Bruce Waynne: Man, we’re doing great. We’re coming off of our hiatus as producers and we’re getting involved in all sorts of different new endeavors, like Loud.com.
You guys are working with a lot of up-and-coming artists like Balance, ATM and AP. How important is it for you guys to work with up-and-coming artists?
Bruce Waynne: It’s always been important to us, as producers and now as label executives, to find the new talent. That’s kind of been our blueprint from the beginning. We got with 50 Cent when he was still doing the mixtapes, about a year before his Aftermath deal. Then we did “21 Questions.” Our goal is to find the next 50 Cent and have him sign to our label, Family Ties, because that’s where the longevity comes from and being able to build artists, like Dr. Dre. That’s kind of our goal.
What are you guys doing with ATM?
Swift: He’s in the studio. We’re big on artist development. When we have our situation, he’ll be ready. We’re working on getting his buzz up. He’s still in development. He’s almost ready to go. He’s getting ready to drop a street album which is going to be called The Last Supper.
What was it like working with Lil’ Kim on “Who Shot Ya”?
Swift: That was good. We had some vocals from her. We have our artist, Deemi, signed to Atlantic. So we were able to get a hold of some Kim vocals. It was kind of like a gift to the DJs. It came out hot. Kim had just come out of prison too, so it was good timing. It was an exclusive banger that we serviced out. It was just hot and it didn’t have a home, so we did what we should and we gave that shit to the DJs.
Because Biggie’s version of “Who Shot Ya” is considered a classic, was this a difficult track to approach?
Bruce Waynne: We spend a lot of time in the studio, just making records in general. I guess it’s kind of competitive for us, in a way. It’s fun for us. We get to give something back to the DJs while trying to outdo a beat and make it hot and fresh. It keeps us polished. It keeps us on our A-game. When you’re coming at it like that, hip-hop, in a way, is a contact sport now.
How many doors did 50 Cent’s “21 Questions” open for you?
Swift: Me and Waynne talk about this all the time. We were both in the industry for a long time before we linked up and we both had a lot of contact with people. Then that song came out and it just connected a lot of dots and made everything make sense. It was a great start for Midi Mafia as a brand. It was the No. 1 in the world. You can’t ask for a better start that that. It opened doors and it gave us legitimacy. We were able to parlay that into starting our own label and Elektra got on board with us early because of that and what we were doing. You couldn’t ask for a better start than that. You can only go up from there.
Just how hard is it to make a smash like that?
Bruce Waynne: It was kind of surreal when it was out because we were working so hard and I didn’t hear it as much as everybody else said they did. I would go home at night and I was riding the subway home to the Bronx and there would be people on the train listening to it. I was like, ‘Wow, that is crazy.’ Plus royalties take awhile to come in and all that. But it was really overwhelming. We took it as a great opportunity to establish ourselves. Now we can look back with some perspective on it, but at the time we were just working. Now we can realize that that song helped people through tough times and became a hit all over the world. When you realize that it touches people across the world, it validates everything you’ve been doing.
I’m sure you thought you had other songs that would blow up like “21 Questions” did. Is there any formula you can use to have a hit record or is there a lot of chance and luck involved?
Bruce Waynne: I think you just have to cover your ass and do things. Sometimes we did things because we thought the money was good, but then it didn’t always end up being good for us. Sometimes they ask for a record and we can make the money off the publishing. There really isn’t a hit formula. If you make a track with lyrics that’s melodic, you should just shoot to make hits. No matter what genre, you should just try to make hits. There’s some luck involved too. You don’t always know what the label is going to do with promotions. You just have to be consistent with your work and keep going.
You have an R&B artist, Shire. Are you happy with how her project came out?
Bruce Waynne: We’re very, very happy. She’s an incredible singer. Her work ethic is very strong. It’s moving a lot faster than we thought it would. Shire is a breath of fresh air and working with her also opened the door for us to get involved in Loud.com. Now with Loud.com, we’re listening to a lot of rappers rapping over our beats and we’re branding ourselves. We’re watching a few kids on that too.
How’s Deemi’s project coming?
Bruce Waynne: Deemi’s project is coming along well. Her project will be out in the late summer. I think that with any project, there’s always going to be ups and downs, but whenever something's going to be a classic, there’s always going to be problems with it. I think the album is a classic and we can’t wait to start hearing the world’s response to it.
Does your approach change when you make R&B music versus hip-hop?
Swift: It’s kind of the same these days with hip-hop, R&B and pop. Even pop wants an urban edge. You never know. As long as what you do is melodic, you can kind of go either way. If you want to take “21 Questions,” is that a rap record or an R&B record? Obviously it’s a rap record, but it could kind of go either way. Plus our style is very musical, so we can tailor-make anything.
You guys seem to be focusing more on R&B today. Why is that?
Bruce Waynne: I don’t think we’re concentrating more on R&B, it just seems that that’s how it’s happening naturally. Shire’s a writer, so we’re just doing records together anyway and then it just naturally happened that vocally, singing, she’s just a problem. I just think that’s where everything is leading right now. We also have a record with G. Malone that we think is going to be very big this summer. It’s called “Go Big On ‘Em.” We have other projects coming out too. I think that in a little while, the people are going to see a lot of things coming from us. It’s that it looks like it’s more R&B coming from us right now.
What equipment do you use?
Bruce Waynne: Primarily, we do a lot of our programming with the MPC series of stuff. We’re up to the 4000. We use a lot of soft-synths right now. It kind of cuts down on the amount of keyboards that we need in the studio. Pretty much everything is done in Pro Tools. We do all of the recording and mixing in Pro Tools.
Swift: We have a lot of plug-ins and a lot of soft-synths. Anything that’s in the computer, we got.
We know you partnered up with Loud.com, but what exactly are you guys doing with them?
Bruce Waynne: Loud asked us to be a part of their website. I look at it like it’s MySpace for rappers. You can see their profiles and all a young kid needs is a computer and a microphone to post stuff up and get a record deal. It’s kind of like American Idol for hip-hop on the internet. We put up some of our beats and we offered our services. It’s been real successful. The first week we were on there, the winner from that week was on a Midi Mafia track. It’s a great look for us for branding our name. We might find a new artist too. It’s a great opportunity for us.
What do you look for when you listen to new artists?
Swift: I think across the board, we look for star quality. We look for career artists. We look for artists that have some kind of substance and stories, something that people can grab onto outside of their records. With rap and R&B, it’s the same thing. You look for that person that walks in the room and everyone looks at them like, ‘What do they do?’ It’s the X-factor. It’s more than somebody who’s going to just have a lot of hot records. 50 Cent had that when we first met him. We knew he was going somewhere and was going to have a successful career. We look for that star power and for the artist to be able to do multiple albums. It’s a combination of things. It’s not just one thing. It’s a whole package.
How important is it for up-and-coming artists to have an outlet like Loud.com?
Bruce Waynne: I think it’s very important. There aren’t that many outlets anymore. How many people are making demos and giving them to A&Rs? The music industry as a whole is in a weird place, so when you have someone like Steve Rifkind, who has as much integrity as he has, involved, it makes it good because it’s real. It’s just the grassroots of it. That’s how Steve started in the game, just doing straight grassroots marketing. The streets now is the internet. It just seems like a natural transition. And to open it up to artists is dope. It’s a dope way to shop your demo. You can get some music out of it and shop your demo at the same time and get heard at the same time with something that has as much integrity as this has.
You guys also get down with up-and-coming producers like Lokken Load. How important is that to you guys?
Bruce Waynne: We believe in giving young, talented individuals an opportunity as long as it’s heat and they’re consistent. Lokken Load definitely falls in those categories.
What’s it been like working with Lokken Load so far?
Bruce Waynne: They have a very strong work ethic. They remind us of ourselves.
What kind of potential do you think Lokken Load has?
Bruce Waynne: The sky’s the limit for them if they keep doing what they’re doing.
Swift, you were in a bad motorcycle accident last summer and had to undergo reconstructive spinal surgery and massive therapy. How did that change your approach to music?
Swift: I think my approach to music is the same, but on the life side of it, you definitely look at things differently. It’s one of those life-changing moments. If I had one foot in another place, I may be paralyzed. It could have been worse. I look at it like anything can be taken away from me at any time. I try to enjoy life more every day now. Sometimes I like to just get up and take a walk. I just try to enjoy life every day because you never know what’s going to happen. And having to fall back and pay medical bills got me focused. I know what I have to do and hustle. So to be able to come out of that and be able to get the Fantasia single, it helped me get my focus back. I look at it like a positive experience. I never feel bad for myself. My rehab is going well. I’m 80% back. The other 20% will be hard but I’m walking and I still have more work to do. I feel blessed to be where I am right now.
Will you ever ride again?
Swift: That’s something that I’ve been doing since I was 8 years-old. There’s days when I wake up like, ‘Nah, I’m good. I don’t need to do that again.’ Then there’s some days where I wake up and I feel like I need to do it again. I don’t think I’ll do the 20 foot jumps anymore. I’m not rushing to get back to it right now. I still have more healing to do first.
Are you guys still working on the Midi Mafia album?
Bruce Waynne: Yeah. Of course! We’re making it happen naturally. We’re not pushing it. We’re not forcing the issue. We want it to be a classic album. Some things are in front of it. When the time is right, it will just naturally fall into place and we’ll get it out. We want it to be a mix between The Chronic, Puff’s No Way Out and Outkast. We want to put all of those elements together and showcase my DJing and Swift as an MC. We don’t want it to be perceived that we just did it because we could. We’ve always done this and Swift started as a rapper and I started as a DJ. We're not just doing this because we’re popping right now. We have a legitimate background in this.
When are you looking to release it?
Bruce Waynne: Get Connected: Family First will probably drop late 2008. We have to set it up for the tour, baby!
You guys are involved in a lot of different things and work with a huge variety of artists. How important is versatility to Midi Mafia?
Bruce Waynne: I think it’s very important. I think this is what’s given us our edge and that’s what’s going to allow us to be around for a long time. Me and Swift, individually, do different things and those different things are what’s allowing us to still be around right now. The fact that we’re songwriting and he’s engineering, we’re keeping ourselves alive. We look at ourselves as true producers. True producers aren’t just sitting there on the drum machine. We’re doing all we can do and we’re offering our resources to the world. We’re going to be around for a long time.
What’s next for Family Ties?
Swift: We’re concentrating on getting Deemi out and working on Fantasia and Shire. We have a few new acts that we’re looking to find homes for. We’re looking long-term to set up a home to where we can put all of our projects out. We haven’t found where we want to be yet, but we need a main distribution point so that we can flood the market and do what we do.
What advice would you offer to up-and-coming producers?
Bruce Waynne: Everything doesn’t have to be monetary, no matter what level you are and how successful you are and where you are on the “food chain.” Sometimes you have to ask yourself if the opportunity outweighs the money. I think that we’ve proven that it does on a number of occasions. Just keep doing what you’re doing, stay consistent and keep doing whatever you did that got you where you’re at. And look at the long money.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Swift: Keep supporting us. We appreciate all of the love we’ve gotten, especially since my accident. We have a lot of stuff out and coming out, from Fantasia to Deemi to Shire. Hit us up online. We keep our sites updated. And keep supporting us. We appreciate everything.
Bruce Waynne: Also any artists that want to send us anything in regards to Family Ties, you can go to our MySpace page for that.