popularity reached Katy Perry proportions, the 33-year-old electronic producer realized he had much more to offer compared to all the remixers lurking on SoundCloud.
“I started getting bored,” Salva says. “I turned a corner. Not on some ego shit, but just on something like, ‘You know what? I’m seasoned.’ I’m not a 19-year-old kid just figuring this out. I want to do bigger things, and these cats can remix rap songs all day, but they don’t have what it takes to get into the studio with a rapper — let alone someone like Schoolboy Q and Freddie Gibbs — and speak the language of real rap music.”
On his new self-released mixtape, Peacemaker, Salva does exactly that. While previous releases found him harnessing multiple strains of dance music to forge his own funky style, here he goes back to his roots as a turntablist and hip-hop lover. The beats are tough and eerily minimal, offering the ideal backbone for the hard-ass raps of MCs like Gibbs, Young Thug and A$AP Ferg — who appear on highlight “Old English,” one of three album cuts that were previously released earlier this year.
Peacemaker — available today for free download via Salva's SoundCloud — is named after a crude, mace-like weapon fashioned from a bandana and combination lock that Paul Salva wielded when he and his friends were little kids growing up in Chicago. His days of cruising around on BMX bikes and smashing neighbors’ mailboxes are long over, but he hopes to make a similar impact with this new musical effort.
“I mixed it, mastered it myself, produced everything, collaborated with everybody on everything,” he says. “This is my statement to the labels and the A&Rs and everybody: Look what I could do on my own.”
Indeed, in the past year Salva’s been quietly making moves towards the pop realm. Coming under the wing of Robin Hannibal — a prolific songwriter/producer who plays with R&B duo Rhye and whose group Boom Clap Bachelors was sampled on Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” — he’s built a solid list of production credits. He recently collaborated with Hannibal on material for up-and-coming Canadian R&B singer Francesco Yates, and you can hear Salva’s subdued 808 intricacies on Jessie Ware’s recently released demo “12.”
As a producer, he’s long been in love with the classic 808 drum sounds. Still, in an age when many beats come from MacBook clicks, he knows success comes from keeping things fresh.
“I’ll go into big sessions with people and everyone’s on the same shit. They’re going to open their computer and fuck with Logic or Ableton,” he says. “Now, it’s about separating yourself with the taste factor — almost not even thinking about it, you know? Just doing what feels right to you.”
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Salva plays Hard Day of the Dead on Saturday, Nov. 1. Tickets, full schedule and more info at www.harddayofthedead.com.