We go Behind the Beat with "Best Friend" producer Ricky Racks, whose goal is to sound like no one else in Atlanta.
Ricky Racks is still new to the game, though he's made a big impact with a few of his recent productions, most notably "Best Friend," the only single taken off Young Thug's already beloved Slime Season mixtape series. It's often said about many Thug tracks, but "Best Friend" really doesn't sound like anything else out there.
"Best Friend" is one of five official songs Ricky has produced, or had a hand in producing, for Thug. He works in close company with certain members of Thug's circle, including Wheezy, a longtime friend, with whom he made Slime Season 2's "I'll Tell You What" and Barter 6's "Knocked Off," a song that encapsulates the strange emotional pull of Thug's charisma -- proposing to his girlfriend and musing on his propensity to kill without remorse, all in one inspired burst.
Slime Season's "Overdosin" rides a slow but menacing bassline, and it feels especially powerful because of the sound Ricky inserts on the off-beat, a hollow noise, like the soft banging of a tin can. He often incorporates such unfamiliar sounds into his beats to make them stand out, like the squelching, alien bass heard on "Oh Lord," an SS2 collaboration with TM88.
"Ninety percent of trap producers, or producers in hip-hop -- if you listen to the drums, they're all using the same drums," explains Ricky. "So just by switching the drum sounds, my beat is already gonna feel different." And by drum sounds, he really means any sound -- musical or not -- that can be worked into the percussive structure of a beat.
"I've been building my sound library for probably six, seven years, so you ain't gonna have too many sounds I ain't got. I collect sounds real heavy, and make my own sounds, too," he says, pointing to a strategy that's of obvious appeal to Young Thug, indicative of why Ricky has been able to join the team of one of Atlanta's hottest artists despite moving to the city just a few years ago.
"I look at like this: If somebody asked me to give a beat to Waka, right. I know Waka got Southside, he got TM88, he's got all his go-to producers -- so why would I give him something he already has access to?" In such a fiercely competitive climate, he has learned to take the rapper's point of view and ask himself why might a certain artist want a Ricky Racks production, and not one from the countless other young talents in Atlanta.
"So that's how I go about producing. And with Thug, there ain't no boundaries, man. I can send him a beat in reverse, and he'll find a way to rap to it," Ricky laughs.