Thanks to the ongoing rise of streaming services and social media, it’s become easier for rising producers to capture the attention of mainstream artists. For Bugz Ronin, this ascension occurred faster than he anticipated.
The 26-year-old, who calls Stroudsburg, Pa., his hometown, grew up admiring producers who weren’t afraid to push sonic boundaries. Some of those include Diplo, The Neptunes, Lex Luger, Johnny Juliano, Supah Mario and Oogie Mane — the latter two of whom he actually got to work with.
After honing his craft using programs such as FL Studio, Ronin’s beats caught the ears of Lil Uzi Vert‘s manager in 2016. From there, he began sending the rapper beats — whose final formats ended up getting leaked. But Ronin didn’t let the misstep faze him, and that determination soon landed him five production credits on Uzi’s Eternal Atake album: “Baby Pluto,” “Lo Mein,” “Homecoming,” “Bust Me” and “Secure the Bag.”
Released on March 6, the album currently tops the Billboard 200 chart and makes history as the largest streaming week (400 million on-demand streams in the first week) for an album since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V in 2018.
“The energy is always positive,” Ronin says of working with the rapper. “There was a lot of great music to select, but he’s a perfectionist and so am I. He’s very versatile and I love that about him.”
Below, Bugz Ronin speaks to Billboard about his otherworldly studio time with Uzi, his recent signing with Sony/ATV Publishing and what he has planned for the remainder of 2020.
When did you realize your passion for producing?
People at my high school used to have rap cyphers at lunch. They’d call me over to hit on the tables and be the beat maker. I loved doing it! I started looking into it more and wanted to figure out how I could turn it into a thing. That’s when I discovered FL Studio. [Editor’s note: the digital audio workstation was previously known as Fruity Loops until 2003.] I moved to Puerto Rico, and there were a lot of people who were nice at producing.
I just fell in love after they taught me all the things to do. I turned into a nerd and didn’t go outside. I looked like a vampire while I’m in the Caribbean! I had no tan because every day I was locked in and learning how to produce. When I realized I could make money out of it, that made me more excited.
How did you initially connect with Uzi?
We met through a mutual friend [around] 2016. His manager Mean f–ked with me and my beats, so he kept having me send stuff in. That’s how we built our relationship.
Before Eternal Atake, I just had a few songs with him that were in the vault. After a year or so, some of our songs started to leak, like “Run It Up,” Dirty Diana,” and the “Proud of You” snippet that [Uzi shared on Young Thug’s Instagram Live]. That kind of sucked because I was looking forward to being on a single, but the leaks threw that off a bit. [I thought], “I really hope this doesn’t stop me from being on the album.”
He’s been working on [Eternal Atake] for the past two years, so every now and then I’d follow up to see what he’d might need. I just moved out to Los Angeles, so I’d reach out to him to catch up. We’re friends so it makes things easier.
You’re coming from a small town to now having credits on a chart-topping album. That has to feel surreal.
I’m just 1,000 percent grateful that he trusted me with his sound and never gave up on me. He’s a big artist, but he doesn’t need big producers to make a classic album. If you look at all the producers, this is their first big moment as well. So he’s introducing a lot of people to the culture. And he was able to make hit songs with them — a lot of people can’t do that. I give him thanks every day, man. [The album] is really going crazy right now.
You also recently signed to Sony/ATV publishing, which is also a great accomplishment.
Adrian Nunez, the vice president of A&R, and I were in talks for a minute now. I always kept him in the loop about what was going on with the Uzi s–t. I would always send him music. He brought up the idea of getting me signed and I was like, “Let’s do it!” I’m excited that he made it happen. He’s the man.
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Let’s get into some of the tracks you worked on. “Lo Mein” was an immediate standout.
We did this one in his hotel room with one speaker. He knew the tempo that he wanted and [explained it to] me and co-producer Brandon Finessin. So I was structuring the melody while he was rapping. From what I’ve witnessed, he doesn’t really write. So the fact that he was writing along was crazy to me. We loaded up the beat, he started recording and got into his little dancing phase. So when we played the beat, everybody was just turning up with Nerf guns. [laughs] It’s not really where you’re at or what equipment you got — it’s about making it work and sound good.
“Homecoming” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. That bassline is so intense!
We had a little vibe in the studio with the lights low. It was a just a calm a– day; we didn’t do any music so far. So around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., Uzi goes, “Yo we need some hard s–t.” I said, “Alright bet!” I loaded up FL Studio and started working on hi-hats and the claps. I got a little bounce going. I thought he was on his phone while I was adding sounds, so I thought he didn’t like it. But I peeped that he wasn’t just on his phone; he was in his notes writing to it. That song was a 50-50 effort.
I like the woman’s voice in the background of “Bust Me.” Was that a sample?
We had a choir come in for that one — that was Uzi’s idea. At first I didn’t understand it, but it all made sense. He had the choir all throughout the album, actually. I was in L.A. for the [recording] part, but hearing it on my beat I thought, “Wow, this is game-changing!” I was amazed, to be honest.
How did you come about the production for “Secure the Bag”?
I’m going through beats and this particular one was an eight-bar loop that I had started. I played it, and he goes, “What’s that?” I told him I didn’t finish yet, so I’m not sure about it. He said, “Nah, send that through. Load it up!”
I was shocked. He’s already out the door to go into the booth, so I was like, “Damn, I gotta structure this.” It was pretty cool how he heard it in two seconds and chose it. The way he works is crazy. He’s not from Earth, I’m just gonna say that!
What else would you like to accomplish for the rest of 2020?
I definitely want to invest this money and make more than what I have so far. I want to develop a stable career and work with some of my favorite artists, like Travis Scott, Rihanna, Drake and The Weeknd. I know it takes a few tries but I’m working towards those goals.