22 year old Atlanta-based producer Mike WiLL Made It, has become one of the most influential figures in the Southern musical landscape. Exchanging hoop dreams for pursuing a career in music, WiLL scored his first break with Gucci Mane at the age 17. Since then, he’s played a role in jump starting the music careers of Waka Flocka, Future and 2 Chainz. With a breakout hit last year with the Meek Mill x Rick Ross “Tupac Back”, his sound was broadcasted to a national audience. 2012 looks to be an even bigger year for Mike, with already having stand-out tracks on two of this year’s more prestigious releases (Gucci Mane, Trap Back and ScHoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions) and upcoming records with a range of artists that include Brandy and Kendrick Lamar. Looks like the tag “Mike WiLL Made It” will be heard on more of your favorite records in the near future.
Recently I had the opportunity to get on the phone with Mike, where we talked about everything from his production, working relationship with various artists and how Peyton Manning applies to the rap game.
Congrats on your success. You seem to be on a lot of peoples top producer list right now. What do you think it is that makes so many people gravitate towards your music?
A different and new sound. As a producer, it’s my job to be a creator. I got a production company and we stay creative. We’re fans of music, we’re fans of what everyone else has going on as well, so we definitely listen to that, but we don’t get any influence from that. It’s somewhat of a competition cause we’re two different businesses as far as me and any another producers in the game, so really we just try to come different. Just trying not to sound like something else. So if a track comes out sounding similar to this person or resembles that [sound], we put our twist on it and make sure it stays creative. Not thinking too much about it, just trying not to be like the next person. Wanting to stand out in the crowd and not being scared to try something new.
When did you start producing?
I started making beats when I was 14 and I started producing when I was 19.
What producers influenced you and who are some now that you draw inspiration from?
Of course Dr Dre, Timbaland, Shawty Red , Toomp, Pharell, I like the new stuff that’s going on with David Guetta, Dr Luke, RedOne. Like I said, I’m a fan of music, I like everything that’s going on. I just like good, dope music.
With Gucci being your first break, how did it feel to have so many stand out tracks on what a lot of people are calling Trap Back his “comeback” mixtape?
Really feels natural, cause I had so many tracks on one of his breakthrough mixtapes with, No Pad No Pencil right before he got up with Warner Bros. records and went on that nice run. I did 7 tracks on their and he came out with a DVD – I did all the tracks on their that he was freestyling to and then we came right back with Guapaholics (Gucci Mane and Shawty Lo) and had three songs on their and they were the stand-outs. So pretty much when me and Gucci work, no matter what project they end up on, they end up being the tracks that stand out. For us getting back to work was all about timing. Just getting back in the studio and going in on this mixtape right here, Me & Gucci said “back to the basics”. It really feels good,for bruh to get out of jail and hit the streets running. He gotta lot of dope records on the way, we got 15 records that haven’t come out yet.
Whats your favorite track of yours on “Trap Back”?
Probably mine too. Is there any story on how that record came about?
With “Plain Jane”, that beat is so crazy. The beat is so transforming, so new but at the same time it’s sorta sounds like a loop, like there’s not to much going on with it. I pretty much imagined how Gucci would flow on it, so when we were outside the booth and Gucci was like ‘I just gonna rhyme straight through on this record’. He was rhyming a few different styles of how he was going to flow on it then he did the “Body took a lot of ink/ lungs smoke a lot of stink”- when he said that I was like ‘you need to lay that down’. He went back in the booth and said it but it really wasn’t coming out the way he wanted to so he started rapping a whole other verse cause a lot of times he just freestyles his lyrics. So I’m like ‘Whoa’ and I had to stop the engineer and was like ‘Gucci you got to stick to what you were originally saying cause that shit was dope’ and he was like ‘You think it’s dope like that ? Let me try something else’ and I’m like ‘Nah bruh, you HAVE to do that. Please for me, you have to do that’. I went in the booth with him, we burned one and then he started recording what he originally came with but he did it more towards the middle of the beat so we moved it to the front and then had Gucci knock out a second verse. Then he called Rocko, told him to come to the studio and we just knocked it out. We knew what we had as soon as we finished recording and went and shot a video for it right away. So look for that real soon.
STREAM: Gucci Mane (feat. Rocko) – “Plain Jane” (prod. by Mike WiLL Made It)
Another record I wanted to ask you about was the ScHoolboy Q “My Hatin Joint”. How did you hook up with Q? The beat is so different from other tracks in your catalog, did Q want something different or was that something you thought would fit him?
Really how I look at it, I got so many records on the way that people haven’t even heard, so the catalog is diverse. So with Q, I was dealing with my homey Brock out in L.A. who was telling me about him. I went that route cause I don’t have too many records with people like a Q or Kendrick or Curren$y, but I have those type of tracks. So instead of sending him those rugged, aggressive tracks that you’re used to hearing, or the heavy 808’s or the south influenced tracks, I wanted to show my diversity and not put myself in a box. Q called me and said we had a dope song and sent it back to me. He asked me if he could use is it and I said ‘Hell Yeah’. For it to be one of people’s favorites on his album is real dope.
STREAM: ScHoolboy Q – “My Hatin’ Joint” (prod. by Mike WiLL Made It)
Are their any plans in the future to work more with Q or possibly Kendrick?
Yeah, I’ve been working with Kendrick on his album and Q just gave me a new record for my mixtape, Est. In 1989 Part 2 and I did a couple joints for Q’s next album as well. But yeah that’s family right there, them the homies.
Gotta ask. Have you heard the Kendrick joints or did you just send him some tracks?
Nah, I heard the joints. Kendrick came down here to Atlanta, we got in the studio. He came down here twice actually. The first time we had a session, that’s when we first met and he was going crazy over the tracks. The second time he came down it was him, me and Luda in the studio just vibin’ and he was playing me the songs he recorded to the tracks he took from the first session. They were real dope. I laced him with some more tracks that are supposed to be for his album as well.
How important is it for you to work with artists outside of the south? If so, is this something that you’re making a concerted effort to do?
I don’t really put too much time and thought into it. I really like to let everything happen organically. The reason why I work with so many artists that I work with is because of the relationships. 2 Chainz, that’s my brother. I’ve been holding him down ever since he started doing this solo thing. Future, that’s my brother as well. Gucci, obviously. We got a great chemistry and that’s who gave me that break, so that’s my big brother right there. But really, I’m ready to work with everybody. I got an R&B record coming with Jeremih and then I got a record with Brandy as well, so I got some different joints coming with some artists outside of Atlanta.
It seems like you’re real hands on in a lot of the records you produce, especially in the attention to detail you pay to your music …almost has a perfectionist quality to it. Is there any artists that you really had to push to do certain things to get record the way you wanted to hear it?
As a producer it happens all the time. Sometimes the artist just doesn’t see what you see as a producer but as long as they respect you as a producer they’ll try it and then the vision becomes clear. Working on Future’s album, the records we have are real big. I know the talent in Future, dude is like a walking talent bomb. We have this one record called “Turn On The Lights” and I was telling him he needed to take off 4 bars of rapping and have him sing it. He was thinking I was trying to turn him into an R&B singer, but he knocked it out and ended up being this real crazy record.
“Itchin” was one of those types of records as well. He [Future] came back in town one weekend, we had a session set up and I’m played him “Itchin”. I was in the studio when he recorded most of the Streetz Calling mixtape so I knew what was on there and this was different as hell, simple as hell and I needed him to go ignorant with it, all the way street, all the way gutter and that’s exactly what he did. I kept telling him, cuz I was listening to Streetz Calling right, ‘You gonna run with that “Itchin?” and he was like, ‘I don’t know. You think we should you use it?’ and I was like ‘Yeah man, you should definitely use it’ so he was like ‘Aight’ but I knew he wasn’t sure about it. So finally I was like ‘look bro, it’s all good’ because I know he didn’t want me to miss the mixtape. I said let me grab the record for my mixtape and I’m gonna press the gas on that mother fucker because I believe in it. Then he called me a month ago, ‘Man I slept on that “Itchin” record cuz people are going crazy for it’.
STREAM: Future – “Itchin” (prod. by Mike WiLL Made It)
It’s crazy how you hear stories about how some emcees weren’t originally supportive of what ended up becoming classic records…either not liking the beats or how they sound on the track, until it’s cosigned by others.
Yeah, that happens quite a bit. A couple records on Future’s album are like that, Gucci’s “Plain Jane”; 2 Chainz “Got One”. I was telling him (2 Chainz) to come in 4 bars before the beat drop. He was like ‘Mike, I got this’. I leave the studio and I come back and he starts flowing four bars before the beats drops and it turned into this epic intro. When he starts out “Sometimes I had them thoughts/ I’m too real for this..” and when that beat drops the whole song goes underwater and then he just goes crazy. But you gotta be able to tell an artist to flow like this or that. It’s all part of being a producer.
STREAM: 2 Chainz – “Got One” (prod. by Mike WiLL Made It)
Where do you think you got this confidence from at such a young age to tell artists ‘Hey this is what I need you to do?’
Really comes from doing records with Gucci at 16/17. I always had the vision but at that young of an age I’m just playing my role, making the beats and bring them to the artist. But seeing where Gucci started from and becoming the superstar that he is and then to see Waka go from not rapping and me telling him ‘Bruh, you need to be a rapper’ and he’s like ‘Nah I’m not doing that shit,’ to see him making crazy hits. Me sitting down with (OJ Da) Juiceman and seeing him take off. Seeing 2 Chainz take off as a solo artist. With the artists I work with they are family so I can pretty much tell them how I’m feeling. After a while of kickin’ it, from being quiet at first to building up ideas in my head to sharing my ideas that end up working and getting the right response, confidence starts to build. But having an organic relationship with these artists, I can really go in and voice my opinion. So with that working out, I can go in a room with any artist now and tell them how I feel. An artist doesn’t have to do it so as long as they respect my opinion.
I’m sure with your track record now, it’s probably easier to get artists to do things you want them to
Exactly. Once you build that up, there’s pretty much not too much they wanna say but ‘I wanna know what you thinking cause every joint you produce is the stand out cut on everybody’s CD. So I wanna know what the fuck is going on’. You feel me?
Definitely. Since you have so many stand out cuts on peoples’ albums, do you have any plans on doing a full length? Maybe your own, or some kind of collab with an emcee?
I got my Est. In 1989 mixtape, a compilation of records I produced, but maybe down the road I’ll turn it into an album with new records. I would love to bring my own artists out and produce their records. When it makes sense would like to go in and executive produce albums for artists I work with now.
Do you have artists now that you working with that you are planning on putting out?
Yeah, most definitely
Any plans on rhyming yourself?
Nah man, no way in hell. (laughing)
Are there any veteran artists whom you were such a big fan of as a kid, whose more recent albums are past their prime, that you’d like to work with and help them make a ‘come back’?
Hell yeah. There is a couple different people, I don’t want to name them because they may feel like they still have it going on. (laughing) Yeah man, definitely a couple people I wouldn’t mind. Once I run into them and we meet- shit, it will just happen.
You gave up your sports dreams to pursue your music dreams. So what do you think about Peyton Manning getting cut and what are your thoughts on the situation and is s there anything you take away from that?
Man, pretty much that they chew you up and spit you out like a record deal. That’s life, that’s how everything goes. How I try to look at things is seize every moment while I got this window of opportunity to seize every moment. To get in position where I can start bringing people up and empowering people as well because I know I’m not gonna be in this position forever. But Peyton gonna be great. There’s not gonna be too many Peyton Manning’s out there and this gonna just be adding fuel to the fire. Peyton isn’t some lay down-push over type guy.
If your the GM of the Falcons do you go and try to pick him up?
You damn right!
Forget about Matt Ryan?
Man, we need Peyton Manning, for real. I don’t know what’s up with the Falcons. That’s what I need to do, get my money up and get a GM position with the Falcons…and the Hawks. These trades they be doing are crazy and the people they are paying is crazy.
So after music, GM is your next career move?
Yeah man, that’s my next move…
DOWNLOAD: Mike WiLL Made It – Est. In 1989
*Lookout for his upcoming mixtape Est. In 1989 Part 2