Producer Dolan Beats is one of hip-hop's "Most Known Unknown."
Dolan Beats stays focused on the music. He likes joking around, admits to being a “little turnt” on the phone, but he knows what he wants. This week Dolan is releasing his debut project, something he wants called an album-tape. It is the culmination of a career spent in dark rooms behind computer monitors, making beats for everyone you're already familiar with: 21 Savage, Chief Keef, Playboi Carti. Even with an extensive resume like that, one that digs into all kinds of regional niches, Dolan has stayed in the background. It makes sense then that his album-tape should be titled Most Known Unknown.
For those ready to know the unknown, his mixtape is something like a raucous kickback where South meets Midwest. It features longtime collaborators like Yung Bans and Yung Gleesh, as often as it does bigger names like 21 Savage and Offset.
HotNewHipHop: For people who don’t know your story, can you tell us where you’re from, how you got into music?
Dolan Beats: I started out in the D.C. / Maryland area, you know Northeast. It’s kind of the accent though... you know what I mean, the accent kind of throw you off some time. I basically used to ride up and down DC. I was trying to pass my beats out on CDs, and an artist named Fat Trel came up, and he had an email on twitter, I sent him some beats. A guy named Yung Gleesh got ahold of them. I was trying to give my beats to Young Gleesh, then Gleesh turned around and told me, "I took your beats off of somebody else’s email." And that spiraled off into me working with him. Chief Keef heard one of my songs I produced with Gleesh, and that kicked a whole other door open for me.
And your project is titled Most Known Unknown? I think it’s a really interesting title; it’s really appropriate given the caliber of people you’ve worked with, while remaining a really low-key figure in music. Why did you decide on that title, and what does it mean for you?
The first song that I ever came out with, that broke into the game, really was "12 Bars" by Chief Keef. I got the idea to sample something from a group, I mean from Marvin Gaye, but I got the idea from Three Six Mafia. And their album, the “I gotta stay fly/ I gotta stay fly” album is called “Most Known Unknown”. Their reason for it was that they put in so much work but nobody knew who they were. I mean a couple people knew, but not… you know. But that’s how I got the idea. I was like, ”I feel the same way.” I done worked for Yachty, 21, Carti, Keef, Young Gleesh, Peewee Longway. Even at points in their career where they weren’t where they are today. Not saying like I’m hating. You know what I mean, like I should’ve got that push. I feel like I need some, you know, so I’m the most known unknown.
Now it’s time to come full circle. Because a lot of people know me for different things. People might [be like], “Oh I know you from Chief Keef stuff,” or, “I might know you from Yung Gleesh,” or “stuff you did for Carti,” this person, that person, but they don’t really know my whole catalogue.
So is Most Known Unknown an album or a mixtape, what would you consider it?
I consider it an album-tape, that’s what I’m going to call it. Know what I mean? It’s just a beginning. It’s just to show the world, like “If you don’t know me you know me now.”
I think it’s a very bold move for, what’s in some ways a producer’s debut, to be packaged this way. Normally producers work for a while and build themselves before making something of their own.
I mean with the whole thing, there is going to be a lot more to come out this year and year to come. That’s just the door.
Right. And like you’ve said, you’re coming from working in the background, but you’ve built up a big network and this album reflects it. How did the album come together with so many diverse contributions?
It was really my manager. He always pitches me ideas, constantly. Him and [French electronic musician] Brodinski, I’m sure you know who that is. That’s my man you feel me, I fuck with Brodinski the long way. I fuck with Brodinski, shout out to Paris and all that. But he used to always tell me like “Dolan, you have to make a mixtape, Dolan beats mixtape.” And I would always say, “Man I ain’t got enough songs.” And one day I really looked at my catalogue, and I was like, “Dang I do got a lot of songs to throw together a compilation tape myself, and it would be a good idea to remind people like I did way more than you think I did.” And there’s more to come. Not saying like I’m bitter, but its more so just for the benefit of me, to put me on a platform that I wasn’t given all that time I was behind a laptop.
Again, you have a diverse network of artist on this project, big names like 21 Savage, Playboi Carti, Chief Keef and smaller, less-known people. Do you think it was hard to balance out these guys with some of the lesser-known people?
My thing is, with the lesser-known artists, I feel like even if the artist isn’t like a platinum artist, if I like their stuff, I like their stuff. And I feel like even in times when I came across, when I met 21 Savage, you know, I would tell people, “This dude 21 Savage…” They didn’t know who that was, and now everybody knows. I fucked with him. I fucked with 21 and Yachty. All of them. I kept that same formula since back in the day and I’m using it today. Anybody I come across and I like, I’m gonna throw it on there. Like Q Da Fool is on there, Bans is on there. There’s a snippet that came out recently with Lil Uzi rapping on one of my beats, so that’s a good look right there in itself. Just to let people know we ain’t done.
And with all these artists and so many different sounds, I’m curious what are some of your favorite songs on the album-tape. What would you recommend to our listener?
"12 Bars" man, Chief Keef. I feel like that was the beat that really got me in the pocket. Like Gleesh did too, though. But that beat with Chief Keef, I [think] that really got me in. And I put my own mix to it. The mix back in the day that we did was kind of poor quality, so I put a new mix on it and it sounds 100 times better. I feel like if the mix was good like how this one is— if it had dropped with the proper mix— it would have went way further. Everything came to me so fast when I was producing. I met Yung Gleesh when I was seven months into producing. Now I’m six, seven years in.
How old were you when you started producing?
Officially producing, I would say probably like 21. Before that I used to piece together audio off the Internet and try to make beats. Until one day I got the motivation to actually try to do it. Six months later I just met this dude Gleesh and then boom, everything just started.
One song I really like off of this project, which is really different from the other ones, is “Rag and Bone.” How did you decide to step into such a different vibe?
I knew you was gonna say that! All my music is all my feelings, most of the time. Probably twenty percent of the time it’s just ignorant music, but even some of my dark music was really dark and pissed off because I’m thinking about, instead of me going to [actually] fuck you up, I’ll just fuck you up on a beat. With “Rag and Bone”, that was my man Adamn Killa.
Anyway that beat, I met a girl. I met this female when I got to Georgia. I was feeling her, I was really feeling her. I was listening to this song called “Unthinkable,” by Alicia Keys, and I was listening to it and I really like the song and I was like, I want to make something like that. Adamn was the only person that I felt I could really give it to at the time. A lot of these rappers are so stuck on doing the same thing and he’s open to doing different things. So if I get an experimental beat, it would be cool for me to send it to him. Because I know he’s different. He’s not the average Joe.
It’s a sound that goes over really well. Do you have more songs of that style or have you seen your sound shifting in that direction?
When I made “Rag and Bone” I came on a style that I didn’t know I could do. Once I learned how to do “Rag and Bone,” everything after that I made I felt like it was some shit. I kept listening to "Rag and Bone," like, “Damn you fucked that up, how you going to make something better?” A lot of my new stuff is very melodic. When you hear the new material I’m dropping…I wish I could put some of it on here, but like I said y’all can wait.
And so what are some of those future plans? People you want to work with or music we can expect from you?
I was about to say… Uzi. I’m about to fly out there and fuck with Keef. A lot of people want me to do shit with Keef. Doing shit with Q da Fool. I’m doing shit with Yung Bans. I’m doing shit with, I’m trying to fuck with Rico Nasty. Those are people I am working with. But the people I want to work with, like Kodak [Black] and them, but also like Juicy J. DJ Paul and Juicy J.
Anything else you want to say about the project?
That shit is jammin’. That shit crankin’. Don’t even put jammin’, that shit is crankin’. That shit gonna make you wanna slap your momma, and your father. You feel?