Interviews

Published on January 2nd, 2020 | by Jerry Doby

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In Depth with Hitmaka VP of A&R at Atlantic Records

You can hear the tags for GRAMMY-nominated producer, Hitmaka all over the radio right now as he’s responsible for some of the hottest records ever over the last few years as Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records. He recently dropped his scorching debut single as Hitmakas titled “Thot Box ft. Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Tyga, and YBN Nahmir” followed by an all-female version the joint featuring feat. Young M.A, Dreezy, DreamDoll, Mulatto, Chinese Kitty. We hear tell he’s also gearing to drop his debut producer album in 2020.

Hitmaka is in the midst of a crazy reinvention and labels himself as an executive. He’s a Grammy-nominated producer, label owner (his first signed artist will be featured on his next single), and VP of A&R at Atlantic. He no longer claims the “rapper” title but is wanting to be recognized eventually on the level with, or higher than, Diddy and on the same level as, or higher than, Mike Caren when it comes to being a label exec.

Not many artists can go from being labeled as the “corny rapper” in the industry that most wouldn’t respect, but was putting up CRAZY numbers and was hitting double platinum with some of his records…to now running the industry, on the low, by being behind some of the hottest records over the last few years including Big Sean’s 5x RIAA platinum “Bounce Back,” Chris Brown’s double platinum-certified “Party (Feat. Usher & Gucci Mane),” A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s double platinum-certified “Look Back At It,” French Montana’s platinum-certified “No Stylist (Feat. Drake),” Drake’s “Jaded,” and Meek Mill’s “Dangerous (Feat. PnB Rock & Jeremih).

Back Story – Hitmaka first learned production as a 14-year-old hanging around such hometown legends such as Kanye West, No I.D., and Boogz. He soon began rapping himself under the name Yung Berg, earning acclaim, multiple RIAA platinum and gold certifications, and a series of hits including the full-length Look What You Made Me, which debuted at #2 on Billboard’s “Top Rap Albums” chart upon its 2008 release. Despite his success, Hitmaka decided to move into production full time, earning his first hit with Tamar Braxton’s R&B smash, “The One.” Since then, he has helmed a chart-topping discography that currently boasts more than 28 million digital sales and 5 billion streams thus far, spanning superstars from Cardi B, 2 Chainz & Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj to Jeremih, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla Sign & Tory Lanez, to name but a few.

All right, so from the outside looking in, man, let’s talk about Hitmaka now versus Yung Berg then.

Hitmaka: I mean for me personally, it’s really the same type of process as far as the creation of records it’s just that now I’m also Vice President of Atlantic Records, so I’m able to maneuver things and work closely with a lot of different artists on our roster. But I mean at that point the Yung Berg was a artist and Hitmaka, well, I’ve always produced as Yung Berg as well, but Yung Berg was also just an artist as well, but now it’s also about expanding, becoming the next big executive and executive producer, and just the biggest person I could possibly be in the game.

Some of the misconceptions about being the VP of A&R, a lot of people don’t understand what that really entails, especially when you’re coming from the production side and being of the status that you are. Set it apart for us.

Hitmaka: I really can’t speak for what other people’s process is as far as working for the company, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m really attached to the records from point A to Z. So I’m the person that’s creating the records. I’m the person that actually will find our artists, put all these different people on these records and you know, certain A&Rs don’t have to do that, certain A&Rs could be somebody that just finds good talent and brings it to someone like me to make the records. But I’m kind of working from the inside out.

So you have other A&Rs that utilize your services as well since you’re basically the central focus point.

Hitmaka: Oh yeah. Shout out to all the other A&Rs that work for the company. I’ve done great things with them, you know Dallas Martin, Success, the list goes on and on. Like I’ve been able to work with some great people inside the company, so, it’s just more so I’m actually the producer of the record and the songwriter of the record. And I also do the same job that they do as well as far as getting, turning in assets, getting this done, that done or whatever. But my favorite, and where my situation comes in and makes it so great is that I’m actually the person that’s making the song more so than actually seeing somebody, meeting somebody, signing them and saying, yo, I think it’d be good to work with this guy. I’m actually the guy that can find you and start working with you immediately.

I’m not sure if you’re keeping score but your record of success is in excess of over 250 million units

Hitmaka: Oh man, I got so many records. I mean, I could speak upon the most recent, in the last two and a half years I probably sold over over 30 million records that I wrote and produced, well over 20 million with just Atlantic solely. So as far as singles and albums that have come out that I’ve been involved with, so I mean over five billion streams. So it’s been a good ride the last couple years.

Man, that’s history making right there over five billion streams. That’s legendary numbers man, that’s legendary numbers right there. How do you feel about that? I mean, is it still exciting to you to make music or is it just something that you do now?

Hitmaka: Nah, every day the best part about making music is that you go to the studio with nothing and you leave with something tangible. And not only that, I enjoy changing people’s lives more so than anything. I’m putting people in a position that help their family and take it to the next level. I mean, this is incredible feeling, but to be honest with you, I don’t really listen to the radio. I don’t really listen to other people’s music that except the music I’m making now. Of course, I listen to everything once or whatever, but I’m not really too caught up in my own stuff. It’s like I’m always creating constantly and on to the next record so it doesn’t really give me time to really sit in the moment and be like, oh my God, that’s amazing. I didn’t know that that was the numbers until it was time for me to roll out my and the people at Atlantic, they’re so dope, compiled all the numbers for my bio, for me putting out my single and all that other stuff. I’m not really focused into that, I’m more so I do check the charts as far as radio goes and I mean shit, we got like nine or 10 in the top 50 Urban Radio right now.

Congratulations on your success. That’s mean, you recently dropped a new single Thot Box featuring Meek Mill, Two Chainz, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, and Tyga, and YBN Nahmir, and you’re getting ready to drop your debut producer album next year with more singles coming out this year. What are we to look forward to from this project? First of all, shout out on Thot Box, I like it myself, personally.

Hitmaka: Oh, appreciate it bro, I mean you know, that record is like my warm up record to get the streets talking to go crazy. It’s doing really well right now and then I’m dropping a female remix of Thot Box with Dreezy, Young M.A, Dream Doll, Chinese Kitty, and Mulatto. So that remix is coming soon, we’re actually shooting a video in the next couple weeks dropping that song and video shortly and in the top of the year I’m coming with my next single. I got like four more I’m going to roll out before my album comes up. My next include Chris Brown, Jeremih, A Boogie, and my artist Rocky who’s signed on my label through Atlantic Records as well.

So we can look forward to some more jams. I’m excited about next year. We’re hitting the next decade. Talk to us about your place in this decade and where you look to go for the next decade.

Hitmaka: Oh man, for the next decade is just to continue to keep the head down and stay focused and stay on the path that I’m on right now and just to keep evolving and become bigger and better as the year progresses. It’s just about, a lot of people don’t understand that with timing and with the way the music business is set up, it’s like somehow, some way, like the work that you do a year before seems to be coming out the next year. Like a lot of songs that came out in 2019 I co-produced and co-wrote those records in 2018 and the year before that and so on, and so on. So I look forward to just more success breaking my artists Rocky and actually breaking more artists and working with all new acts. I’ve made us a solid decision the year before this to go in and work with a lot more street rappers and people that I might not necessarily work with and take it and do something different to R&B and that’s what spawned us working with Trouble, She A Winner, and giving YFN Lucci and Trey Songz, YFN Lucci has biggest song on radio featuring Trey. So I got a lot more singles that’s coming out, as long as it’s done on the whole industry and we just going to continue to run it up.

Why had you shied away from the street rapper? Kind of?

Hitmaka: I mean I didn’t shy away from it, it was just that I live in Los Angeles so I made a conscious decision to go to Atlanta and actually work with those guys and actually work and collaborate with different people. I did that with, and I also worked with our Quality Control, shout out to QC I was able to do Marlo’s record Soakin Wet. I also did Layton Greene’s record featuring Lil Baby, PnB Rock, and the City Girls. That record is in the top 10 records it’s number eight at Urban Radio right now. So I mean it was just more so about timing and just getting around and being around the right people. I spent a lot of time in L.A. and I just wanted to make a conscious decision to travel a little bit more and go work with a lot of different people that I normally wouldn’t be able to just be in position and stationed in L.A.

So when you get another top 10 or or top 100 record or Billboard charting record, is it just another charting record to you and it’s onto the next one or do you get a chance to take a little bit of time and bask in the moment?

Hitmaka: Nah, I ain’t basking in no moment. I feel like the minute you start basking in the moment, the minute that you start feeling yourself too much or whatever and that moment you could have made another hit record to bask in. So at the end of the day it’s about staying focused and staying consistent. You know, I think, I don’t want to get caught up into the fight. That’s why I was saying I don’t listen to radio. I don’t really, you know what I’m saying? Like tune into different things to where I can get caught up in that because the whole key is to stay consistent with everything that’s going on.

Advice for youngsters that are trying to catch your attention, what would it be? What catches your attention as Hitmaka?

Hitmaka: Well, the records first and foremost, and then I’m not really like a click bait type of dude. Like I’m not one of those super caught up in, oh you’re streaming five billion times or three billion times already before you meet me type stuff. Like if I love the music and I think the music is dope, then that’s what prompts me to work with the artist more so than anything. I’m bringing it back to the form of real talent. I respect streaming and I respect what’s going on in the streaming age but you know, I’m a radio guy. I want something that’s going to play not just to a certain niche audience or whatever or be something that’s kind of like gimmicky or anything like that. Like I want to sign real talent. I take it back to the Motown days to where like people were really affected by it. Like not sign fluff because this person, oh my God, he has a buzz and he has a record doing a million views like nah, like if I don’t like it I don’t sign. So I wanted to get back to making decisions based off gut and not just data.

Man, now that’s a music executive. That’s some old school music exec stuff, feeling with the gut and not necessarily going with the commercial or the status quo whatever. You know what I mean? I love that. Man, is there anything that you wanted us to know that I may not have touched on yet?

Hitmaka: I mean, nah man, you got some great questions. I think at the end of the day I just want to continue to inspire people out there. To let us know that this is possible, that things are always going to be able to, it might not be light at the end of the tunnel, you know immediately, but you know, if you keep God first and you continue to work hard and always keep the faith and move with a purpose and really stay driven, that anything is possible in this business, is just one thing, you know. But if you got a real purpose and you really want to help people change lives and you want to stick it through, you can really make it through any adversity. You can overcome, don’t matter if it’s the music business, it don’t matter if it’s working nine to five, you got some family issues, you having any type of issues, as long as you keep God first, you could make it to the next phase of your career. And the next time in your life you could, once you know be a Yung Berg and now you could be Hitmaka.

And now you can be Hitmaka. So speaking of career, where are you gunning to be within the executive portion of the industry?

Hitmaka: I mean it’s pretty much laid out for me. I’m going to be the next big executive and when I say that, I mean the likes of Craig Kallman, and Sylvia Rhone, L.A. Reid, Lucian Grainge, that type of tier of executive, that’s where I will land in the next few years to come and I’ll be controlling a whole system of action and really making good decisions. Like how I said it’s good not fluff and not cap, not just be just doing something because I have a fear of missing out and another label getting it. It’s just more so based upon do I really like this, is this going to cut through? Do I think this record is amazing and not just to the fact of, oh if I don’t sign it, somebody else is going to sign it. So I might as well sign it because it’s just good business to do that. No, we breaking into some different shit.

I like that man. All right, I’m wishing you much continued success. Definitely got a friend at The Hype Magazine. Love telling your story, taking it from the streets to the suites. What’s been your biggest satisfaction thus far as you’ve made the transition into the high level executive that you are?

Hitmaka: You know, just that I started in a room full of creative people that I feel like were the next wave of co-writers and co-producers. I’ve been able to discover a lot of different people and right now, I mean, the biggest lesson and just where I’m at in my career is that everybody that I work with that I started with initially being in these rooms, they all have record deals as artists, they all have publishing deals if they chose to do that and they all have found a way to benefit their family and change their family’s lives just through us going to the studio and doing what we love to do. So that’s the most fulfillment that you can have out of anything because that’s the gift that keep on giving.

Enabling people to feed their families. That’s a big responsibility. It’s a big gift. Thank you for thinking the way you think, man. All right, I’m going to respect your time. I know that you’re busy and I appreciate the time that you’ve taken with us. Anything you want to say to close out? The floor is yours.

Hitmaka: Nah man, I’m good. Follow me at Hitmaka on Instagram. Follow me at an underscore Hitmaka on Twitter. DM me, I checked my DMs, you know, and then as far as new talent, you know, just keep putting that work in and like it might sound like bullshit but once you build your buzz up and you build your stuff up to where it’s something that’s really reacting in your city and your area and it’s really something that’s organic, you’re not going to have to find me. I’m going to find you.



About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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