Nick Papamitrou is one of the rare success stories to blossom out of YouTube's cutthroat battle ground of "Type Beat" producers. If you're unfamiliar with the term, Type Beat producers craft beats that would align with the sonic pocket of the artist named in the title (as in "J. Cole Type Beat"), making it all of the easier to classify.
The Massachusetts native parlayed his momentum garnered on Instagram and YouTube into being discovered by Meek Mill's team on a random weekday in college.
"I was in class and all of a sudden it says, 'Meek Mill likes your video.' I'm like, 'This can't be real,' he tells Billboard. "Fifteen minutes later, I got a phone call from one of Meek's right-hand people, and DJ Bran was on the phone too. They were like, 'We want to sign you.' It was crazy. I put my phone down, flipped my desk and walked out of class."
The 23-year-old's life would never be the same from that point on, as Papamitrou, who goes by the alias Nick Papz, inked a deal to become the first producer signed to Dreamchasers Records. Papz continued to build a rapport with Meek, notching placements onmultiple Wins & Losses records, which he created from scratch in his dorm room.
The sacred rapper-producer bond Papz has with Meek Mill reached its pinnacle on last November's Championships, where he feels that the pair showcased their best work to date. "I think this album is definitely the best body of work I've ever put out," he claims. "I would say it's [Meek's] best album. He put a lot of work into it and I was there seeing it go from bottom to up."
Whether it was flipping Phil Collins' '80s classic "In The Air Tonight" for the "Intro," or turning the mellow keys from JAY-Z's "Dead Presidents" into "Respect The Game," or dipping into Spanish-flavored trap for the Anuel AA-featuring "Uptown Vibes," Papz boasts the wide-ranging skill set needed to take the game by storm. Papz believes that versatility is what he believes separates him from the pack within the congested production world.
Check out the rest of our conversation with Nick Papz below, where he breaks down each of the tracks he produced on Championships, explains how he got into making beats, and shares his ultimate goal of opening up a tuning shop to satisfy his exotic car craving.
Billboard: Walk me through your introduction to music as a child.
Nick Papz: I first started playing guitar when I was 13-years-old. Then, I started taking lessons for about four years. I wanted to go to Berkley for guitar playing, but my brother started making beats. I thought it was sick. I got into engineering a bit, because I fell in love with rap music. I would engineer kids from my high school. My brother told me about Fruity Loops, and I started making beats and didn't stop. I started uploading videos to YouTube like, "J. Cole Type Beats." Then I started "Meek Mill Type Beats," and I thought that was my sound. I was getting over 100,000 views on these and figured to stick with it.
What producers were inspiring you around that time?
Jahlil Beats, because he was the main man for Meek at the time. Swizz Beatz definitely as well. They had that bounce to their beats, and I loved it. I went to school in Maine to study audio engineering. I actually graduated last year.
Did that kind of program help your production?
Honestly, not at all. I just had a lot of free time in college since my classes were so separated. I made all of the Wins & Losses beats in my college dorm room.
What was your first experiences working with Meek Mill like?
He flew me out to Los Angeles. We were working on DC4 at the time. It was unreal. My ears weren't used to the speakers -- sometimes, I would sneak in the back and turn the volume down because my ears were hurting so much. We went to [Japanese restaurant] Katana. Everyone was rolling up in the Bentley trucks and the Rolls Royces. It was ridiculous. I was like, "This is not my life right now." It was a dream come true.
When you say you're signed to Meek under the Dreamchasers label, what does that exactly entail?
Basically, I get paid per placement. If I get a placement, I'll get advanced money. There's publishing, royalties, and money for the writers. There's so many different types of things. I have the best team, so everything fell into place perfectly. You need a team with you. I didn't really have one when I first signed, but you just start to know more people and develop friendships.
I get up around 9 a.m. and make beats. I live in Upton, Mass. It's a really tiny town. I've been living [there] my whole life.
What was the creative process like going into crafting Championships for Meek?
I was traveling back and forth about twice a week for eight weeks straight to New York City. This was right after he got out of jail in April. He was ready to go and wanted to make an album. [A lot of the tracks] are from that point, but we kept making more and more music, even though those didn't make the cut.
Let's get into some of the records you produced. How did the "Intro" come about with the Phil Collins sample?
I made the "Intro" on the spot with Meek in the studio. We actually had a previous version that we did in 2016. He was like, "Can you flip the Phil Collins sample again?" I was in the studio doing it for him. He loved it, but I didn't personally like it at the time. I felt my drums weren't on par. I'm the type of person who wants to sit by himself in the studio and take my time with no pressure. The next day, I went into the studio and it came out perfect. We went back and forth, having Cruz [Meek's engineer] pinpoint different sections of the beat. Andrew [Meoray, co-producer] played the electric guitar to bring it to a live sound I really liked.
What about "Respect the Game?"
I think the first track we did [for Championships] was "Respect the Game." I did that in my house on a Beats Pill speaker. I love the low-key sample of JAY-Z's "Dead Presidents." The little piano is nice and mellow. I actually had a producer chop up the sample and send it to me with the keys added. I went in and added the drums after. [Meek] loves classic samples when I flip them.
You also worked on "Cold Hearted II" and "Uptown Vibes." How did those come together?
That's The Weeknd's "I Was Never There" sampled. Beat Menace sent me the sample sped up with a filter on it. I wasn't in the studio for this one either. We we're going back and forth from my house.
[For "Uptown Vibes"], Meek just asked me to play him some beats. I played this one and then I went to "Uptown Vibes." His whole face dropped when he heard the beat. He was like, "This is crazy." Everyone was loving it in the studio. I think Meek left right after and we sent it to Meek's phone and he just wrote his [verses] to it. Fabolous then hopped on it. I was there when he fixed certain sections after he recorded his original verse. Then they got Anuel AA on there. He's the trap-rapper. I think the Spanish mixed with the trap sound is going to separate me from a lot of people. You don't really hear that a lot.
What's Meek's mentality like in the studio if you could describe the atmosphere he creates?
There's one video on YouTube where he's just speaking facts. It's him and his cousin [Tock] and they're just preaching like, "If you ain't got no dream, you got to do this and that!" He's huge on motivational stuff. That's what motivates me when he starts talking like that. He likes to go in the booth at like 3:00 a.m. We're up. Red Bull is on deck.
What are some of your goals going forward?
I want to work with more artists. Right now, I've done stuff with Dave East and Don Q. We have a song with Desiigner. I've done stuff for Rick Ross. I have some stuff I can't even talk about right now. I'll work with anyone if they got that sound that I like.
Who's someone that reached out to work with you that you couldn't believe?
Fabolous, because he's like an OG. I remember I used to listen to him in my buddy's car going to my soccer games.
Have you noticed any differences in Meek's demeanor since he got out of prison last April?
I feel like he's more motivated than anything. He's doing things a lot of people wouldn't do when it comes to prison reform. That's gonna put him on a different level making him look good.
Do you have any advice for producers coming up?
Don't ever stop. You have to keep going. Use Instagram and YouTube as your biggest outlets. If I didn't have Instagram, none of this would've happened. I know a lot of people use SoundCloud, but I don't think it's that popping anymore. I was actually getting decent money off Type Beats. I think it's still a thing. I'll even listen to Type Beats to this day just to get a vibe on everything.
I see you're a huge car connoisseur -- what's the dream car that you hope to own one day?
Right now, I have souped-up Volkswagen 2017 GTI to the max. My dream car is a Nissan GTR. I was huge into Paul Walker and the Fast & Furious series. Just like shooting flames out of your exhaust. If I ever make enough money down the road, I want to open up my own tuning shop and tune cars to make them faster. I love that stuff.