In a world where social media aims to offer only the highlight reel of one’s life work, and even the struggle to “make it” as a creative are romanticized, it is rare to see an account that is simply honest.
That is the story of Javier Rodriguez aka The Ghetto Mozart.
He’s straightforward, mission oriented, lacking bravado, ego to the side, considerate…
Most importantly, Javier’s beats are pure fire.
I could try to over-intellectualize the work that Rodriguez does, but that would seem to over complicate that matter.
Simply put: He works hard. Very hard.
His music is clearly a representation of what happens when a producer studies the greats, remains open to influence and change, and hones his craft tirelessly. For a man who is only 23 years old, looking back on the skilled work he’s posted on his colorful youtube page, since half a decade ago, speaks to a level of focus and dedication which has always been a hallmark for history’s most successful artists.
Born in Miami, and raised in the Bronx, Javier was raised around plenty of music. However, the thrust that inspired his passion for making music was when he was given an AKAI mpc sampler for his birthday. Without a direct mentor to learn from, Javier took his cue from any and everything; and applied himself to long hours working alone, learning through trial and error.
One of the influences he related to early on was a producer by the name of MexikoDro, who heavily influenced his approach to drum syncopation and the use of percussion in general. He also found inspiration amongst his surroundings, incorporating his latin heritage into the DNA of his music at times. “I just thought it would sound cool in drill.” And, true to his open minded, exploratory nature, he simply got to work without worrying about fitting any particular trends. This approach has become the hallmark of his craft: More Melodicism; more intricate percussion; and the use of samples that feel cinematic or iconic without being too “obvious” or cliche.
That last point of departure has really set him apart in the space. Whereas, sample drill has been seeing success since 2018, in the form of drill beats laid over mainstream pop songs; Rodriguez pulls inspiration from more obscure sources, which are reminiscent of the level of research early hip hop producers did in the 90s, searching through endless crates of records for the perfect conglomeration of sounds, snippets, and layers. And, although a producer never tells on themselves, even the greenest listener can appreciate the auditory range of the Ghetto Mozart, drawing from video game styled melodies, haunting operatic themes, synth based pianos reminiscent of more club based music, and everything in between.
On display via his many social media accounts, you can find the fruits of his labor in the form of beats in the musical language and voice of artists and producers he looks up to – a sign that he’s a student of the game. Javier also creates sample kits anyone can download and add to a DAW, that provide young aspiring producers and/or artists with the sounds, loops and original samples he spent countless hours creating. There’s a spirit of charity clearly present here, as many of the loop packs are available to download for free.
That particular theme came up again and again in our conversation. He even had encouraging words for aspiring producers who want to get to the level of mastery he’s already reached at such a young age:
“Never stop learning. Rap is always changing, there’s always a new technique to learn. A lot of times, we don’t even notice the change until a couple of years later, and that accumulates! So don’t be afraid to adapt with the times and change up your style.”
He also gave poignant career advice: “I would recommend any type of internship, even if it’s free. Try to get a ton of experience, even with different genres! That way you’ll know what you like and what you don’t like; and you’ll know what you’re good at.”
With that said it came as no surprise that he’s undaunted by the challenge of building a larger rap scene in Vermont, where he’s currently going to school AND running his own studio. He’s determined to provide resources and a voice for an underserved musical community among the jazzy, jammy, folk music culture already dominant in the picturesque Northeastern city of Burlington.
When asked how he balances the workload of studies, making beats and collaborating with artists, he laughs it off, almost seeming to indicate that he hasn’t stopped to think about it. He just finds a way.
“That’s a great question! I would love to say time management but sometimes things don’t happen in the time allotted.”
“Just the other day, I was working with an artist until 2 am. I really try to make sure I’m here with the artist and working with them. There’s an upcoming scene for rap and drill here…there’s artists that moved here from other cities, even New York City; and there’s no other recording studios or producers doing what I’m doing here so I’m the one they come to.”
I get the feeling it is just that simple for him. There’s a need; and someone has to step up.
Even when it comes to the process of working with artists, the focus stays on the artist and their needs, not himself: “The most rewarding part of the process is working with artists and getting the final product out. When I’m with artists, it’s really exciting to see them in the back, writing to the beats and feeling it. I think that’s dope.”
You can clearly hear this in his collaborations. The tracks seem so well molded to the artists’ flow, punctuation, and cadence, that it’s easy to believe that Javier would have a monopoly on the rap scene in Vermont, even if there was more competition.
That being said, he’s very aware that it will take some time to build up a proper scene in Vermont, as the town already has an infrastructure in place for many more established genres.
“Yeah, most of the studios cater to jam bands with the kind of gear and vibe they have; but there’s a scene here and a lot of hidden talent. That’s why I made my own studio.”
Outside of running his own studio, he’s finding clever ways to establish a foothold for rap and give back to the community from a charitable heart. Currently, he’s putting together a showcase for the many rap artists in the area, with a fundraising component that would go to the homeless community in the area.
And, if I may take some editorial license here, I’ll say: Yes. Most Definitely. This is what the industry needs.