Mustard Talks Producing Ella Mai's 'Trip,' Reuniting With YG for 'Stay Dangerous' & Influencing DJ Khaled's Recent Anthems
Once-regular collaborators Mustard and YG’s longstanding feud came to an end in 2017, thanks to the West Coast natives' willingness to re-open the lines of communication. A four-hour discussion ensued to hash out their differences, leading into the Compton-bred rapper’s Stay Dangerous LP, which Mustard produced nearly half of. The cinematic 15-track effort arrived on Friday (Aug. 3).
“It's like growing up with your brother -- you're not going to really listen to him unless he's your older brother. When you're the same age, it's like, how does he know more than I know?” the 28-year-old producer explains to Billboard over the phone.
Friday (Aug. 3) marks a busy day for the post-hyphy beat maestro, as the fast-rising Ella Mai also unleashes her crucial “Boo’d Up" follow-up with the piano-laden “Trip,” inching toward the 23-year-old’s heavily anticipated debut effort under Mustard’s 10 Summers Records. The producer-turned-label executive confirmed that the British singer’s album is in the “mixing stages” and his protégé is “done with her part.”
Billboard caught up with Mustard prior to his Las Vegas show to get a behind-the-scenes look at working with YG once again for his Stay Dangerous project, scrapping Ella Mai’s entire 2017 album to go in a completely different direction, the origin of Lil Dicky's “Freaky Friday,” and his influence on DJ Khaled’s recent anthems.
Billboard: How did you end up landing on Lil Dicky's Life Lessons Tour?
Mustard: I think it's going to be a party tour. A lot of wild nights coming up. It came about from us doing "Freaky Friday" [together], and my people asked what I thought about going on the tour.
How did you guys end up linking for "Freaky Friday"? Because that was the textbook beat I imagined Chris Brown getting on from you.
If you listen to that song, that sounds like the traditional Mustard, when Chris Brown and Kid Ink were doing a lot of records. That's when this beat was actually created -- probably three years ago. When I got in the studio with Dicky, I played him it and he said, "I want something like this." I never heard the song until it was actually done.
I gave him the beat and he sat on the floor and crossed his legs on some Koombaya shit. He hit me a year or two later and told me the song was done and that he was getting Chris Brown on it. He showed me the video first and I was like, "What the fuck!?"
You're performing a couple sets at Marquee in Las Vegas this weekend, what do you think about producers and rappers gaining residencies there in the future?
I've been performing in Las Vegas for the past four years. I'm there like four times a month. It's easy money if you know how to DJ but some [producers] don't know how to do that because they're not real DJs. The best part about it is actually being able to control the crowd. And I do think it's the future for [artist] revenue. I don't want to make it sound too easy. Everybody has a residency now. It's a good time in hip-hop.
Ella Mai's "Trip" dropped today. Walk me through what led up to this record.
We had an entire album when she did her first little tour, and while she was doing that, she did a whole album. The last day, she had the whole album, and I told her, "Yo, we got to scrap the album." I'm like, "I don't think this one is as good as we can make it." When I first signed Ella, I was so hands-on with the music, and we were so in tune with each other.
Whatever song she did, I was right there. When she did that [first] album, I wasn't there too much because I wanted her to do her thing and work with other people. What I heard was good, there was a lot of good songs, but this wasn't what we created and I wanted to get back to that.
So when was “Trip” actually recorded?
"Trip" was one of the songs we did in the studio later down the line. I drew the chords in Fruity Loops. I can draw the chords but I'm not that good, I'm not Beethoven. I played the chords for her and I called Quinton from her band to play them. So, while she's writing, I started doing the drums and by the time the session was over, we had the full song. [Ella] knocked that shit out, and it was crazy.
We did three more days of those type of sessions. That's one thing I told her -- I wanted to start from scratch. I don't want to bring anything in from before. I wanted to really create what we want to hear. We picked the best songs of what she did before to finish the album. We went in and made six or seven more songs and that was one of them. Whoever I played that for when they walked in was like, "Wow." It's a good song.
Before the success of "Boo'd Up," we had a plan when I signed her. We wanted to do three EPs, and hopefully something catches and we'll go into the album. God came and gave us "Boo'd Up." So the plan worked. When she came back, we scrapped what we didn't like and filled in the blanks with what we did.
Is Ella's debut album done?
The album's done. It's in the mixing stage. Everything [Ella] has to do is done. With my part, we're doing a lot of tweaking and fixing to make some changes.
That was a special moment, when you presented her with her first platinum plaque for "Boo'd Up" in June.
That shit was pretty crazy. What people don't understand, this is like my little sister. This project coming is like my baby. I'm pressing for it more than my own shit. It's all about her right now, and when the plaque came, it meant a lot to me. That's the first plaque on my record label. Me having all the records I've had, none have ever gotten to the top 5 of the Hot 100.
What had to be done to rebuild the relationship with YG before moving forward and creating more music?
We kind of grew up in the midst of all the bullshit. I think we just had to talk. When we met up and talked for the first time, we talked for maybe four hours. We talked for a long time about what was going on, what happened, and kind of saw in the midst of us talking that it wasn't even us having the problems, it was friends outside of us. When you come up with somebody, it's kind of hard to listen to that person.
It's like growing up with your brother, you're not going to really listen to him unless he's your older brother. When you're the same age, it's like, how does he know more than I know? Once we got bigger and I saw we both were doing good, it kind of helped us, and there were no egos involved. It was the best thing to happen, he trusts what I think more. It's worked out.
What do you think about YG's growth when comparing this album's sound to Still Brazy and My Krazy Life?
He likes to do a lot of storytelling. [YG's] probably one of the best storytellers I know. I think with a lot of his album there's stories and a sprinkle in of what we usually do as far as the turned up shit and the ratchet shit. I think this album has a little bit of everything. It's a good album. A lot of songs on there I did by myself. It's the same strategy to start from scratch. If I brought YG a beat in and made it at home, he probably would never use it. You have to do it from scratch. All of my favorites are the stuff that sounds like the original Mustard and YG.
What was the recording process like for Stay Dangerous?
A lot of the songs we did in a one week span. We did six songs a day and out of those four days in Atlanta, we got "Too Brazy," "10 Times," "Big Bank," all within a couple days in Atlanta earlier this year. We did most of the recording there.
Walk me through the creative process on a few of your favorite records on the album.
"10 Times" is probably my favorite of all of them. It's so hard for all males. That, to me, meant something, as far as what he was saying. People can really understand what's going on with [YG] right now.
How about "Bomptown Finest," where he basically apologizes to you?
That's the last song on the album. It's a song he had already done with someone a long time ago, and I heard it and was like, "You got to let me do this beat over." When we got to the end of the album about a month ago, I was like, "You should put 'Bomptown's Finest' on there." I played it to him and he thought it was fire. We re-did the beat and added some touches. That's probably the one I fuck with a lot.
"Too Cocky" is definitely going to be a hood favorite that everyone's going to love from me and YG. "Too Brazy" is fire, I can see a lot of people loving that as well. It's a good album.
How did you guys craft "Big Bank?"
The features were all YG. "Big Bank" came into play when I was making a beat and I was about to pass on and he was like, "Nah, let's do that one." I kept working on the beat and the homie Nano was like, "You should do a song called 'Big Bank,' taking little bank." YG came with the hook and we finished it up.
What about "Suu Whoop?"
Yeah, I did that with J Holt. He's a super-talented kid from Los Angeles and actually did "10,000 Hours" with me and Ella Mai. He wanted some trap shit, and I'm not that good with that type of music. So, J Holt came in and helped me with that.
Do you hear any resemblance of your sound and some of these recent DJ Khaled anthems such as "I'm the One" and "No Brainer?"
We've all heard the similarities between those songs, and that's my sound. That's a sound we created. That's what it's made for. It's made for people`to go recreate it in their own way. Nic Nac co-produced both of those songs, and I love them. That's the homie, and he's been doing beats like that forever. He's from the Bay, so it's all the home team.
First of all, Khaled is a cool dude. He was posting Ella Mai before anyone. I would text him and he would post it without knowing who she was, just to show genuine love.