When Young Jeezy released his trap epic, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, in the summer of 2005, legions of snowman followers emerged overnight, drawn by the hustler-turned-rapper’s believable persona. Though Jeezy appeared to single handedly achieve rap stardom, his career-changing album owes much to Shawty Redd, the Atlanta producer whose contribution to Thug Motivation has been strangely unheralded. Were it not for Young Jeezy’s personal entreaty for a reluctant Shawty Redd to collaborate heavily with him on the album, trapper gems such as “Bottom Of The Map” and “Air Forces” might have never happened. And on the song “Get Ya Mind Right,” with clobbering 808s and grandiose organs that evoked both the grind and glory of the hustle, Shawty Redd transported Jeezy’s claim of being “the realest n**** in it” to greatness.
In part thanks to a nearly decade-long collaborative relationship, which includes their more recent and equally noteworthy work on Thug Inspiration, the chemistry shared between Young Jeezy and Shawty Redd arguably remains unsurpassed for both artists. Nevertheless, the Dope Boy Beat Man is blessing a number of other heavyweights with his prodigious talent, including T.I., 8 Ball & MJG, Young Dro, Busta Rhymes, Juvenile, Freeway, and many more. With a solo effort also in the works, Shawty Redd is at last receiving appropriate levels of gratitude from the rap industry, and he’s just getting started.
Ballerstatus.com: How did you get involved in making music?
Shawty Redd: Basically I was working with this production company, toting speakers around the clubs and running them to the artists. I set up the sound systems for artists like YoungBloodz and Raheem the Dream, people like that. And I always was producing music. I started doing electrician work and buying beat machines and keyboards, then I just started producing around the neighborhood in Decatur, and finally Raheem the Dream introduced me to Drama and we did that “Left Right Left,” and it was on ever since.
Ballerstatus.com: So how did your buzz start to grow locally?
Shawty Redd: When the “Left Right Left” came out, it was a totally different style of music. The drum patterns that I did was totally different than what anybody else was doing at the time really, and that had blew me up. So then when the album came out, Drama was so hot, so I started getting my buzz. I started producing for a group called 404 Soldierz, we did the hottest song in the 11 called “Walk Like a Soldier,” and I just started getting my buzz up.
Ballerstatus.com: How did you first hook up with Young Jeezy?
Shawty Redd: At the time, I was going to the strip clubs, and a mutual friend introduced me to Jeezy. We was at Magic City and that that was right after I did the Drama album, and we started working together and doing music. This was ’98 or something, we started doing independent albums together. Our first song was right after Drama got out of jail, the second time. We did a song — me, him and Drama, and we had some issues about that. Drama wanted to take the song, but we worked that out. Then me and Jeezy… that’s big bro, we been like family cause we got some years in the game. We had done like three albums before Thug Motivation even came out.
Ballerstatus.com: Your production was featured heavily on Thug Motivation, but it seems like your buzz didn’t really match that accomplishment. Is there a reason for that?
Shawty Redd: It’s like basically, when you young in the music game in Atlanta, they try to hide you. They got their own little circles down here. Everybody that’s really got a label down here, they producers themselves and if you don’t sign with them, they don’t want to put you on a project cause you not signed to their label. So I kind of just sat back and been doing my own thing, ’cause I don’t really mess with these industry cats out here. They OG’s and they don’t want to help the young cats get in the game. They just want to take advantage of you, so I just sat back and figured out eventually my tracks will just speak for themselves, and then all the big artists started getting tracks for me.
Ballerstatus.com: All those other Southern artists you’ve worked with came to you off the strength of what you did for Jeezy?
Shawty Redd: Yeah, I’m the dude you want to come to when you want that street sh–. I’m the king of street beats.
Ballerstatus.com: The dope boy beats?
Shawty Redd: Yea, I’m the Dope Boy beat man.
Ballerstatus.com: What makes a dope boys beat different?
Shawty Redd: My beat is for the hood. When I do my beat, it’s for the people that want to beat down the block. It’s the ghetto symphony, the ghetto sounds, the griminess, its for the trunk. People just love playing their music out the trunk, it’s for the hood. My keys is to show the industry that I can play. If you take my drums out, and just listen to my instruments, the instruments is really stuff that need to be in a movie. I watch a lot of movies like “Spiderman,” “Superman” and “Batman,” I try to make my music like that. If you take the drums out, it can be something you put in a movie.
Ballerstatus.com: What was the creative process of making of Thug Motivation like?
Shawty Redd: I wasn’t really expecting the album to do what it did; I was really done with music. Jeezy, he was really serious about coming out as an artist and stop doing the other things he was doing and he told me he needed me, you know what I’m saying? That’s big bro, so I had to come in. I had to play my part. I had been going through so much personal stuff, as far as my business and my family, so everything that I played was stuff that I was feeling at the time. I was going through some things, and when I played a chord, it touched him like it touched me, and whenever I played him something he was like, “Yeah use that, I like that.” Basically, every time I had done a beat, he would start rapping and we would finish a song right then and there.
Ballerstatus.com: What do you think is behind the chemistry you two have?
Shawty Redd: It’s ’cause we’ve been doing this so long together, we know how we work. We’ve been together for 10 years almost. I used to be a workaholic and when he was around. I used to work him. Now it’s like when I lost my drive, he works me. So now with both of our drives, we on the same page, so that’s why we keep making good music.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you have the same level of connection with other rappers that you work with?
Shawty Redd: With other artists, they already know what type of style they want, they want me to separate the style I give Jeezy. But at the same time, I keep the drum pattern the same. But really, I give a lot of artists a beat CD and they pick something. A lot of artists, I don’t have the opportunity to go in the studio with because they don’t think that I can make beats as fast as I make beats. They think that’s a waste of time, so we don’t really vibe like me and Jeezy. Except for 8 Ball and MJG, and Big Kuntry King and [Young] Dro — we vibe. Now it’s to a point where they know how fast I can do beats, and I’m good at what I do. Now they call me for a custom beast, instead of taking beats off a CD.
Ballerstatus.com: So sometimes you send beats to rappers without working with them in the studio?
Shawty Redd: Actually what I do is I’m signed to EMI Music Publishing, so I send them a CD and then they’ll send it out. I don’t really be sending my beats out because people be putting them on mixtapes, so I send it through my company, let them do they thing.
Ballerstatus.com: It sounds like you like working in the studio more…
Shawty Redd: I love the studio, cause I’d rather the artist be in the studio with me, so when I play something, he can tell me if he like it or he don’t. When I’m in there with the artist, I already know what the artists rap like; I know their style. It’s all about me pinning my style to their style, so they can tell me what they want and I can tell them what I want to do.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you think that a lot of producers today try to make hits by replicating a trendy sound?
Shawty Redd: It’s like once a certain style of music is hot, everybody imitates it and they try to copy what’s already been done. It sound the same, it’s something you already done heard on the radio. And then a lot of people that’s producing now, they’re just producing because they want to get a check. I love music, so it’s not just about the money, I just love music period. The majority of them that’s calling themselves producers don’t even play piano. They just put they name on it, but somebody else is sitting there playing piano. I play piano, I play drums, I do all that.
Ballerstatus.com: What did you have in mind when you made “Hypnotize?”
Shawty Redd: I feel like I wasn’t getting my props on the first album, and then a lot of people started to try to steal my style, my drum patterns and stuff that I was doing on the first Thug Motivation. I told Jeezy “Let me do what I feel, I’mma go stronger with the keys, but more grimier, more scarier to prove that I’m sick on these keys — I’m on a whole different level.” And then on the “Hypnotize,” I didn’t use the 808. I told Jeezy “You gotta let me roll with this one,” and he let me roll with it. It’s to a point now where they’re playing it in the club, and it’s not a song I would expect to hear in the club. And as soon as I walk in the club, they play it and people go crazy off it.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you feel like you’re getting enough recognition now?
Shawty Redd: It’s not like it should be, but I’m proud of where I stand right now. I’m just trying to go to the next level, and hopefully the artists I produce now — like Dro, Big Kuntry King, T.I., 8 Ball and MJG — I’m hoping that they’ll take me to that next level. If not, then we gotta go back in with Jeezy, and it’s gonna be the hardest album you ever heard.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you cater your beats differently to Northern artists?
Shawty Redd: What’s crazy is I actually tried to play them other type beats, like on their style. Cause I’m a producer, I can do every style of music. But once I played it, they were like “Nah we want that Shawty Redd sh–,” you know what I’m saying? The stuff they was picking is stuff they would put Jeezy on, and it shocked me ’cause they wanted to go that direction. Freeway, he bought a couple tracks, Fab he done paid me for a track, but I don’t know if he gonna use it or not. Busta Rhymes called me and he wanted the same thing.
Ballerstatus.com: But can anybody ride a Shawty Redd beat like Jeezy?
Shawty Redd: To tell you the truth, I can’t really say. Jeezy’s adlibs on my beat, we can’t compare that to nobody else. But as far as 8 Ball and MJG, the song I did for them, they kilt it. Jeezy has his own style, so it’s crazy.
Ballerstatus.com: What else is in the works?
Shawty Redd: Right now I’m actually working on my album. I got a single out called “Turn it Up.” We put it out about a while ago and it’s been getting a lot of good buzz. And just working on my album, Shawty Redd: The Jekyll and Hyde Project: Expect the Unexpected.
Ballerstatus.com: So is it an instrumental album?
Shawty Redd: No, it’s me rappin’.
Ballerstatus.com: How long have you been rapping for?
Shawty Redd: I’ve been rapping all my life. I had a deal with MCA, but they went bankrupt and I never tried to pursue the artist thing with a label no more. I been doing a lot of songs in the strip club and stuff ’cause that’s where I break my records. But yeah, I’m a rap artist first, I just started producing ’cause people wanna use wack beats.
Ballerstatus.com: Are you a dope boy rapper as well?
Shawty Redd: Nah, I do music. That’s why it’s called Jekyll and Hyde: Expect the Unexpected, ’cause I’m not gonna do what they expect from me. I ain’t gonna talk about no dope, I ain’t being flashy or nothing like that. And then the “unexpected” on a whole ‘nother level — you got the pop stuff, you got some commercial records, mainstream records. It’s gonna be something for the hood and something for the people that’s not from the hood, you know what I mean?
Ballerstatus.com: When do you think that’s going to drop?
Shawty Redd: It’s coming out soon. Actually you know we in the process right now of getting some deals cut, but they gotta cut me a fat check to get me.