West London soundboy Cadenza is the spark behind some of the freshest collaborations of recent years, including 2019 summer anthem ‘Be Honest’, featuring his longtime affiliate Jorja Smith and Afropop breakout star Burna Boy. His flair for unique sounds and fluid approach to genre even scored him an invitation to Beyoncé’s writing camp for the Lion King soundtrack.
Sound system culture runs in the family thanks to his dad, the legendary reggae DJ David Rodigan, and Cadenza’s 21st century fusion of dancehall, trap, dubstep, rave and Afropop has marked him out as one of the most versatile producers in the game. Since dropping his ragga-trap debut ‘Gyal Town’ on Mad Decent in 2013, he’s worked with top-tier vocalists Avelino, Assassin, Ms Banks, MIA, Sean Paul and Busy Signal, as well as putting out his own productions on Fool’s Gold and Mixpak.
Opening with a rumble from the deep, Cadenza’s submission to this Native-only production challenge combines a glittering, guitar-like synth with a battery of intricate syncopated drums. Producing beats for vocalists means leaving plenty of space for performance, but the gaps between bars call out for punctuation too, so he slots in two split-second samples – a vocal whoop and a barking dog – to stamp his personality onto the Sketch.
Listen to Cadenza’s sketch below, then read on to hear how he made it and check out a short interview.
Tell us about how you made the sketch. What did you use?
I started with Thrill because I love the dark orchestral build-ups you can create with it and it helped me set the tone for the sketch straight away. Next, I moved on to Massive X to find some synths and came across Alternate Tone. That preset has a great guitar-type texture to it out the box. I also added some percussion and hi hats from the Global Shake expansion pack, then found even more great sounds in Astral Flutter and Arcane Attic. I always like to use a few vocal stabs or chants in my records and the Caribbean Current pack had what I was looking for.
What does sketching mean to you?
To me, sketching is just getting down the broad strokes that enable me, and the artists I’m working with, to get a sense of direction for the track. I try not to get bogged down with putting in the extra flair until I have a better sense of where it’s needed, or not.
What did you want to achieve with this one in particular?
I wanted to create something filled with tension, and also quite icy sounding.
It works! Which element is your favorite?
I really like the sound of the orchestral build-up on the intro, which I made using Thrill, and also the Alternate Tone sound within Massive X.
Do you have a go-to process for turning your sketches into fleshed-out tracks?
I usually make loads of sketches that are around 1 minute 15 seconds long, so when I play them to rappers or artists they have enough to get their ideas down. Once we are in the flow, I’m able to finish the track far easier as I can hear what sounds are needed to complement what they are doing.
And finally, what’s the best production advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t overthink an idea. Sketch it out as quickly as you can and then critique it the next day.
Who do you want to hear next?
We’ve already got a stacked lineup of producers heading your way, but we want to know who you’d like to see on Sketches. Know an up-and-coming producer with a unique sound? A cutting-edge sound design talent? Drop us a comment on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
In the meantime, check out a full playlist of all 50 sketches so far over on our Soundcloud.