DJ Pain 1 and a New Idea of Perfection
This story appears in the Fall 2018 issue of EMMIE Magazine.
Perfection isn’t an end goal, it’s a process. Pacal Bayley, known as DJ Pain 1 in the music world, knows that very well. The Madison-bred producer has been making music for more than a decade. In 2008, he landed a smash hit with the song “Don’t Do It” on Jeezy’s The Recession. Since then, he’s worked with the likes of Ludacris, Public Enemy, Royce Da 5’9” and 50 Cent.
In the months leading up to his connection with Jeezy, Bayley hadn’t made much of a career with production. “Up until then I had started creating probably thousands of beats, but I just never finished them,” Bayley says. He gave himself a year to find enough success to make a career out of making music, otherwise, he planned on falling back on his degree in English education. Six or seven months into this timeline, he found success. The Recession was certified gold by the RIAA. Despite that huge win and countless projects in the vaults, Bayley never quite felt his work was “perfect”.
If the perfect sound doesn’t really exist, then what does perfection mean in music? How do artists know what works and what doesn’t?
“It was more important for me to deliver that art to ears than it was for me to obsess over whether or not I viewed it as perfect because the art is subjective,” Bayley says. “If people like it I think you’ve done your job as an artist — if it resonates with people in some way. Virtually anything, any piece of art, can resonate with somebody.”
In Bayley’s eyes, perfection is more about growth. Creativity is an ever-shifting process that relies on evolution to avoid stagnation. What’s “perfect” one day may not carry that same weight in a week, month or year. The opposite is also true. Music — or art in general — that is hated, disrespected or ignored upon its release in the world may become revered as time passes. It’s impossible to know what kind of reaction a piece of art may elicit from different audiences.
“Music is weird because the divinity of a lot of art isn’t always instantaneous,” Bayley says. “With music, I think time is a major factor in revealing the divinity of a song.”
Bayley’s understanding of music and his process rely on acknowledging the element of time. There is never a singular moment where a piece of music crosses a threshold into an unimpeachable territory. Rather, projects reach a point where Bayley is comfortable with a public release. If there isn’t a finished product, there is no way to process feedback and change the work in the future.
It’s rare for an artist to have the chance to go back and change their work after it’s been released into the world (though that norm has been called into question in recent years due to the nature of streaming services), but in 2015, Bayley had a chance to go back and redo things. Three months before Ludacris’ album Ludaversal hit shelves, the rapper’s team reached out to Bayley asking him to update the beat on the track “Money” featuring Rick Ross. Bayley had sent the track to Ludacris roughly four years earlier. After a single attempt at updating the beat, Bayley sent it back to Ludacris’ team, and that version was released.
“It was one of those opportunities for me to prove myself as a producer. They didn’t know whether or not I could successfully update it or make it better,” Bayley says. “I think I did make it better.”
Realizing that change played an instrumental role in his work as a producer, Bayley quickly learned the risk involved with a career in the music industry. “If I’m not making the best music that I possibly can, I don’t survive, and that’s something that’s going to drive me internally forever,” Bayley says.
Often, especially in art, we hold things to an unattainably high standard. We demand that musicians make infallible choices, yet, that idea is in direct conflict with the humanity responsible for creating the art in the first place. Just like Bayley strives to make his music resonate with as many people as possible, we try to improve ourselves so we can handle the world around us. Music, much like the human emotion it conveys, can never truly be perfect. It can, however, help us navigate our lives with a greater understanding.