Introducing: $port


It’s easy to get away from just making dope shit because you’re trying to outdo everybody around you.

As lengendary MC Rakim affirmed “it ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”  Boom-bap distributor and up-and-coming producer Kyle “$port” Hayes hopes to boost Ohio’s rep in the hip-hop landscape by letting everyone know about both his beginnings and current endeavors.

The gifted Toledoan is in full grind mode, churning out funky beats and soulful sound-scapes on an instrumental effort Episode 1, a blend tape inspired by Clipse, in addition to upcoming projects with Providence, Rhode Island MC Theo Martins plus a second full-length conceptual instrumental album.

I recently had the opportunity to chop it up with the stand-up guy, genuine $port about a variety of topics including his inspirational process, who he considers the 2009 version of Gang Starr, his dream collaboration, the prevailing ailment of hip-hop and what it’s like to be a rap romantic.

Dom Corleone: State your age and where you’re reppin for the people.

$port: $port.  Live from Toledo, Ohio. 24 years young.

D: Get it in Ohio!  Bad cam reference, I’ll refrain.

$: (Laughs) That’s not the first time I’ve heard it, and it probably won’t be the last.

D: I can assure you it won’t be. (Laughs) Bring me back to when you first started producing. How did you get into it?

$: Well, as cliché as it sounds, I’ve been making music all my life.  My older brother Kev always had the latest and the greatest in his music collection and I would just raid his CDs and tapes.

From that I would, like, go pick up my See-n-Say and try to mimic Premo or try and beatbox like Biz [Markie].  I was always around music, so I guess it was a natural progression for me to want to try my hand at it. But as far as “professionally,” I’ve only been at it for about 2 or 3 years.

D: Was there a specific moment where you said “this is what I wanna do?”  A “Eureka” moment, if you will.

$: I would have to say the first time I had heard Gangstarr’s Daily Operation album.  Some of the stuff DJ Premier was doing on that album was just amazing to me at the time.  I remember my brother playing that tape all the time and I would just be in awe.  Particularly at ‘Soliloquy of Chaos’.  It just sounded so… angelic to me.  And the two interludes?  Ah man!  But that was when I decided that “Yeah, I wanna do that.”

Hit the jump for the entire interview.


I won’t say [hip-hop is] dead, because there’s quite a few of us that are still pushing for the truth. But there’s definitely a lighting problem on the stage… There’s way too much shine on one type of music.

D: Without a doubt one of the best to do it, not a bad place to start!

$: Yeah, for sure.  He’s definitely one of the pillars in my mansion of inspiration, if you will.

D: So, I assume by that point you’d graduated from the See-n-Say.  Which equipment do you use now?

$: Hey, don’t knock the See-N-Say!

D: Oh, it’s gangsta. I’m not denying!

$: But now, everything I do, I do in Reason.  I’ve been using that for about two years now.  I didn’t want to go away from the MPC, but Reason is great.  A homie of mines kept telling me I should get into it.  I was using the MPC 2000XL, so I was stubborn. Once I finally got the hang of Reason, I was sold.

D: Yea, Reason is powerful and there’s so much you can do with it.  Back in my “producing” days, I had the first version of Reason. I must’ve been 15. Oh, those were the days!  I could never figure out the sampler though, so I switched it up and grabbed a pair of turntables to DJ.

$: The MP will always be my first love because that’s what all my heroes use.

D: So, let me transition into the actual music that you make.  My first impressions of your beats are that they are pretty damn funky and very sweet on the drum programming.  It seems to me like you focus on the drums knocking, to get that head-nod. Can you take me through the process of actually crafting a beat?

$: Thanks, man, definitely.  In terms of the actual process, it’s not much to it.  I’ll go digging.  From that, I’ll try and find a crazy sample.  Then it just snowballs from there.  I’m usually just doing what the sample is telling me to do.  Everything relies on the groove.  Whether it’s a loop or a bit of chop-choppery, whatever.

With the drums, that’s a no-brainer.  You could have the best melody in the universe, but if those drums don’t rock, it’s all going to fall apart.  So I try and make sure that when the beat drops, I can create some sort of whiplash.

D: I definitely caught a case of whiplash listening to that Nice andBring It Back to ’94,” I think I might even take you to court on that.

$: (Laughs) Thanks, man.  Again, that was just me following the lead of the groove. “Nice” is one of my favorites, though.  It’s not overly complex, just a good groove and a bounce. I think some of us get caught up in trying to go so far over the moon, 4795 chops and a bunch of drum tracks.

D: “Bounce” is definitely a good way to describe it.  Channeling your inner Black Milk, I see.

$: It’s easy to get away from just making dope shit because you’re trying to outdo everybody around you. I think that’s what I’ve been doing these days, just zoning in on making dope, yet simple beats.

D: Some cats just try too hard.

$: Exactly.  I caught it, too.  After my first listen of [J Dilla’s] Donuts, I wanted to chop-chop-choppity-chop. But a few seconds later, I was like “Nah.  That’s not me.”

D: Reminds me of another Ohio-an – is that even a word?! – Hi-Tek. His beats are never too overly complex, they just have a smoothness to them, that groove.

$: But don’t get it twisted, I can dice ’em up!

D: Lemme find out! (Laughs) I mean, Dilla was a genius when it came to the chops. He’s like the MJ of the MPC!

Theo & $port

I’m so amped about working with Theo, just to bring it back to a time where everything made sense.

D: How did you originally link up with Theo Martins?

$: Good ol’ Mr. Martins! Originally Theo and I were both in the first issue of Boys+Clothes Magazine. We met at the launch party for the magazine and hit it off. I hadn’t heard his music prior to that, but he was just a really cool dude. We talked about how we both hate wearing our [Air Jordan retro] Aqua VIIIs! But once I finally heard him rhyme, it was like ‘Oh, ok. Let me send him some joints, pronto!’

D: Ah ha! Bonding over a pair of classic J’s.  That’s hip-hop.  So what do you two have cooking up for the future?

$: Funny that you ask.  We’re actually working on a project at this exact moment. It’s set to release early August and I’m super excited about that.  We’ve been going back and forth almost daily with different ideas and strategies.  He’s a helluva thinker.  I’m gonna send him a fresh batch of joints soon.

D: Oh yea?  Got any more juicy details about the project?

$: My thing is, Checkin’ In came out so crazy and the response was so great, it’s almost automatic.  Plus, there aren’t many one rapper-one producer teams out.  Blu & Exile are probably the only ones I can think of right now. It’s just gonna be a really concise HIP-HOP project.  No filler, just beats and rhymes.

D: The only other one coming to mind is Marco Polo & Torae, But Theo and Torae are completely different [types of] MC’s. Same with Blu, so I’m excited to hear it.

$: I hate to keep going back to Premo, but I keep likening it to a Gangstarr 2K9. And with Theo, he’s so clean-cut.  He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and he hardly ever curses.  But when he goes in that booth, he turns into a MONSTER.

So I’m extremely amped to see where he takes it lyrically.  I’ve been in a really good space with the latest round of beats.  I know it’s gonna be special.

D: Definitely keep me updated on that.

$: For sure.  You’ll be one of the first to get the finished product.

D: Dope! So, about your instrumental project Episode 2. What’s the concept there?

$: Episode 2 is boy-meets-girl story set in New York City.  Each track will serve as a scene, so it’s almost like a silent movie.  I’m trying to go through the entire emotional swing of a relationship.  From the courtship, to the arguments, to the makeups.

I was single for a very long time, so in that time, I would go through all these scenarios in my head of how I wanted my next relationship to be, things I went through, things I wanted to go through, etc.  And what happened was, all the beats I had been making had all these samples that were based on love and relationships.  It came to the point where I would literally see what I was doing.  So it was almost destiny.

Episode 1 was just me showing I could make some decent beats.  Now I’m trying to tell a story.  It’s a challenge but I’m more than satisfied with how it’s turning out. There’s even gonna be some sex scenes!

D: So you’re gonna disappoint all the female readers out there, you’re no longer single?

$: Naaah, I’m wrapped up.  Shoutout to $murfetteI’m sure she’s gonna read this when it drops.

D: There you go, gotta show love to the lady friend. Is Episode 2 essentially a true story or is it a fictional one loosely based on your experience?

$: It’s a bit of everything, really.  We all can relate to wanting to be in love, being in love, fighting for it, all that.

D: Ain’t that the truth.

$: And with me, I’m super cheesy like that.

D: Some people would call it heartfelt.

$: I was always the guy who wanted one girlfriend.  So I guess this is just an extension of everything I’ve thought about.

D: Nothing wrong with being a romantic, I consider myself one too. Shouts to Imara, I know she’ll be reading it, too!

$: I mean, I’m gonna deal with everything.  There’s the scene where it’s time for the very first date.  And you know how you get cold feet?  You’re wondering if you look okay.  You’re hoping your breath doesn’t stink.  And it’s just like “Let’s do this.”

D: (Laughs) Yea man, you check your deodorant ’bout 4 times.

$: Right! (Laughs) Like I said, there’s even sex scenes.  There’ll be the first time.  And then it’ll be that one time that everyone’s had with that special person.

D: I’m interested to see how it turns out, to see the progression from track to track then the cohesiveness of the whole thing.

$: You and me both.  That’s why it’s taking longer than I initially expected.  I want it to be perfect.  When you’re telling a story, particularly about love, you can’t leave anything out.

D: Take your time! Let’s switch gears, shall we? I know you’re a busy man but I wanted the people to get inside $port’s head a lil bit.

$: No problem.  Let’s go.


We all can relate to wanting to be in love, being in love, fighting for it, all that.

D: This one comes courtesy of the homie MillionaireMax. If you could recreate one album, any album, which would it be and what would you do differently?

$: Damn, that’s a good one!

D: (Laughs) I was just gon’ say, these [questions] are gonna be a lil’ harder.

$: If I could recreate one album, it would be  [Gang Starr’s] Daily Operation... Duh, right?

D: Really? Now I’m intrigued [since] I’d expect you to say that was one of the perfect ones!

$: Oh, it is perfect to me.  I just want to recreate that feeling of music.  But, if anything, I would just update it a little.  Keep the same feeling, same style of beats, but just make it knock a little harder.  This is why I’m so amped about working with Theo, just to bring it back to a time where everything made sense.

D: Another tough one..

$: Uh oh.

D: 3 rappers, one song. What is your dream collabo?

$: Okay, this is ridiculous!

D: Don’t cop out, the people need an answer! (Laughs)

$: I’ve always enjoyed when Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel and Scarface got together.  Because you had the OG with ScarfaceJay-Z was like the underboss.  Beans was the hit-man. So that for me would be a dream.

D: A 2009 “Guess Who’s Back,” eh?

$: Precisely, but I’d give them something a bit darker.

D: That would be rugged as hell.

$: Word.  Hopefully I get in the door before they all retire or not wanna rap anymore!

D: Fuck what ya heard from Kid Cudi, you can’t retire from hip-hop. At least I like to think of it like that.

$: (Laughs) I don’t know man.  If you’re around too long, they’ll try and play you.  Look how they’re trying to do Hov.  He’s the G.O.A.T. in my opinion and people are calling him ‘old’. Hip-hop is so fickle like that.

D: Oh, don’t even get me started on that. I’d say Jigga is my personal favorite so that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

$: See?  You know what I’m talking about! Can’t wait for Blueprint 3. It’s gonna be a lot of angry rappers.

D: Unfortunately, [hip-hop] is fickle.. BP3 will be fire!

That’s actually a good transition into my last question, a more philosophical type. Is hip-hop dead? If so, what will revive it?

$: I won’t say it’s dead, because there’s quite a few of us that are still pushing for the truth.  But there’s definitely a lighting problem on the stage. By that, I mean there’s way too much shine on one type of music.

There are so many talented people that are dedicated to hip-hop in its pure form, but they have to work three times as hard because they don’t say ‘aye!’ Eventually, things will come full circle and it’s happening as we speak.  People are tired of being ridiculed via this music.

D: Shots fired, better duck OJ!

$: I mean, no disrespect at all, because it’s not even his fault.  Hell, he got on by saying ‘AYE!’

D: I see where you’re coming from, you’re dead-on.

$: It’s these labels, man.  The record industry is DEAD, not hip-hop. Look around!  CDs are dying.  Record stores are closing. All because these stupid A&Rs are scared to take chances.

D: Preach!

$: So they’d rather sign another cookie-cutter act.  Another ‘AYE!’ As opposed to somebody who actually has something to say that really means something.

D: It’s a damn shame. But, like you, I do have hope since there are people that go outside the “box” that major labels have constructed.

$: The days of people like Matty C and Schott Free are long gone.

D: I guess it makes way for cats like you, Theo, etc. There’s a flip side to every coin.

$: That’s right.  There’s many of us.  And we’re all right outside the door.  It’s only a matter of time before it gets kicked down and we take everyone for all they’re worth.

That’s why I’m excited. Like, when [Jay-Z’s] “Death of Auto-tune” came out, Theo texted me like, “This is our time.” And I felt the same way. That was my cue.  That song let me know that the real is here to stay.

D: I’m just glad I’m here representing for the new true school. I’m happy to interact with real heads.

$port Shades

People are tired of being ridiculed via this music.

D: Well that wraps up my tough questioning, I wanted to play a short game of “this or that” to finish.

$: Sweet.

D: Ready? Beyonce or Alicia Keys.

$: Bey all the way.  True story, my ex was a big fan of Beyonce.  Once she found I had a crush on her, she started downplaying her OD!

D: (Laughs)

$: But yeah, Beyonce all the way.

D: Jordans or Dunks? I think I know the answer already.

$: Mikes all day.  I’ve only owned one pair of Dunks.  As a matter of fact, I think Dunks are sorely overdone/hyped.  The only Dunks I’d buy for real are the Supreme Hi’s and the Mork and Mindys.

D: Thought so!

$: My connection with Jordans extends far beyond being a “sneakerhead,” though.  I was there during MJ’s reign.  I remember taping games, and slowing the tape down to see what shoes Mike was wearing.

D: A genuine J head, I see..

$: I don’t just buy Jordans because they’re the thing to have.

D: Illmatic or Reasonable Doubt?

$: Reasonable Doubt.  I just listened to that about an hour ago. So you’re right on time.

D: Aight! RZA or Dre?  Side note: This one might be the most difficult for me.

$: RZADre is the MAN.  But, like, the Abbot in his heyday was something else.  36 Chambers is sonically one of the most awful sounding albums.  But the music was so powerful.

D: Personally, I’d tend to agree. Charles Hamilton or Drake?

$: (Pauses) Are you serious?

D: (Laughs)

$: I’m gonna have to say Drake. I don’t listen to his music on my own.  But Charles Hamilton is such a douche.  Plus, anybody that purposely wears t-shirts over dress shirts is an automatic lame.

D: Last one.. Fame or Respect?

$: Respect. Respect lasts forever.  Hell, Young MC and Snow were famous.  Respect is what it’s all about.  You saw what went down at the Staples Center today [Editor’s note: Michael Jackson’s service].  That’s respect.

D: Well-said.. Anyone you want to shout out or anything else you want to say to finish? 

$: Hmm.  First off, thanks to you for even being interested with whatever I’m doing.  I’m still on the way up and any time somebody wants to support or get to know about me and what I do, I’m always humbled by it.  Coming from where I’m from, there’s not much of anything here, especially musically.  So, thanks to you. 

D: No doubt! My pleasure.

$: I also want to shout out my fam, my brothers over at WMF, Theo, the big homies Gooch and Just Blaze, $murfette again for the sake of being a sucka for love, the homie Beewirks, my big bro AOK and everybody’s who’s been staying tuned this journey of mines.

D: Nice! Thanks for taking the time.

$: Thanks again man, I really appreciate it.

Check out more from $port at WhatUpSport.com, on MySpace, and the blog Way More Fresher

8 Responses to “Introducing: $port”

  1. July 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve never heard a better description for Soliloquy of Chaos than “angelic”

    • 2 domcorleone
      July 13, 2009 at 2:23 pm

      Guy! What up, fam? How you been?

      Thanks for stoppin thru the new site, I’m still a dedicated subscriber to HHHead. Peace!

      • July 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

        I’m good. HHHead is down, illcuts.com is the new joint.
        You puttin’ in good work with Ivan and Hold The Throne, keep that shit up!

      • 4 domcorleone
        July 15, 2009 at 12:36 am

        No wonder why I haven’t seen any posts from HHHead in a minute! I’ll check out the new spot.

  2. July 13, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Dope interview.

    One question I forgot to give to you was:

    If you could have came out and released a record in any year musically, what year would it be?

    Hopefully, he’ll read this and answer lol

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