Mike Will Made-It has had no trouble building a production empire without the assistance of Kendrick Lamar. The Georgia native's influence on music has been vast over the last few years, with the superproducer teaming up with everyone from Miley Cyrus to Future.
When you're bouncing from job-to-job (in a good way!) like he has, there's bound to be work you produced with one artist in mind that ended up being a better fit with someone else. That appears to be the case on "Humble," Kendrick's first ever No. 1 single as a lead artist and the first single for Damn. Mike Will told NPR when he first made the beat, it was with Gucci Mane in mind:
I made that beat [last year] when Gucci Mane was getting out of jail; I made it with him in mind. I was just thinking, damn, Gucci's about to come home; it's got to be something urgent that's just going to take over the radio. And I felt like that beat was that.
I ended up not doing it with Gucci and I let Kendrick hear it. I was thinking, if Dot gets on this it'll be his first time being heard on some[thing] like this. At the same time, it kind of has an NWA/Dr. Dre feel, an Eminem kind of feel. So I thought, let me see if Dot f**** with it. And he heard the beat and he liked it.
When you hear the beat kick in on "Humble," it does sound a lot more up Gucci's alley than Kendrick's. Coming off a jazzy project like To Pimp A Butterfly, the trap-inspired beats on Damn represent a change of pace for K-Dot. Don't expect any ice cream tattoos on Kendrick's face anytime soon, but he has proven he can weave in and out of different styles with the best in the game; in his early days, Kendrick even flipped a Gucci sample into a song about materialistic obsessions.
Mike Will also shared a story about the creation of "DNA," a fan favorite and the second single from Damn. Impossible though it may sound, the producer claims he only made the beat for "DNA" after Kendrick rapped the entire song a cappella and challenged him to build the production around his voice.
"[Kendrick] said, 'I just want to see if you can put some drums around this,'" said Mike Will. "I said, 'Man, hell yeah.' But he was going so hard; that man was rapping so crazy. Just imagine him a cappella rapping the second half of 'DNA.' and I had to build a beat around that."
That creative process would explain the dramatic change-up halfway through "DNA"; Kendrick transitions rather quickly from a laid-back, conventional flow to artillery fire on the mic, and it necessitates a shift in the song's mood. Thankfully, Mike Will was there to guide the song where it needed to go.
The two have reportedly spent countless hours in the studio before they officially put it on wax for Damn. Hopefully the success of "Humble" and "DNA" inspires more collaborations between the hip-hop heavyweights in the future.