Very often when we hear a good song, we just dance to it and admire the singer/rapper for the song and forget about the people who went through the creative process of making the beats to the song. The extremely talented producer, Eric Kwabena “Coptic” Matlock is a perfect case in example. Remember “I Need a Girl” by P.Diddy featuring Usher & Loon? Yes, Coptic was the man responsible for that track among other Billboard topping tracks.
The US-based Ghanaian beat making genius has also produced beats for the likes of Notorious BIG, G-Dep, Jermaine Dupri, KRS-One, Black Rob, Mase. Memphis Bleek, Carl Thomas, Ice Cube and many others.
Coptic was born in Kumasi, but grew up in Accra and Awukugua mostly. He schooled at Associated International in Accra, but loved it at the village in the Akuapim Mountains with his grandmother, Augustina Addo. He would always go to the village when school was out and run through the bush, to go hunting, fishing, or whatever.
His love affair with music started at an early age; according to his mom, he was making music from when he was a baby beating on his grandmother’s pots. But his earliest memory of making music was when he was in a local band based in Newtown, Accra. He played the base drum and some percussion instruments. Perhaps, this is responsible for his signature thumping drums and melodies in his beats now.
In January 1983 he left the shores of Ghana for the US at age 13 and that marked the beginning of what has become the success story of this pure musical genius today. I caught up with Coptic to find out more about his productions, experiences and future plans for Ghana and Africa.
Ameyaw Debrah: What was your first production?My first production sold was to Puff Daddy, this was before his first album came out and when Biggie Smalls was still alive. It was supposed to be on Puff’s album and it was to feature Biggie Smalls. Well, I got paid for the track, Biggie died a few weeks later and I never heard that track again. My first actual released production was to Jermaine Dupri, for his ‘Life in 1472’ album. The song was “All That’s Gotta Go” Featuring Da Brat and that album sold platinum plus.
Ameyaw Debrah: So how did you make this breakthrough as a producer?
I hung out at Uptown Records a lot, which was Andre Harrell’s label. That was around the time that Puff was A&R for Andre and working with Mary J Blidge and others. My boy/business partner David Best worked in the mailroom for the record label, so that got me through the front door and a chance to see a functioning and successful record label in action.
About a year later David introduced me to his junior high school friend, Harve Pierre. Harve is the current president of Bad Boy Worldwide, but back then Harve was Puff’’s A&R at his newly created label Bad Boy Entertainment. With Harve’s early and later guidance, I was able to get in the right places.
Ameyaw Debrah: How did this lead to meeting the likes of Diddy, Jermain Dupri and others?
I worked on my craft for a few more years until Harve felt that my music was ready, at that point he passed my TAPE to my current manager Anthony Hubbard, he then passed it on to Deric “D-dot” Angelette, who at this point was the hottest hip hop producer in America. Deric had produced the “Benjamins” and a whole lot of other hits for Bad Boy, he liked what he heard on the tape and it went from there. I worked as a producer for him, co-producing records for The Notorious Big, Puff, Jermaine Dupri and others. At this point he had me, Kanye West and Charlemagne (Bronx) working as producers for him, this was good for us because it got us exposed to artists that we would normally not know.
Ameyaw Debrah: What’s inspires your works and who are your influences?
My beats are inspired by melody and drums. I like hard Hip Hop drums; I always have that in my music. My influences include Bob Marley (I was fortunate to work with some of his kids in Miami) and Old School Hip Hop.
Ameyaw Debrah: Are you currently working on any productions or projects?
Yes, I am working with my artist Lil Goonie from Nashville, Tn. He has the official theme song to the Girls Gone Wild movement; he also has a few songs featured in their television show “The hottest girl in America”. I am also working with Ghana’s own Gibril Da African.
Ameyaw Debrah: As a Ghanaian/ African what is your assessment of our contemporary music?
I love the music coming out of Ghana, but I believe the main problem for an African musician is proper compensation from people using their music. African radio and Televisions stations need to pay artist royalties; this will have a positive effect on the movement.
Ameyaw Debrah: Nigerian music seems to be doing well even in America, what lesson can Ghana draw from that?
I don’t know how well Nigerian music is doing here; both are in the same boat to me. When it comes to hip hop, for an African rapper to break through and make it BIG, they have to be ready and able to compete with American rappers.
Ameyaw Debrah: Have you work with any African acts?
Yes, I am working with Gibril Da African. I also worked with Zimbabwe Legit, Wanlov The Kubolor, and Angelique Kidjo. I am working on an Africa meets America hip hop album, featuring rappers from both sides, maybe one day I will finish it.
Ameyaw Debrah: Have you ever pitched using African rhythms and beats on the works of any of these big US acts and what was the response?
Well I have actually sold a couple of tracks with Africans influences, but for some reason or the other they were not released.
Ameyaw Debrah: What are we likely to find in your studio right now?
Mpc 4000, Yamaha Motif 6, Roland VP-9000, G5 mac / pro tools 002 / Reason, G4 mac / Pro tools TDM, Turntable/ Mic/ Headphones, Allen & Heath 16 ch Mix Wizard Event Studio Speakers, and lots of Vinyl records.
Ameyaw Debrah: What is a routine day like for you?
Get up in the afternoon, get ready to hit studio by 5pm. Work on music till about 3 or 4am, head back home.
Ameyaw Debrah: Are you in touch with your Ghanaian roots?
I was in Ghana for Christmas 2007 and I had a great time. My favourite Ghanaian foods include yam with some Kontomire stew, or maybe some beans and fried plantains. I still speak okay Twi, but when I left Ghana, I spoke excellent Twi, Ga and the Akuapim language.
Ameyaw Debrah: Do you have any plans of working with local Ghanaian musicians in the future?
I would love to work with a lot of the Ghanaian musicians like Reggie and King Ayisoba, we just don’t have access to each other. I am easy to find, search for COPTIC SOUNDS in Facebook and you will find me.
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