Despite having the same name as an infamous villain from the gangster flick Carlito's Way, 23-year-old Benjamin "Benny Blanco" Levin isn't a rapper. In fact, until recently, the Virgina native was best known for producing pop records for the likes of Katy Perry, Vanessa Hudgens, and Justin Bieber. But just like Norwegian pop production duo Stargate—who rose to fame producing for Beyonce, Rihanna, and also Katy Perry—Blanco found himself in the studio with Wiz Khalifa as he set out to record his major label debut, Rolling Papers. While Stargate produced the number one hit "Black and Yellow," Blanco produced RP's third single, "No Sleep," which immediately became the number one song on iTunes when it was released a week before the album dropped, and currently sits at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Complex got on the horn with the New York-based beatsmith to talk about how he got down with Wiz.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
On producing Wiz Khalifa's "No Sleep"
"About a year ago or so, a couple of my boys from Atlantic Records put me up on Wiz. Obviously, I knew his earlier work and the stuff he was doing, like the singing and all that. But they really put me up on him. One of their friends is a DJ and he gave me one of Wiz's mixtapes and I listened to it and was like, ‘This dude is the shit.’ This was just before [Kush & Orange Juice came out]. So like a week after [I listened to his music], we got in the studio.
"We recorded in New York at Downtown Recording Studios. That was my first time ever meeting him. I made that beat right in front of him. We just got together, he smoked a shitload of weed, and we made a dope ass song. There were definitely clouds in the room while we were recording. But I was not smoking, I’m a neurotic Jew. Wiz is awesome man, he’s a genius. He was real quiet [in the studio] and then he was like, ‘Yo, I fuck with that.’ It was kinda just me making tracks and then he stuck to one and started writing to it. Then he recorded verses to it. Later on, I finished the record at my house and he did some of his verses on his tour bus.
"I wanted to make something that was similar to the ‘The Thrill.’ I wanted to make something that kinda had a little indie rock feel that was in the verses. Something that was smooth but still had like banging drums. I normally just go in and talk to the artist and feed off of them, go off what they’re feeling. So, if they’re feeling something hip-hop, I’ll make them something hip-hop. If they feel like making a stoner song, I’m gonna make them a stoner song. I’m gonna do whatever they want me to. I just felt like he wanted to make something that was a feel good record because we were playing some records and watching all his videos and the fans were definitely going crazy for songs like ‘The Thrill.’ Songs that had a little bit more singing and had a little bit of an indie rock feel to them. So I was like, ‘I think this is the way to go.’
"This was my first rap record and it was fun. I’m definitely gonna do some more rap stuff. In fact, I’m working on some [more rap] stuff already. I don’t wanna say anything yet cause I don’t want to jinx it, but I got a few cool things coming up. I used to make a lot of hip-hop records when I first started, but then I started doing pop. I think I’m gonna start doing more urban stuff."