Producer Bizness Boi on Working With Swae Lee and Getting Started in Music: 'Get Out and Shake Hands'
Nowadays, anyone in their mom’s basement with access to a computer can make hot beats that could potentially shoot to the top of the charts in the blink of an eye. The Internet and social media have made it incomprehensibly easy for artists and producers to share their work, to the point that overnight success isn't just a possibility, it's becoming the norm. But it takes much more than one hot placement to develop a lasting legacy in today’s game -- something that Milwaukee’s own Bizness Boi is focused on more than ever.
Bizness Boi’s journey towards today’s producer elite has been a slow burn, but the milestones he’s hitting now have been well worth the wait. He crafted a number of deeply personal songs on PARTYNEXTDOOR’s coveted P3 album, produced solid singles for the likes of 6LACK and Kodak Black, and most recently played a major role in the creation of Swae Lee’s solo debut Swaecation. Below, Bizness Boi tells Billboard about the importance of networking, linking up with Swae Lee, and the future of music production in the R&B/hip-hop space.
How do you feel now that Swaecation is finally out?
Feeling great, man. Glad it’s finally out. I’ve been waiting for the world to hear it.
You produced 4 out of the 9 tracks. How did you link up with Swae for such a huge part of this project?
My homie from Texas, Jon Wells, is a big fan of me and Ye Ali’s music, and he told me Swae was a big fan of my sound, so he plugged me with him and gave me his email. I was sending beats, sending beats, sending beats. With a lot of artists, they don’t hit you back and let you know what they pick -- they just work on them. I was sending packs over, but one day I DMed Swae and told him I wanted to work, and he hit me back saying I already had two tracks on his solo album [“Touchscreen Navigation” and “Lost Angels”].
Next thing you know, me and my manager went to Toronto for OVO Fest -- Swae passed by, and I introduced myself because a lot of people know my name but not my face. But we chopped it up. We texted each other when we were both going back to L.A. and he invited me to his crib -- I went straight over.
We were just hanging out, talking about the project -- I played him some stuff. It was just me and him. He records himself and adds effects, reverbs -- which was crazy to see. He gets it to exactly where he likes it and then just sends it to mixing and mastering. We just kept linking from there. I’d send him beat packs, and that’s basically how I got four on the album. Just consistency, man. That’s the trick to working with an artist, especially towards the end of album. When it becomes crunch time, artists love fresh records, so you always want to be there for the end of the album.
You’ve worked with a ton of people, including Plies, 6LACK, Quavo, and, of course, PARTYNEXTDOOR. How did that come about? How do you start working with these artists in general?
I know Prep [PARTY's engineer] -- we grew up together. Prep came in to engineer for him, and a month or so after they got together, he gave me his email. Three weeks later, I sent him the “Don’t Run,” beat which was my first placement. He replied back and said he actually did two from that initial pack I had sent. He gave me his number, I sent him more packs, and then we started linking up in the studio together. I would bring beats, and he would go in on them.
While he was doing that, I would be in my headphones making new ideas with melodies and basic drums just so he would have room to do his own melodies. R&B artists and songwriters don’t like a lot stuff in their beats because it takes away from their writing. I still send him beat packs, but him and other artists who are in L.A., they’ll hit me up and tell me to pull up and work in person.
So for me, everything starts with email or online, but we build up to [being] friends and then work in person. Swae, PARTY, 6LACK, they check up on me. They always reach back out. They are really great relationships to have. In this industry, you hear stories about people being shady, but when you get, in you attract like-minded people -- so if you’re a good person, you don’t have to worry. Once you have good energy, your energy is infectious.
What’s it like reaching that level as a major producer in 2018? How do you maneuver through this crazy game?
I’m just thinking positive. Always working and working and working. I feel like if you work hard, you get your [due]. I don’t have a problem even with bargaining prices. I don’t take it to heart or get emotional -- it’s always just business. I’m in a great space, because I know I work hard and have built some great relationships. Once you do that, you get respect, and it becomes a lot easier.
In the beginning, I knew I had to work hard. I knew I wouldn’t get advances for everything, but sending beats for free would get my name out there. You have to do that. I had to build my name. That’s the sacrifice -- being broke. Once I moved to L.A., I learned the business a lot more. I moved four years ago, and the day after, I had a pretty big meeting that got me my first big check. It was only $5000, but to me that was huge. It was just learning the process.
People are so obsessed with what gear producers use, how they sample, how they make beats. What’s your process?
I always start with melodies. I’ll be at the keyboard going through different sounds, and if I find the right sound, then I’ll play some chords with it. But the melody always has to be on point. The writer has to be able to write a smash to that melody even before the drums are added in. Then I add percussion and more melodies and, really, just pack the beat out from there. But I’m not trying to overdo the beat and throw in too many sounds. Some beats take a day or two or even a week.
Sometimes you can make just three sections of the beat, loop it, give it to the artist, and it’s done from there. I do post-production, too, so I can rearrange and add transitions. But the melody is so important, so that’s what I focus most on.
From there, it’s easy to build around, especially when working with talented songwriters. When you first start producing and doing things like beat battles, you need crazy energy and sounds to win. But at the end of the day when you listen to the radio or hit records, the beats are real simple. Less is more. The melody and the writing are what really count.
You’ve done so much in such a short amount of time, but what’s next? Do you have a one-year plan? Five-year plan?
My one-year plan is to create as many vibes as possible that the world can dance to. Right now, I’m into retro vibes, like, elements of ‘80s, ‘90s. I grew up with my grandparents, so I was exposed to all the music: Soul Train, Janet Jackson, Teddy Riley. I grew up listening to them, so that’s where a lot of my sounds come from. I want to make music that brings on the same feelings my grandparents had when they were watching Soul Train. They were always dancing and moving around.
In three years, I want to look back and know I made an impact and changed the game. I don’t want to blend in; I want to be ahead of the wave. When you listen to Swaecation, it’s retro, but it also sounds like right now. I want people to know that I gave artists the opportunity to step outside their own boxes. I want people to understand that I’m pushing the boundaries, even if it’s just putting the kick in a weird spot.
In five years, I just want to become a music mogul, like JAY-Z, Timbaland, Teddy Riley. I have a passion for helping people, and I really want to use my blessings to help other people. I mean, that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m blessed to get lots of opportunities. I have a team, so whenever I get a call to work with Mary J. Blige, on Elton John or PARTY, I always put my team on and hook them up with my songwriter and producer homies.
I just love helping people. That’s really what’s going to keep me around forever. I’m always pushing boundaries and bringing people in. I can make beats by myself, which is dope, but I’m big on helping people to. On these projects, I bring my people in so that they can add someone like Swae Lee to their resume, too. Teamwork makes the dream work, for real.
What advice do you give to up-and-coming producers?
Basically, I would tell them to always look for new sounds, be ahead of the curve, invest in yourself, and definitely travel. I think a lot of my blessings come from location. If you’re blending in, you might get a few placements. But if you’re trying to do some new rhythms, artists are always are looking for that next sound. I really want producers to know that. Don’t do the same beat over and over -- push the sound.
It’s also all about relationships, too. If you think your beats are dope, that’s cool, but get out and shake hands. I always tell people to move, but I know not everyone can move to big markets like L.A., NYC, or Atlanta. But build relationships with people anyway and travel. Get an Airbnb or stay on couches – whatever you can get. Then you have to see where the events are happening in that city.
Like, pull up! That’s where the people are. Let them know who you are. Of course you have to keep it short and sweet and match their vibe, but everything is about relationships. Being a dope producer is fun, but being out and building connects is what really helps. Like, I hit people on a daily basis and send a pack [of beats] through just to keep in touch. At the end of the day, you have to make relationships, make dope sounds, and push that sound forward. Don’t follow the wave.