One of the most amped tracks on ¡MAYDAY!’s Believers is “Last One Standing” featuring Tech N9ne. From the hard-hitting production to Wrekonize’s angry chop-fests of verses, it’s the kind of song that serves as an instant adrenaline boost.
We talked to ¡MAYDAY!’s duo of emcees, Wrekonize and Bernz, to get their perspective on the song: from the production to Tech N9ne’s verse (where he somehow raises the bar again), it’s all covered here in this Strange Music Song Breakdown.
WREKONIZE “Last One Standing” started from Gianni. Gianni brought that beat in and Bernz worked with him a lot too on the production. I came in and threw in my two cents a little bit here and there as well and tried to help produce it to where it was at. Gianni had a really good foundation for it when he brought it in. I just liked that it was big and had a very epic feel to it and it just had that drop that’s just so dope.
Bernz produces a lot of shit and Bernz won’t put his name on it because Bernz doesn’t really care about that. He’ll do what a producer will do on a track and then just be like “Eh” like an old-school hip hop mindstate where it’s like “I didn’t really like tap the drums out so I guess…whatever, you produced it.”
That’s why now on this album I wanted Bernz especially to get credit for the shit he produced because I think he’s a really good producer. He’s got a really good producer’s mind and just because he’s not programming drums or keys or whatever, he’s helping these records and shaping these records and I felt like “Yo on this album you need to have some production credit.”
BERNZ I was there for the process of making this beat with Gio. The first part he had was the beginning part with the guitar. He had that. When the verse comes in the piano key it kind of goes into a whole nother key, which is kind of odd for a beat the way it progresses into that first part, because it was almost like in the same session we’ll start to make different beats in the same session. Not necessarily to put them together you know? It just so happened that these two sections really worked well together.
WREKONIZE Bernz is really good with arrangements too. “Last One Standing” is a prime example of a track that Gio fleshed out and Bernz came in and had certain arrangement ideas about how to do the hook and we all came together and said “Let’s break it down, strip it out and do claps and 8o8s and make the hook seem bigger.” At that point it’s just like throwing things into the pot. It’s a lot of arrangement and I think with Bernz he likes to find fragments that someone would just be like “Eh, it’s whatever” and be like “No, there’s something there” and make a whole record out of it.
It’s just like catching something. If you have someone there playing bass it’s like catching something and pulling that out and saying “That section right there is going to be key. That’s what you’re going to have.” Whereas a lot of times when you have someone that is playing, they’re too close to it, they’re just there and they’re noodling or fucking around and you need someone there to produce them and say “Alright, do that, and then we’re going to hold on to that section and keep it.”
WREKONIZE When the beat was complete and we were starting to write Bernz was like “These segments right here where the beat drops out of a hook, I want you to literally slaughter everybody. Just kill it.” And I was like “Alright.”
BERNZ The way it goes from that open kind of airy guitar into those piano keys and organ keys into a total different kind of energy, that’s what dictated what we spit. Right when I heard that I was like “Oh my God Wrek just has to just fucking chop his ass off right there.” So really the beat is what dictated everything in terms of this song. As soon as we had that beat, it was just telling you what to do. You can’t come smooth on that!
WREKONIZE Right from the rip Bernz knew how he wanted the verses to go. He was like “Look I want to do something kind of open and then I want you to come in and go ape shit at the beginning of each verse.” He literally put me up to it and put the pressure on too.
It’s weird because I don’t feel pressure when I work with Bernz because we work together so much but for some reason when he was telling me about this verse that he wanted me to write, I felt the challenge. The way he told it to me that day it was just like “Aw fuck, I gotta come with it.” The beat drops so well so it’s the perfect backdrop to feel like you want to tear it all down anyways. He literally put me up to the challenge of like “Okay, you need to do wonders to this.” and I was like “Alright, cool!” and that’s when I came up with that first verse. The second one came easier because I already kind of like laid the groundwork on the first one.
BERNZ The beat changes every 8 bars because we couldn’t keep the high pace like that. I kind of come in like a buffer for Wrek as the yang to his ying. That’s kind of the vibe and we did a lot more of that on this album. We definitely wanted to rap together a lot more.
WREKONIZE When we got to that point the record felt so big the hook felt so expansive and those drop verses are so hard that’s when we were just like “Tech all day on this.”
BERNZ I just love Tech N9ne on ¡MAYDAY!’s shit. I just think he does the coolest shit ever and we take him to different places than he usually goes. We heard that and Wrek chopping his ass off on it and we’re like “this is going to have to be Tech’s song. Let’s hear how Tech comes on it.” Of course he fucking shreds it. He annihilated that shit.
WREKONIZE The first thing I noticed right away is that he didn’t do adlibs. He said “I felt the vibe so much and the energy and it felt so right that I didn’t want to put any ad-libs on it. I didn’t want to do any backgrounds or any ‘cha’s or nothing. I just wanted it to be fucking clean cut.” I was like “Dope.” For the emotion that we brought out in him in that verse – because that doesn’t happen a lot – said something about the track to me. I expected him to literally shut the track down. That’s why we didn’t leave him any beat at the end, we were just like “Yo, this is it right here. If you want to extend it you can but this is what we’re thinking.” Then he did literally what we expected him to do, if not more, and shut the whole track down.
BERNZ We were all just jumping up and down like giddy schoolchildren in the studio after we heard it.
WREKONIZE It’s dope to feel that you get that from someone who’s already so fucking diverse already. It’s like “Where are we going to take this guy who’s already gone everywhere?” He’s already gone so many places that it feels like it’s super-complimentary to us to be able take him somewhere he doesn’t go. It says a lot because he’s all over the place. He goes everywhere. He’s water. He just goes into whatever he attempts and does it so flawlessly. I feel honored. I’m sure the rest of the crew feels the same way. To have this dude that is so dynamic already and then come to us multiple times and get records out of us like “The Noose” and the records for our albums “Badlands” and “Last One Standing”. To do a project like Klusterfuk which also sounds totally different and then have a record like the one on his new record, “Fragile”, which is a totally different kind of record to. It’s dope. I feel that it speaks for our diversity as a crew.
BERNZ In terms of the subject matter it’s kind of an ode to all the people that we’ve met in this music, which is a lot. I’ve been making music since I was fucking 13 years old, so I met a lot of people that have come and go for whatever reasons – many people, many talented people. It’s one of the hardest industries to be in. The problem is in order to be successful at it you have to compromise who you are as a person, unfortunately. This is a fucking very fickle kind of career and dream and it can very easily be sideswiped.
Whenever people ask me “Do you have any advice for the music industry?” I’m like “Yeah, quit.” And if they don’t then they’re probably going to do something.
It takes perseverance, consistency, and quality: if you have those three, eventually you’re going to have something happen for you. You have to have good shit, you have to be consistent with it and you have to do it all the time. You have to persevere. Those are the three things.
The universe is hungry for new material. The world, the universe, everything loves new shit. You create something new the universe is going to pay you back for it. I firmly believe that. That was the case with ¡MAYDAY!, we were just some kids in a fucking garage man. Then we just kept doing it and kept doing it and put out our own shit, saved our fucking lunch money and put out our own shit. I’ve been putting out my own shit since I was fucking 15 years old, with my own money that I went out and bussed tables for and shit while most of my friends were out smoking weed or doing dumb shit and chasing ass. It’s just like, you have to manifest your realities. That’s what it really is and that’s what Believers is all about. That’s what ¡MAYDAY! is, we’re people who like to make things happen for ourselves.
It’s funny because that’s why we’re on Strange Music. The exact same kind of fucking person that is Travis O’Guin and Tech N9ne, it’s the exact same fucking shit in terms of like “Dude we just went out and did it bro.” I’m not going to sit around and wait for a deal or nothing. We just did it.
You know how much I heard Rittz before he was even signed? That was all him and working these fucking streets. You have to fight for what you want in life and the universe will repay you.