With last year’s whirlwind success of Jawsh685, still fresh in minds, another young NZ beatmaker has seriously cracked the big time in the United States. Christchurch-based Flynn Cranston has only been making beats for two years, but the 15-year old’s work now features on a Top 40 single and a US chart-topping album.
Flynn Cranston has co-write and co-production credits on the single Richer by Rod Wave, which also features on the US rapper’s album ‘Soulfly’ that went to #1 in the States on April 10.
Cranston’s initial experience in music began with the guitar and busking at the local farmers market in Katikati. Forming a band with two friends, Max Stone and Joel Cunningham, they entered BandQuest in 2018 making the Bay of Plenty finals.
Having become curious as to how songs were composed and seeing a lot of the music he loves using beats, Cranston’s interest took a turn, and his passion for making beats began.
“Initially, I was using the software that came with my phone, but after a little while, I realised I needed the more complicated software and a desktop to make the beats I wanted. I have been making beats seriously since about 2019.
“Usually, I start off making a melody (often with my guitar) and then I add some backing vocal elements and various other instruments. Then I mix and render them. After that, I bring it all into a new file and create a drum pattern to go with it. From there, I structure the overall beat and do a final mix. The whole process can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour.”
Cranston’s work clearly caught the eye of hip hop scribes in the US, landing him a production credit on rapper Rod Wave’s hit single Richer, despite never having met or spoken to Wave.
“Making beats is a really global process. I can create loops or beats in NZ, then I might work with another producer online to complete it. From there, it gets sent to record labels in America, with an A&R or manager passing them on to an artist. Hopefully, the artist then picks out our beat and records to it.”
The single reached number 22 in the Billboard charts and Wave’s album ‘Soulfly’ cracked number 1, humbling the teen who is these days living in Christchurch.
“It’s pretty cool and exciting. I haven’t heard it on NZ radio yet, but it would definitely be cool if I heard it playing in a shop or on TV!”
Cranston’s success has already caught the eye of other artists and a couple of other well-known rappers have also recorded to his beats.
“I’ve heard snippets of the songs, and they sound really good, but I can’t really talk about them yet. I have been leasing beats online, and I’m interested to see what happens there now that I have had a big song!”
The entry into the world of beat-making and sampling has been a learning curve for Cranston, especially when it comes to the legal side of things and the thorny issue of copyright. But he says the support and advice offered has been helpful in navigating what can be a complex environment.
“We engaged professional advice early and our lawyer has been really good at explaining everything and making sure things have been done properly. I know a lot of people talk about how tricky the music industry can be, but we have found everyone has been really helpful. There have been heaps of people in the NZ music scene and media that have given us advice, support and encouragement.”
With his star on the rise, Cranston is intent on turning this early success into a career.
“I think my parents came to accept that I wanted to do this for a living a few years ago. They have been really supportive, but have pretty much indicated that I will have to wait until I am a bit older before I can do the whole travel and studio recording thing in Los Angeles!
“One day, I want to be a producer that’s known for their beats and that artists seek out. Something I really like about the role of a producer is that you can have a long career and pursue different types of music. That’s not always the case for performers.”
And given that combo of ambition and smarts, this most certainly won’t be the last we hear about Flynn Cranston.