By Brian Funk
Chris “Big Duke” Malloy is a highly sought-after rap and hip-hop producer working out of Los Angeles. Originally from Cleveland, Big Duke has been working professionally in the music industry since 2007. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2012 to further pursue a career in music production and has never looked back.
It’s his dedication to the craft of producing, incredible work ethic, and willingness to be a friendly and down-to-earth guy that has found him working alongside top artists like The Game, Snoop Dogg, Chamillionaire, and Rick Ross.
In this interview, Duke shares some of his personal insights as a leading music producer including his workflow and key gear that he uses in the studio. He also discusses how his positive attitude, personality, and lifestyle has played a key role in his success.
Photo by JamilNotJamal.com
Can you describe your role as a producer? What do you consider your strengths and where do you want to improve?
As a producer, my job is to provide the artist with a perfect canvas to display his or her art onto and then tailor it to their contributions. My strength as a producer is leadership and vision. I know where to take the songs and what they might need to go to the next level production-wise. I want to improve my hit-making skills to the level of my peers. I always want that reaction from people when they hear the music and be like, “who made that track?” [laughter]
What are some work habits that have helped you in the studio?
Consistency has always helped me in the studio. Coming up with new ideas on the spot and also keeping the workflow going.
What lessons have you learned working with some of today’s top artists?
I feel like I’ve always had the work ethic to work with top artists, but Game is special. He works at a pace and level that I’ve never seen; he can make unlimited songs at very high quality. I’ve learned to stay ready with production ideas because he is always ready.
Photo by JamilNotJamal.com
What software do you use in the studio to give your productions its sound and character?
Ableton Live, Akai MPC Live, and Mellotron V are some of my favorite software pieces to use. My approach to production is to create a sound that’s new and refreshing, but still use some of the elements of today’s music. For the new Game album, I wanted to go for that classic hip-hop sound. I always studied the likes of Hi Tek, Kanye, Swizz Beatz, Dr. Dre, etc. These guys made classics so that’s exactly the sound I was going for.
You use a variety of different playback gear such as the Samson Z55 Studio Reference Headphones and Resolv SE8 monitors. What role does this gear play in helping you to get a great mix in the studio?
The most important thing to me is how well do I hear the sounds that I’m using. I love the Samson Z55 headphones because they are honest, meaning if the track sounds right in them, it will translate everywhere else. Having tools that are sonically honest is very important. Samson’s Resolv SE8 speakers work great in the mix and also provide a good, honest representation of the music. Plus, they have a great low end. They definitely have an amazing sound. All these things are key to a good mix.
What separates the most successful people from everyone else in the music industry?
I don’t necessarily think it’s much of a separation because to become successful or ‘join the club’ you must have a high level of belief in yourself and your craft along with a crazy level of work ethic and persistence. If you want it bad enough you can achieve it. But I can say that what sets me apart from a lot of people is what’s in my heart. I genuinely want to see others win and prosper and live out their dreams. And I know it’s possible and there’s room for anyone who wants it.
What personal qualities do you think have contributed to your success?
Never giving up. Growing up in the tough Glenville neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. When you grow up in this type of environment, it can give you drive like never before. You want to achieve and only see the best things because you have experienced the bad things: poverty, crime etc. Music was my way out!
Photo by JamilNotJamal.com
Tell us about a pivotal decision that has had a major impact on your career.
Moving to Los Angeles in 2012 was a game changer! The growth that came with that decision by placing myself in a pool of creatives who worked hard and created on a godly level definitely made me get my stuff together fast. [laughter]
You’ve started a sound pack business “DontMindIfIDuke,” tell us about that and what your goals are with it?
My goal with the Soundkits is to provide up-and-coming producers the ability to have some pivotal tools in their arsenal to create music at a very high level. I would like to be the Yeezy of sound packs. The Dontmindifiduke brand is a name that I came up with a decade ago. I would say “don’t mind if I duke” instead of “don’t mind if I do”. It always makes everybody laugh. It became an instant classic! [laughter]
You’ve been open about a desire to help young people achieve their goals in the music industry. What advice do you give to up-and-coming artists and producers?
Never stop believing! Also, do it from your heart and the rest will follow.
Who are some newer artists you are excited about?
I like YBN Cordae, Masego, and Osbe Chill.
As a producer, you have achieved things many only dream of. Where do you picture Big Duke ten years from now?
I’m only getting started. I want to continue working with the best established and up-and-coming artists. Ten years from now Big Duke will be a household name in music and entertainment!
Learn more about producer Big Duke.