Henny Tha Bizness Talks Producers As Leaders [INTERVIEW]
Here Henry Tha Bizness, producer for major artists including 50 Cent, R. Kelly, and Trey Songz, and renowned for his adaptability and embrace of industry shifts, discusses his set up and his why his anytime-anywhere mentality is in essential in today's music business.
Guest post by Andrew Cross of Landr
Henny Tha Bizness has produced a ton of tracks that you’ll recognize.
He’s worked with 50 Cent, R. Kelly, Jeezy and Trey Songz out of music hubs like California, Atlanta and New York.
But what sets Henny apart from other producers across his 12-plus-year production career is a willingness to adapt—specifically to the new technology and tools available to today’s modern producer.
As a result, Henny eventually shut down his studio and started working on a completely mobile setup that defines the adaptability and anytime-anywhere mentality that’s so important in today’s industry.
Sometimes that means pulling over to the side of the highway and cutting up a sample, or going on a hike with your kids to make a drum kit out of nature sounds.
He shared his mobile production setup and his predictions for the next 5 years of the rap industry. Aspiring producers with wanderlust, take note…
I want to start by asking about the beat you did for “My President” by Young Jeezy. How did that beat come together? Did it start with a sample?
I had just moved out to Atlanta from Los Angeles and I was trying to get used to the swing of creating good southern tracks. I went up and I started playing some of the things I was working on for an OG of mine, and he told me how to get the bass and all the things sitting right—it was DJ Toomp, by the way—and layering certain sounds.
I went back and started layering things, and I started creating a batch of tracks like that. Then we had an opportunity to get in a session with Jeezy. To answer your question, I started with the sample piece. I found a whole bunch of loops online—I love to play over loops. So I started playing over the loops, built the drums from there. Went to see Jeezy. He thought that since we were signed to 50 Cent at the time, that we were only making East Coast based tracks, but he loved that track. And the next thing you know, he got Nas on it, and it became “My President”.
To me, that track is very iconic of that era of Atlanta sound. What were you listening to to get inspired to put more of an Atlanta sound on it?
Back then I was listening to a lot of T.I., stuff like that. Crunk was kind of dying out, Snap was kind of coming in but not really. It was a lot of T.I. stuff, a lot of early Jeezy, and listening to people like DJ Toomp and my man Fatboi. Some of the other guys, like Zaytoven, were still making things poppin’ out here, even back then.
Also, just trying to understand the balance of the swing—There wasn’t so much of a swing really—and making sure that my 808 wasn’t a bass but it was a drum. I had a completely mixed up game from the west. So running that took a while.
You mentioned that once you had the basic structure of the beat, you brought it to Jeezy. How much input does the rapper have on the structure of a song? Are they helping with the actual composition ever?
It depends if you’re in the studio with the artist, or if you’re just sending beats. A lot of the time, the engineer is so close with the artist that they’re actually chopping up the track the way they like it. You could have input if you’re in the room, but if you’re not, the artist records to the sequence that they want to record to—whether they wanted eight bar verses, or sixteen bars, or they wanted a double chorus or something like that.
A lot of the time, the engineer is so close with the artist that they’re actually chopping up the track the way they like it.
That can be frustrating for producers who have an idea about how the beat should work, but you’ve got to realize that the producer is only fifty percent of the actual creation. You have to be willing to adapt. There’s many times where the artist can have more of a say than the producer, but in the end you just have to come to terms with the fact that you’re building your brand and you’re building your repertoire as a producer.
Sometimes you’ve got to give up more to get what you need to get.
Talking about things that are frustrating as a producer—what’s something that rappers could do to make the process of working with producers easier?
Listen for what the producer was trying to go. Regardless of whether it was a sample or if it was a specific idea that they had.
A lot of times, these unsung heroes of beatmakers and producers, they have ideas about a hook, or even just a hooky melody, or sometimes just the vision of what the beat was about or the actual composition was about. You’ll hear rappers just take tracks and do anything to them, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
You’ve got to realize that the producer is only fifty percent of the actual creation.
But I believe that there’s more synergy in conversations, and that’s really the difference between being known as a beatmaker or a producer. When you’re a producer, you’re in there as a leader, you’re really trying to make these records come to life. And it takes conversation. So if artists can have more communication with the producers that they’re working with, I think they can get better results in the consistency of working with one person over time.
What projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m developing my personal plan. It’s been a long time since people have heard the tag and don’t really known much about me personally. There’s a ton of placements in the works, a ton of things that I’m working on, but the biggest thing is my personal brand. I’m excited about that the most.
Yeah you have a video series right? Adventures in Beatmaking where you use a very modern mobile setup…
Yeah, there I’m using an iPad Pro, the latest version. CME XKey Air, it’s a Bluetooth keyboard, and from time to time I switch my headphones, but I’m usually using some Audio Technica ATHM50’s or some Sony MDR70s. Or even sometimes I use my Apple Air Pods or some Apple Air Buds. Between that and using something like an Apple G1, I’ll sample with this little lightning-connected mic that’s called the Shure MV88.
All these little things come together to make a very interesting mobile setup. When it came to showing off how I was creating over the last three years, I told myself I wanted to stay competitive with a lot of the younger producers out there—so I knew speed was a thing. I made sure that I was able to create wherever I was able to create, being that I’m a father and I’m a husband, I have a lot of other things going on.
I told myself I wanted to stay competitive with a lot of the younger producers out there—so I knew speed was a thing.
I still need to be in the mind state of creating even though I’m not in a studio. So I took the idea of really going in and seeing how far I could get with an iPad. I did that for almost two years and started showing other big producers like Timbaland and Marco Polo and Jermaine Dupri and a lot of other guys how I was doing it. And they were like, wow.
I don’t know if I’m ready to take that leap, but I’m going to try it. Because I literally went and shut my whole studio down and I’m doing it like this. And now I’m basically showing people, and as entertaining as I possibly could make it, 60 second videos on how I’m creating everywhere in my life. That’s the premise of Adventures in Beatmaking, and it’s really opening a lot of doors over the last nine months, and I’m 38 episodes in.
So you actually don’t use a physical studio any more at all, you’ve totally shut that down?
Yeah. In my house, I literally have more stuff in my attic, storage and garage than I could possibly count.
Going back to when I first started, I was using an Ensoniq ASR10. If you go back to those days and think about simplicity, only having 8 banks, only having a little bit to really work with, your creative ideas get out there a lot more expressively. I was sponsored by Native Instruments and their stuff is amazing, but it got to the point where I had terabytes of sounds and I couldn’t come up with things because I just had too much.
It was getting to a point where I had all the keyboards, the MacBook Pro, the iMac, the laptop. It was like, where do you go, how do you start, how do you make your decisions?
Like I said before, I needed to be faster. I needed to be more on point. It wasn’t about the mixing and the engineering of it all, it was about getting these tracks to these artists and getting your music out there. So that was my mind state—I switched it up, and it’s been working ever since.
There’s a recent episode of Adventures in Beatmaking where you flip “Show Me” by Amerie. I thought that was an amazing flip, especially given how simple your setup was. Can you tell me a little bit about what that process was, and what you’re doing in that video?
Yeah, I was headed into a session where I was just going to go play with some musicians and create. I was driving, and the track came on my iTunes in one of my R&B shuffles and I was like, “Ah man, this is crazy!” I had all my gear with me, and I literally was like, let me see if I can flip this sample right here and now and make a video out of it.
I’m always thinking about how to make videos as entertaining as possible, so I decided to pull over to the side of the road. I knew in my mind where I wanted to go with the sample. I wanted to make it slower. I wanted to make it half-tempo. I used a program by Novation called Blocs Wave.
Blocs Wave is similar to Ableton Live where it takes your loops and lets you really manipulate them. So I started manipulating the sample where I slowed it down, but I sped up the vocal, and it still kept it in time. Then I chopped it up in my program that I use all the time now, called BeatMaker 3, and started adding drums. Then moved to using my Bluetooth keyboard, went to the backseat of my car to get some more space. At that point, I cancelled my studio session because I knew it was going well.
Are there any unusual or unique ways that you’re using gear? Stuff that you do that you haven’t heard other people doing?
I think a lot of the gear that I’m using now can be looked at as unusual to a lot of other producers out there who are just getting started.
But there’s a growing community of people using iPads and stuff like that. When I show people my kit, they’re surprised.
Even sampling, I’m sampling things using my iPhone and this little lightning-connected mic, but I’m sampling everything in the room, or I might sample the car, I’ve sampled with my kids.
Straight up and down, regardless of what it is, you’ve got to really learn it. So I applaud technology all day long.
One of my earlier videos is taking the kids out to the mountains, and we’re sampling everything in the woods, and I’m using that to chop up and make my own drum kits. So it’s very organic in that way, but at the same time, I’m using my iPhone to do it, and then I’m bringing it back to my iPad to create. I’m never even touching a laptop or a computer to create these ideas. So it’s very unique, and I truly believe within the next five to ten years, a lot more people are going to be going to iOS based devices to do a lot of their professional creations.
With advances in technology, and parts of production becoming automated (LANDR comes to mind), some people believe that the art of production has become cheapened. Would you agree with that? Or do you think it can be a challenge in its own way?
I think in the event that people don’t learn and master the tools that they’re using, then it seems to become a cheat code. Because now they’re really getting into it for the wrong reasons.
It’s like all these young producers that just buy loops and loops and loops, and all they’re doing is taking the loops, adding drums and maybe 808’s, and now they’re putting the beats out there without ever having to learn how to really program drums properly, or even knowing how to play an instrument.
People can say it’s frustrating, but my main thing is to continue to educate. Because it’s only going to get more technological. It’s only going to get easier for people to get into the music industry. But to really make an impact you still have to love it, and you’ve still got to learn that craft.
Straight up and down, regardless of what it is, you’ve got to really learn it. So I applaud technology all day long.