ATL Beginnings & First Scores
"A lot of shit didn't fall through the way I had expected it to happen," C-Note says of his early years in Atlanta. Struggling to connect with artists, he ended up participating -- and often winning -- beat battles in order to build a brand for himself. He also began songwriting, and he eventually found himself in the lab with Flo Rida. He wrote the hook that would soon become the Lil Wayne-featuring "American Superstar," the opening track on Flo Rida's debut album, Mail on Sunday, a pop success led by the chart-topping single "Low." On the same album, he also produced the Yung Joc-featuring "Don't Know How to Act." He says his Mail on Sundays checks are still among the biggest he's ever received.
After Flo Rida, C-Note wouldn't have a major payday for a few more years. "After a while, that money slowed down," he says, "And free beats for mixtapes and everything started picking up, so I went through a transitional period of not knowing what to do. Nobody's paying for beats anymore, and I'm kinda fucked up."
Without much of a choice, he embraced the mixtape circuit and took his already intense work ethic to new heights, making beats all day and night, barely leaving the studio. "It got to the point that my eyes got bad and my health got all wack cause of all the bullshit I was eating." Now vegetarian, there's a slight wince in his voice as he looks back at that time -- the "producer's grind," he calls it. "I just wanted to make it so bad. I didn't wanna go back to the streets. I didn't wanna go back to Benton Harbor without making something of myself."
Finally, he worked his way into the circles of buzzing rappers coming up under Gucci, like Future and Rocko. His early scores -- when he first developed his orchestral outlook -- include Rocko’s "Lingo" and Future’s UGK-dedicated Pluto track "Long Live the Pimp." On the latter, war-ready horns flood the backdrop in sync with Future’s energized hook for a rush that’s equal parts fury and glory. His most intense scores are triumphant not in their loudness but in their arrangement, and how cleanly all the chaos unfolds.
“The energy of strings and bass, and all that shit together. It just sounds crazy to me,” he says, underscoring the effort he’s actually put into perfecting his approach. Bringing a whole symphony into the equation was something he initially struggled with. He recalls being inspired by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the outfit known for their electric prog rock renditions of traditional Christmas music. After listening to their music for hours on end, he enlisted a trained violinist to help him understand how they achieved certain climactic sounds.
“Where the fuck are they finding these chords?” he remembers asking, eventually realizing, “It’s not the chords -- it’s all the instruments together making a sound.” After his epiphany, he thought to himself, “I could really put this shit together.”