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REVOLT TV presents 'The Produce Section,' a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, The Produce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of "The Produce Section," we chopped it up with rising boardsman SAP, who's spent the past decade building his resume while cooking up tracks for some of the biggest names in the game. Hailing from Newark, Delaware, SAP got his start crafting beats for local artists in the Tri-state area, the most notable being a pre-fame Meek Mill. Those early credits would eventually translate into additional work with both newcomers and established acts including Mac Miller, Game, Rick Ross, Nipsey Hussle and others.
In 2018, SAP reached the biggest milestone of his career when he earned his first Grammy nomination for his work on Nipsey Hussle's Victory Lap album, which he produced the title-track for. That, along with placements on projects from Dave East, have made the producer a hot commodity.
REVOLT chopped it up with the producer to get the scoop on his creative process, the backstory on the biggest records of his career and more.
Favorite Producer: "Timbaland for sure."
Your Process As A Producer: "Me, I'm pretty random. Most of the time, I don't really have an idea or a beat in mind. I just like to play around with sounds or something that sparks and just start messing with loops, and just build a beat like that."
Favorite Artists To Work With: "Mac [Miller] was one of them for sure. Mac was just always exciting to work with. Just the type of person he was, his personality. He was really just a dude that was hype just to create. Bring instruments, musicians, whatever. He would bring people together, too, you'd go into Mac's session and there'd be someone like Thundercat or someone you wouldn't expect, then another rapper, and then a producer.
"Nipsey was crazy because I learned a lot just working on Victory Lap and it took a few years. But, just the process of it all was pretty amazing. He's another person that brought a lot of people together. Third, I'ma say Zookie. Zookie is from Delaware. She's actually my first artist on my label, but she's incredible."
Three Records That Have Defined Your Career: "Meek Mill, 'In My Bag;' Game, 'Celebration;' Mac Miller, 'Donald Trump.'"
Prior to Meek Mill linking with MMG, you produced his first breakout single "In My Bag," which helped spark the buzz that ultimately led to Rick Ross discovering him. How did you and Meek connect?
"I was working with artists in Philly and at the time, Joey Jihad was on fire. I had done some stuff on their project _Tha Big Dog Yard_and Meek had did a song with Joey Jihad on that record, on my beat. And then, he reached out to me on MySpace and was like, 'Yo, man, what's up with some beats? I'm trying to work,' and I was like, 'Let's get it.' I sent him a record, he rapped it for me over the phone, recorded it that next day and then, the shit was just on the radio. That was one of the first records that went straight from the streets to the radio, the streets really got that record hot."
Another instance where you and Meek Mill cooked up [something] together was "B Boy" featuring Big Sean and A$AP Ferg. How would you describe the zone you were in while making that track?
"It's crazy 'cause when I made that beat, it was one of those situations where I knew it was a good beat, but I ain't even know it would be that. This is when I was still working with Cool & Dre heavy and I had sent them a [beat] pack. And they was down in Miami with Meek and Ross and 'em, and they played some music, and I remember Dre telling me Ross had heard that beat a couple of times and liked it. And then, Meek just got at it. Meek put a verse on it and then ended up putting [Big] Sean on it, and then [A$AP] Ferg, and then it just turned into 'B Boy.'"
You've collaborated with Nipsey Hussle on a few occasions, the first being when you produced the Mailbox Money track "That's How I Knew." How did that collaboration come about?
"I produced that along with my man Kickin J [Beats] and basically Nip was just working on music. He had the album in the plans, so I didn't know if the music was for his album or his street mixtapes. So, I sent him some music and my boy Kickin had different melodies or stabs. So, when you hear those chords, that was him. I sped it up and added the drums like it was the sample, sent it to Nip, he loved that joint and he ended up using it on Mailbox Money. For me to get on that project was dope because I feel like that's one of Nip's classic mixtapes for sure. That's another record I feel has a good vibe, it's got a bounce and it's a motivational record. It came out an anthem. I ain't even know that was gonna end up being that."
How would you describe Nipsey's process when it comes to picking beats and recording in the studio?
"He's different than a lot of artists. He'll lay an idea down. He might have a few bars for a beat, he'll just lay that down, sit on it and come back to it. Like the 'Mean Streets' beat on Victory Lap, he had that for years. He's really like a musician. He likes building it up, rather than a dude trying to record ten songs in a day. He's not just trying to rush through the shit. He's actually trying to give people quality and make some timeless work. It's dope because you learn a lot from Nip, too, because he's like a student. Nipsey the first rapper or person to do this to ever tell me to read a book."
The Victory Lap album was Grammy nominated, what's it like to see the culmination of Nipsey Hussle's successful and being a part of it?
"It's crazy, it's unreal. At first, the record was called 'Mean Streets' and it was gonna be No. 2 [on the tracklist] and I remember closer to the album coming out, he was texting like, 'Yo, I'm making your track the intro, and you're gonna start the album off and we're naming it Victory Lap,' and I was like, 'Oh shit.' This joint 'bout to be defining and I knew how important it was to him, too, cause it's his major label debut. So, to have that was already crazy. I felt like he didn't go for the typical radio singles. We ain't have no Drake single or nothing like that where we was trying to compete with Top 40 or none of that. It was just a dope hip hop album and it was authentic. It's amazing 'cause I think Nip showed you can still do it authentic and still be right there with the Travis' and Cardi Bs."
In 2017, you earned a credit on Rick Ross' Rather You Than Me track "The Powers That Be," which featured an appearance by Nas and commentary from Chris Rock. What was your reaction to hearing Chris Rock talk shit over one of your beats?
"It was crazy hearing that because Chris Rock a legend, man. You know another thing I was hype about was the Clue drop on there. Obviously, coming up, if you were a hip hop head, at a certain time, DJ Clue [was everything]. And then having Nas on your shit, let alone Ross, it was unreal, man. I knew it was someone big on my record when Sam Snead called me and said, 'You got something on the Ross album, wait 'til you hear who on this joint.' At first, I was thinking it was someone like [J.] Cole or Kendrick [Lamar]. But when I watched the [Rick Ross'] Angie Martinez interview and he was telling her, 'We definitely got Nas on the album,' when I seen that, I was like, 'Oh shit, it's probably Nas on my shit.' And when I came out, I couldn't believe it. Just to hear Nas on my beat and just to know that he actually sat and wrote lyrics to my beat, that was definitely one of the most exciting moments I've had in the game 'cause you dream of getting people like him on your shit. As a producer, that's a bucket list artist. It's just certain people that you want on your joint."
You produced "I Don't Understand It" for Dave East, who is one of the hottest new MCs out of New York City right now. What was it like working with him?
"It was cool. The first time I worked with Dave East in person, I was back on the east coast and I had went back to New York 'cause I was cool with Wayno [Dave East's former manager] for a little minute. I went there to New York to rock with him and we did a couple of records, but nothing ever came out 'cause Dave East records like crazy. But then, I started sending him music and I was just sending him beat after beat, and Dave East will straight up record a little clip and have it on the gram just see what the people think. He had like 5-6 joints on his page and one of them was 'I Don't Understand It.' He had it on YouTube, like a clip of it and everybody was like, 'When this drop? When this drop?' That was one of them joints where I feel it still has my sound."
Your first track that really broke out nationally was "Donald Trump" by late rapper Mac Miller, which earned you your first platinum plaque. What led the two of you to start working together?
"What's so crazy is Mac tried to reach out to me when he was Easy Mac. He had heard about the 'In My Bag' record, the Meek record. He said he tried to reach out to me and I guess a lot of people were hitting me at the time on MySpace. Fast forward a couple of years later, he put out this mixtape called K.I.D.S. I didn't really catch the wave. I wasn't on it and my boy Tommy, he was a big fan of Mac and Wiz. He was like, 'You should go to Pittsburgh and work with this kid named Mac. He's dope.' I looked him up, reached out to him and he was like, 'What's up? I hit you up on MySpace to work a little minute ago,' I was like, 'Oh shit, I didn't know.' I ended up taking a train to Pittsburgh and first time we ever met, we made 'Donald Trump' on the spot. I still got the footage. We cooked that shit up on the spot from scratch, the beat and everything. We made it in probably under an hour, he wrote it quick. And for how that shit blew up, that's something we definitely couldn't predict. We had Donald Trump making videos about the shit. It was crazy."
One of Mac Miller's more introspective tracks is "Thoughts From A Balcony." What spurred you to give Mac that particular beat?
"Honestly, that was me starting to learn who Mac was and learning his style, and learning he was getting more deep with his lyrics. I seen where he was going when he was working on music and I remember him just sending me certain things... and how it felt and sound, and I'm like, 'Aight, let me give him something like this.' And that band I sampled, it just had so many records that I felt like Mac genuinely listened to. I was like, 'Let me take this and flip it into some hip hop shit.' I just thought it was a great record and honestly, I didn't think 'Thoughts From A Balcony' would end up being a record people consider one of his fan-favorites for sure. It wasn't his biggest hit. But for his fans, that's a go-to track for them, which is dope."
Do you have any unreleased songs the two of you worked on?
"We actually got a lot of stuff that we did that's unreleased. I'ma say probably closer to an album worth of stuff. He's got so much shit where it's crazy, it's just so many records. To me, I think Mac got albums and albums of music just unreleased. Different producers, whether it's me or ID Labs. I mean, he did a whole record with Pharrell [Williams] called Pink Slime that never came out. So, it's crazy."
What's some of the projects or artists you're working with now?
"I'm working on Zookie album right now, I'm excited about that. I'm sending music to Ross right now for the Miami II album. Hopefully that goes well. I just did Jourdan Banks' single. Jourdan Banks got a song called 'Can't Keep Running' I produced, it's charting right now. I was just locked in with Smoke DZA. I just did something with French, too, for his next project. A little bit of everything. To be honest with you, I'm trying to get into different genres and all that, so I can get into some R&B or crossover and work with different artists like a Kid Cudi or even a Childish Gambino. Dave East, of course. I did something actually with Dave East and Snoop. I don't wanna give too much information 'cause dudes be having plans and I don't be wanting to put it out there. But, they got some music and it's pretty hard. BJ the Chicago Kid, we been locked in. Just different stuff like that."
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