• Antonia Robinson

Quarantined Q&A: Sounds Of The Westside With Charlotte Producer ED$

Photo courtesy of ED$

Pronounced in the most southern of drawls, Ed Dolla is a producer from the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina, who's bringing a different sound to the forefront of Carolina tunes. The removal of the hard R sound from dollar in his producer tag wasn’t as purposeful or strategic as it was natural in Graves’ dialect. Now, it can easily be said that it serves as an ode to his sound and ever so southern player nature. With projects such as Box Chevy Tunes and Meet Me On The Westside, it's clear the impact that Edward “Eddie” Graves III rustic roots has had, beginning in Alabama in the early 90’s. 

As an up and coming Charlotte beat maker, his tough tunes are rattling the status quo of the Carolina’s current bop sound made popular by the chemistry between two of Carolina’s own: Charlotte rapper DaBaby, and Orangeburg, South Carolina’s producer Jetsonmade. Drawing a separation from the quick paced, fun bar, high energy duo: Graves credits his hi hat rolls, and passion for sound expansion as his signature sound that sets him apart from the mainstream music that the Carolinas are becoming known for.  

Nevertheless, he remains indifferent about the current tone of the mainstream world, vowing to never compare himself to what has already been done, let alone hold himself to any standard that has already been set. Like a true musician he relies on his ear and passion to guide his journey to the top. I had the pleasure to virtually connect with Ed$ during this Covid-19 Pandemic to talk about how he has still been able to not only create massive amounts of music during these uncertain times, but also release cohesive projects.

Maintaining a momentum of his own, Graves is currently four tapes into a ten-tape rollout co-produced by longtime friend and business parter Malik Ransom, co-founder of Always Run Deep, a lifestyle clothing brand turned in house creative studio. I was able to chop it up with Ed$ about his producing genesis and his current creative processes, his biggest influences and what the future holds for Charlotte’s next beat innovator.

ANTONIA: What was your initial introduction to producing?  

ED$: I would say back in like 2005 or 2006. In my hood drug dealers were the rappers where I came from. Either that or their homie was. My brother happened to be one [of the homies] that they wanted to help put on. He had fruity loops and I would just watch him daily. One day he stole a flash drive from my dad and downloaded fruity loops. I went back home and loaded it onto one of those old ass computers. You know the ones with the butt in the back? I was just fucking around at first, never took it serious until about 2012. 

ANTONIA: What changed in 2012? 

ED$: It got to the point where me and ‘Lik [Malik, friend and business partner] was tired of the wack sounds that we kept hearing so we wanted to make our own shit. We started from the basics but we didn’t know anything. I graduated from Youtube University. I didn’t have a studio or mentor to learn from so my learning curve was way longer. I would study CardoGotWings, DJ Quik, Young Exclusive and Johnny Juliano.

Cardo has this 80’s bounce sound that I really liked. Young Exclusive is a mastermind. Whereas, Johnny Juliano had the keys on lock. He can play with his hands behind his back. Slowly but surely the pieces started getting together.  But, WondaGurl from Toronto, she’s someone people wouldn’t expect me to be influenced by. She made me want to try different things and not be afraid. The smallest thing will set the beat off and that’s what she does. She brings a different sauce. I listen to her so much and I can’t figure out her sounds and sonics. Its out of this world. Oh my bad, add Sledgren. Shoutout to the big homie. 

ANTONIA: Describe your sound. What separates you from the average producer in Charlotte right now, in the world right now? 

ED$: I wanna say I’m a diverse producer. I think Cardo said something along the lines of this, ‘If you try to emulate your favorite producer you gonna get the back shine.’ So I try not to sound like all of them. I try not to be too afraid. ‘Cus at the end of the day its just sound, the worst thing that can happen is its bad. 

My hi hat roll and this weird ass bell-like sound I use. Its so faint and fades into between the ears when you play it or between two speakers. I like to make sounds expands. Everybody says that’s how they know that’s my beat. Besides my tag. 

The main thing is you dont ever want the next beat to sound like the last. 

No shade, But I don’t listen to Charlotte producers because when I did I started to feel like we're stuck to one sound and we weren't being our independent selves. When I hear a lot of Charlotte music I hear the same shit. I do fuck with a lot of the artists, don’t get me wrong, but as far as producers I feel like my sound isn’t the norm. I wouldn’t say we're scared but they get worried about what people are going to say.

It's fine because what you may not like, somebody else is going to think is fire. I’m not afraid to be me. I’m not scared to do that. I will never change my sound to keep up with time. I don’t like to feel like I’m in competition with anybody. I see Always Run Deep, I see Ed$, I don’t really see anybody else. I’m in my own lane. That can make me a target, that can put a red dot on my head, but the one thing about red dots is they always move. 

I just wanna make good music. 

ANTONIA: So speaking of tags, whats the story behind yours?

ED$: Crazy story. One day I kept calling my mom repeatedly just messing with her, and then she finally answered the phone and was like “EDDIE WHAT THE F*CK DO YOU WANT?” At the time I was kicking it with my brother Nick, he heard it and told me to hang up immediately. He said I should send it to a few shorties to see what it would sound like. Two came back, but at first I didn’t like it. It just didn’t sit right. I compare tags as to [classics] songs like Frankie Beverly and Mase’s “Before I Let Go.” When you hear that intro at the cookout you know its time to dance. That’s how I want my tag to be. 

ANTONIA: Why was it important for each tape in this ten-tape series to have its own sound and theme?

ED$: Honestly bro [Malik, co-founder of Always Run Deep] came up with that number [10]. I’ve been studying DJ Quik who did it in so much of a G way. The way Quik puts out the content, and it was all conceptual. When I hear it I see the images. I can make 100 songs a day and get a cover for my album and then make 20 more songs. Once I get the cover from bro, I find the music that fits the cover. Sometimes its nothing that fits, but that’s fine because that challenges me. Its like what can I do next? The last one (Mob Times) so many people hit me and was rocking with it! It sounds like a real movie. Once bro added the skits it was IT. I don’t want to just be releasing stuff with no concept. I can just release music, which is cool, but I don’t want to because I want to show my diversity. I want to show people I’m not just one lane producer. I’m not just a beat maker, I’m a producer. Some people just want to make beats, not me I want to make albums. I want to make good music. All the other shit that comes with it is cute but that don’t really rattle my cage. 

ANTONIA: How are you combating the idea that during quarantine creatives are supposed to yield massive amounts of content and results? How do you combat the need to “keep up,” with an ever-changing music industry and rapper trends.

ED$: That shit be sounding goofy as hell. How you gonna tell somebody they gotta do “woopdy woop” during this time, man nah! I can’t produce something if I’m not inspired. I can’t do nothing if I’m not moved to do it. I like my route. Me and my team don’t have anybody to answer to but us. We're not gonna do the other shit because they already doing the other shit. Its’ really [about] whatever works to [and for] you. I used to be the one to try and keep up but now, nah. But when I’m in the zone I can really produce – and it doesn't take much, just a lil’ bit of 80s/90s music and some tequila! 

ANTONIA: What can listeners look forward to post quarantine? What about outside of the music? 

ED$: Number one, I’m going to keep being a dad. All my music is executive produced by my son, I’m making sure he gets those royalties early. Two, staying motivated. This is not stopping at 10 tapes. Post quarantine I’m still in quarantine. I really don’t have much of a choice to put it down. Its gonna be some big thing that’s gonna come out of this for the future. I don’t wanna say [limit] to 2020 or “post quarantine” because this is never gonna stop. I treat every beat like it’s a life long session. It’s gonna be some lyrics to these beats someday too. Videos, films, merchandise, clothes, it's gonna be a good time and we're really just trying bring a different vibe to Charlotte. We already got the green light but we want it to be wide open and we gonna leave the light on for niggas too.

As far as Always Run Deep, the team, we’re working. I feel like WE have it. I cant even say I because it wasn’t me that got me back on my horse. It’s just about getting every one on the same path. Everybody got talent. From the outside looking in, it may look like somebody’s doing nothing but, nah everyone is here for a reason. I think that’s whats gon separate us. We were taught a different way, dealt the same hand as some but played it different and we're gonna manifest it into something bigger. We all got more than one thing to show for it. I’m not switching it up.

My team is my team, and they're my family. One thing about this industry is you can lose track of who’s family real quick and I’m glad I didn’t. I’m cool with taking the high road and walking on that mountain. You can fall, get scratched up, but still be alive.

Stay up to date with everything ED$ on his Instagram, and make sure you check out his Soundcloud page for all of his musical contributions.

Antonia Robinson is a staff writer at TTT Media, where she covers music, art, and culture. Connect on her Twitter and Instagram


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