Community Artist Of The Month   2023 - L33M

Community Artist Of The Month 2023 - L33M

Community Artist Of The Month Oct 2023 - L33M

In the sixth edition of our Community Artist of the Month series, we are delighted to showcase Kalim Manigault, otherwise known as the producer L33M.

A self-described Dilla enthusiast (you can really tell by the way his drums knock), L33M is based in Des Moines, Iowa. We sat down with him to discuss how he first got into music, how he achieves that crazy drum sound, his upcoming collaboration project and much more.


Let's start from the very beginning. Can you share a bit about yourself and the origins of your musical journey?

When I was a very young boy, I wasn't listening to hip-hop; I was actually listening to rock and metal, and I was very into the guitar at the time, which I still play. I remember getting my first guitar back in sixth grade. I learned every single Nirvana song. I was a huge fan and still am to this day.

I didn't get into hip-hop until I was in high school. My dad introduced me to A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, Gang Starr, and Wu-Tang Clan. During my college years, that's when I discovered Chillhop, and at the same time, I was studying jazz. I didn't start making beats until 2018. I was actually borrowing my buddy Michael's computer at the time. I'll just say that times were rough at the moment, and I needed to create.

You're based in Des Moines, Iowa (of which I’d have to say my knowledge of is extremely small!). Could you please share some insights about the city and how it has influenced your musical journey, if at all?

Well, I was originally born in Waterloo, Iowa. I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, during my adolescent to early teen years. I moved to Waterloo during my sophomore year of high school to finish my education. In 2017, I relocated to Des Moines, where I started playing a lot of jazz with some college friends. It was around that time when I was introduced to possibly the greatest producer to ever live, J Dilla. That man has inspired me to always keep creating and to never doubt yourself throughout the journey.

Let's dive into your setup a bit. What hardware, if any are you using? Or is It all in the box?

It's all in the box, haha, but from time to time, I whip out my SP-404. I actually recently told someone that I don't use MIDI controllers as much. I mostly play them using the musical typing keyboard provided in Logic Pro X. However, I do play the guitar, so when I record guitar, I grab my audio interface.

Do you have any favourite plugins that you use on pretty much everything? Likewise, is there a piece of gear that you just couldn’t live without?

Lately, I've been using Ozone 9 a lot to help with my mixes. And, of course, the essential RC 20. Addictive Drums are really good, as well as Addictive Keys. Labs also offers some really great soft piano sounds, all for free, which still amazes me! But honestly, I couldn't live without Pro-Q 3. It's worth the investment.

One thing I always notice with your tracks is that the drums are always absolutely smacking! Can you give us a little insight into how you manage get them sounding like that?

I use either a plug-in called 'Decapitator' from Sound Toys or Softube Saturator. I EQ out some of the lows and reduce the mids as well. Sometimes, if the snare isn't sounding the way I want it to, I'll layer another one underneath and adjust the volume from there.”

Your track ‘Catch Me’ has been on repeat since it dropped a few weeks ago. Can you tell us a little bit about how that one came together?

Well, my buddy OddHarm and I are college homies. I hit him up, and I was like, "Yo, I need some keys," and he sent me some. I arranged some drums and added guitar to it as well, and it was pretty simple. We'll hopefully be releasing some new material soon, so stay tuned!

You’ve been working with Saint Rumi & Farnell Newton on a project recently (which we’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peak of.) How did that collaboration come about? And what can we expect from you guys in the near future?

It's a funny story; I can't really remember how everything went down, but I know for sure that whatever we talked about, we clicked immediately. I actually already knew Farnell from the Facebook group Jam of the Week. The dude's a cool cat with some nice chops. I met Rumi from the streams with Biro and trading sounds in the discord. We call ourselves "3's Company." We hope to drop some music here soon!

How do you tackle creative blocks and seek inspiration when feeling stuck when making music?

It's a thing I really used to struggle with a lot, and sometimes I still do. What I've learned is that you've got to get out of that denial stage where you don't think you can beat writer's block. You have to be true to yourself and say, 'Alright, I'm stuck, but I'll come back to that idea later.' It honestly helps me be more persistent in my creative time, and I don't feel like I've wasted time, you know? Just remember that it's a process. Every legend has gone through it, believe it or not. Be patient with yourself.

Who are some of your favourite beatmakers/producers in the scene right now?

As I mentioned before, I'm a huge Dilla fan. My top 5 includes Dilla, Pete Rock, Ye, Madlib, and Premo. However, I also have a lot of love for producers nowadays like Philanthrope, Leavv, Dryhope, Toonorth, Homieunculus, and countless others. Those dudes make beautiful music, and hopefully, I get to collab with them one day.

And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to somebody getting into making music now, what would it be?

Man, start remaking Dilla beats for real. That helped me learn rhythm and a lot of different techniques as far as sampling. And honestly, my other advice is to be patient with yourself. Don't doubt yourself one bit.

A big thanks to L33M for welcoming us into his world and generously sharing his production process. You can find all of his music on Spotify, and don't forget to give him a follow on Instagram.