Jahlil Beats talks influences, ambitions, Meek Mill's "Wanna Know", upcoming projects with Beanie Sigel and Skrillex, and more.
Jahlil Beats' partnership with Meek Mill proved to be the jumping board that launched a thrilling career that includes collaborations with the likes of Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and 50 Cent. Despite all his success, Jahlil has remained humble, eager to develop his craft and determined to gain recognition as the most versatile producer in hip hop.
Jahlil generously took 45 minutes from his 28th birthday last month to hop on the phone with HNHH to discuss his influences, ambitions, Meek Mill's "Wanna Know", upcoming projects with Beanie Sigel and Skrillex, and much more. Click through the gallery to get to know more about the prolific producer.
Jahlil Beats grew up in Chester, PA, a town of 29,000 ten minutes south of Philadelphia. He was the fourth of seven brothers. His father went to school for audio engineering and got certified in 1981, seven years before Jahlil (gov’t name: Orlando Tucker) was born. He set up a home studio and recorded music with his sons for fun. “I had cut my first little demo when I was like three,” Jahlil says. “Just singing and stuff like that. So I was pretty much born into it.”
Jahlil spent his high school years “trapping [his] mixtapes” and bringing over the hottest rappers in Chester to record in the mini-studio his father had set up for him in his room. He downloaded drum kits from producers he idolized, like Swizz Beatz, Mannie Fresh, Timbaland, Just Blaze, & Kanye West. “Everyone at one point wanted to be Just Blaze and Kanye West,” Jahlil recalls. “That’s how we started off, just sampling. And that pretty much taught me to how structure my drums and place the right drums with the right melodies.
Jahlil Beats is best known for his uptempo collaborations with Meek Mill -- club bangers positioned at the intersection of trap and bounce. “Make Em Say”, “Rosé Red”, “Imma Boss” - the list goes on and on, and on...
Jahlil first connected with Meek Mill on MySpace around 2007. “Meek had just put out a mixtape called Flamers 1,” Jahlil says. “And he had the city on fire. If you was outside on the block, every car that was driving past was banging Flamers 1.”
This was during the golden era of MySpace . Jahlil sent Meek three beats that ended up on Flamers 2: Hottest in the City, including the title track, which sampled Swizz Beatz drums from Cassidy’s “Imma Hustla”. Shortly after that mixtape dropped, Meek got convicted on drugs and weapons charges and ended up serving an eight-month bid. “He would call me all the time, just like, ‘Yo, when I get out, it’s on, we’re gonna get in the studio, we’re gonna do this,’” Jahlil says. Meek was on house arrest when he got out, so Jahlil would drive to his aunt’s house to drop off as many as twenty beats at at time.
Sidebar: Jahlil’s little brother, The Beat Bully, produced “House Party,” Meek’s first big hit after he signed his deal with MMG in 2011. With a pregnant girlfriend and a dearth of cash flow, Beat Bully asked Jahlil to help him get connected with artists. Jahlil took him to to the studio during one of Meek’s sessions -- the first beat he played for Meek was “House Party”.
Jahlil provided the beat for “Wanna Know”, Meek’s widely panned Drake diss track. But as Jahlil explains, that song was meant to be a “warning shot” -- an answer to Drake’s “Charged Up”, with a “Back 2 Back” caliber diss track waiting in the wings. “I think with that record, it was just timing,” Jahlil laments. “The timing was off. I think he was supposed to strike ASAP with that record, and he let the momentum build up to much.”
While some have speculated that Meek’s beef with Drake has irretrievably ruined his career, Jahlil believes that Meek will have no trouble repairing his damaged reputation. “I’m not even trying to compare [Meek] to Kanye West, but I look at it like Kanye West and Taylor Swift.,” he explains. “That situation actually made both of them bigger. In this case, Meek is getting way bigger, the people that would have never listened to Meek Mill is checking him out right now. I understand, we live in a different age, so it’s cool to bash him, but when it’s cool to go against Drake and like Meek Mill again, then it is what it is. We live in trendy times right now.”
Possibly Jahlil Beats biggest hit ever is "Hot Nigga", the viral sensation that catapulted Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda to fame in mid-2014. Shmurda was arrested on drug and weapons charges in December 2014 and has been locked up ever since as he awaits trial. "They're doing him dirty. It's sad," says Jahlil.
Jahlil was halfway through a Shmurda project of straight "smashers" (and a Rowdy Rebel project) when Shmurda got locked up. Jahlil worries the volatile change in lyrical and stylistic trends will prevent these records from getting the recognition they deserve, if they are ever released. He says he's sitting on about five unreleased tracks, including a "crazy club anthem" called "Time Ticking" that features Dave East and Juelz Santana. "Hopefully I can release the record, and hopefully we can make some money to help them out. Anything I can do to help them out," Jahlil says.
"I look at myself as a producer that can do it all"
If there was an award for Most Epic Beat of the Year, Jahlil Beats would have won three of the last five years: 2011’s “I’mma Boss” 2014’s “Hot Nigga”, and 2015’s “Oh My” by Boogie. Bells, strings, horns: Jahlil has the knack for evoking visceral, sublime sensations. Floyd Mayweather uses “I’mma Boss” as his entrance music; the “Oh My” beat would be well-suited as Osiris’ entrance music.
But for Jahlil Beats, who grew up listening to the soul samples of legendary Philly supergroup State Property, this “epic” style is only one facet of his repertoire. His versatility is evident on tracks like “Crocodile Python” on Rick Ross’ new album Black Market, or “Lemonade Mimosas” from Curren$y’s Pilot Talk III. “A lot of people don’t know, I’ve been nice on the traditional hip hop beats, but no one wants to hear that now on the commercial side,” he says. “So I look at myself as a producer that can do it all.”
“I came up off of dudes like Mannie Fresh and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, dudes that had signature sounds,” he continues. ”I want to be, maybe, hopefully, one of those guys in the future that has a signature sound that all the young dudes want to mimic or evolve off of.”
One of Jahlil’s focuses going forward is making his own samples to avoid getting cleaned out for his publishing royalties like he was on “Amen”. (he co-produced that song with Key Wane and thought the gospel keys were laid down by Key Wane. Nope, it was a sample.) His mixtapes with CRMC, a duo from his Chester that was the first act to sign to his label Tandem, features plenty of original samples that Jahlil outsourced or created himself, then filtered and chopped up. “In the mid 80s, and they used to use the soft pads and the electronic synths and stuff like that,” he explains. “Some pianos. Just a different sound, sort of how Bink and Just Blaze used to do.”
Point blank, Jahlil is about his craft, but he’s also about his paper. “Listen, if you make a hit, you can eat real good off of publishing,” he tells me. “Bobby Shmurda was 100% non-sampled. And it went #1 and platinum, so…” I could hear him smiling through the phone.
What's next for Jahlil: a Beanie Sigel joint tape and much more
Jahlil hopes to flesh out his original sample-based production on an upcoming collaborative mixtape with Beanie Sigel, who hit him up after getting released from jail in 2014.
“As soon as he got out, he reached out to my manager,” Jahlil recalls. “He was like ‘Yo, I need Jah. Let’s get in the studio.’ And me, off of respect alone, I was with it, it was a no-brainer. Beans is a legend where we from. He had lost a lung, but he’s starting to really get back, his voice is getting there.”
That mixtape could drop at any moment. Beyond that, Jahlil Beats has another productive year lined up for the remainder of 2016. He’s been logging hours in the studio with Skrillex that he hope will culminate in a joint EP. He produced songs on Fabolous’ The Young OG Project 2, Vic Mensa’s Traffic, and Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers 4. “I got three [on DC4],” he says. “They’re super crazy. I got some ‘90s samples from songs that’s gonna have people going crazy.
Otherwise, he plans to continue the process of getting his newly launched label off the ground. He has another CRMC mixtape planned for 2016 and he seems extremely stoked about his newest artist, an exuberant young EDM-hip hop rapper named Bok Nero.
“I just fall back and grab talent and blow em up,” Jahlil explains. “I look at me and Bobby and Rowdy and Boogie, and you know I really wished I could have catalyzed and signed these guys. I’m not letting these new dudes get away. I’m snatching em up.”