“I don’t say I’m gonna make a beat for anybody [specific]. I’m gonna make a beat that’s harder than the last. How different can it get? How out the box can I go on this beat? How can I smoke the last beat? How can I make the bass hit harder? How can I make it so that when I play it people will say, Oh my goodness?” We probably didn’t need that quote to be able to tell that Mike Will is a producer that’s always on his grind with a fresh state of mind, as he brings out one incredible beat after another, continuously one step ahead of his contemporaries. As if the refined sound of his productions wasn’t enough to cement his talent, the Atlanta-based artist has worked with a ridiculously varied roster of artists and has been able to shine brightly in an array of genres. To celebrate Mike Will’s creations, here’s a Sunday’s Best dedicated to one of our absolute favourite producers of recent times. We’ve hand-picked some of our classic favourites as well as some tracks that might’ve flown under your radar. May Mike Will make many more to come. ♡
Before he was your favorite R&B singer’s go-to hip-hop producer, Mike WiLL Made It was crafting hard-hitting street rap anthems like Meek Mill’s 2011 breakthrough single “Tupac Back.” It’s a thrilling single that juxtaposes an all-caps Rozay hook crafted from Tupac allusions with Meek Mill’s signature hungry flow. When plenty of southern rap producers were biting Lex Luger’s congested, imposing aesthetic, Mike Will set himself apart from the crowd with a freer, more melodic variation. The twinkling, sparkly textures that adorn this otherwise heavy trap beat foreshadows his eventual turn towards spacey love ballads.
Stream: Meek Mill – Tupac Back (feat. Rick Ross) (Maybach Music Group)
A sizeable amount of Mike Will’s production discography consists of warbly street bangers and hood anthems, a long way away from the light, dizzy feeling from the beat on “My Hatin’ Joint.” Flute accents married to Mike Will’s signature low rumble set a brighter tone for this semi-romantic track while still managing to be very much a Mike Will joint. Schoolboy Q has no problems following the beat, even with a few style breaks (serving as a pin to nail down a verse’s joke).
Stream: ScHoolboy Q – My Hatin’ Joint (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Nobody is happier about Future and Ciara’s relationship than us, but admit it: if they break up there’s gonna be a messy custody battle over Mike Will. He was responsible for a trifecta of ballads on Future’s “Pluto” and more recently for Ciara’s “Ride”-referencing “Wake Up No Make Up”. After appearing on remixes of each other’s songs the pair have co-written “Body Party”, which will presumably appear on Cici’s upcoming “One Woman Army” album. Like “That’s How You Like It” and “Supersonic” before it, “Body Party” makes that bit more sense when you realise the two are dating. Not that there could be any mistaking their sexual chemistry, which practically oozes over Mike Will’s opulent beat – working with a “My Boo” sample, the familiar chords underpin his intoxicatingly hazy synths. Ciara breathily delivers lines like “Baby take your time now, there’s no need to rush / We can go another round if that’s what you want“, occasionally pausing to make room for Future’s cooing adlibs.
Stream: Ciara – Body Party (Epic Records)
If you think Beyonce’s been running things since the end of Destiny’s Child, grab thyself some takis and book some one-on-one time with YouTube as soon as possible. Bey might be dominating the public eye, but Kelly Rowland definitely has got it going on. It may seem like she’s has been biding her time and waiting to strike with a song as big as “Kisses Down Low”, but this misperceived absence can be chalked up to a consistently terrible publicity team that has obscured some great work. Thankfully, the pairing with Mike Will has generated a lot of talk on its own, so of course this song made its way to our ears and it hasn’t really left for a day since. While a number of female R&B artists get thrown into roles of crooners and pleasers, Kelly sticks it to the man and proves once again why she’s one of the realest girls doing it. “Kisses Down Low” puts her in charge: it’s not about all the things she’s about to do to or for someone, or how she’s going to make anyone feel, but what she wants done to her. It’s unlikely that such a confident, proudly sexual, and woman-centric song will get much airplay due to the combination of awesome role reversal, general infectiousness, and a beat that lands it in the ranks of “773 Love” or “Body Party” status. Censors be damned – it will get rinsed here til we can take it no longer, because this is one of our favourite Mike Will beats to date.
Stream: Kelly Rowland – Kisses Down Low (Republic Records)
If there’s one track that embodies many of the qualities and influences Mike Will possesses as an artist, it has to be the Future, Gucci Mane and Jeremih collaboration “Diamonds”. Appearing on his “Mike WiLL Made It – Est In 1989 Pt. 2” compilation, it’s a joint venture that delves into the Roots of Gucci Mane trap vibe as well as staying true to Mike Will’s current sound, dripping with victorious synths all over. Not to mention that all of this occurs while the track slyly adjusts itself to Future’s broken chants that dominate the chorus, as well as Jeremih’s expectedly confident verse in between. On first listen, this might not stand out as one of Mike Will’s most memorable moments to you, but trust us when we say that the replay button will soon find its justice over time. “Diamonds” is exactly why we love Mike Will and he’s chosen the perfect timeline of artists to manifest his sound for past, present and future.
Stream: Future – Diamonds (featuring Gucci Mane & Jeremih) (EarDrummers Entertainment)
Mike Will turns 23 next week, which means that he was only 18 when he began working with Gucci Mane in 2007. Frequent collaborations between the two consistently resulted in heavy-hitting street classics that became highlights on some of Gucci’s earlier mixtapes, such as No Pad, No Pencil and Guapaholics. That early relationship with one of Atlanta’s most permanent fixtures on the mixtape circuit endures—by 2012, Will and Gucci had carved out a stylistic niche that was often imitated by rappers and producers alike. “North Pole,” a bonus cut from Trap Back, elevates Will’s signature style into cinematic territory: shuttered, pitched-down harpsichord synths are drowned under filtered crescendos and decrescendos, punctuated by deep, sinister bass kicks. It lacks the hypnotic arpeggios that are emblematic of Will’s hybrid R&B productions for Future, but its balance between melodic and menacing exemplifies the long-developing unique relationship between Will and Gucci.
Download: Gucci Mane – North Pole (DatPiff, hosted by DJ Holiday)
Words by: Michelle Myers, Donny Marks, Sophie Kindreich, Cayley MacArthur, Sindhuja Shyam & Gabriel Herrera.