Val aka Mr. 14th is an audio polymath: a producer, studio engineer, DJ and event planner. Having engineered studio sessions for rap heavyweights like Future, as well as acclaimed scholar M.K. Asante, he has cultivated his ear for music a as well as sound design. Comprising one-half of the duo Big Vibe, along with longtime friend and collaborator D.K. The Punisher, Mr. 14th is determined to immerse partygoers in a fun atmosphere, in a time where you see more faces glued to Instagram photos and Snapchat videos. With an emphasis on fostering a connection with the music, and then presenting it to the public, Mr. 14th is poised to bring a fresh, yet familiar, energy to Baltimore and beyond.
Mr. 14th discusses his early beginnings in music, the vale of audio engineering and how he and D.K. formed Big Vibe. Be sure to listen to the exclusive Melt mix that he made just for Electric Llama here, and embedded below.
Q: How did your career in music start?
MR. 14th: I started off listening to my family. Every Christmas and Easter the whole family would go to my grandmother’s house in North Carolina and sit around and sing. Then in high school, I would rap with a group called H Mill, which used to stand for Hittin’ Millions. [At the time,] I didn’t know what we were doing was engineering. We would record with the shittiest of equipment, like a boombox and a mic sitting in a roll of toilet paper on a mic stand. When I graduated high school, I booked studio time with Above Ground Studios. I [told] Nate, the other engineer at the time, that I want to intern. Being around that environment, was very nurturing. Around the same time I started working on beats. I always had a thing for deejaying too. The first time I touched some turntables, I had to be between ten and twelve.
^ Mr. 14th’s Melt Mix for Electric Llama
Q: What’s the most important thing you learned once you started getting into audio engineering? f you’re engineering a session, what do you have to make sure you do every time?
MR. 14th: Care! You need to fucking care! All the abilities, your knowledge on how to make someone sound good is one thing, but actually caring about their sound and never like “I think I know it all” [is different]. Always wanting to know the next best thing. So many engineers that just do this shit, [say] “I did 20 hours today, let me take my shit and go home.” But the best-sounding shit comes from the motherfucker that says “how do I get my shit to sound better and better and better.” Caring, learn how to care about music. Especially [since] it’s not mine. Taking ideas from people, and putting those ideas out. I didn’t have anything to do with it, the idea from it coming up – the composition of it – but it’s selfish for you to not care about it.
“Learn how to care about music… It’s selfish for you to not care about it”
Q: How did Big Vibe come about? How did you meet DK?
MR. 14th: I met DK years ago. We were going through some shit with another studio. So, at the end of the [whole thing], people split up. We had leftover people in the studio, we didn’t know we had the same musical interests. So we had a conversation: we both liked the Cool Kids and Pac Div. We both ended up liking the same type of shit so we both clicked, and we didn’t even know it. When I first heard that he was 16 playing dope shit like that, I couldn’t believe he made it. I DJ’d a party on the fly, and I also used to host parties. So I would do these mixes D.K. said “man, you should DJ.” So I borrowed a cheap Numark controller eventually and I let D.K. borrow it so he can DJ too. So we said that this shit is too slick, we need to let people hear this. We would link up and DJ, and send each other mixes. Our first party was at Above Ground Studios before we moved, and people didn’t even know it was a party. People came in and didn’t know what to expect.
“We want people when they get home to go ‘man, I had so much fun tonight, and I’m probably not even dunk anymore, but I’m still remembering that fun time we had’”
MR. 14th: We want to give people a feeling before they leave. We want people when they get home to go “man, I had so much fun tonight, and I’m probably not even dunk anymore, but I’m still remembering that fun time we had” or “I might’ve been sober the entire time, but I had a lot of fun.” So Big Vibe was born as a name, but we really want people to feel what we play.
Q: How do you and DK work now? He was texting you while he was doing your set, asking about the sound, so it seems as though you have a very tight and honest relationship.
MR. 14th: He keeps it 100% with me. I’ll have an idea about mixing, and I’ll say ‘check this blend out. Or he’ll ask “how did I do tonight?” and I’ll say “you could’ve done x, y, z.” D.K. is one of the sickest dudes blending, his blends are so clean. We always think about the next thing to do, especially right now. We want that exposure and we want people to see us and know what we’re doing. Thanks to him, I’ve been able to be around cool music for a minute because he makes some dope shit. He introduced me to people he’s working with. I had the opportunity to meet these wonderful artists from Inglewood, Los Angeles, SiR and Tiffany Gouché. He’s always putting me on to dope shit, sounds he might’ve found or a blend, and we borrow from each other too. It’s constant communication, I probably talk to DK like every day. We’re each other’s biggest fans.
“It’s constant communication, I probably talk to DK like every day. We’re each other’s biggest fans”
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
MR. 14th: In five days I’ll be in the studio. In five months, I’ll be somewhere where the vibes are crazy and making good money. In five years, I plan on being on the West Coast and enjoying life out there. [By then] I’ll have my clients further spread out.