You might say that Catawba College senior, Christopher Williams of Charlotte, has the beat – and his is one that even rapper Neako wanted.
For those not familiar with Neako – he is an American rapper, producer and songwriter whose debut album, "The Rubix Cube: Red Edition," was released on his own imprint, World Team Olympics, in 2007.
In late January, Williams, a music business major, sent one of his beats to Neako's marketing team. "I was sitting in my room and said, 'Let me see what happens if I just send this one beat. I sent it off like it was the last one in my music library and I moved on."
On Feb. 24, he received an e-mail and a text message from Neako's marketing team saying that Neako had used the beat on his newest mix tape called, "Tr33," as the rhythmic underlayment for his song, "Whippin' Whippin'."
"Ever since Feb. 24, everything's been pretty crazy," Williams explains. "Neako's also decided to make a music video out of the song that uses my beat. I'm getting a lot of people – rappers – hitting me up, getting in touch with me over Twitter asking about my other beats.
"The success with Neako is making me come up with more ideas for more creative beats. I'm stepping out of the box even more than I have been."
Williams has been making beats since he was a 16-year-old high school student. He learned of Catawba from his cousin, Catawba alumnus Eric Harris, a former basketball player at the college. Williams says he came to Catawba for two reasons – music and football. He ended up playing football for only two years, in 2007 and 2008, but persisted to major in music business.
"I figured that music was what I wanted to pursue as a career. Learning more about music and the theory will make me a better producer," Williams notes.
During his freshman year, he started making music seriously using software called Fruity Loops. As his skills progressed, so did his software selections. He advanced to using Logic Pro and Pro Tools. He also heeded the admonitions of his music business instructors, Dr. David Lee Fish and Dolph Ramseur, to "be distinctive."
"As I started learning more about the music business, I learned how to send beats off to see if any artists would want to pursue them in developing them into a song. I was always pursuing and went through a frustration period," he recalls. "I started developing my sound this summer and when I came back to school this year, I really started grinding very hard.
"I'm all about stepping out of the box and developing my own sound that no one has on the radio or in the industry. I always told my parents something really big is going to happen, but I don't know when it's going to happen."
Fish, chair of Catawba's Music Department and director of its Popular Music and Music Business degree concentrations, lauds Williams for his early success. "While I'm delighted with the success during his time still as a student, I'm not surprised in the least. He is one of our leading students who has shown more initiative than almost any other student. For example, our Urb'n' Sol Ensemble would not exist without Chris' leadership. That initiative and leadership, coupled with really strong musicianship, makes Chris excel as both a producer and a fine singer. He's respected and well-liked by his classmates and they often turn to him to produce their demo recordings."
Fish recalls the successful internship Williams completed last summer at JAMBOX Recording Studios and the glowing letter of recommendation Williams received from his internship supervisor at JAMBOX.
"When I heard Chris' beat in Neako's song, I immediately understood why he'd be interested in it. It has a distinct musical personality. I think that's where the musical education a student like Chris receives is important. So many of those in popular music are hampered by limitations. The sorts of things students like Chris learn here allow them to transcend such limits."
And for Williams, even though he will graduate from Catawba in May, he is quite sure his beats will go on."I feel that with this going on, that you can go to school and be successful. All you have to do is work hard. If you have a dream, you chase it as much as you can ad don't give up – keep going after it. I call that 'grinding.' "
For his senior project, Williams is working with a fellow Catawba student, Jaymarr Williams of Stafford, Va., to create a mix tape that the two will be performing live during an April 30th concert on campus. Williams says the mix tape can be heard as a solo performance of his and Jaymarr Williams preceding an Urb'N Sol Ensemble concert.
Follow Williams on Twitter @yungcitizen.
VIDEO: Beat by Chris Williams '12
Music Business and Popular Music