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Atlanta

Cashew Company

WILL POWER

WILL POWER

Cashew Co

Photo: Diwang Valdez

Photo: Diwang Valdez

Interview: Bobby Finch

How did you first get into beat making?

I started making beats back in about ‘98. I was kind of eager to become a producer. I had met a guy that was a producer when I was younger. I liked the job that he had. I liked the way he was able to be creative and make money doing so. At the time, he was just getting into programming and computer production and things of that nature. I got in kind of early using Logic, back when they first starting making programs for writing songs. From there, it kept growing. In 2000, I moved to New York and got signed as a Producer with a production company. It just kept going, man. I just kept going as a songwriter and a producer and here I am now.

And that Producer you met, what is his name?

Byron Counts. He was a producer. He did some records for CeCe Peniston in the ‘80s. He was from my hometown. You know, I used to be in a little singing group and rapping shit. When we were kids, he would produce us. And, of course, I didn’t really want to stick with that side of my life so I got into the production.

Who were you with in New York?

I was with Sugar Hill Records, which was with... Do you remember Sugarhill Gang? The lady that owned it, her name was Sylvia Robinson. She passed away a few years ago. She was just really big in music publishing, and really big into licensing and things of that nature. I went up and she heard my music and signed me on. I was writing songs for her and she was shopping them and trying to get them placed.

How would you describe your sound?

I would just say, a little less than center. I think that I have a really different approach in my music. I like for it to be loud and crisp. I like to have a lot of space in my music, so you can hear every instrument. I am really particular about the sound quality. I guess to describe it, I would just say... sonically different.

Who were some of your influences growing up?

I am pretty much like everyone else, I assume. I really listened closely to Timbaland. Dr. Dre was of course, my biggest influence. Then my father always had old records. I’m a 70’s music listener, man. I grew up on Earth, Wind, & Fire. I grew up on Quincy Jones, and Michael Jackson. I’m real big into old music, but as far as modern producers, where I’m concerned it would be Dr. Dre and Timbaland, of course.

How did your relationship with Yelawolf come about?

When I got signed in 2000, I was in New York working as a producer. Yelawolf was in the building working as an artist... I went down to the break room for a break one day and ran into him... We started talking to each other and we realized we both had southern accents. It turned out he was from Alabama, and I was from South Carolina. We just kicked it off from there, man. I’ve been producing with him for over 10 years, man.

Did it all just start from a meeting in new York?

Yeah. We just met in New York and we hit it off real quick. I swear, we met in the lobby, and it had to be about maybe 30-45 minutes later, we had our first record done. We just kind of hit it off, man. He was real cool. We had the same background in music. We grew up listening to OutKast, and Goodie Mob and Witch Doctor and things like that. So, when we started on conversations about what we liked, it was all some of the same stuff. Being in New York, when the big rappers at that time were like, I don’t know, Fabulous, and... You know, just New York rappers were big at the time, so to have somebody that I can run into that understood southern rap, it was dope, man. So, we kicked it real good.

How did “trunk Muzik” come about?

“Trunk Muzik” was really, I don’t want to say this the wrong way, but the way Trunk Muzik happened for me and Wolf was... we were pretty much like set up, man. It just kind of happened. I had stopped doing music for a little while. I got into film and photography. He was doing shows, but his shows had kind of gone into a rock direction. He was thrashing, man. He was killing it. He wasn’t getting the response he wanted from labels and nobody could really understand what he was trying to do. For me, I was just kind of like, “I’m sick of this crap, man.” He came to my house one day and said, “Let’s give it one more shot. I really want to do a rap album. I want to do some real gutter, southern style shit.” I was like, “OK, cool!” So we packed up and drove back to Alabama and we did the whole project in his house – in his back room. We did it in like 5 days. We went and just bombed out. We had no expectations and from there it turned into a classic. It just worked out that way.

Who else do you enjoy working with?

I had some good runs. I did some stuff with Dizzy Wright. I think Dizzy Wright is a really dope, young artist that is on his way up. Of course, I’m working with Trinidad James. I’ve got a project I am doing with him. I received a phone call from him recently saying he wants to help with the album as well. Once he gets into that process, then I guess I will be a part of that. I’ve done a lot this year. I’ve done Wiz Khalifa, Tech N9ne, you know. I stay busy, man.

What is the hardest part of the music business in general?

I think the hardest part of the business is keeping grasp of winning, I guess. Doing well, and having people stay interested in what you’re doing. You know how it is, the old saying – “You’re only as good as your last hit record...” That’s the hard part about it. These days it’s hard to keep people invested in what you’re doing if you take too long of a break. Or, if you decide to change up and do some new things, you know. It’s really hard to get the masses to understand that, but I guess it’s just the nature of the beast, man.

What are you trying to do to combat that?

Really, my approach on it is to just stay consistent with how I do it. I don’t really look for people to necessarily like my songs per se, as much as I want them to expect it to be high quality. They’re going to know that it’s been worked on. They’re going to know that a lot of time was put into it. It’s kind of like with Dr. Dre. When you hear a Dr. Dre beat, you don’t necessarily have to like the record, but you do know that a certain quality of work is going to be involved with it. So, you immediately have higher expectations for it than you would if it was... somebody else. I think that’s my goal... My goal is to have my reputation be, “Will Power is going to do it right – If he does it, he’s going to do it right.”

There won’t be any guessing. I’m not going to just send beats over email and stuff like that, or just try and get people to fuck with it because I can do it. I really want to be able to care about it. My music is really important to me, and in order to stay relevant, I use that as my fuel to keep me relevant. You know I am going to give it my all, so you can know that if you even took the chance to invest in me and something that I did, you would at least get quality out of it.

How has Atlanta influenced your music?

Atlanta has a good spirit. Atlanta has a music spirit. I think it’s a really great place for a person that is creative. I think that my personal experience of what I’ve seen, I think that Atlanta is going through a rebuild right now. I’ve seen a resurgence of more creativeness coming back out. People being more bold, and trying things again [more] than in the past few years. It’s starting to not be so redundant. I think that’s a good look for Atlanta, because that’s what Atlanta is known for. OutKast and Goodie Mob and those types of groups were so different that they changed the face of southern music. I think that Atlanta has to own that.

As far as me being here at this particular time, I think this is perfect because I can play my part in being one of those people that helps continue to keep that originality going. It’s a beautiful place. I think that everybody there truly wants to see each other win as far as I know. I think it’s a good thing. I think that people just have to continue to be creative. As long as Atlanta still owns that whole “We own creativity,” then I think we will be fine. I think that this city is the Mecca of urban music right now.

What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring producer?

Just work on your craft and stay diligent with your work ethic... In order to have the best jumper, you have to shoot jumpers all day. You can’t just sit back and let everybody else shoot. You have to do your thing. For me, I would tell any young producer – Stay on it as much as you can. It’s a craft that you have to build. I have been producing for 15 years, but there’s a kid out here that’s been producing for 2 years that’s killing the shit I’m doing. So, in order for me to stay relevant and be able to have my expertise trump what they may be doing, this takes practice. And I practice everyday. In order to be able to keep up with the times and keep up with technology you have to practice. At some point, skill is what’s going to set you apart from technology.•