Exclusive: DJ Mustard Talks Making of '10 Summers' Album & Chart Success
2014's most bankable hitmaker is releasing his debut album on Google Play -- for free.
DJ Mustard moved into his first "I made it" house two weeks ago in Los Angeles -- the kind with its own basketball court, pool and studio for him to make fresh beats without pulling out of his driveway. But with his first proper album on the way, a nationwide club tour and a growing clientele (Jeezy, B.o.B, Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa), he hasn’t had much time to enjoy it just yet.
"It’s cool, man -- just to see the growth," says Mustard (real name Dijon McFarlane), sitting in Billboard’s offices in New York. "Me moving out of the hood to better places, and my son living in places that I didn’t get to grow up in."
Originally hailing from South Central Los Angeles, Mustard, 24, speaks in a carefree drawl that belies the "ratchet" club tracks that have become his staple --and the new mainstream sound of 2014. In the past year alone, he has charted six top 10s on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and 14 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 -- including Tinashe’s "2 On," which is No. 26 on the chart dated Aug. 16. He also produced the majority of longtime collaborator YG's major-label debut, My Krazy Life, one of the best, and most critically acclaimed, rap albums of 2014.
"YG and I told each other when we was coming up that if we didn’t feel like we was close to making it by 25, we was going to stop," says Mustard. "Now, we're cool."
But the signature Mustard sound -- "hey!" chants, sparse basslines and finger-snap snares -- is arguably inspiring other producers’ hits as well. Look at Chris Brown's "Loyal" (produced by Nic Nac) or Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" (produced by The Invisible Men and The Arcade), which YG called out in a freestyle in July. On the other hand, The HBK Gang, which includes Iamsu! and Sage The Gemini, have accused Mustard of stealing their Bay Area-based sound. "I don’t really pay attention to it no more," says Mustard. "You can’t pick a fight with anyone doing something with your sound. I actually play 'Fancy' when I DJ. It doesn’t bother me."
10 Summers (Roc Nation/Republic), Mustard’s first proper full-length, is a quintessential showcase for his unmistakable beats and bass -- as well as his famous friends, which on this album include Lil Wayne, Big Sean, YG, Ty Dolla $ign, 2 Chainz, Jeezy, Rick Ross and Wiz Khalifa. The album has the feel of a mixtape, but the business savvy of a major release: A limited number of downloads will be given away for free on Google Play starting Aug. 12. "I hope to get to 100,000 on the first day," says Mustard of the album, which will hit iTunes and other digital retailers after a two-week exclusive with Google Play.
Of course, like any musical trend, there's a shelf life. In many ways, Mustard seems to have replaced 2013’s beatmaker du jour, Mike Will Made It. Mustard seems aware of this, and so he’s looking to diversify. The highlight of 10 Summers is "4 Digits," a collaboration with Eric Bellinger and Fabolous about ladies trying to crack their boyfriend's iPhone passcode that moves to a much more mellow groove than the typical ratchet beat.
"I hear a lot of people saying my stuff sounds the same," says Mustard. "When you’re in my position, people come to you to give them the same sound in a different type of way. And once they’re happy with it and you’re happy with it, there’s another hit record. But this album is going to show people I can do whatever type of music."
Still to come is a track he produced on Jeremih's next album that suggests something that could have been on Bjork's 2001 album, Vespertine. Another recent song that he cut for Rihanna's upcoming album, rumored for a fourth-quarter release, is "like nothing you've ever heard," teases Mustard.
Also in the pipeline are cuts for Usher, Kanye West and Lil Wayne's respective albums, as the producer remains focused on the next big beat. Says Mustard, "I never want to get stuck in the box."
A version of this article first appeared in the Aug. 16th issue of Billboard.