Mike WiLL Made It is continuing to rise in hip-hop world

by Ryo Miyauchi

04_16_13_Entertainment_MikeWillMadeIt“Mike WiLL Made It.” That’s the phrase that introduced many of the successful hip-hop and R&B hits in the past year. As of April 6, six tracks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart were Mike WiLL Made It productions, including tracks by Lil Wayne and Rihanna. Last year, Mike WiLL was also responsible for several hip-hop favorites, such as rapper Juicy J’s “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” 2 Chainz and Drake’s “No Lie” and a production credit for Kanye West’s summer hit “Mercy.” Mike WiLL quickly built an impressive resume to become one of the most sought-after hip-hop hit-makers in the industry.

Atlanta producer Mike WiLL Made It, whose real name is Michael Williams, began playing radio hits on his sister’s Casio keyboard, while his friends would freestyle over the melodies. During his teens, Williams stepped up to a simple drum machine kit to start creating his own hip-hop beats. As he got into making beats, the young producer started hanging around Patchwerk Recording Studios, one of the biggest recording studios in Atlanta. “OutKast, Justin Bieber, everybody has recorded there,” Williams told HipHopDX in December 2012. “I was down there messing with my homeboy that worked at the studio, and I was letting him hear some tracks.”

Frequent visits to Patchwerk eventually led Williams to the closest partnership that kick-started his production career. Atlanta rap star and mixtape veteran Gucci Mane came to record at Patchwerk one day while Williams was working. When they met, Williams handed the rapper a beat CD. Gucci Mane contacted the producer after hearing beats enabling Williams to start working for him.

The first Mike WiLL Made It production appeared in Gucci Mane’s 2007 mixtape “No Pad, No Pencil” and from then on, Williams made frequent appearances in Gucci Mane’s work. After hitting it off with Gucci Mane, Williams started to build connections with other Atlanta hip-hop stars. The producer worked next with OJ da Juiceman and Waka Flocka Flame, labelmates of Gucci Mane. Williams also built close relationships with other Atlanta rappers, such as Future and 2 Chainz.

Williams got his big break in 2011 with his production of “Tupac Back,” a single from Philadelphia rapper and Maybach Music Group signee Meek Mill. And the collaborations kept on coming. Popular Atlanta stars such as B.o.B, Young Jeezy and Ludacris began requesting Mike WiLL Made It productions. As he worked with bigger names, Williams kept close contact with his past mixtape collaborators Gucci Mane, Future and 2 Chainz.

By 2012, Williams helped produce for Maybach Music Group boss Rick Ross and was contacted by West to help with the single “Mercy.” Meanwhile, Williams’ partners 2 Chainz and Future exploded into the mainstream, and Williams helped produce for both of the rappers. The collaborations became some of the biggest hip-hop hits of the year. But Williams did not stop with rap collaborations. He worked with Jeremih, producing the excellent single “773 Love,” and later landed the single “Pour It Up” for Rihanna.

Mike WiLL Made It is a very flexible producer. For his Southern mixtape stars, Williams crafts more bass-heavy synthesizer jams, similar to what he made for Gucci Mane. But the producer is able to switch up his craft to fit the feel of each unique collaboration. For Ludacris and Big K.R.I.T, Williams made beats with blues/guitar rifs while maintaining his modern Southern taste. For Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q, the producer incorporated soulful strings with laid back drums on “My Hatin’ Joint.” His recent work with Ciara on “Body Party” is a sensual R&B jam using the sample of the ‘90s Ghost Town DJs hit “My Boo.”

Mike WiLL Made It productions definitely sounds Southern. Like the influential Atlanta producer Lex Luger, Williams incorporates rapid hi-hats with unique ticks for his drumming. But while Lex Luger and other like-minded Southern producers capitalize on the machine gun ticks, Mike WiLL Made It productions is more focused on the bass. Although his synthesizer lines sound similarly gothic like Lex Luger’s signature beats, Williams sounds are much sleeker. As Luger’s production for Brick Squad sounded like an apocalyptic theme, Mike WiLL beats sound modern and futuristic.

One distinct technique of a Mike WiLL Made It production is the producer’s frequent use of the muffling effect. Muffling of a beat is often reserved for a section in the middle of a verse or the chorus. Williams cuts everything from the beat besides the filtered melody, turning the synthesizer line thick without any use of bass. It’s an interesting and innovative effect. Depending on the use, the muffling can emphasize a verse, rev up the track’s energy or add a psychedelic touch to the Southern production.

Mike WiLL Made It is preparing the third installment to his “Est. In 1989” series as a studio album. His past “Est. In 1989” series compiled popular Mike WiLL Made It-produced singles and unreleased collaborations into a mixtape. The producer is also reported to have some work for Kelly Rowland’s upcoming album “Talk a Good Game.” He’s already produced the excellent single “Kisses Down Low” for Rowland, which charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at number 72.

Next time you’re playing the radio, listen for the voice giving a heads up on who produced the track. That four word phrase is an instantly recognizable producer tag, and also a nice reminder that the Atlanta producer “made it” to the top. Based on the way things have been going, the producer will have a lot more collaborations coming his way. Mike WiLL Made It is at the top of his game right now, and he’s just getting started.


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