BEAM Bridges The Gap Between Decades & Genres

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BEAM

Bridges The Gap Between Decades & Genres

By Gabby Sgherri

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You know when you hit a real breaking point in your life? Your back’s against the wall and you’re like man I have nothing to lose type of vibe,” BEAM softly says to me over Zoom from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The breaking point he’s referring to was in his early 20s when he was at a crossroads of what to do in his life: continue on his current trajectory as a producer or push himself out of his comfort zone and try to fill the big shoes of his father Papa San. Naturally, he chose the latter or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But his music isn’t a succession of his dancehall gospel singing father. In fact, it’s hard to even categorize BEAM’s sound as his music is full of ‘90s samples, razor-sharp raps, dancehall rhythms, and 808 bass-heavy beats as he effortlessly switches between English and Jamaican patois in the same verse.

Case in point when the 2022 Grammy nominations were announced late last year, BEAM got not one or two but five nominations for his work with Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Major Lazer, and Diplo. He’s a featured artist on Bieber’s ‘Justice’ album on the song “Love You Different,” he has songwriting credits on Kanye’s ‘Donda,’ and Major Lazer and Diplo’s ‘Music Is The Weapon’ album (along with features and production credits). It’s a big flex and not just because of the caliber of artists he works with but the versatility required to work on hip-hop, pop, and EDM albums—along with his personal music—all within the same calendar year.  “The amount of work that I put into last year and seeing that alone made me…” BEAM earnestly says on the topic of his nominations before pausing for a second to think. He continues, “I’m really hard on myself and I’m not proud of myself a lot of the time so seeing that I was like ‘damn okay cool BEAM you’re on the right path.’”

You know when you hit a real breaking point in your life? Your back’s against the wall and you’re like man I have nothing to lose type of vibe,” BEAM softly says to me over Zoom from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The breaking point he’s referring to was in his early 20s when he was at a crossroads of what to do in his life: continue on his current trajectory as a producer or push himself out of his comfort zone and try to fill the big shoes of his father Papa San. Naturally, he chose the latter or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But his music isn’t a succession of his dancehall gospel singing father. In fact, it’s hard to even categorize BEAM’s sound as his music is full of ‘90s samples, razor-sharp raps, dancehall rhythms, and 808 bass-heavy beats as he effortlessly switches between English and Jamaican patois in the same verse.

Case in point when the 2022 Grammy nominations were announced late last year, BEAM got not one or two but five nominations for his work with Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Major Lazer, and Diplo. He’s a featured artist on Bieber’s ‘Justice’ album on the song “Love You Different,” he has songwriting credits on Kanye’s ‘Donda,’ and Major Lazer and Diplo’s ‘Music Is The Weapon’ album (along with features and production credits). It’s a big flex and not just because of the caliber of artists he works with but the versatility required to work on hip-hop, pop, and EDM albums—along with his personal music—all within the same calendar year.  “The amount of work that I put into last year and seeing that alone made me…” BEAM earnestly says on the topic of his nominations before pausing for a second to think. He continues, “I’m really hard on myself and I’m not proud of myself a lot of the time so seeing that I was like ‘damn okay cool BEAM you’re on the right path.’”

I’m really hard on myself and I’m not proud of myself a lot of the time so seeing that I was like ‘damn okay cool BEAM you’re on the right path.’”

I’m really hard on myself and I’m not proud of myself a lot of the time so seeing that I was like ‘damn okay cool BEAM you’re on the right path.’”


The hesitation to acknowledge and celebrate wins is a common dilemma for artists but as BEAM says 5 Grammy nominations is a hard one to ignore. Fittingly his latest single is titled “Win” and he raps about wanting to do just that over stuttering trap hi-hats with a cadence that sounds like he’s sonically skating on the beat. Coupled with catchy lyrics like “Forgive me, I just wanna win/ Forgive me I don’t really know no better, I came down to break it in,” and it’s an earworm listen. Upbeat tempo aside, it’s an emotional song for BEAM dedicated to his grandfather and recently deceased grandmother and is the first offering from his upcoming album—another byproduct of his hard-working year. He doesn’t give much away except that “Win” is just one color on his extensive palette of genres. “I’m gonna tell the truth, I don’t really like singles. I’m still the ‘90s kid. I miss listening to projects I want to bring that back,” BEAM says.

His affinity for the ‘90s comes up a few times throughout the conversation calling that era his “forever inspiration” and naming artists whose influence transcends decades like Busta Rhymes, Timbaland, and Aaliyah. “I’m an 808 guy, the ‘90s baselines how they used to do it’s not the same today and that’s what I want to implement in all my songs,” he confidently says referring to his production roots. Considering BEAM was born in 1995, his love for that decade and 808s makes perfect sense. It was the first lesson his father taught him when he was around 10. “I was like ‘yo I wanna produce’ and he was like ‘okay cool come here’ and I sat on his lap and he’s like ‘press this that’s how you play.’ It was so exciting for me just pressing that space bar button and it playing and that’s where it all started.” He smiles while nostalgically recounting the story to me and even though his father’s legacy seemed daunting to live up to, Papa San’s willingness to help undoubtedly influenced him to pursue music. “As a father that’s a musician, you think he would force you to do things or push you, he never pushed me to do anything he just let me be and let me watch,” BEAM says in a grateful tone.

 

My name’s BEAM and it means Be Everything And More. I’ve always been attracted to different music and my goal in life is to be the bridge, be the beam to those genres and topics.”

The anecdotes BEAM tells me about his upbringing give insight into why his music is genre-bending and full of vibrant cultural influences. While his father’s industry expertise was invaluable, it was his family’s move from Jamaica to Miami when he was eight that opened his eyes to a whole new world of music. “My first love when it comes to music was dancehall because my dad was a dancehall artist and being a Jamaican. Then coming up here to Florida, Florida is like a whole bunch of genres put together.” He muses about discovering rock, jook, dubstep, and dirty south rap via his newfound Miami friends. “All these things I fell in love with and I was like ‘man I can’t just stick to one genre I’m always bouncing,’” he says before trying to remember which US artist really blew his mind first. It comes to him: it was Lil Wayne and his lyrical prowess on albums like ‘Da Drought 3′ that captivated a younger BEAM. But as quickly as the thought comes it goes and he continues to name other artists he loves. Pausing to laugh he says “see, I can’t even pick one artist.”

The multiplicity in BEAM’s music taste and skillset is so ingrained in his identity that it inspired his name. “My name’s BEAM and it means Be Everything And More. I’ve always been attracted to different music and my goal in life is to be the bridge, be the beam to those genres and topics.” It dawns on me how he embodies the meaning of a beam in more ways than one. Apart from bridging genres, production is like the beam of a song providing the base and support needed for the vocals to shine. Beams are everywhere, a crucial piece of construction, but when you look at a wall you see the wall not the structure behind it. BEAM may not have the name recognition of Drake or the virality of Kanye but he’s omnipresent in the industry and you’ve likely come across his work—even if you don’t know it. He worked on 21 Savage’s ‘I Am > I Was’ album, helping produce and write the songs “ball w/o you” and “good day.” He’s featured on songs with Skrillex, Popcaan, Preme, KYLE, Jorja Smith, and Pop Smoke.

 

He was enlisted for Pop Smoke’s second posthumous album ‘Faith’ by Ryan Press—president of North America at Warner Chapell Music—for his beam-like capabilities. “Ryan invited me to the studio he was like ‘man we have this song I really want to show you that I think you can implement your patois and your culture in it.’” BEAM pulled up the same day, unaware Steven Victor was also there or the “Top Shotta” beat he would end up rapping on was produced by Pharrell. “They played me two versions. There’s a version that leaked, all the fans love that version—it’s a good version but Pharell made it more futuristic and on the island vibe. I gravitated towards the Pharell one. I didn’t hear Pusha’s verse or anyone else, I heard Pop Smoke’s thing and I was like ‘fire’ boom did it.”

The fan favourite version BEAM’s referring to is similar to the style of New York drill Pop Smoke popularized but the music he left behind showed experimentation outside the drill genre. BEAM’s island rhythm and effortless integration of patois and English is the perfect bridge between Pharrell’s futuristic beat and Pop Smoke’s deep rumbling voice. His verse made the song sound cohesive and his line “how many many many men wish death ‘pon me?” is an interpolation of Pop Smoke’s “Got It On Me” and 50 Cent’s classic song “Many Men” tying Pop Smoke’s New York roots with his Jamaican culture.

“Top Shotta” was another collaboration from BEAM’s last year of hard work, all of which has come to fruition except his forthcoming album. However, his existing music and work speaks for itself—he was made to do this. A realization he came to during his aforementioned identity crisis with a little help from fashion aficionado and mentor Chris Julian. After hearing one of BEAM’s beats, Julian was floored imploring him to become an artist, and tactfully swatted his excuses with the words “bro if you don’t jump out the plane, how are you going to know?” The simple question encouraged BEAM to step out from behind the scenes of production and try his hand at being an artist. “The first song I made as an artist was the most fulfilling thing it was like that void I needed to be filled.” Every step he’s taken since then has led to the seismic results he’s seeing today and with a newly born son, he assures me his motivation is greater than ever. He’s pushing Ps—progress and prosperity—all 2022.



Photographer: cmvisuals & Sony Music Entertainment Canada


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