Like a lot of Madison's urban music producers, Josue Guadalupe, 29, spends long hours by himself, turning beats and samples into original songs.
After dark on a recent Monday night, he'd settled into the backroom of his south-side apartment and sat earnestly in front of his Akai MPC 2500 sequencer/sampler.
"This is just some Christian album I found," he said, recording several measures of a choral performance that was nearing crescendo.
Then, tapping the buttons of his MPC, he broke the recording into pieces of sound. He sequenced and looped the pieces, applying a filter for a tinny affect. Next he added layers of synth and beats.
"Sometimes I'll stay up doing this until 2 or 3 in the morning" said Guadalupe.
MCs and DJs may be the face of Madison hip-hop, but producers - those individuals who compose the beats and sound arrangements behind the rap - are the invisible artists essential to turning out great tracks.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, they'll enjoy a rare spotlight during a producer competition event at the UW Memorial Union Rathskeller beginning at 7 p.m. Guadalupe will be joined by other Madisonians who commit much of their private time to perfecting the sound of hip-hop.
Event coordinator Arthur Richardson is founder of Streets of Gold Productions, an organization that helps expose Madison youth to the art of composing hip-hop. For Richardson, the event provides an overdue opportunity to showcase what he sees as one of Madison music's most neglected talents.
"What throws me is that all of these cats could be doing anything for anybody in the music industry," says Richardson. "That's how much talent they have. They should have deals, and if they were in New York, L.A. or Atlanta, they would."
Pacal Bayley, 23, is a senior at UW-Madison, where he majors in secondary education. He grew up in Madison, attending James C. Wright Middle School and West High. He's been involved in some form of hip-hop production since eight grade.
"Back then I was doing it on a very basic level - learning how to loop and get a sample from a record or CD," says Bayley.
In high school, he was mentored by Richardson, then directing after-school programs at the New Loft Teen Center. Bayley joined Richardson's GoodLife program (the precursor to Streets of Gold). GoodLife made hip-hop creativity a focal point for positive involvement in the community.
Today, Bayley performs his productions as DJ Pain 1. "My work is the product of years and years of being unusually addicted to hip-hop music," he says. "My style is more melodic and somber in a minor-note way."
Bradley Thomas, 29, is better known in the Madison music scene as the MC DLO. But hip-hop production is a passion he practices for long hours.
"Some days I'll start out making beats at 9 o'clock in the morning and stay at it all day," says Thomas.
While his mixes highlight soul, R&B and jazz, Thomas says he enjoys being able take any piece of music and make it work within the context of his production. "I'll use old Japanese traditional music, anything that's different," he says.
Guadalupe's adopted hip-hop name, "Da Ricanstruckta," melds his Puerto Rican ethnicity and his interest in reconstructing music samples into something new.
"I always set my loops to eight bars to give myself room to create," says Guadalupe. "You learn partly by listening to your favorite hip-hop producer and asking yourself how they do it. Then you ask yourself what you want to do."
When he answers that question, Guadalupe is clear that he wants to differentiate himself from what he sees on MTV.
"I want to be recognized, get respect from other people and make a living from this," he says. "But so much of what I hear out there is so recycled. It makes me angry. It's always about the party and people talking about how much money they have."
Guadalupe, Bayley and Thomas will each be performing at the Streets of Gold producer competition on Nov. 4. The competition is part of a day-long "Feel the Beat" conference," sponsored by Streets of Gold as a hip-hop industry showcase for local youth.
The event will include hardware and software exhibitions in the Red Gym and workshops on how to use music technology as an experiential learning tool for urban youth. The producer competition will be judged by a celebrity panel that includes 9th Wonder, who has produced tracks for Beyonce, Jay Z and Nas.
Richardson doesn't understand why investors aren't taking notice of local hip-hop producers.
"Why don't people with money see the gold mine?" he asks. "A lot of people aren't really checking out the urban youth here. There's a sense of neglect.
"These producers spend a ton of time developing their talents," he adds. "They are really committed. I want people to know that."
On Nov. 4, says Richardson, "They will be the headliners. They'll be the stars of the show."