A Drake call to Mario quelled his worries about the track being shelved. The OVO head was cool, calm and collected in powering through the leak to still release "What's Next" -- which did undergo some production tweaks, thanks to frequent collaborator Manish, and still received an accompanying visual as planned.
"What's Next" survived as the Scary Hours 2 opener (and lone Drake solo effort on the three-track pack) when it hit streaming services on March 5. The Certified Lover Boy appetizer quickly surged to No. 1 on the global Spotify chart, with 6.856 million streams and is likely to contend for the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 next Monday (March 15) -- an achievement that would mark a career first for the producer.
Check out the rest of Billboard's interview with Mario below, as he shares how a 7:00 a.m. conversation with Drake at the top of 2021 inspired him to keep grinding, delves deeper into the origins of "What's Next," and explains why the possibly of having a No. 1 record has his managers more excited than him.
How did "What's Next" come together with Drake?
Every now and then, I'll take a couple of days and hammer out as many beats as I can, instead of actually focusing on what I'm really working on. He's one of the people that likes to have all of his ducks in a row before he even starts recording. I checked all my beats out and sent it to him right away. I thought he was going to record and just sit on it, and it was going to get shelved. He actually ended up doing something with it, and he hit me back again later like, "Yo, this is for sure going on my album." I just had to wait until everything was finalized, but I knew there was a possibility of it being on the album for sure.
Do you remember when you send it over to Drake exactly?
I know it was probably like a week or two before it actually leaked, is when it was on the way to coming out.
Right, I remember it leaked on D.K. Metcalf's Instagram Story in mid-February.
Yeah, that's the first place I saw it too. I was like, "What the hell?" I thought, since it leaked, something was going to happen and he was gonna have to scrap it. But he called me and was like, "Nah, we getting ready to drop this s--t, and I'm about to shoot the video and everything." He didn't even care that it leaked, he was ready.
Can you expand on the text message you posted with Drake to your Instagram about solidifying yourself?
One hundred percent, that's my favorite part of this whole thing. I used to have these doubts if I was good enough to be in this industry -- and lo and behold it's Drake giving me advice about my career. It's crazy as hell, but he was nice enough to literally be on the phone with me at 7:00 in the morning, just telling me not to quit, and [how] things were actually going to come together for me.
He was giving me his thoughts as far as where he is in his career compared to mine. He's like, "We're hard-working people, and we value the work before the fame." It was good to have somebody to relate to. I wanted people to see that our favorite artist literally gave me career advice.
When did you guys have this conversation?
This was probably in January. Nobody seen that s--t coming. It's crazy, because I sent him several other beats that were considered for this project, and I wasn't getting any response. He doesn't always tell me if they're being used unless he knows for sure. Once I sent the "What's Next" beat, that's when I knew we got one.
What changes were made from the original leak to the finished product of the song that you noticed?
The original beat has way more going on in it. There's all kind of extra sounds that ended up getting taken out. Maneesh, who is a regular collaborator with Drake, ended up adding the chants on top of the beat, and a little whistle you hear in the background.
"What's Next" is projected to have a good chance of going to No. 1 on the Hot 100 next week. Talk about what it would mean to you to add this kind of accolade to your résumé.
I was talking to my management about this the other night and they were freaking out. It means a little bit more to them than it does to me -- because I don't know the significance of it, because I've never had a No. 1 record. They were literally on my head like, "You're not excited?!" They're like, "This is huge, not everybody gets a No. 1 record." Then I started getting phone calls from other people saying the same s--t. I'm waiting for it to sink in. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, we gotta go No. 1.
How did you originally link up with Drake? Speak to the growth in your relationship from "Ice Melts" to "Blue Tint" and now with "What's Next."
The fact I didn't know Drake back then was significant, so ["Ice Melts"] means more to me than any other one. That was the most unexpected [thing] that ever happened to me. That's literally my favorite artist, I'm a fan first. The significance of it was just so much more then.
The time between "Ice Melts" and "Blue Tint," I had no idea I'd have the chance to work with [Drake] again. Once he kept responding to what I was sending, I was like, "Oh, there's a real possibility here that I'll still be continuing to work with him." That's the beautiful part of it for me. The dude is so down-to-earth, to earth to allow me to continue to work with him.
I've never been the type of person who works with a ton of different artists. It definitely opened up doors for me to work with newer artists. People started to learn who I was more, which was cool. More importantly, it gave me insight on where music was headed and what kind of beats I should be making -- meeting certain people in the game and learning the ins and outs of the business.
All of these things I started acquiring, the more I kept working, and Drake definitely played a huge part in catapulting me to new levels. But I always give the initial credit to Young Thug, because that's who was the first person to f--k with my beats. From there, up until now, it's just more maturity -- and I don't get as excited about certain things. They don't mean as much, because it's always about the music for me.
Could we hear you behind any other songs on Certified Lover Boy?
Possibly. As of now, I have no idea. I know I've sent more beats and I continue to send beats. When it comes to Certified Lover Boy, that's just something we're going to have to see, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I never stop sending him beats.