Behind every viral dance trend and radio smash from Doja Cat’s Planet Her, there is a team of talented producers, helping Doja craft the soundscapes of her blockbuster third studio album. Nestled in the credits alongside longtime Doja collaborator Yeti Beats and hit machines like Rogét Chahayed, is Aaron Bow’s name.
Hailing from Knob Noster, Missouri, Aaron Bow has steadily been on the rise since his first major placement (Yung Dred & Gucci Mane’s “Throwin Racks”) in 2012. Inspired by legendary producers such as Lex Luger, Phil Collins, and Pharrell, Aaron has lent his talents to mixtape cuts, platinum-certified singles, and film scores. In 2018, Aaron contributed to “Redemption,” performed by Zacari and Babes Wodumo, on the Grammy-nominated Black Panther soundtrack. The very next year found Aaron scoring his first Hot 100 appearance as a producer; with DJ Khaled’s No. 54-peaking Travis Scott and Post Malone collab “Celebrate” In the past year, Aaron has collaborated with Big Sean (“Don Life” and “Everything That’s Missing”) and Kid Cudi (“Dive”) on their most recent album.
“I just feel like the stuff that I’m doing is different than any typical producer. That’s why, I feel like me and Teddy [Walton] really are the new Timbaland and Pharrell.” Aaron muses to Billboard.
Most recently, Aaron contributed to “Been Like This,” the best song on Planet Her according to Billboard’s ranking of the album. In September, “Been Like This” received its moment in the spotlight, thanks to Doja Cat’s showstopping live rendition of the song at last month’s MTV Video Music Awards.
In an interview with Billboard, Aaron Bow recalls the making of “Been Like This,” ruminates on his goals with music, and reveals new information about his upcoming collaborations and projects.
After you got the call to work on “Been Like This,” and before you got in the studio, what was your thought process like? What was your vision for the track?
“Been Like This” came about from my friend, Jerry — his [producer] name is Tizhimself. He told me about this idea he had for Doja back in January. He sent it to me, and I just started like going in on the drums, just adding stuff. Then, I sent it back to him, and him and Yeti [Beats] turned it into what it is now.
I just know that I wanted it to feel very cinematic, and that’s something that I always try to do with the things that I produce; from Kid Cudi’s “Dive” to working on the Black Panther album. I actually did the Black Panther stuff before I even signed the deal.
What was it like working with stars as big as Kendrick Lamar without a deal?
Me and Teddy [Walton] woke up one morning and we got this call. Teddy was talking to Kendrick, and we had this idea of making this Afrobeat record. So, we got to working on this record. There was another producer on there named Curtis McKenzie, and we went over to his spot and literally made the record in like 30 minutes. Teddy sent it straight to Kendrick and he sent back all flame emojis.
In terms of the production on “Been Like This,” what’s the click at the beginning of the song? It’s like the beginning of a mini-universe inside of the larger Planet Her universe?
It’s like a record, like a tape player — players starting the track, you know? And so that’s what gives it that cinematic feel. I would say that it’s the only one within that style on the album. The album is amazing, but it definitely has its own feel. It was just performed at the VMAs, and that showed how cinematic it was.
Speaking of the VMAs, the live performance of “Been Like This” featured a much more robust strings arrangement than what’s on the studio track. Whose idea was it to incorporate those orchestral elements?
That was kind of everybody’s idea. As the record progresses, it kinda got to that point where we’re like, “Yeah, we need this.” Tizhimself brought in somebody to do those. That’s how that came about.
What do you think sets “Been Like This” apart from the biggest pop songs out right now?
Every pop song [right now] sounds the same, man. This has a little bit of trap drums, a little bit of experimental sounds to it, a little bit of cinematic sounds. It flows like a movie. Every pop song is like, “Put this here, put this there, put this there, it’s done.” This one is really about the feeling.
Planet Her is being predicted to receive a lot of Grammy love. What do the Grammys mean to you?
It definitely shows how great something can be. But, at the end of the day, man, I want my music to touch the people more than anything. It’s obviously a blessing to be a part of the Grammys. I was a part of Black Panther, which was nominated for Album of the Year. I’m just more about my stuff touching the people.
What’s next for you? Who are you working with?
I’m working on a couple of big things. I can’t really talk too much about it. One thing I can talk about is this amazing album that me and Teddy have been working on for the past four years. It’s called Don’t Panic. I feel like it’s going to change the way people look at music, and people who are a part of this are so different. You would never think that it would work together.
Can I get a couple of names?
I can tell you a couple of people on it. I really haven’t told anybody about this. It’s been like a super-secret underground thing. A few people on there are Bon Iver and Project Pat. As you can tell, those two people… you would not think that that would work well together, but this album is so different. It’s literally like a roller coaster, man. Actually, I could mention one more person. 6LACK’s on there, you know. The diversity of the people on this project is so amazing and different.
I’ve never told anybody about this. So you’re the first person, man. I feel like good music is coming back, and this is going to be one of the albums that helps do that.