Behind the Beat is back - this time with a rising upstart from Melbourne, Australia responsible for Migos' bluesy ballad “What the Price.”
Keanu Beats (gov’t name: Keanu Torres), one of the talents behind “What the Price,” the underrated single from Migos’ much lauded sophomore effort, Culture, is still about 4 months shy of his 20th birthday. “I’ve never stepped foot outside of Australia, ever, and I just had the #1 album in the States,” he realized in the middle of a FaceTime call with HNHH. With his first major placement, this young dreamer has already achieved what many only fantasize about, in a country he’s only studied and loved from afar.
Although he maintained healthy relationships throughout high school, Keanu’s extracurricular hobbies and foreign interests always placed him on the fringes of his social circles. “I don’t know what it’s like in America but over here, especially in my city, basically 98% of the people are going for construction or industrial jobs. They go to school and in Year Eleven there are two options - they don’t care if they stay in the same town for the rest of their lives. They go to work, then to the pub." And in Keanu’s eyes, there’s too much of a disconnect between the Aussie scene and American rap music. “There’s not that much money in the market - it’s like comparing the NBL to the NBA. It’s completely different," he explained. As it became increasingly difficult to articulate his vision to those closest to him, the perception of his diligent hustle became more judgemental. His peers made their doubts heard and his parents just wanted him to have a fallback.
“I found out that one of my old friends once asked my girlfriend, “Don’t you think Keanu dreams too big and has too many expectations?” Well...what the fuck’s wrong with that?”
At the age of 16, when faced with this impossible reduction of one’s passions, Keanu found an outlet in producing. His cousin’s then-boyfriend (whom she’s since married) gifted Keanu with FL Studios and would always push the hesitant young man to explore the software, emphasizing the therapeutic benefits of maintaining such a hobby. “He kept telling me, "You gotta write beats!" I kept telling him I don’t want to, but I always loved music so I kept fucking around with it. He gave me FL Studios and I started looking at tutorials and shit...and, I don’t know, it became really fun.”
Keanu revealed that although he hated learning music theory and never picked up an instrument in school, he always had a love for rap music. Although he didn’t follow many producers, Scott Storch, the Canadian composer who dominated much of the early 2000s, definitely had him paying attention to the composition behind his favorite tracks.
“Back in the day, Scott Storch was definitely one of my favorites. He was just so diverse, man. He produced everything from “Run It,” Chris Brown, to Dr. Dre’s shit. He’s so melodic. He even did stuff for Christina Aguilera. But when I actually started producing, it was people like Metro Boomin or LondonOnDaTrack. Like, with the piano melodies and everything.”
However, as far as direct influences on his current style are concerned, there's one man Keanu reveres more than the rest: “If I’m being honest...the main one, the really really important one that helped me take my shit to the next level, was PartyNextDoor. He’s, to me, one of the best - and most underrated - producers ever. Ever. Like all time. Way too underrated. The thing is, when he did P1 and P2, I think they didn’t do as well as they should have. So now he’s doing more mainstream stuff. If I’m being honest, I wish he would still do stuff like those two older tapes. He used to do everything - record, write, engineer - in his room. That’s fuckin’ crazy. He’s the one who influenced me the most.”
Along with Mississauga’s enigmatic crooner, Keanu also draws motivation from Houston’s Travis Scott. “I like when they put those dirty filters on top - like The Weeknd. That’s part of why I love Travis. I think his vocals are insane. I think what he does with them are next level. But there needs to be a balance in the mixing, which is why I lean more towards PND.” Additionally, he also feels influenced by the instrumentation found throughout the works of bands like Passion Pit or MGMT. “That’s the stuff I like. I like clean vocals a lot, but I also like when they do that weird shit.”
After dropping out prior to Year Eleven, he doubled down on his production and became introverted. With a natural ability to network, he met other composers around the world and admits that most of his current friends are overseas. This online community of likeminded producers gave him a home and helped him glean a purpose. “I dropped out in 10th grade and the transition happened because I was building relationships with people online. It was maybe October 2015 when I started noticing heaps of sales online and I was like “oh shit.”" Although the money followed the talent, Keanu reiterated that it wasn’t all about the moolah. “I wanted to work with big artists. But once I realized I could sell beats online, I decided to make this my job.”
Because of the diverging ideologies in his hometown, he initially attempted to stay under the radar. “I don’t really talk to people around here about what I do...I see people that I’ve known for years and they just don’t know what I’m doing.” However, he appreciates the accompanying lack of pressure. “I don’t wanna have to explain myself. I don’t want people trying to be friends just because of what I’m doing. Like, one friend of mine found out I produced a Migos track and then like fuckin’ 10 of his friends just tried to add me on Facebook and online. Just little shit like that.”
Despite the reservations in publicizing his art, Keanu’s personal networking is awe-inspiring. After officially declaring that his occupation would be that of a producer, he deliberately tried to take a step back and figure out how to break into the industry. “I was like, okay, now that I’m starting to make some money online I can relax a bit...try to get some placements and stuff.” His big break came when Ricky Racks, the Atlanta upstart behind Young Thug’s platinum single, “Best Friend,” and a Behind The Beat alum, responded to one of his attempts at establishing communication. “This whole situation happened because I made a loop pack of melodies and stuff and was sending it to producers I liked listening to,” Keanu detailed.
“One of the people I sent a pack to was Ricky Racks. He replied a few hours later but he just completely ignored the pack.” Rather than use his samples, Ricky had checked out the production featured on Keanu’s Instagram page. "He’s like “I’m starting a production team, Audio Cartel,” and said he liked my beats. I knew him from “Best Friend,” “I’ll Tell You What,” “Knocked Off,” and it’s crazy because they’re like my favorite Young Thug songs.”
They spoke on the phone that same day and Keanu immediately shifted from a fan to a coworker. They continued to collaborate for the majority of 2016, with the teen sending him material daily. This relationship culminated in the duo submitting upwards of 50 beats to Ricky’s connects. As it turns out, the “What the Price” beat was not only one of their earliest collabs, it was actually intended for Young Thug himself:
“What happened was he sent the “What the Price” beat to Young Thug and then I guess somehow they forwarded it to the Migos or whatever,” Keanu elaborated, "but that was like one of the very first beats we ever put together. It’s so old. Probably near the start of 2016. 808Godz, the other producer on it, sent me this sample and I didn’t really like it that much. But I finished it anyways. He sent me the piano sample and this percussion, and I added like the main drums with the kick - basically all the drums and the bass. And I sent it to Ricky and he was like “Okay, cool” and added some strings to it. They’re very faint strings, they blend in with the piano, just to fill it out a little bit. And he sent it out.”
As for the despondent guitar that plays off the already moody beat, Keanu conceded that it’s origins were a mystery to him as well. “What happened, we’re guessing, is that the Migos hired someone to play the guitar live. So we didn’t do the guitar...but we’ll take credit for it,” he joked.
Due to the secrecy surrounding this release, Keanu and co. found out about the use of their beat along with the rest of us - via a promo snippet by Offset. “What I did with the beat...I added an effect that made the piano half speed," Keanu recalled, "just a weird effect on a certain part of the sound. And when the effect came on I was like “fuck...that’s my beat.”
Ricky Racks, who had been in direct contact with the Migos’ camp, was aware that an Audio Cartel composition had made the album - but wasn’t sure which one. Through their collective sleuthing, Ricky and Keanu were able to piece together that they were in fact on the upcoming album.
Adding Migos to his resume has had a snowball effect on Keanu’s career. Not only have a few A&Rs from labels such as Atlantic been in touch, working with his favorite artists has never seemed more achievable. “When the Migos thing happened, Jazz Cartier followed me. I listen to his shit on Spotify at the gym all the time so I just messaged him like “let’s work.” He said, “I’m ready when you are.”"
Armed with just his Twitter and Instagram accounts and his proven networking skills, Keanu continues to forge his own path into the industry. Most recently breaking into the much sought after UK scene. “The whole AJ Tracy thing, well that started with the Section Boyz first,” he explained, trying to untangle the web of connections he’s recently made. “Someone from the Section Boyz camp reached out for beats and they just ended up loving one of them. They sent me a snippet to one of the songs they recorded and it was fuckin’ sick. So they’ve done a song to that...I don’t know what’s going to happen, if it’s going to be on their next tape or something, but it’s there.” Although the song is currently unreleased, Keanu added Section Boyz to his Twitter Bio. This effectively built his clout and caused other interested parties to reach out.
“Someone else hit me up asking if I produced for the Section Boyz and I told them it’s unreleased. They suggested I should reach out to AJ too. I knew AJ Tracy from, like, his videos online and one of his tracks was on OVO Radio. I actually just screenshotted his new picture with Drake and texted it to him. He was just like, “Oh that’s my guy.” It’s crazy.” Usually averse to this approach, Keanu had to resort to shooting his shot in Tracey's DMs since there was no publicly available email for him to utilize. “I thought he’d be a hard one to crack, but I just DM’d him and he replied within 5 minutes. He said, “Man you caught me at the best time, I need beats.” I sent some over and he’s finished one song so far. I’ve got the track. It’s crazy.”
Keanu’s story is one that’s developing at a rapid pace. It’s a story that highlights the importance of interconnectivity and support within the industry, but also showcases just how much can be accomplished through sheer determination. Currently planning his first trip to New York this coming May, Keanu had these parting words for HNHH: “Your dreams...they aren’t as far as you think.”