Since his emergence as the main producer on Yelawolf’s Trunk Muzik to his ominous contribution to Tech N9ne’s All 6’s and 7’s with “Delusional”, WillPower is quickly ascending as one of the premier producers that hip hop has to offer. The Atlanta-based producer’s emphasis on melody, instrumentation and sound-quality has quickly differentiated him in a field that has slowly turned its back on these facets of production during the last decade.
WillPower’s latest collaboration with a Strange Music artist came in Wrekonize’s The War Within. We talked to WillPower to get some hints as to how the union between Miami’s most elite emcee and one of hip hop’s best up-and-coming producers came about, what came out of the effort and what to expect from Wrekonize’s new album.
You have a heavy emphasis on high-quality sound and a really good sense of melody in your production, how has that progressed since the last time we talked?
It’s gotten crazy man. I’ve expanded my production style. I’m working more with musicians now. I’ve gone into producing along with people who play actual instruments so it’s really dope. We’ve got a lot of basslines now. I’ve got a horn section I’m working with. I’ve got a couple guitar players that I work with. I’m just kind of trying to expand it man and keep it really organic and it’s gotten crazy and a lot better.
If you think about the hallmarks of golden age production you’ll hear a lot of what you’re talking about. Are you inspired by records that you came up on to kind of chase this sort of sound?
Absolutely. I think as a producer you look to grow and you start out with what you have and then once you reach a certain plateau you want to go further and expand that. I just think it’s the natural progression of someone who’s truly trying to be a producer. You start off digital and then you go to instrumentation if you can, you know? I think it’s certainly something I’ve always aspired to do. Some of the great producers that I listen to like Dr. Dre and those guys, he uses live instrumentation on most of his music.
With Wrekonize’s album, how did it come to be that you were going to do some beats for The War Within? Did he contact you?
Actually, his management reached out to my management and there was an interest to work with me. I was already up on ¡MAYDAY! so I was excited to do it. I got to know Wrekonize during the process and I was blown away. I didn’t understand how dope of an artist and emcee that he was. Not only that, but he’s a singer. He’s really dope man. He’s a loaded gun. He does all kinds of stuff. When I got to work with him it was just amazing. Really I don’t know how exactly he found out about me, but I’m kind of a part of the Strange family now so I guess whenever something’s happening they’re really good at making sure that I’m in the loop. I was just grateful to be a part of it. I was grateful to even be introduced to it. It was dope.
Did you know much about him before you guys linked up?
Not more than ¡MAYDAY! man. Once it got closer to the time that I worked with him I checked him out and I looked into him and I knew that he was dope but I really didn’t know that much. It was a surprise to me. I didn’t know he was so gifted. Like I said, I’ll never turn down a good situation where I’m working with someone whose talent is so good.
What do you think some of his greatest strengths are as an artist and emcee?
From what I saw he’s an excellent writer: his lyrics and his content were really good. His melodies were crazy. I saw him to be pretty well-rounded. As an emcee he’s really, really dope. His cadence, his technique, his speed, everything about him was just really well-rounded. I don’t find that a lot. Usually you’re strong at something but weak at other things but he’s really well-rounded.
Did you make the beats after you guys vibed out or did you already have them made?
I had a few made but the way we did it was, he came in and we vibed out for like three or four days before I even presented him with stuff I already had. For me I really want to give it a shot every time I work with artists: I want to give them the opportunity to create something specifically designed for them. It just so happened that we have so much in common musically that we just clicked man.
I think we ended up working on close to 9 or 10 records. We practically worked on an album while he was there and then as we finished he went back and picked out the ones that he liked the most. The whole process was hands on. Of the records that he chose on the album I do think that one of those records was a beat that I kind of had started but nonetheless he still came in and had input in what I was doing with it and we went back and forth a few times to make some changes. It worked out.
If I’m not mistaken he’s a producer himself, so he really had a lot to say about what he liked and what he wanted the record to have in it. He had Bernz with him too and Bernz had input. He just kind of bounced his ideas off the room and we all bounced our ideas back. He was just hands on. His approach was to be involved in it. He didn’t just want you to pull a beat out of a catalog and just give it to him and that’s exactly how I work. I try to keep away from playing him beats that I already have. I’d much rather work with him to get the most authentic sound that we can come up with.
Comparatively to a lot of other people that you’ve worked with, what was it like working with him during this whole process?
To me it was like working with a seasoned vet man. It wasn’t like working with a new cat that didn’t know and would take anything you gave him. He didn’t just accept what we had to say. He kind of knew what he was doing and I think that was it. He had a real veteran’s approach to the whole project. I think even one day that he was there – my engineer wasn’t able to make it to work that day and he himself ran his own session. He ended up recording his own vocals. Him and Bernz were actually running the Pro Tools session so that just lets me know that I was dealing with some professional guys that knew what they were doing. That would be the big difference that I found in working with him: that he knew what he was doing.
Those two records are crazy man. Both of those records kind of had a real laid-back vibe because when he came in and played me his first set of records that he cut for this album, it surprised me because I was expecting the whole super super-crazy, high-energy rap stuff or just the stuff that you would hear from ¡MAYDAY! and it wasn’t. It had a lot of melody in it. It almost had a jazzy vibe and I was like “Whoa man!”
So we ended up doing records that kind of fit where he was going and it just turned out. He did a really dope job with it. That “Easy Money” record I think he ended up putting Bun B on it I believe man and that record’s incredible.
Do you have a favorite out of the two?
Of the two I would say “Easy Money”, yeah. I like the vibe on it man. He took it. The melody that he wrote for that hook, just everything that I remember about the record.
I hate to even choose one, but just off of my memory of it – ’cause we did it back in December and I just did a whole ‘nother album and I can’t even recall specifically – I just remember (hums chorus)…something like that.
It was real crazy man. So I really like that record.
You also tell me that he played you some stuff that was already on the album, so from everything you’ve heard, what was your overall impression?
My impression is he outdid himself man. When I heard it I was shocked. I had no idea what to expect. My only expectations were set by what he does with ¡MAYDAY!, which is incredible music too, but this was different than ¡MAYDAY! and that’s what threw me off. I was just like “Wow, this is really dope.” I think he went beyond the call of duty to do his own project and I think you’ll be able to hear that in the quality of the work. His skill-set is real high and he’s just dope so I try my best to allow myself with that. I’m not really trying to be working with stuff that I don’t like, you know what I mean?
Speaking of that, this would be the third Strange Music album that your production has been featured on, from Tech’s All 6’s and 7’s to Stone’s Rolling Stone to this. What are the commonalities that you’ve found about working with artists on Strange Music?
I just think the creativity and the professionalism man. Like I don’t know man. A lot of people don’t know that at Strange Music, as Strange as the music is, the business of that company is phenomenal.
You guys do a really great job at making sure that all corners are covered. I’ve never had a phone call about something that didn’t happen the way it was supposed to. That’s the most common thing.
Back to your production, if there’s one thing that you want people to take away from a beat that you’ve made or a production that you’ve been involved with, what would it be?
I just want them to take away whatever emotions that they felt when they heard it. If it’s something that inspired you to move, then move. If it makes you want to cry, then cry. Just be one with the music – that’s really my thing. I’m not one of those producers where I can’t even predict what my next move myself. People that listen to my music, they don’t know what I’m going to do next so if they could just keep that excitement alive about what it is they’re listening to and attach themselves to the emotion that it gave them, then I’ll be happy. Thats really all I’m looking for.
Is there anything you want to say before we wrap up this interview?
I just want to say if you’re listening to this project you should most certainly pick up Wrekonize’s album, it’s amazing. I think that Rittz has got that fire, cop that. Anything Strange Music, go get it.
For any fan of mine just stay up on it. You can hit up my Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @supahotbeats. My website is coming soon, I just got a supahotbeats.net up and running and it’s funny but I’m really trying trying to build my business motto based around what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen at Strange Music so look for me to really be trying to make an impact with it with merch and music and things of that nature.
And then of course if you’re out there, check out Trunk Muzik Returns, it’s a great taster, it’s a great musical piece for people to get back into the world of Yelawolf, to prepare them for this new Love Story album. We don’t have a date on it but it will be soon.
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