A sommelier is a wine expert, often employed by an upscale restaurant to offer suggestions that will complement a diner’s meal. Wine is complex and can take decades to deeply understand and appreciate the many nuances. While Portland-based producer goldenbeets admits he’s not quite a wine expert, he does showcase his talent and passion for the craft of making beats on his debut LP, Sommelier.
goldenbeets, whose name derives from his love of golden-era hip-hop, has been making beats since he was in middle school. Having grown up in a small town in Washington, the producer first gained exposure to hip-hop by listening to radio stations based in Vancouver and Seattle, as well as perusing message boards. That ability to make connections digitally helped him get recognized on the other side of the country.
Despite having never set foot in the city, goldenbeets has built a rapport with many respected emcees and producers in the Chicago hip-hop scene. He first made his connections to the Windy City through Chicago producer Sev Seveer, who played some of his music at events. He has gone on to produce for Defcee, Rich Jones, and L.A. VanGogh.
Last summer, goldenbeets released his first instrumental album, Sommelier. The 10-track effort pays homage to the golden era of hip-hop without ever sounding derivative or dated. He chatted with OK-Tho about his latest, the Portland hip-hop scene, and what he has in store for 2022.
OK-Tho: A sommelier is someone who’s a wine expert. Are you a big wine drinker, or are you mostly a sommelier of beats?
goldenbeets: My only reservation with the title is stolen valor. I’ve been enjoying drinking wine and I’m just beginning to understand my taste, processes, regions. I’m definitely not anywhere near a sommelier, I’m a fraud!
Other than just wanting to talk about wine a bit, the concept was really an extended metaphor. Like a sommelier, I scour the globe for a wide assortment of sounds & references and work through both listeners and other artists’ tastes to provide a rich experience.
OK-Tho: Is there a central theme or specific sound that unifies these tracks, or are these mostly just hot beats that you wanted to save for an instrumental project?
goldenbeets: I made a group of these specifically for the project but most of them were beats that were begging to make it out of the vault. To me, there’s a Side A & Side B thing going on where the first 4 tracks are pretty thematic with vocal samples out front. I think those vocal samples unify those songs in a super evocative way.
OK-Tho: You mentioned that 10.4 Rog (of Figmore) and Sxlxmxn helped out in some sessions for this album. How’d you get linked up with them, and how did they contribute to this project?
goldenbeets: Yeah, so Roger mastered these tracks and helped me pick through a larger selection of beats and narrow them down. Everything he’s ever touched has been magic, so it’s an honor that he’d lend me his ear as well as master the tape. Sxlxmxn is the same deal. We have a legend-- a super producer living here in Portland, Oregon. You’ll all find out. Sxlxmxn and I are managed by the same dudes. We linked up. I’d been here 4-5 years without really connecting with the Portland music scene, save 1-2 folks, so when Sxlxmxn and I linked it was mutual respect. He ran a couple of the beats that made it onto Sommelier back over and over and really put the battery in my back to finish the tape and get it out there. He gave the nod and the nix to a couple in an executive producer sort of role. I don’t think he knew how helpful he was in this.
OK-Tho: What’s the hip-hop scene like in Portland? How has your music been received there?
goldenbeets: There is so much talent here. I don’t think there’s a PNW sound, which is a story for another day, but because of that, the sound is so diverse. I’m not from here enough to speak on the scene with any sort of comprehensive knowledge, but there are some rapping ass rappers here. Milc, Donte Thomas, Mat Randol, ePP, Bocha-- someone’s gonna get at me for not mentioning them but there’s some rappers.
There’s a dope monthly out here that just came back after things have opened up called The Thesis. From an artistic standpoint, the talent is here. The question is who’s going to shine a light from a larger level to beam the city up. We’re three hours out from Seattle and Tacoma, so I’d love to see some more collaboration. I think it’s coming.
OK-Tho: You also seem to have a connection to Chicago, how’d that come about?
goldenbeets: I think “seem to have a connection” is likely accurate. I’ve never been! Soundcloud busted There’s an incredible producer named Sev Seveer who actually did some production on some of Saba’s first releases. He played some of my shit at events in Chicago. That led to relationships with Chicago producers and emcees. There’s a dude name Defcee who has had a prolific 2021 and I know has an even brighter 2022 coming. He’s been a huge advocate for me in Chicago as well as just a phenomenal writer and emcee. Otherwise, I don’t know, the place has just embraced my shit. Rich Jones.
OK-Tho: I’m mostly familiar with you through your work with Chicago rapper Defcee. Who else have you produced for?
goldenbeets: In terms of Chicago, there’s some upcoming shit with Chicago and Chicago-affiliated folks. I have some cuts with LA Van Gogh on deck. Sidewaalk Kal is in NJ, but he was Chicago affiliated at the same time as my shit started getting out there.
OK-Tho: You recently released a single with Chicago’s Rich Jones. How did you get connected with him?
goldenbeets: Man, I don’t know…. Twitter? I think likely just enough interactions from me working with Defcee and Rich and I connected. It was a really fun process. We were both in a creative space with Covid where we weren’t having too much fun with our creative process. We kinda used that song as a way to stretch our legs and have fun. I think it might have been his first vocal mix. I ran him through some stuff I know in Ableton. 10.4Rog mastered that. Super fun.
OK-Tho: Do you have anything else in the works with Defcee, Rich, or any other Chicago rappers?
goldenbeets: Yeah, Rich and I are working on a couple more cuts. Defcee and I have an LP slated for 2022. LA Van Gogh and I have a good handful of cuts ready to go. I’ve got a wishlist of folks I’d like to collaborate with as well.
OK-Tho: In your press release, it says you kinda got introduced to a lot of your influences on message boards. What boards did you belong to?
goldenbeets: Ha. Yeah OkayPlayer for sure. KTT here and there, but really just lurking. I think I got introduced rather by radio and dove in deeper on the internet. There wasn’t much where I grew up so I had to dive in deeper. There were some sites I used to grab leaks from, etc. Won’t name too many names.
OK-Tho: You’re from a small town in Washington state, was there a lot of hip-hop culture present where you’re from?
goldenbeets: Yeah, Orcas Island, Washington. Graduating class of 22 people. 4,000 year-round residents. There was probably a disproportionate amount of hip hop for how small and white the island is but I really got set on a course. Shout out Rawjawz. Shoutout Bloodshot. My taste really came from being smackdab in between Seattle and Vancouver, BC growing up and picking up radio from both spots.
Photo by: @reclusiveimages