Catherine Armenta

Two Bonita Vista High juniors spend as much time as they can when they are not busy with schoolwork, faced in front of a Vizio screen display the size of a flat screen television. They rustle through dozens of files on the screen, each file attached to a different sound, piecing together beats to create a coherent and fluid song that fits their vision. Meanwhile, a BVH senior racks his brain to conjure up rap lyrics, looking up to his inspiration Tupac Shakur.

Since his freshman year, senior Michael Hyche has written and recorded rap music. Junior Jamal Horsley has been a music producer for the past year, while junior Nicholas Salazar has been producing music for four months so far.

“I usually get home, turn on my computer, I start putting down the melody first, then I put down the drum pattern. I just work on little things from there,” Salazar said. “[I started producing music when] my friend from Peru told me, ‘You should make beats for me because I don’t want to buy [them] anymore,’ because he’s a rapper.”

All three musicians are self-taught and gained their passion for music from the influence of their families and their peers. Horsley uses the software FL Studio 12 for music production, and iZotope Ozone 6 to master and control audio files.

“Simplicity is key, you don’t have to add too much stuff or the music is going to be mind-blowing,” Horsley said. “I always make it on site or I listen to some other people’s beats to get an idea of what I should make.”

While Hyche looks up to Tupac for rap inspiration, Horsley also admires professional music producers to model his own beats after.

“I always set a goal for myself. Say I want to make a beat like somebody big, I just set my standards as high as possible. Once I make a beat like them and I actually hear them on it, that’s when I know it’s completely done,” Horsley said.

Another way that the students get musical inspiration is through their own personal lives and experiences. Salazar is currently working on a project called Volume and he also has a song out on Spotify titled “September 24th.”

“I make music based on my emotions, sometimes I have really eerie songs because I might be feeling like that,” Salazar said. “My beats reflect the emotions that I currently have.”

Salazar and Horsley often make beats together, while Horsley and Hyche frequently collaborate to create songs to be published on SoundCloud. Hyche records rap vocals while Horsley produces beats and instrumentals.

“[Horsley and I] did a [collaboration] and it got over a thousand plays, which is really big for me because I’ve never done anything like that,” Hyche said.

By the beginning of 2018, Horsley plans on releasing an EP. For this to happen, he is working on completing ten songs produced by himself. The rap vocals are provided by other rappers Horsley works with, including Hyche. He has reached out to musicians from Atlanta, Florida, New York and Las Vegas. Some producers he has worked with include Chinatown, Milan Makes Beats, and Taco El.

“In the future, I would like to work with bigger people than I’m working with right now. I could care less about the money, but getting my name out there is the biggest thing I want to do right now,” Horsley said.

According to Horsley, Hyche, and Salazar, they all are working to have careers based on their passions for rap and music. Salazar and Hyche also hope to become financially stable through selling their music in the future. Currently, they balance their schoolwork with creating music when they have time, which is often during the weekends and after school.

“I hope to send my beats to a really big artist to the point where they can pay me a substantial amount of money. Becoming a professional producer is my dream,” Salazar said. “I [am in] the IB program, so I usually go home, start on one [song] and then do my homework and then finish [the song] later. It takes a lot of time.”

Balancing school and music is not the only obstacle they face.  According to Salazar, when producing music, he can experience creative blocks that prevent him from making beats. However, when this happens, Salazar and Hyche advise against copying the mainstream when coming up with original music.

“I find the hook is the hardest part to master for me,” Hyche said. “[When creating original lyrics, I] do not follow the music that is being played right now.”

While their careers are still in their early stages, the producers and rapper at BVH encourage aspiring musicians to be unique in their own creative work as well.

“Don’t try to sound like another person’s genre, make what you feel is pleasing and nothing else,” Salazar said.“You don’t want to ride anyone else’s wave or else you’ll be a pioneer.”