Read enough interviews with hip-hop producers (or the rappers who use their work) and you’ll come to understand that successfully selling a beat is often a numbers game — and that volume wins. Take the “five beats a day x three summers” regimen mapped out by Kanye West on his song “Spaceship”; Drake producer Frank Dukes and his self-made Kingsway Music Library, a massive collection of affordable original music for other beatmakers to sample; or the catalog of beats Atlanta hotshot Mike WiLL Made-It has created (enough that “Mike could lock you in a studio for five days and not play the same beat twice,” according to Miley Cyrus). The most prolific producer usually wins the day.

Mike Volpe, who produces and releases music as Clams Casino, is taking the less-traveled path. If Mike WiLL could last 120 hours in the studio, playing through endless beats for an MC to jump on, Volpe would last maybe 12 minutes. And yet he’s helped shape the sound of some of the most talked about artists in rap today, from 2009 to now, from Lil B to A$AP Rocky to Vince Staples.

“I have a few things at a time that I'm happy with,” Volpe, 29, says. “I’ll go to the studio with a rapper and I'm like, I have four beats—that’s it! Other producers will have 50 beats stocked up and they’ll play them with the rapper going, ‘Next. Next.’ I’ve learned from going to a bunch of sessions that there’s usually no point for me to be there.”

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