Interview: Solomon Vaughn – The all-embracing creative mind
Solomon Vaughn, aka Boonie Mayfield, aka Boon Doc, hails from Colorado, USA and rose to internet stardom by performing live Hip Hop beats on his MPC 1000 and sharing the performances on Youtube, before doing so became a thing. After being robbed of almost all of his equipment Boonie Mayfield managed to re-emerge as a multi-instrumentalist who no longer depended on sampled material, creating his own music instead. Something many of his old fans did not appreciate. But Boon stuck to his newfound guns and started rebuilding his reputation as an original producer and performer. All of this culminated into ‘Boonie Mayfield Presents: Solomon Vaughn’– a self-produced, 17-track genre-bending, progressive hip-hop album . In an exclusive interview Solomon Vaughn shed some light on his thoughts and music.
- How long have you been making music and how did you get started in the first place?
Solomon Vaughn: I’ve been doing it for over 16 years now. This is going to make me feel old, but I got started during the early internet days using AOL (America Online). I used to record freestyles on my grandparents’ computer to beat loops I downloaded from undergroundhiphop.com and post them on message boards. Eventually, I had my first real studio experience in 2000 when my boy Comdot brought me to a local spot in Colorado Springs, called “Illynoise Studios” to record a song with him. There I met the producer/engineer, Base Jase, and for the first time in my life I got to see someone take a sample and make 3 dope underground hip-hop beats on the spot for us before we got in the booth to record. The whole experience changed my life, and from that moment I knew that I wanted to be able to record and produce my own music. I was a senior in high school at the time, so as soon as I graduated, I picked up jobs to pay for studio time and started working on an album… and so my journey began.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Solomon Vaughn: When I got put on to groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Leaders of the New School, Black Sheep, Lords of the Underground, Eric B. & Rakim and others, I was pretty much hooked from there.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Solomon Vaughn: I really haven’t been listening to music all that much lately. But when I do, it’s been mostly Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, James Brown, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Tribe, Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang, OutKast and other random stuff. Some of the artists I’d love to collaborate with are; Andre 3000, Q-Tip, Bootsy Collins, Busta, Jack White, David Gilmour and Danny Elfman.
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ from within the industry, and if so how have you handled that, and how do you handle criticism and haters in general?
Solomon Vaughn: Yes, I definitely have. I think resistance comes with the territory whenever you fully embrace your individuality and refuse to fit in with the trends or the “tried and true”. If something hasn’t been done a certain way before, a lot of people tend to believe it can’t be done or shouldn’t even be attempted. So, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of haters for just doing me wholeheartedly.
Even though the criticism was very hurtful and discouraging at times, I just had to hold on to faith in my vision and continue moving forward. It’s a challenge to keep believing in yourself and your dreams when it seems like hardly anybody else does, but you have to stay strong and not give up, no matter how cliche’ that may sound.
- What are your thoughts on visual media and Youtube? Do you think that video is an appropriate marketing tool for your music, and how do you produce your visual media?
Solomon Vaughn: I think visual media is essential and it especially has been for my career these past 10 years. Because of YouTube, I didn’t have to chase around industry professionals and established artists to be seen and heard. I was able to go straight to the people from the comfort of my own home studio in the corner of my bedroom. So, in my case, videos have been the most efficient marketing tool for my music I’ve ever stumbled upon. I was using iMovie before, but then I switched to Adobe Premier when we started working on the ‘Boon Documented’ series. I think I’m decent enough at basic editing for documentaries, sketches and simple music videos, but when it comes to my film concepts like ‘Ho Ho Ho’, I prefer to collaborate with seasoned professionals that specialize in that field.
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Solomon Vaughn: When it comes to my music, I honestly don’t care much for doing live shows. When I was buying music growing up, I was never thinking about seeing my favorite artists perform live. I was wishing they had a video for every song on the album instead of a couple of singles. So, when I was fantasizing about doing my own music, I just kept imagining the cool videos I wanted to have. I envisioned being on screen rather than being on stage, and I later realized that I was designing my songs in that way this whole time. My music really isn’t designed for radio, live concerts and clubs. I think it’s more so designed for home theaters and cinemas. So, that’s why I consider myself to be primarily a music video artist/performer.
- How, why and when did you make the switch from samples to making your own music and beats?
Solomon Vaughn: I was making sampled and original beats all along, so the complete switch was a gradual process. In the beginning, I used to rely mostly on samples but after a while, for me personally, I just felt too restricted from both a creative and business standpoint. Sampling is where I come from and I will always love and honor the art form, but I never intended to just stay there. I’ve always wanted to compose my own material from scratch, even before I started making beats because that’s what I was exposed to. Back when I was going to Base Jase for production and recording, I was inspired by the fact that he could make dope original tracks as well. So, throughout the years of my career, I just kept practicing with my own compositions, getting better on the keys, learning music theory and other instruments.
- Which piece of hardware or software would you consider the most essential in your setup, and that you would be a little lost without?
Solomon Vaughn: Definitely Logic and a 61-Key MIDI Controller. I can at least get rough ideas out that way if I don’t have all the sounds and equipment I need.
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a genre thriving with newcomers and wannabes?
Solomon Vaughn: I’d have to say my overall sound and approach as a producer is a key ingredient to my uniqueness. I just have this relentless audacity to experiment and make bold choices creatively without any regard for genres and conventions. My music is very unpredictable to the point that it may come off to some people as a bit “confusing” or “lacking in direction”, but there is a method to my artistic madness. I always aim to create an experience rather than just a song.
- If you had to choose only one, which of your skills would you continue to pursue in this tough business: music production or rapping and why?
Solomon Vaughn: If I had to choose one, it would be producing for two reasons. One is the very reason I started producing in the first place, which was to have 100% control of my artistic output and never have to depend on anyone else for it. The other reason is because at this point in my life and career, if producing was all I could do, I would go into doing scores and soundtracks. I’m not into solely making beats like I was for a while and I’m not interested in trying to land placements and produce for a bunch of artists. I’d much rather go in the direction of Danny Elfman, Galt MacDermot or even Adrian Younge if music production was my only option.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Solomon Vaughn: The control and freedom to produce whatever and whenever I want without having to compromise my vision excites me the most. The music that I make, first and foremost, is what I myself truly enjoy and want to hear. I can only hope that there are enough people like me out there that’ll enjoy my music as well. So, that’s where the discouraging part comes in, because I have no clue or control over how anything I create will be received. Since my music is a bit “all-over-the-place” as far as genre, sound and style, it’s quite difficult to visualize what a target audience looks like for me. So, the whole marketing aspect has been tough to figure out, and that’s on top of the fact that I’m an independent artist with a very limited budget and resources.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
Solomon Vaughn: Throughout all these years I’ve just been utilizing whatever fitting platforms on the internet I could use like my website (booniemayfield.com), YouTube, Spotify etc. I’ve been controlling everything myself all these years, but I’m well aware that I need some help, so I’m trying to build a solid team for it.
- How do you achieve your great sound? Do you work exclusively a private home recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio too?
Solomon Vaughn: Besides my imagination and preferred tools, the years of diligent practice and training my ear. I’ve worked in a private home recording environment most of my career and it’s served me well. Even when I rented an office suite for a couple years to expand my studio, it still felt like home and I kept it private.
- ‘Ho Ho Ho (A Bad Santa Carol)’ is your first short film you produced and co-directed to your music. Do you plan to continue it, and if so, when can we expect the next one?
Solomon Vaughn: That is definitely my goal. I’m really hoping to produce another one this year, but I guess I’ll have to see how things go.
- Give your personal shortlist of hip hop’s 3 greatest producers – living or dead?
Solomon Vaughn: I’m going to split this into 2 separate categories, because I have my personal favorites based on just beats alone and personal favorites based on entire album production.
3 greatest based on albums: Q-Tip, RZA and Outkast/Organized Noise
3 greatest based on beats: J Dilla, DJ Premier and Pete Rock.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Solomon Vaughn: It’s most definitely fundamental to my career and independent musicians in general now. If it hadn’t been for all these internet platforms I would not be where I am today. Sure there’s a ton of mediocre artists flooding the web, but I don’t think it makes it more difficult for real talent to emerge. Like somebody told me, “the cream always rises” and I agree.
- If someone has never heard your music, which 3 keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Solomon Vaughn: Downtempo. Eclectic. Soulful.
- Straight off the top of your head, how would you describe the current state of Hip-hop?
Solomon Vaughn: Evolving. It always has and will be, whether for better or worse.
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or some other tangible milestone?
Solomon Vaughn: The whole awards thing doesn’t really fire-up my imagination anymore and with the increasing rise of streaming, album sales are becoming less of a factor. Critical acclaim and awards are cool and all, but plenty of my favorite artists and albums of all time never won Grammys. So, whether I ever get nominated or win awards doesn’t really matter. Reaching a world-wide, loyal and supportive audience that enjoys, understands and appreciates my artistic output is what really fires-up my imagination.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Solomon Vaughn: I will never compromise my integrity and spirituality, period.