Looking through the liner notes of a Kanye West album is an exercise almost as interesting as listening to the music itself. Why? Because the work camps he assembles for his creation process almost always include new talent—both on the mic and behind the boards. A new Ye project can be an indication of who's next to blow. See 18 year-old Brooklyn newbie Desiigner, who scored guest spots on two tracks and has Twitter in a fury these days.
As far as producers though, we didn't even need the liner notes: Charlie Heat's name is right there in the parenthetical for "Facts," which went from much-maligned corny sneaker diss to a still much-maligned sneaker diss made infinitely more bearable by an extreme improvement in production.
It's not often that someone outdoes Metro Boomin and Southside these days; it's even rarer that Lord Yeezus sub-titles one of his tracks with someone else's name. With praise like that, designating G.O.O.D. Music's latest beatmaker as "one to watch" would be an understatement. We hopped on the phone with the 26 year-old South Jersey producer to talk about how he scored three placements on the biggest album of the year so far, how he got there, and where he's going next.
When did you get into producing and how did that turn into a spot on G.O.O.D. Music?
I’ve pretty much played music all my life. I played drums in church and my dad played piano, so I played piano with him all the time. I ended up going to college for a year at Clark for the marching band, and while I was down there in Atlanta, the rap scene [was taking off]. That was like, T.I. and Yung L.A. first started getting popping and producing just took off. I was dabbling in it before then, but I went crazy there. I had my whole dorm turning up to my beats. Then I came back up to Jersey, and was working with a lot of people out of Philly. Then I worked with Lil Uzi [Vert], and he’s like super popping now as well, we kind of came up together. What happened was, Virgil [Abloh] played Lil Uzi’s records for Kanye West. I did Uzi’s first whole tape pretty much. The next day, they flew me out [to L.A.] and it was pretty much a wrap after that.
Virgil Abloh played Lil Uzi vert's records for Kanye West. I [produced] Uzi’s first whole tape, pretty much. The next day, they flew me out to L.A. and it was a wrap after that.
Since then you’ve been locked in, pumping beats out?
Locked in. Just working on everything as far as G.O.O.D. Music goes. We did the Madonna stuff together, we did the record for Travi$, “Piss on Your Grave.” The first joint we ever did was the “Lunch Money” joint. Then a bunch of new stuff is about to come. It’s been crazy, man.
How excited are you that Life of Pablo is finally out and everybody knows your name?
Man, look, I don’t wanna drop some tears. I probably did, I just didn’t wanna admit it to myself. It was just an unbelievable experience. A dream manifested right in front of my face. All of the hard work, all of the grind, sacrifice. All of the relationships that were torn apart between me and music. It makes it all very, very worth it. It’s a reassurance that hard work does pay off.
One thing about Kanye is, when he’s recording an album, it seems like you’re never quite sure what’s going to make the final cut. How does it feel to not only be on a couple tracks, but then “Facts” is labeled as the "Charlie Heat version"?
It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing really I can say to express that emotion. It’s finished, I’m in history, I’m on his track and on the tracklisting for Kanye West’s seventh album. He went seven for seven, and for me to be a part of that forever, it’s an unreal feeling.
Was your version of "Facts" already in the stash or did you rework it?
I just went in and did a little rework. Big shout out to [Metro and Southside]. They definitely influence everything that’s going on right now. But pretty much, I’m trying to bring my own interpretation of musicality and hard drums, I’m trying to mix those as my style and my stamp on music. You heard in “Facts,” I had basic, classical 101 chord progressions on there, or whatever you wanna call it, but it’s still musical. That compliments Kanye’s delivery and cadences very well. It sounds so different. A lot of people think he did something different, but nothing was different but the beat.[To have] somebody fresh and new with a sound that really hasn’t come to the forefront as much go in on one song, it’s gonna come out that much different. Not saying it's for better or worse.
What was Kanye’s reaction when he heard that finished beat?
It’s crazy because I wasn’t even there to see the reaction. I think I was working on something else and just sent it over. But I wish I could’ve seen it.
MOMENTS pic.twitter.com/ctOFX3q8lb— CHARLIE HEAT (@GOODWorkCharlie) February 12, 2016
I saw you were at the MSG Yeezy event.
I don’t think people understand how major that was, just ‘cause it was Kanye and they’re used to him doing amazing stuff. People spend their whole life trying to do three things he did in one night: release an album, release a fashion line and sell out Madison Square Garden. He knocked out three life goals in one night. People are not thinking about it.
What was it like hearing it in Madison Square Garden?
People act like it’s nonchalant, “Oh I done that before, or I've done this before.” I hope I never get used to it because if I do these types of moments, you don’t get back and you don’t forget. I don’t wanna get numb to any of that stuff. It’s a whole different feeling. It’s cool in situations like that ‘cause people don’t even know who I am yet, so I can sit back and get honest reactions. When people know you and know who you are, they gon’ look at you in a certain way, nod, please you kind of in a nonverbal way. But if they don’t know you, you’re gonna get an honest reaction.
What’s your day to day like as an in-house producer for G.O.O.D. Music?
It’s pretty open. When I get the call to work, or when I get the album call, it’s go time. It’s non-stop, as it should be. Outside of that, I’m pretty much self-sufficient. I think that was one of the reasons they were interested in signing me. When ‘Ye reached out to me to send some beats over, I sent 100. I’ve had 100 ready since I was 15 or 16 years old and started making beats. I said if I ever got a call from Jay-Z or Kanye, I’mma have 100 beats ready for them. And that’s exactly what happened. Today, my work ethic is being ready to go. There’s no real instruction unless it’s album time.
When kanYe reached out to me to send some beats over, I sent 100. I’ve had 100 ready since I was 15 or 16 years old and started making beats.
What are some of the coolest places you’ve worked? Kanye is notorious for going all over the place, like Hawaii, Mexico...
Yeah, Mexico was crazy. Paris was crazy. We went to the Louis Vuitton museum, that was right when “All Day” dropped. That was the first Kanye single I produced, along with a bunch of other people. I was like, “I’m in Paris at the Louis Vuitton museum watching my idol perform a song I helped produce. What is going on right now?”
Were you bummed when “All Day” didn’t make the final cut?
Not really! As far as sonically, I feel like every song on there is better than “All Day.” “All Day” was a really good idea and it think it was really slept on. But just the ability to put a cohesive album together and have it sound like it is, [The Life of Pablo] is perfect to me. Of course, my opinion is a little biased, but I love it. I haven’t stopped listening to it, and I was there working on it. Usually it’s the opposite, when you work on something long enough you’re tired of it but I wanna hear it more.
So is the album officially done? He said he was going to "fix" "Wolves"...
I would guess so. Who knows.
Are you still putting finishing touches on anything?
I don’t think so. I’m not sure.
Have you been back home in Jersey since the album dropped?
I went right back to Jersey to see my family the next day. I was in L.A. for a month for something totally different and ended up just staying with him till the day of, pretty much. That was a long time away from my family so I made sure to get back and see all my people, my son and all that. Balance is important. You’re not gonna last long if you try to get every dollar today.
Are you still working with Lil Uzi?
Yeah, me and Uzi probably have—I don’t even know the number. We did so much when we first started working, people don’t even know. That “WDYW” record with Carnage and Ferg and everything, that’s going crazy right now. Me and Uzi did that a year before it came out. But we got songs, who knows. We could do that all day.
And Pusha and Big Sean are supposed to drop projects this year. Could we see you on those?
It’s a really good chance, pun intended. Pusha, when he stepped up as president, me and him had a really good conversation. He really is on board with believing in me and being one of the up-and-coming sound creators for what we’re trying to do with the brand. That was really inspiring, him and Steven Victor were like, “You're about to be part of what we do with this G.O.O.D. Music label.”
How has the vibe at G.O.O.D. Music changed since Pusha T became president of the label?
It’s really dope to have him around on a lot of things. I’m not sure the logistics of what it was like before I was there. I was in straight music mode. But this time, me and everyone else’s relationships are growing. Him being president has just upped his value on paper to what he’s been doing already. He’s smart, he’s still very in touch with the streets... he’s just throwing that at every situation.
Who are some artists you’re dying to get in the studio with next?
I really wanna get in with everybody who’s pushing stuff forward. There’s too many names, too many young hungry guys like me and too many OGs. That’s a really hard question for me because I wanna produce rap albums, I wanna score movies, I wanna do everything. Anything I can get my hands on to add my flavor or creative ideas to sonically, I wanna do it.
What’s the rest of 2016 look like for Charlie Heat?
I’ve got a compilation album coming out sometime this year, just waiting on a couple big features. It’s pretty much gonna be 10 to 12 tracks, all instrumentals produced by me, different artists. I already got Vic Mensa locked in on there, got Danny Seth locked in on there, Freeway locked in on there. It’s gonna be a nice variety of fresh sounds, all "Charlie Heat versions." [Laughs] Other than that, who knows. It’s gonna be a big year. Another big year.