Super producers such as Organized Noize have paved the way for others to craft the way Atlanta is represented sonically. Now it seems that the current role of the producer in Atlanta is to dictate the way the Billboard chart sounds, with songs like “Tuesday” (produced by Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital) taking over the radio. Over the past year, producers like Mike WiLL Made-It have successfully crossed over, taking a sound that many thought would be regional into the Top 100 with the support of a worldwide audience.
Here’s a list of established producers who are helping shift the sound of Atlanta rap, and the newcomers that are poised to carry the torch into a new generation.
It seems like Metro Boomin never sleeps. The 21-year old producer, originally born in St. Louis, is either on Twitter retweeting people who are listening to any one of his trunk-rattling songs (there are many), DJ’ing a party (a new hobby he’s picked up), or adding to his impressive resume of hits. Metro has been at the production center of Atlanta’s new resurgence, with help from relationships with Young Thug, Future and Gucci Mane.
He’s recently executive produced Future’s mixtape, Monster, and is putting the finishing touches on Young Thug’s anticipated Metro Thuggin project. “We have to get the business right, there’s a lot behind that,” he tells Billboard. Metro has been one of the most sought out producers in the A, but he doesn’t want to be known as the “go-to guy” just yet. “It’s crazy to even see it like that,” he says. “I just do my thing, and make music that people are going to like and love. That’s all I ever want to do.”
Longevity is the one quality that the constantly evolving producer thinks about, and with a number of new projects on the horizon, he’s focused on making sure the whole city gets its shine. “That’s the thing about hip-hop — it’s too trendy. They can’t wait to go on to the next thing. I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at it like Timbaland and Pharrell [Williams]. I’m gonna be around.”
Atlanta duo 1st and Raye Rich, known as FKi, are a household name to many of the new artists in the city, mostly because they practically grew up with all of them. “All my friends in Atlanta are all doing amazing things at the same time right now, and we’ve all been working since we were young. From [OG Maco] to Key!, we’ve all been working.” 1st and Rich both grew up together and attended Full Sail University (“I wasn’t fucking with the regular college thing, that shit’s bullshit,” 1st says) before getting their big break with Travis Porter. After giving Travis Porter three of their biggest hits (“Make It Rain,” “Ayy Ladies” and “Make It Clap”), 1st and Rich have branched off to make songs for Ludacris, Iggy Azalea and Travis $cott.
Their most recent collaborations with Atlanta’s Key! have spawned a whole new relationship that is gaining positive results, even if their first encounter wasn’t the most ideal. “Key! likes to play around… We were walking out of the club and we heard him say, ‘Yo, y’all beats are wack, bruh’ and we were about to fight him.” Over time, their relationship blossomed into the ambient and attention grabbing FKeyi mixtape. FKi is planning a new EP, Everyday Matters, and they hope to keep their strict approach to music intact throughout it. “It’s just the feeling, man. We get in the studio and we go off of the feeling of the music.”
Honorable C.N.O.T.E. is no stranger to Atlanta — he’s worked with some of the city’s biggest artists over the past seven years. With an impressive resume that includes production for big artists like Lil Wayne and Flo Rida, C.N.O.T.E. is now making his mark by helping bridge the gap between the older generation of Atlanta music and the new wave. “The feel of the city is electrifying, everyone is eating,” he says. He also believes that the success of the younger generation of Atlanta is learning from the work ethic of Gucci Mane, who he produced a number of songs for. “Me and Gucci recorded over 70 songs, he’s the hardest working person I know. They’re all workaholics.”
C.N.O.T.E. prides himself on being a hard worker as well, plotting his own mixtape with Gucci Mane called C.N.O.T.E. vs Gucci, which is set to release soon. “I’m mixing him with people he has never worked with. I have an intro with him rapping over the phone, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
Sonny Digital is the producer behind some of the biggest singles for Future (“Same Damn Time,” “Racks”) and 2 Chainz (“Birthday Song”), but he still feels underappreciated — and rightfully so. The 23-year old is behind the movement of some of Atlanta’s biggest stars from Que to ILOVEMAKONNEN, who recently signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label off the strength of the Sonny co-produced “Tuesday.” Sonny compares his ability to connect the dots and find the next big thing to Gucci Mane, who has helped discover many underground talents in Atlanta. “I feel like I’m in the same box. Gucci has been a part of so many careers, and he doesn’t get any credit for it.”
Sonny isn’t fazed however, as he knows his indefinable production style is gaining new listeners every day. “That Makonnen record got people to start acknowledging what I’ve been doing. It’s put people’s mind in a different level [in terms of] what I’ve done in the past.” His inability to be tied down to just a trap sound has been a hindrance to his perception with record labels (“They think I’m just some new producer,” he says), but the challenge is one that the laid-back producer is willing to take. “It’s fun. When they do their research though, they realize I did all the songs that are in their iPhones,” he says.
Childish Major catapulted onto the scene in early 2013 when Rocko’s underground hit “U.O.E.N.O.” impacted the rap charts. Since then, he’s taken his constantly evolving production style to the big leagues, producing for Future, Juicy J, and landing his biggest placement to date on Jeezy’s new album Seen It All: The Autobiography. The 23-year old’s inspirations, including Stevie Wonder and Pharrell, should come as no surprise when listening to his varied production style, which he calls “one of a kind.”
Even with his newfound success, Childish is keeping his sights on the future of Atlanta and his own artists: “I love working with Two-9, I think Jace (of Retro Sushi) is one of the most underrated artists out… I’m also working with my own artist Blaze Servin.” With projects already in the can with Jeezy and The Internet, the future is bright for the young prodigy of the city.
Nashville-born Atlanta transplant Ducko McFlii has been biding his time as the in-house producer for Two-9, providing the crew with his own signature style of aggressive and soulful production. Moving to Atlanta a few short years ago, Ducko has only just started branching out from Two-9. His first major look is OG Maco’s “Fuck Emx3” with Migos. “I was just chilling with Maco and the studio, and Migos walked in and the first thing they said they wanted to rap over was [the ‘Fuck Emx3’] beat. It was incredible.”
His proximity to Two-9 has also given Ducko a new relationship with Mike WiLL Made-It, who signed the group and Ducko to his Ear Drummaz label. The relationship has already had a positive influence on Ducko, who says, “It’s a good fit because I’m able to continue working with Two-9, and learn from someone who I’ve looked up for the past few years.” Ducko has already taken Mike’s tutelage seriously: he has a collaboration mixtape with 10Deep, clothing, and records with Rich Homie Quan, Snootie Wild and Problem on the way.
Check out “My City: Atlanta,” featuring Father, Raury and OG Maco.