Mike Crook’s path to becoming a multi-platinum-certified producer was an unexpected one. When he was 15 years old, he never thought of music as an actual career choice for himself. In fact, he tells Billboard that he was playing football before making music, and it wasn’t until his father passed away when he got a reading from a medium — a person who communicates with the dead — who told him he should pursue a career in music and take it seriously.
“After I heard that, I gave it a try. I used Garage Band, bought like a $200 keyboard. Tried it for one week and honestly returned it all. I was like, this isn’t for me,” he ruminates. “I was still playing football at the time. But then, a few years later, I just started thinking when my senior year came around, I was probably not going to go to the NFL. And I also hated school, so I quit football and decided to give it a try with the music thing again.”
Growing up in LA county, Mike Crook took advantage of his surroundings by sending his beats out to artists from the city. His work with frequent collaborator Blueface caught the attention of publishing companies and other artist — and now, Crook boasts co-production credits on songs for some of the industry’s most talented artists. Between Coi Leray’s newly released “Blick Blick” with Nicki Minaj (which debuted at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100), Doja Cat’s “Like That” with Gucci Mane (which peaked at No. 50) and G-Eazy’s “Hate the Way” featuring blackbear (No. 71), Mike Crook tells Billboard that he’s humbled to be in the position he’s in, and to have collaborated on these tracks with his team.
“This past year in 2021, I barely had any placements, I was so hard on myself,” he says. “Over time, I learned I shouldn’t have been stressed in the first place and not pressure myself. Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen.”
With such a quickly rising trajectory in the music industry, Billboard caught up with Mike Crook to discuss his path to becoming a producer, west coast influences, remaining humble, and some of the goals he has for his future.
You were a football player in high school before you ever were making music. What ultimately inspired you to make the decision to pursue a career in music and make the transition?
I felt like I was always into music. I just never really thought it was possible to like, make a career out of it. I just kind of thought people were born like that — I don’t know. No one ever taught me that you could be a professional music producer, a rapper, or anything. But for me, it really started when my dad passed away when I was 15. About a year later when I was 16, my family got introduced to a medium, which is someone who communicates with the dead, and when I went to the reading with my family, she started naming certain things about my life that were just so spot on and only I knew about. Then she proceeded to tell me, “Your dad’s telling you to stop playing quarterback and to pursue music.”
What was your family’s reaction to you deciding to make music?
I don’t think they realized how serious I was after that medium interaction — and you know, when senior year comes around, we start thinking about what we wanna do in life. My mom gave me four years after I graduated: She gave me ‘till I was 22 to figure it out before I had to get a full-time job and move out. I went to college for three months in 2015 for recording school, dropped out, and knew it wasn’t it. There were often conversations [with her about] if I was even making money and I would lie and say I was. So she gave me four years to move out — and about three and a half years into pursuing music was when I met Blueface.
How did you first get started working with artists and getting them on your beats?
I was figuring it out as I went, but my goal was to get all the poppin’ local artists on my beats, even if that meant I had to pay them. I wanted to work with any and every rapper I could. Growing up in L.A. county, there’s a lot of talent in the city. When I first started in 2014, a Long Beach artist jumped on one of my first beats without charging me. My whole high school actually loved the song. Everyone listened to it because it was my first song, and the anticipation was there, and I think people were ready to clown on me. [Laughs.] But it surprised them.
It’s called “L.I.S.A.” by Lamar Jay featuring Joe Moses on YouTube. Even though the song stayed regional, it was just the fact that someone thought my beat was good enough to get on and people at my school liked the song. That was all the inspiration I needed to keep going.
After that song, I didn’t get a major placement until December 2018, and that was Blueface, “Bleed It,” which was my breakthrough song into the game. So it was a little rough for those four years — but I just figured if I dedicated all my time when I got off work from my full-time job to [make music], something great had to come out of it.
You mentioned that Blueface’s “Bleed It” was the placement that changed things for you. When did you notice that things were picking up traction for you as a producer?
Before “Bleed It,” I was also working with 1TakeJay, $tupid Young, and Rucci, which definitely brought some attention to me in the L.A. scene. But that Blueface song is what got me to move out of my mom’s house pretty much, and believe that it’s all worth it, you know?
When “Bleed It” came out, Cole Bennett shot the video, and that’s when I knew it was gonna pay off. It got like a million views in 12 hours and I was like, ‘Oh this is it, my life is gonna change.’ Then [when the video came out], my phone started ringing, emails going crazy, publishing companies started reaching out to me. It was surreal.
Tell me about how your relationship working with Blueface first started.
I actually emailed him. I still have the email to this day. At the time, he only had like 12,000 followers. So I was like, “He would be perfect for the type of beats I make.” I hit him up and told him, “I’m an upcoming producer, I got songs with Joe Moses, $tupid Young, 1TakeJay. How much will you charge me to do my beat?”
He charged me like $600. I was desperate for anyone to do my beats at the time, because nobody was really responding to me — so I figured if I paid, it would get done. I sent him the beat and the next day, he posted him rapping to it. The song was called “Bonco,” and that was the first one we did. Then he wanted to keep working. So I booked a session, he pulled up, and from there I got his number. We were cool and I was flooding him with beats all the time.
“Daddy” featuring Rich the Kid ended up being my first song with Blueface on the Hot 100. The beat was made the day my grandma died actually — so I wasn’t trying to go to the studio. But [fellow producer] Scum Beatz talked me into going to take my mind off things and we made that together. I knew my grandma would’ve wanted me to go work, she was my biggest supporter. Then, the song got released a month later. I was super excited, and super grateful.
You’ve landed some notable placements over the years, including on “Blick Blick” by Coi Leray featuring Nicki Minaj. What was your reaction when you found out Nicki Minaj was going to be on it?
I found out when the world found out. The first thing I did when Nicki posted it was call my mom and sister. I was super excited, Nicki is an icon.
Looking towards the future, what are some of your goals for this year?
My therapist actually just asked me that, and it took me some time to think about it. But I would say, my goals are just not being so hard on myself. It’s easy to compare yourself to other producers, but I just want to have fun with it. This past year in 2021, I barely had any placements, I was so hard on myself. Over time, I learned I shouldn’t have been stressed in the first place and not pressure myself. Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen.
So I just want to have fun. I definitely want to work with more Atlanta, Chicago and also Latin American artists, and expand a little more outside of the West Coast. But of course, I still want to do West Coast stuff.