For 23-year-old Shane Lindstrom, networking is a major key. At a very young age, the producer known as Murda Beatz shaped his affinity for music thanks to his parents’ rock tastes and his love of rap videos while growing up in Fort Erie, Ontario. It wasn’t until he reached his teenage years that he realized that his gift of gab would be his gateway into hip-hop.
Hungry to become a fixture in the production world, Murda Beatz flew to Chicago and forged a relationship with Chief Keef’s crew G.B.E. He then ventured over to Atlanta where he connected with rap triumvirate Migos and crafted their infectious 2015 single “Pipe It Up.” The ambitious beatmaker continued to swamp the industry with beats, as he cooked up records for Gucci Mane (“Back on Road”), Drake (“Portland”), French Montana (“No Shopping”) and Nicki Minaj (“No Frauds”).
Last December, Murda Beatz put his Rolodex to use and created his debut project Keep God First. Boasting features from 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign, Quavo, Swae Lee, and more, the project ensured his credibility as a formidable name in hip hop.
Billboard recently sat down with Murda Beatz to speak on his meteoric rise as a producer, working on Gucci Mane’s new album DropTopWizop, his favorite studio sessions, and upcoming projects.
When did you fall in love with hip-hop?
Murda Beatz: I don’t even know how old I was, but I remember watching [The Game’s] “Hate it or Love it” music video. I was so young back then. My parents listen to rock music. I remember listening to that and saying, “This sh-t is sick.” I was just a young kid. That’s what really got me in the door. Then, just playing drums. I started to do Travis Barker remixes ,then sold my drum set and got an electric drum set. So, I would play [Lil Wayne’s] “A Milli” and started f–king with the 808s.
I’d say a big transition as a kid was when I started to listen to Good Charlotte. They were like a rap-to-rock/punk group. As a young [kid], I’d get into phases where I’d really love N.W.A for six months. I’d love Wu-Tang for six months. I’d love Biggie, Pac, and went through stages to 50 [Cent], and then just started [loving] trap music in high school.
With your parents being lovers of rock music, would you say you developed a strong foundation and love for music through them?
I got my love for music through my parents. My dad played guitar. My mom always loved music. But I feel like I developed my own love for hip-hop and rap music by myself. Just growing up and hearing new things. As you grow up, you begin to listen to new music that this kid is listening to, then you begin to like your own music, and start discovering it yourself.
Where did you get your name Murda Beatz from?
When I started making beats five and a half years ago, I made some beats. They were terrible. I said to my boy, “Man, how do I get this sh-t going?” He’s like, “You gotta post [your beats] on the internet.” So, I was like, “Sh-t. I’m just gonna call myself Murda Beatz cuz I’m gonna murder beats.”
Then, I put [my beats] on the internet. When I was first doing that, I didn’t think that this sh-t was gonna be big. I just thought that I was gonna put this sh-t on the internet. And then, I started to see that I really liked doing it. [After that], I was like, “Yo. This is what I wanna do.” Then, it just kinda turned from being something random into being a hobby into being a career very fast. The transition took three years. It was sick. [I’m] blessed.
You kept God first.
That [Keep God First] mixtape went crazy, too. I feel like it helped the culture a lot. As a producer putting up music, I wasn’t dropping a project to do this much numbers or make this amount of money, I really just dropped a project for the streets and the culture of music. I feel like I really got my point across. It got to the right people, the right executives, the right artists listened to it. So now when I’m walking around L.A., I’m bumping into artists, who’s telling me that I made their favorite project in 2016.
Which producer would you say really made you fall in love with the art of producing?
I’d say in the beginning, Lex Luger. When I started making beats like five years ago, he was probably like that top guy. I would just watch his interviews and he’d be like rolling blunts, smoking, while he’s making beats. I used to watch the 808 and Mafia sh-t. Now, it’s just a blessing to be a part of that bracket with those guys in the industry now. I was watching their videos on how to make a beat. Now, it’s like I’m right there with them.
You’re from Fort Erie, Ontario. What is your city most known for?
Nothing. [Laughs] I don’t know, man. There’s nothing out there, man. It’s like a border town to Buffalo. People spend a lot of time in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. I was born in Niagara Falls. The high school I went to had 500 kids and the school didn’t have a lot of money. The town itself was whatever. It was a good place to grow up. It was a blessing that I grew up there, because I got to find myself at a young age.
Then, when I started this music stuff, I just kind of sacrificed a lot of stuff. I would put everything aside just to focus on this stuff ’cause I knew I could do it. I feel like it was good, too, traveling-wise. Crossing the border to Buffalo and then flying to Atlanta and stuff.
At a very young age, you decided to move from Fort Erie to Chicago. Why did you make that decision so early on in your career?
When I first started, people were telling me that I had to get my beats to a certain level and get them out there. I was like, “No. F–k this.” I saw Chief Keef. He started popping off then. I was f–king with it. I was like, “This sh-t is about to be the new wave. I’m about to go to Chicago and get on the wave.” So, I just went out to Chicago, and went to the Southside. I met some artists and started f–king with some of the guys from G.B.E. Then I just caught up to Chief Keef.
After that, I was like, “Man, I need to get my sh-t into Atlanta.” I was on LiveMixtapes and saw these guys, Migos. This was before YRN came out, too. I was like, “These guys are sick… This is just different. This is the next wave.” They’re fire. They’re super-talented. So, I hit up Skippa Da Flippa. I hit him up on Twitter and I was like, “I’m gonna send you a pack of beats. Take whatever you need and play this sh-t for Quavo and Takeoff.” Offset was locked up at the time. He played the sh-t for them. They loved it.
Then Coach K called me and I started going out there and staying out there. I stayed with them and lived with them. I saw them flourish and blow up to what they became today. That was just a blessing, as well.
Where do you feel like you thrived more as a producer — Chicago or Atlanta?
Probably Atlanta, because the Chicago thing was kind of quick, but it was just a way for me to figure out how to move around and how to get to certain artists. With the whole Migos stuff, they really solidified me as a producer, I’d say.
What mistakes did you make in the early stages of your career that you try to avoid today?
I don’t know if there were a lot of mistakes that I really made. I know at the beginning, I was gonna sign deals that I knew if I would have signed them, I would not be who I am today. That’s a big one — just being patient and not signing sh-t that people want you to sign. I was really just learning how to make beats, how to mix my sh-t, and just moving around.
You gotta know at the end of the day, even if you’re 16 with a dream, that this is still a business. You gotta know how to move and how to present yourself in a certain way. These big execs don’t look at this as being a dream no more. It’s a business. You gotta learn how to move in the industry at a young age, and I feel like I did that properly.
You developed a strong knack for networking with big-name artists. What advice would you give to younger artists and producers trying to make it through the art of networking?
I’d say that your network is your net worth, so you gotta be on social media networking with the right people. I would be up at night at like 2 a.m. and I’d see Nipsey Hussle tweet something. I would tweet him like, “I got some beats. F–k with me.” Just sh-t like that. And just getting out there, you know? Go to these shows and try to get backstage. Give someone a USB. I would just give people USB sticks. That sh-t never work, but I used to do it. I would just give someone a USB stick with a little bit of my info and 10 beats on it. Even like a few years ago in Toronto, I would give a USB stick to Usher or Wiz Khalifa.
You just gotta get out there and show face. Don’t be scared. I don’t think you should be worried about what you look like and stuff. You gotta be confident, too. I feel like a big thing from even when I started, people were like, “Oh, he’s not black. He can’t make gangsta music.” I feel like with me coming up in trap music and just being a white producer, it gives other people hope and faith that they can do it as well. So I’m just trying to inspire as many people as I can because music is not a race. It’s all about making good music, and just building connections with people, and I’ve made some great friendships along the way, like with Migos. They’re friends of mine and I know their families.
With Boi1da and Lex Luger serving as your mentors, what are some lessons you learned from them that you still hold on to today?
Pretty much, don’t make the type of music that people want you to make. Make the type of music that you want to make at the end of the day.
Even with being in L.A. and seeing certain producers in sessions and going to label sessions, you see that people are just making music as a job now. They’re not really making it out of passion anymore. You get to the point where it’s like, “OK, I’m just gonna make pop beats for the rest of my life because it’s a check and I need to support my family.” The passion is not there. I just want to make all music cool. I want to make cool pop music. I want to make cool trap music. I want to make everyone feel cool and be cool. That’s a big one.
Also, I learned a lot from them about mixing and mastering my beats, and how to get them to slap the way they slap, as you can see with the East Coast swag with Boi1da. My beats slap, his beats slap, T-Minus slaps, and we all having banging drums. I learned that from Boi1da too.
Which artist have you been most mesmerized by in the studio, as far as their work ethic is concerned?
I’d say two people. I’d take Quavo because I’d go to the crib and start making beats. I’d pull a beat and he’d start rapping and record himself right there. I’ll start making the beats by the time he’s done and I’ll pull up the next beat — boom. By the time he’s done, I’ll already be done with the next beat. Then we’d just go and make seven songs in like a few hours.
The second person is PARTYNEXTDOOR. We do the same sh-t. We’ll be in the studio in L.A. I’ll put on my headphones and be sitting there. We’d get on a crazy roll ’cause I’d make a pop beat in 10 minutes and then I’d give it to him. In 10 minutes, he’s done. We go through things fast. Me and PARTY have made at most 14 songs in one night. Twelve-hour sessions and we’re just going crazy. We would go from pop to classic ’90s R&B to trap music to rap to up-tempo. We’ll do everything in one session. I feel like PARTY keeps my production game at the A1 point where I can feel comfortable doing other genres of music, as well.
With PARTY testing your limits as a producer, how do you feel you’ve tested PARTY as an artist?
I feel like with anybody that I work with, I really push them to their boundaries. If I’m working with PARTY, I wanna make a hard rap record with an R&B singer. I wanna push him to make another big pop record because we all know he can.
Let’s go back to [Migos’] YRN album. I pushed Quavo over the box to do that “Just for the Night” record with Chris Brown because Quavo wrote that hook. He didn’t want to do that beat at first. I was like, “Do this beat and we’ll be out of here.” I just like to push people. I want to make Quavo do eight songs in one sitting. If it’s noon and me and PARTY are about to leave the studio, I want to get one more song in before we leave.
I feel like even working with G-Eazy — we locked in a month ago for like a week and were making super hard rap records. I was just trying to get him to push out five songs a session. I try to push everything so that every time when people think of me, they can go, “Man, he f–king works hard.” He also pushed me to make this many songs in a week. I remember earlier in the year, me and Travis [Scott] were locked in for a week. Twelve-hour sessions a day. I made like over 100 beats for one of the first weeks of this year.
Were those beats for his new album Astroworld?
I don’t know. We were just cooking up. He was finishing up the “Portland” record, I think. Astroworld is gonna be fire, too. Travis is that guy.
Travis and Quavo have been on a hot streak.
Their album is gonna be fire. That second snippet online, I produced that sh-t. “Lo-Fi” is a banger!
Talk about how “Lo-Fi” came together in the studio.
I actually made that beat when I was with Travis. We were at Winmark in L.A. I made that beat and I invited Quavo into the studio with us. Then I just played them the beat. I made it upstairs, I went downstairs, played it, and they just made it right there. I knew when they made that record that this sh-t was gonna be fire. I was hitting Travis everyday like, “Send me that sh-t bro.” I know it’s gonna be a smash… I feel like Quavo and Travis are the new stars of this generation.
Talk about how Drake got his hands on the “Portland” record.
I made the beat in L.A. and I sent it to Drake. Then they just did their thing. It had some Murda sauce on it.
Who did you initially think was perfect for the “Portland” beat before you handed the record to Drake?
He was. For the whole time during the More Life thing, that was what I was really focused on. Everything I was making, I was like “Sh-t. Let me just call Drake and let him hear it.” That song was fire. I actually had the beat a little slower too. He told me he sped it up so we just made the play on that.
What are some of your favorite samples that you worked with in the past?
I just really be working with composers like Cu Beatz and some others. I don’t really be sampling songs because I know they take your publishing. I’ve heard situations with producers who placed records on an album and then the sample ended up taking their whole 50 percent of the record, and they were left with just a little advance or some sh-t. As a producer, you gotta really watch out because when I first got into this, I didn’t really understand that. I wasn’t really a sample producer at the beginning. I was kind of just making trap beats. You gotta watch out with the samples because the people who are uneducated are gonna get f–ked up.
You recently worked with Gucci Mane for his “Drop Top Wizop” freestyle, right?
Man, he put my name on it and that was actually a Southside beat. I was in Miami and didn’t even listen to it. When I listened to it, I was like, “This isn’t even my beat.” I went on Gucci’s Twitter and he tried to clarify it and say that it was produced by Southside. So I tweeted the new Gucci “Drop Top Wizop” freestyle is produced by Southside. I f–k with Southside. I f–k with TM. I f–k with Metro [Boomin] and everybody.
Were you able to collaborate with Gucci for his DropTopWizop album?
I got some shit. [Laughs] I f–k with Gucci. I met him this year and I’ve been a huge Gucci fan my whole life. I used to bump the classic Gucci and all that. I feel like with me going out to Miami and connecting with him in his space at the beginning of the year, I feel like that was a big moment in my career. There’s not a lot of people that I can meet that I really f–k with like that. Just being able to lock in with him, make beats, work with him, and knock out stuff for the album was really a good experience. At the same time, you feel like you’re a big part of the album.
Even with More Life, I feel like I was really involved in that album because I was really there. I remember eight months ago when Drake texted me, “Yo. I’m starting to work on my next project. Send sh-t.” So, from day one to the wrapping up of the album to being in London for the release party, I was a big part of that album. It feels good. It’s gonna be one of the top albums of this year. It is the hottest album out. So shout out to Drake, shout out to Gucci, shout out to O.V.O., shout out to Brick Squad.
The same way that you pushed Travis, Quavo, and PARTYNEXTDOOR, were you able to push Gucci in the studio?
The thing with Gucci, he’s just a f–king legend. He just knows how to do all that sh-t. Bbut yeah, I was definitely making beats saying like, “We should do like this and this, or maybe talk about this and this.” We made some fire sh-t that’s definitely going to be on the album. When it comes out, people are gonna say it’s fire. It’s definitely gonna be some of the best sh-t he’s dropped since he’s come home.
What are some moves that you’re making for yourself and your solo projects?
I’m definitely making some moves low-key right now. I’m not that far [along with my new project], but I’m definitely gonna do a Keep God First 2. I don’t know when but I’m definitely now just cooking for people’s albums. I’m gonna try to develop records that I like to listen to and that I know the fans and everyone are gonna f–k with.
Is there an artist that you’re itching to work with?
Urban-wise? I’d say Kanye [West]. I’d say A$AP Rocky. We would probably do some crazy sh-t. Pop-wise? Rihanna, Beyonce, [Justin] Bieber.
Do you think that your pop records get the same love as your hip-hop records?
I feel like they do because when more pop artists work with me, if they don’t know, they kind of figure out my background in urban music and rap music. Even with Zayn’s last record [“Still Got Time“], I did the Zayn record with PARTYNEXTDOOR and the drums were slapping on that. With other pop records too, I’m just trying to make it cool and raw. These pop artists want cool records, too. Right now, rap music is the biggest genre in music, so I’m trying to bring that coolness and rawness from urban music to pop music, and give these pop artists records that they can be proud of.