Conversations With Chad: Bud’da Speaks On Producing “Bow Down” Album For Westside Connection

Bud’da 2018

Multi-platinum producer Bud’da revitalized the sound of west coast Gangsta Rap in the mid-90’s when he superbly crafted the majority of Westside Connection’s double-platinum selling masterpiece Bow Down.

In 1996, Ice Cube recruited WC and Mack 10 to join him in forming Westside Connection, and the trio went on to release one of the hardest, most unapologetic Gangsta Rap albums in history.  To produce the monumental record, Ice Cube turned the reigns over to an unknown producer, ironically out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Bud’da stepped up to the challenge and delivered a stellar composition.  The resulting sound was much different than the reigning g-funk sound which permeated the west coast music scene in the early nineties.

Chad Kiser recently caught up with multi-platinum producer Bud’da to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit the making of Bow Down.  We discuss working with Ice Cube and Westside Connection, what equipment was used to create the “sound” for the album, and turning Ahamad Jamal into a “3 Time Felon” among other topics.

________________________________________________________________________________

Exclusive Interview By: Chad Kiser

What equipment were you using to create the sound for Westside Connection’s “Bow Down” song?

That whole record was done strictly on the SP-1200, even though there’s synth sounds all in the record.  I sampled Moog parts and actually played it on the pads of the SP-1200.  The bass line, the Moog lead line and other elements weren’t things I could midi to the drum machine.  I would sample the sounds and play it on the pads.  When you hear the sound in the hook [imitates the high-pitched sound], somebody who knows sampling would know that because it’s a sample when you speed a sample up anything involved with the sample speeds up.  When you slow it down, everything with it slows down.  If you listen to that record, and listen to that part you’ll hear that it goes really fast and it’s short when it’s high because it’s faster.  When it’s low it goes really slower, and it’s longer.  People might assume that I had a grip of stuff to work with and play with, but I was working with limited resources.  All of that stuff was sampled in the drum machine.  When I think about that era and using the SP-1200, with technology now you have unlimited resources to create.  In those days, when you didn’t have as much you had to get really creative to be able to pull something off that made sense.

In other interviews you’ve stated that, at the time, you were giving Ice Cube 25 beats a week in preparation for the Westside Connection project.  Was “Bow Down”, musically, a finished track, or did more work go into it after Cube got it?

When Cube got it, from a music standpoint, it was pretty much done.  What got added at the end was any of the little voice stuff because Cube would have ideas about voice add-ins and adding parts like that.

The “Bow Down” track almost became a Dr. Dre song.  How did that almost wind up with Dr. Dre instead of Ice Cube?

Initially, I was excited that Cube had mentioned that he wanted it, but I hadn’t heard anything from him since he said that.  I didn’t know if they were writing to it, if he was just busy, or what the process was, so I thought he was dragging his feet a little bit [laughs].  I was still new in the game, and I was around Dre at that time, too, prior to Aftermath.  We were up at Dre’s house for some function, and I was playing him some tracks.  He heard the “Bow Down” track in the group I played and he mentioned he wanted it.  I figured Dre would pull the trigger and move on it because I had seen him do it before to [Sam] Sneed.  If there was something Sneed did that he wanted, he’d speak on it and it would happen.

I mentioned that I had already given it to Cube because I felt torn in the middle.  I hit Cube up and let him know that Dr. Dre was interested in it, too. He wasn’t too happy about that [laughs].  I was wet behind the ears to the game in general, but Cube told me that he had said he wanted this track, so I knew at that point it was a wrap for Cube to keep it.  But you know, at the time I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t know what the protocol was [laughs].  I was just trying to make it happen.  I’m glad it went the way it did, I think it worked good for Westside Connection.  Mack, Cube, and Dub killed it!  They did the perfect thing with it.

Did you ever have any idea of what Dr. Dre was going to do with the track had he been given it?

No, but it would have been interesting to see what Dre would have done with it at that time.  I’m sure it would have been something phenomenal as well.  That’s a story we’ll never know.  There’s always records that when something gets initially cut, you never know where the life of the record is going to go.  You might like it one way, but then you hear it another way and you either don’t like it as much, or you like it even more.  I remember when “Natural Born Killaz” was just Sneed rapping on it, and it was dope then.  Or some of the Aaliyah records I did where Static [Major] would sing the verses, and then Aaliyah would get on it and it would just be different.  It’s just an interesting process that occurs.

What can you tell me about the making of the “Do You Like Criminals” record and you building that one?

I was just trying to go hard with that one.  I was trying to make something that would rival “Natural Born Killaz”.  Just something that would be odd and hard, that when you heard it, it was just hard.  By the time that track came about, I think I was a couple in, in relation to them picking joints for the album.  So, I was pumped at that point knowing what the direction was going to be.  As you submit tracks to people you see what they’re picking and what kind of vibe to go for, or what feel they like.  So, I was excited to do something that had that kind of energy because I knew they would kill it.

What kind of set that track off in terms of the musical direction?

The piano I used and played is what kind of drove that whole track.  Theory-wise, it didn’t make sense, so it was odd, but it felt a certain way.  Then, adding the drums to it, it was just like “Bow Down” where I was utilizing the same resources I had for that track which was strictly the SP-1200.  I was experimenting with Moog sounds and sampling them in there, tuning them and pitching them, it just came together. I just understood the vibe based off the other things they had picked.

With “The Gangsta, The Killa, and the Dope Dealer” you flipped the Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” song for this one.  How did this track come together?

The Nine Inch Nails sample was the sample that sparked it and jumped it all off.  All of the other little elements that were in there, like the Goodie Mob, was voice sample stuff.  Once the vocals were laid, it was thinking of things that may fit.  We would add certain elements to make sense with the record to further drive the point across.  But from the gate, it was the Nine Inch Nails sample that drove it, the drums, and then the bass line along with everything else.  Adding any vocal element usually came after they laid their vocals just so they can really push the point or drive the point with more so what the song was about and make the point valid.

“3 Time Felons” is a personal favorite of mine from the album.  You took Joe Tex’s “Papa Was Too”, Ahmad Jamal’s “Ghetto Child”, and some vocals from The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” and put together a dope record. 

With “3 Time Felons”, I took the drums for Joe Tex’s “Papa Was Too”, and what I was really going for was really creating something new, man.  I was trying to merge different worlds together.  I still try to do that to this day, even if it’s scoring something for film or doing something for television.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, it was a melting pot of music.  Being Midwest and partially east, we listened to a plethora of different music.  We listened to everything from 8Ball & MJG to Diamond D, and there were no color lines in relation to music.  Taking bits and pieces of things I liked, creatively and merging them all together, I think that record was a good first run of that kind of sound.

Prior to that, I hadn’t heard anything like that, meaning merging east coast drums and not being a loop.  Dr. Dre dealt with certain drum loops and breaks that were universal, but the art of taking drum sounds and playing them yourself, like a Pete Rock, and putting west coast sounds over them wasn’t something I’d really heard.  I came from the era of the SP-1200 and filtering out bass lines on jazz records and doing all of that stuff.  So merging that world with live instrumentation, moog sounds, and just mixing the two worlds together is what I think made the Westside Connection album so organic.  By me playing the drums with the drum machine is what made it sound slightly different than anything that may have been a little bit prior to that.  For the most part, people were using loops and they would play drums on top of the loops, and gate the loops out to where it felt like it had a good feeling.  I would use loops at times, but for the most part I wanted to make my own patterns and try to make it sound like a drummer.  I think organically why Westside Connection felt the way that it did was because it merged the two worlds together.

The merging of musical worlds you’re speaking to is pretty evident just in those names used for “3 Time Felons”. 

Now that you mention it, it’s crazy because it would have been unheard of to sample Ahmad Jamal for the most part, and make Ahmad Jamal gangster.  If you listen to any of the records out now, you wouldn’t even think to go that route.

“Cross’Em Out And Put A K” was one of the more scathing records you produced on the project.  Tell me about putting that composition together.

On that record specifically, I believe I had utilized the same elements like sampling the moog and playing it on the SP-1200.  I also had Stu-B-Doo playing some keys on there, too, on certain parts.  What I think I was going for with that record was really on some “Street Scholars” and Sam Sneed vibe stuff.  If you hear it, there’s those odd notes and stuff that’s in there, hitting certain notes that were off, but it gave it a certain vibe.  The energy was the same as the other records, but it was a little bit more up-tempo.  It a different drum pattern than the other stuff because it was a bit busier.

Did you know that record was going to be what it was, a blistering cut that called out seemingly everyone from Cypress Hill, Q-Tip, female rappers, and more.  What were your thoughts when you heard the final product?

Me submitting music, I don’t know what record they’re going to pick.  Cube might call me and tell me what records he wants, and then he’ll call me up and tell me they recorded to this particular track.  But I don’t know what they’re recording to it until I hear it.

When the “Bow Down” album dropped in 1996, you being from the east side of the Mississippi and you’re hearing all these songs from Westside Connection, what were your thoughts at the time?  What was your reaction to the response the record was getting?

That’s a good question [laughs].  No one has ever asked me that question, but it’s a relevant question, it really is.  Honestly, at the time, my perspective on it was really it was just artists using different pallets of paint.  As much as it was kind of personal and they were dissing certain people, I was looking at it more as the art form, rather than how personal it got.  Later on, when the record starting blowing up and the the whole east coast / west coast thing started brewing, I did have some feeling like this was contributing to the whole stirring up of the stoop.

Initially, I felt like I was in such a bubble, man.  The record came out and garnered a lot of controversy and whatever, but I was like, ‘cool, what’s next?’  I was just enjoying the process of creating at that time, so it’s almost like I didn’t look up for air.  I always like to be ready and not have to get ready when the next opportunity comes around.  In hindsight, even though I don’t regret it at all, by the time Westside Connection had reached platinum I ended up signing an exclusive deal with Dr. Dre when we kicked off the whole Aftermath thing.  But it tripped me out the first time I heard “Bow Down” on the radio though.  It was kind of surreal.