Transititioning from footwork to hip-hop, winning the Big Tunes Beat Battle & working with Nas
While he had been a fan of rap since his childhood spent watching MTV in France, the first movement that C-Sick caught on to in Chicago was the lively regional scene of footwork and juke.
"It was like really popular in the 2000s, early 2000s, maybe even late 90s, I don’t know, but I know when I was growing up in Chicago when I was 10, it was huge," he said of the genre's cultural influence at the time. "You either played sports, gangbanged or you footworked or did the Juke music. Doing footwork tracks and that was pretty big in the hood. So basketball was like my main thing, that was my passion. Then one time, when it was cold out or raining, my homie just showed me how to produce. He showed me the basics for making footworking tracks. I was just curious, so from there, I downloaded the program, which was FL Studio -- because at the time that’s what he was making."
Gradually, the producer's FL Studio experiments made their way into hip-hop.
"After doing footwork for like a year, you know, just having fun with it. I switched to hip hop because I grew up listening to hip-hop, so why not switch the tempo up? So I just did that and then I got into sampling after hearing Kanye West and Just Blaze. After that, I started looking through credits and learning more about music and sampling and the art, just the art of sampling and creating music."
C-Sick credits Kanye West's "Through The Wire" with inspiring him to learn the art of sampling.
"My mom used to play the original record and Kanye West flipped it and I was kind of shocked – like, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing.” And then I just noticed that hip-hop is based off a lot of samples. I just did my research and found out more about it. I started to understand the techniques on my own and just by watching YouTube tutorials. I didn’t have any mentors or anything like that. I just learned through a friend that lived just on the next block who showed me the basics. And then from there, learned on my own. "
After developing his style as a rap producer, C-Sick got his first big break when he won the 2008 Red Bull Big Tunes Beat Battle in Chicago.
"I was like 17, 18 at the time," he recalled. " I wanted to, like I said, make a name for myself. So I started watching YouTube videos and they had like Beat Battles so I did my research and, you know, typed in “Beat Battles in my local area” or whatever. Luckily, they had one. I remember, it was the summer and I submitted like 3 beats to enter the battle."
After being selected, C-Sick took the title in his hometown, before moving on to the finals in New York, where he also emerged victorious, giving him the opportunity to work with a rapper of his choice. His initial pick was Common, who was special to him because they were from the same city, but when that fell through, he settled for his second pick -- Nas.
"That moment was definitely surreal because just growing up in France I remember watching MTV and seeing him and listening to him on the radio, or like watching his videos," he said of getting the news he'd be working with Nas. " And then the whole thought of coming to Chicago in the US, living here, and now I’m working with this guy. Like who would’ve thought? So that was pretty surreal. I wasn’t starstruck like that but I remember just the next couple days like, “Wow, I really made a song with him.” I like the old Nas a lot so I made sure I gave him something like that. He liked the whole fact that I presented the beat to him. Out of all the beats I played for him, I’m like, “This is really the one I really want you to get on.” And he killed it. So that would be like, you know, a precious moment in my life."