I’m good. I’m trying to get it popping and keep it popping.
You started out with DJ Khaled and Caesar in a group called Hitmen Productions. How did that come about?
I was doing my thing on the club circuit before I met Khaled and Caesar. Me and Caesar went to school together and I met Khaled through Caesar. We bonded and from there, it was on. We started doing house parties and renting halls out and it was so successful that we made noise and a nice name for ourselves for hip-hop in Orlando.
Why does Hitmen Productions no longer exist?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Nobody’s ever asked me that before. It worked out because we’re all successful now. What happened is Khaled’s parents moved up to New Orleans because they owned a clothing store and he moved with them. We kind of all broke apart from each other because it wasn’t the trio like it was before. We were like, How could we do these parties if there’s not all three of us? We started doing things separately but it was never the same. Khaled and Caesar are still my best friends. We’re family.
Was it hard making the switch from club DJ to producer?
Not really, because to me, they both go hand-in-hand. It’s all music at the end of the day and you have to have the skill for it. Every DJ can’t be a producer. Plus my family is very musical. I come from a musical background.
How challenging was it to get your first beat out there, especially coming from Orlando?
It was super-hard. I had to work harder than people in New York City and Miami. I had to go harder. I developed strong relationships and I had to network with everybody. Orlando had nothing but pop music. I just met people like Fat Joe and the Dipset and made strong connections with them, and from there, I just got to everybody else. Plus I went to Miami a lot. I wouldn’t just stay here in Orlando and grind it out.
Your first track was with Rated R and Krayzie Bone. How was that experience?
That song, the way it was done, was really wack. I don’t really consider that my first, first outlet. I consider Fat Joe’s “Wildlife” to be my first track that I really did.
You also did “Does Anybody Know” on Fat Joe’s All or Nothing. That’s arguably the best track on the album after “Safe 2 Say (The Incredible).” How did that track go down?
That was actually a collaboration with The Runners. They brought me the sample and it was crazy. It obviously had to go to a rapper named “Joe.” If Fat Joe didn’t like it, we were going to give it to Joe Budden. Obviously Joe kept it and it was the first song on his album.
What’s it like working with Fat Joe?
He’s incredible. If there’s one thing you can say about Fat Joe, it’s that he knows how to make a hit record. He’s always had a hit record and the people sleep on that. A lot of rappers out here don’t make a hit record like that every time they come out. He jokes around a lot too and he’s got real heart. He’s also down to work with up-and-coming producers. He’s not on an ego trip or nothing.
I’ve heard Juelz is also cool to work with.
Yeah. He’s the best. Every time I touch down in New York City, Juelz is the first dude I hit when I touch down over there. Juelz has the 2Pac grind-mode work ethic. He owns his own studio and he likes to work a lot. When I touch down in New York City, the first thing I want to do is work with a rapper. He’s always down to work, no matter what time it is. He’s a real good dude.
Are you happy with how your work with Lil’ Wayne and Baby came out for their Like Father, Like Son album?
I’m very happy and I’m kind of blessed because we had three records on that album. I thought we would have one track on the album. We kept making tracks and I kept telling them I would send them more and that I had tracks that were perfect for Weezy. They told me to keep sending them. I did “Army Gunz,” which was Weezy’s only solo track on the album. Cash Money has a lot of love for me. That’s fam right there and they’re good people.
Are you happy with the final version of Ludacris’ “Grew Up a Screw-Up”?
I’m definitely happy with how it came out. There are two versions out. Jeezy did his verse twice. He has his version on the album that’s cool, but I thought it was too hood and too street. The new version that he did on the video, I think more people can relate to that one. I’m real happy with the way the video version of that came out. It’s definitely popping.
Can you take us through the making of that beat?
Last year I was at the Mixshow Power Summit in the Bahamas with Khaled. The one thing about Khaled is that he will motivate the shit out of anybody. We were talking and he was like, You ain’t shit, you ain’t this, you ain’t that. He was shitting on me to motivate me. I banged out that joint and I did a joint called “Relax and Take Notes.” I had to do something crazy. I couldn’t miss the Ludacris album. I missed The Red Light District record. I had to make this one. I was listening to Biggie records and I wanted to do a Southern beat with his voice. He has the perfect voice for that. I told Ludacris I had a perfect record for him and it was around the title of his album. He was like, Send it to me now! I sent it and it was on. A lot of these producers can’t talk to these artists one-on-one. I talk to Ludacris once a week. That’s one of the things I’ve been blessed with. We can be friends as well as business partners. It’s not all about the paper.
Are you usually in the studio when artists are recording over your beats?
Sometimes I’m in the studio with them but I don’t want to wind up in a situation where I’m with every artist all the time because that takes away what I’m doing for other artists. Sometimes I’ll be there for the mix if I need to be. I have a lot of ideas for the artist and sometimes I don’t need to be there because it might not go as smooth as you’d think it would.
How critical are you as a producer?
Unless it’s a new artist, I don’t like to get too critical. I’m a proven hit-maker when it comes to making beats and I can tell a new artist things. Somebody like Luda is a genius and somebody like Weezy, you just want him to do his thing on it. You never know what they’re thinking. My partners The Runners did “Slap” for Luda. I never thought he would have flipped that beat like that and rhymed on it. That was incredible. You never know what a professional rapper may be thinking.
You also manage The Runners. Are you surprised at how fast they broke into the game and blew up?
I would have to say, “Hell no!” When I met them and they played me their catalog, I was like, You guys are shitting me. They weren’t really doing Rick Ross records. They had crazy R&B and real soulful tracks and they had the Southern tracks. I was like, These guys are on some other shit. They can do everything. They can really, really do everything. I wasn’t surprised at all. The stuff they have coming out of the pipe-work is crazy. They have a Trick Daddy record coming out with a West Coast sound and you would never think that they did that.
Fat Joe’s “Clap and Revolve” and Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’” sounded very similar, beat-wise. Also, a lot of Runners beats on Port of Miami had similar elements to “Hustlin’.” Is that an issue for you and The Runners?
We all had a meeting on that. The problem that we ran into is that once “Hustlin’” blew up, everybody wanted that same sound. It’s hard to show rappers something new and fresh when something else is blowing up. They wanted that same intro that “Hustlin’” had and it’s hard to tell them that they’re going to sound like the next dude if they use that. They still want it to this day, but we have to tweak it up a little differently. That’s why you’re hearing other tracks like Ludacris’ “Slap” and the Young Jeezy records. You’re going to be like, This sounds incredible and it has no “Hustlin’” sound to it. These guys are really talented musicians.
Did you know Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’” would blow up like it did?
I knew it would be big, but I didn’t know it would be that big.
Are you more selective now with who The Runners work with?
We are. We don’t want to play out their music. Too many rappers are coming at them right now so we’re being real selective with who we work with. All the big artists want to work with them and the labels have a bunch of new artists. There’s nothing wrong with working with new artists, but we’re trying to get to the Jay-Z’s and all those rappers. They can only work so much so we have to be more selective with who we work with, but we’re always looking for that new talent. They’re also developing their own artist so they’re working like crazy. They live in the studio.
What do you think of Florida hip-hop right now?
I’m happy as hell. We’ve been waiting for this. Everybody has their time. Houston had its time. New York had its time. It’s Florida’s time right now. It’s a beautiful thing. We’ve been overlooked for awhile. Trina and Trick have always been here but there wasn’t a Pitbull before. Plus you have people like Cash Money making Florida their home now. The scene out here is crazy. New York used to be the place where everybody went to record but now it’s Miami. There are a million rappers you will bump into in the street and in the clubs.
Who’s coming out of Orlando that we should check for?
Right now there’s a group called Trill. They got that crunk sound. There’s this dude Wes Fif who’s making noise. There’s going to be a lot of crunk music coming out of Orlando. It’s just now a matter of time. Plus The Runners are out here.
Did Smilez and Southstar do more to help or hurt Orlando hip-hop?
That’s a good question. Anybody trying to come out of Orlando I think were helped, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. If you saw something that you didn’t think was right, don’t base it just on Smilez and Southstar. There are a lot of different groups out here. They did their thing. There was a lot of controversy that came around them when they came out with the Ja Rule incident. We got past that. There’s a lot of talent out here. It’s real grimy out here too. You’re going to start hearing some of the records coming out of Orlando.
What’s your main focus today?
My main focus is definitely myself. I always have to look out for myself. If you don’t look out for yourself, nobody else is going to. My focus is on production and also being the best manager I can be for The Runners. I run Orlando so my business day is nuts. I have to do radio. I have to do promotions at my clubs. My schedule is stupid. I have to do DJ Nasty at the end of the day.
What’s next for you?
I want to develop an artist but I’m real picky. I haven’t found an artist yet. I want an artist who’s mad versatile like a Pitbull or Ludacris. I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. All these major labels are asking if I have an artist or group, but I tell them not yet. Me and Khaled are so critical it doesn’t even make no sense. I guess that’s how it is when you’re a big DJ.
Also The Runners are going to be doing more music. There’s so much music. You’re going to see a lot of stuff coming out. Get ready.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming producers and DJ’s?
Just get out there. Make sure you politic with everybody because you never know how you’re going to break into the game. The Runners didn’t know Rick Ross would have made a movie out of that beat. You never know. Work with anybody you feel that’s got talent, don’t burn no bridges, stay humble and just work your ass off. And definitely get down with the DJ’s in your city.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Look out for DJ Nasty Productions.