From selling beats for $100 a pop to working with Miley Cyrus and writing and producing Beyoncé's Formation, Marietta, Georgia’s Mike WiLL Made-It has, track by increasingly massive track, climbed to the top of the hip-hop (and pop) production pile. Not bad for a southern rap loving kid whose dad bought him a sampler for Christmas one year.
Once the beats started flowing, it didn’t take long for Will to get his first break, thanks to local hero Gucci Mane. And it's been a crazy ride ever since. Will and his EarDrummers Entertainment crew have worked with everyone from Lil Wayne to Rihanna – and he's also responsible for discovering and producing the "hood NSYNC" Rae Sremmurd.
Here are a few more thing we learned about Mike WiLL Made-It during his lecture for Red Bull Music Academy last year.
He comes from a musical household
Musical talent runs in the family. Will's sister was a drum major and continues to give him musical approval (as well as looking after his business affairs). But it all started with his mum and dad. "My mom, she sang in the choir with Dottie Peoples. We would be on the road a lot and they would be doing shows. Then my dad, he used to DJ at little parties. He had this record player, and he would buy a new needle. I would just see him, like scratching and playing records. I would grab a record, put it on there and try to scratch and break the needle every time."
He wanted to be an athlete
One of his sisters was sports mad and Will followed in her footsteps – only to quickly realise that music might be a bit safer. "I was really into football. They had me at linebacker, because I just liked to hit. There was this kid, he was bigger than everybody. He was really like two, three years older than us. He was running, and I was like, 'Yo, I'm about to make this hit! I'm about to make this hit!' He just trucked me. I made the tackle. I was happy I made the tackle, but I couldn't move. They were like, 'If you move, you're going to get paralysed, just stay still.' So I was like: Okay, f**k football."
He owes his name to Gucci Mane
Local rapper Gucci was the first big name to hop on one of Will's beats and, during one lengthy recording session, inadvertently gave Will the name he's known as today. "I’m only like 17, 18, at the time. I’m just like: Damn, this man Gucci in here just shout me out bro. Like, 'Mike Will on this beat right there buddy. Straight celebrity baby. I shout him out every time.' Then in his verse he says, 'Mike Will Made It / Gucci Mane slayed it / Star Status n**a everybody upgrade it.' Then when it came out on his Guapaholics mixtape, everybody in the street was just running up to me like, 'Yo, Mike Will Made-It.' Before then, it was just Mike Will. After that, it was like, Mike WiLL Made-It, Mike WiLL Made-It…"
Mike WiLL Made-It couldn't do it without his team
With work flooding in, Will set up his own crew of producers and writers, EarDrummers Entertainment, as soon as he could. Like Will says, a hive of minds is better than one. "A mastermind is a collective of minds, so if you want to be a mastermind in production or on beats or whatever you do – clothes, videos, whatever – a mastermind is a collective of minds, so collaboration is always good… At that time, we were the first ones with a production team and we kicked the door down and paved the way for every producer that was going to come after us."
He's always listened to a broad range of music
Will has long sung the praises of fellow producers like Dre, Timbaland, Pharrell and DJ Toomp, but it's just as important to take your cues from the broader music world. "I like the production on Pet Shop Boys. I like The Smiths. If you look at my iTunes, it's… Bobby Womack for sure, but he's an old school player so everybody would think that one. I like Beth Hart. Bon Iver. I listen to Cyndi Lauper a lot. The Flaming Lips. I pretty much got everybody in here, know what I'm saying? You got to play some different kind of music."
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