Born in Philadelphia, hip-hop producer Premise (real name: Stefan Schecter) began making beats as a hobby in 1997. Fifteen years later, he's been instrumental in bringing a national-level event for producers to Pittsburgh — one that's coming back to town Oct. 23 and 24.
In 2001, Schecter moved to Pittsburgh to study communications and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. While at school, he continued pursuing work as a producer with his own brand, Straight-N-Narrow Productions. Soon after graduating from Pitt in 2005, he began participating in the iStandard Producers Showcase, traveling to compete in several shows in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Over time, his role expanded from competing as a producer to working some back-end business, as Schecter initiated talks of bringing the showcase to Pittsburgh. In August 2011, the iStandard Producers Showcase made its Pittsburgh debut.
"For two years prior to that I was working with [iStandard founders] J. Hatch and Don DiNapoli to get them to want to take a chance on Pittsburgh," Schecter explains. "Leading up to the event, I was still nervous, though. You never know what you're gonna get the first time the city's responding to something."
The city responded well. In all, 24 Pittsburgh hip-hop producers competed in the event and had their beats judged by a panel of industry experts, including local Grammy winner Emmai Alaquiva of YaMomzHouse Studio. The winners, Pittsburgh producers Basement Beatz and Hit Project Inc., were awarded the opportunity to take part in iStandard's year-end event, Beast of the Beats, in New York City, which featured winners from more than 30 cities. The second Pittsburgh showcase, in May 2012, was won by local producers Amil and LueX Productions.
Although he acknowledges the benefits of winning a showcase, Schecter stresses the additional advantages for producers and others with interest in the music industry.
"The whole winning thing, that's temporary — it's nice to win the prize package," says Schecter. "But the relationships that can be built at an event like this are very unique."
Currently working as the director of media and sponsorships for the iStandard Producers Showcase, Schecter is handling media relations for all markets that iStandard hosts shows in. A few months prior to the shows, Schecter is reaching out to local blogs, radio shows, venues, studios and hip-hop shops to ensure each city's hip-hop scene is involved. That, in turn, leads to greater publicity and opportunities for the competing producers.
"The goal is to help bridge the gap between producers making music in their basement or with their friends as a hobby, to actually placing records in the industry and understanding what it's going to take to do that successfully," explains Schecter. "Placing records starts the publishing wheel in motion, which is a key component of surviving and making a living in the music industry."
The iStandard Producers Showcase returns to Pittsburgh Oct. 23-24 at Club Diesel. Additionally, a meet-and-greet with the panel of judges, which includes national producers Statik Selektah, Illmind and Omen, takes place at Timebomb Spot (200 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside) on Oct. 24 at 4 p.m.