Relaxing at Omina Laboratories with Sacramento’s King of Beats Jae Synth
When you ask a producer if they have a favorite beat, nine times out of 10 they’ll look at you like you just stabbed their mom in the face, rifled through her purse and snagged her last food stamp. “What do you mean favorite beat? That’s like asking me which baby is my favorite,” they’ll say.
It can make the rest of an interview pretty awkward.
But Jae Synth is different. As we sit around in one of the rooms at Omina Laboratories, his Midtown recording studio, the question sparks an intense, joyful reaction that lights up his eyes.
“Yeah! I’ll play it right now,” he says. “I just made it and I haven’t got the song back yet, but I know who’s gonna be on it: Tech N9ne, Brotha Lynch Hung and T-Nutty.” Synth’s enthusiasm is infectious as he scrambles around the sound board and pushes play.
The track starts with a Godfather-esque piano loop, which looms over the recording studio like a cartoon speech bubble that might read, “This track is going to be very gangster.” As the piano plays, the song’s intensity increases; the hand claps come in and then the drums roll. And there you have it: Synth’s favorite track, which sounds like if Dracula bought a ’64 Cutlass, joined a street gang and rolled through Meadowview scowling at people.
Hard-core beats are what Synth is known for. And his résumé includes some of the world’s most notorious rappers (Mac Mall, anybody?). So it could be construed as hypocritical that Synth has been pushing The New 916 Alliance—a movement to stop violence using hip-hop as a platform for peace. After all, Synth’s beats, like gun claps in the night, don’t exactly cry out, “Can’t we all just get along?”
But Sacramento’s King of Beats anticipated this bit of criticism. “Just because Arnold was the Terminator … that doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. I prefer gangster rap because it’s like watching a horror movie. It’s not like I’m doing something wrong watching a horror movie; it’s just a movie,” he explains, realizing that with success comes responsibility. And he views the 916 Alliance as a sort of community service.
Synth’s success stems from more than 20 years of making music (he credits his brother Tofu de la Moore of Righteous Movement for getting him into the business) and using his gift of gab to network his way into an impressive résumé of collaborations. Just to name a few: T.I., Juvenile, Snoop Dogg, Too Short, Kurupt, Mac Dre, The Game, E-40. And as the days unfold, he’s becoming one of the most sought-after producers in Northern California, which has earned him a crown, of sorts.
“I never say that I have the best beats. I think DJ Epik is sick. Goldfingaz, Bloe, Mark Knox, Tofu—I don’t need to prove that I have a better beat than you. I’m not cocky,” he says.
And he’s not selfish, either. Synth, a well-documented, good-natured person with a killer sense of comedic timing, truly wants people to succeed. He wants unity within Sacramento hip-hop, even if that means sharing some of the fame. “Nobody here has been signed because no one’s heard us,” he says. “There’s no labels here. I refuse to believe that if these labels have heard [J Gibb, Righteous Movement or Doey Rock] that they would deny them. They just haven’t heard them.
“Me included. I need to get my shit out. I’m speaking for all of us. Everyone can put out an album, but you just need to get it to a label.”
So the question is, how does one go about doing that?
“I don’t know,” he says, looking sheepishly at the studio’s carpet, like he’s already said too much. “But for the sake of the interview, [I’ll just say] do the research.”