Big Sean on Joining Rèmy Martin's Producers Series, Kanye Making Beats Again & Why Pharrell Is 'On the Rushmore of Music'

Big Sean
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Remy Martin

Big Sean attends as Remy Martin Kicks Off Producers Series Season 5 with Big Sean & Mustard in New York City at The Bowery Ballroom on June 28, 2018 in New York City. 

Last week, Rémy Martin teamed up with Live Nation, the world’s largest live entertainment company, to amplify Season 5 of the Producers Series: The Co-Sign at New York City's Bowery Ballroom. During the last several years, Rémy Martin enlisted a phalanx of stars such as Timbaland, Mustard, Zaytoven, Mike WiLL Made-It and Wyclef Jean to discover the next big music producer.

For Season 5 of the Producer Series, the popular cognac brand tinkered their formula and added a new ingredient into the mix. Along with Mustard, Rémy Martin recruited Big Sean for their latest endeavor in hopes of bolstering the visibility of the competition. Not only will these rookies have the chance to showcase their talents in front of both prolific hitmakers, but the winner will also produce a record for Mustard and Sean.

For three-time Grammy-nominated artist Big Sean the opportunity to help budding producers manifest their dreams was the catalyst in his decision to join the latest installment of The Co-Sign. "It just seemed pretty organic," Big Sean told Billboard hours before the competition. "I don't really do things that are contrived or do things that are just for the money, or nothing like that. It was something that I genuinely had an interest in because I know how it is to have that dream."

With Sean and Mustard both in tow this season, the NYC stop produced a myriad of eclectic producers from all across the five boroughs. The judges included Kendall "Sav" Freeman (Co-founder, Best of Both Offices), Steve Carless (A&R Universal Music Group) and Orlando Wharton (VP of A&R Atlantic Records). The lucky winner who emerged out of the talented batch of beatmakers was St. James The Producer. Not only did James dazzle with his production prowess, but he also cemented his place as a finalist for the competition finale in Los Angeles on Sept. 26. 

Before Sean and Mustard head over to the next few cities in search of the next big producer, the Detroit MC spoke to Billboard about the ingredients needed to become a go-to producer in hip-hop, his first ever studio session, the emergence of Key Wane, Kanye's involvement in G.O.O.D. Music's recent releases and why he'd love to be Pharrell for a day. Check out the interview below. 

What made you decide to take part in the Producer Series with Remy Martin this season? 

It just seemed pretty organic. I don't really do things that are contrived or do things that are just for the money, or nothing like that. It was something that I genuinely had an interest in because I know how it is to have that dream. Even though I'm a rapper, I came up as a lyricist. I know what's it like. I came up with producers, too. I know what it's like to make those beats in the basement or in your room and I know the hunger. I know what it's like to have a dream and you wake up having that feeling of wanting to execute. That's your whole purpose. That's one of the reasons I did it: to help find new talent and shed some of the light I have onto it and hopefully, put somebody on.

Tell me about the first studio session you ever had. 

It had to be back when I was 11 or 12. It was with one of my homies, Sean Menifee. He was definitely one of my mentors. I was like 12 and we were in his basement. He had a studio set up down there and it was me and a couple of my friends. We were just recording. We'd get the track, work on it, get a little skeleton and then just record whatever we just came up with. There's nothing like that chemistry when you and a producer link up and make something from nothing, you know? Music is just one of the most organic things because you're really pulling stuff out of the universe,you know what I'm saying? You start with silence and then by the end of it, you have your own product. 

What are the ideal traits needed to become a good-to-producer in hip-hop?

You just gotta really bring something to the table. I mean, the whole world is really just based on supply-and-demand, feel me? So, if you supply something that's in-demand and that make people feel a certain way, then that's your whole way of eating. That's with any field, you know? If you supply something that people demand, love, need or that they can relate to, that's what's going to set you apart and that's what's going to keep you busy and employed. 

You and Mustard teamed up on the "IDFWU" record. Talk about how you both plan to bring that same chemistry from the studio over to this competition. 

I mean, me and him have made a lot of big records. "IDFWU" is the biggest, but we did a lot on Dark Sky Paradise. He did a song called "Deep" for me and Wayne. He did "I Know" with me and Jhene [Aiko]. Him and Key Wane actually collabed on a lot of those. I mean, on my last album [I Decided], he did one of my favorite songs "Owe Me," which I love. I just feel like the trust is there first and foremost. I feel like you also gotta have the same goal in mind. You gotta have the same intention. If you're not on the same page, then it's not going to come out right and I think that's one of the keys to having that relationship between a producer and a songwriter. 

You just walked into my next question. What ingredients do you think are needed to form a strong relationship between a producer and a rapper?

Like I said, I think just being on the same page and having the same end-goal. You know, being open-minded, too. Not being so stuck in your ways and that you're not willing to try things. Sometimes, you gotta let the producer be the producer and sometimes, the producer gotta let the artist be the artist. We help each other out a lot of times, too, you know what I mean? I'll tell him what I like in the beat and what I don't like. He'll tell me what he thinks and that's what it's all about dog, just working together.

Obviously, there's only going to be one winner for this competition. What's the best advice you would give to those who aren't able to advance into the finale in Los Angeles?

Well, just know that you're a product of the energy you're putting out. As long as you keep that positive energy and that energy of wanting to network, you put yourself out there, you'll be successful and you'll get your chance. Just keep perfecting your craft and then when you get that one chance to play your beats and to show off, show your light and your talent, you'll be able to shine. 

If you can give me your top-three favorite rapper/producer combination of all-time, which three would you choose and why? 

I'd pick DMX and Swizz Beatz because I really loved that era in the '90s. It really inspired me when I was coming up. Lil Wayne and Mannie Fresh and Me and Key Wane, too.

Why you and Key?

Just because we're both from the city of Detroit. We got a lot of work to do still, but I really feel like he carved a lot of the sound from my Detroit mixtape, which is one of my favorites. He's on every project and I think all those collabs earlier with Mustard, Key Wane was a part of. Key Wane did "Play No Games," he did my favorite songs and I think me and him got crazy chemistry. He also works well with every producer I've worked with. Like with Mustard, he works well with him. If I'm working with somebody else or anybody, he can adapt to them and can bring his flavor to it. Another duo I like is Kanye and JAY-Z. Like from The Blueprint era.

Like "Heart of the City" and "Takeover?"

All of that.

What was it about Ye and Hov that you appreciated so much from them as a hip-hop tandem? 

It was such a great chemistry, you know? They brought the soul out of each other.

Your label G.O.O.D. Music recently finished off their five-week run last month. What impressed you most about Kanye's production throughout those five weeks? 

I'm just excited that he's pumping out music. Me and him been talking about that for awhile, so I'm just excited to see it all come to fruition.

If you could be one producer for a day, who would you want to be and why?

I have no idea. [Laughs] One producer for a day? I'd probably be Pharrell. 

Why Skateboard P?

Because that's one of my good friends and we're both Aries. I just relate to him a lot and he just relates to me a lot. That's just one of the flyest motherfuckers of all-time. He's one of the most freshest and most talented. You know, he's going down as own of the few producers on the Rushmore of music. Like, for real. 

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