Producer Bighead is having a moment now because of his work behind the boards on Lil Pump's smash hit "Gucci Gang." But the Lancaster, California-based producer has a whole lot more going on than one track.
Bighead is the producer of choice for many of the rappers starting to make the move from SoundCloud to the mainstream. Lil Pump, Lil Tracy, Famous Dex, and more all rely on Bighead, frequently in collaboration with his childhood friend Gnealz.
In addition to producing, Bighead has recently moved into DJing on the road with Tracy and Pump. He also worked closely with Lil Peep, who sadly died just one day after this interview was conducted.
Bighead's latest venture is the Bighead Sample Pack, in partnership with Splice. Aspiring producers can get access to Bighead's actual sounds that he's used on his songs.
I called Bighead, who was at home in Lancaster, getting ready for Lil Pump's upcoming tour.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
I wanted to start with the beginning. What was it like growing up in—is it LanCASter or LANcaster, like they say out on the East Coast?
No, it's LanCASter, California. I really grew up in Palmdale and Lancaster. They're right next to each other—it's the same thing. The only thing that divides it is the freeway. But growing up there... I'm still here. It's cold as hell; I don't have a heater in the crib, so I'm cold. And it's hard to make beats cold, but I do it anyway. And it's just a desert. It's really a desert town, has Joshua trees everywhere. Housing tracts and shit. I live in an apartment, though. [Oklahoma City Thunder forward] Paul George came outta here, too.
Oh, nice. And how serious were you about bikes before music took over?
Well, I was into motocross and dirt bikes. And I was pretty serious about it, 'cause of my dad. But I had a drum set and I liked playing drums more. I liked music way more than dirt bikes. I hated dirt bikes, 'cause I was scared to get hurt. I did get hurt and stuff. And I skated—I used to skate a lot. I liked skating and music.
Once I turned 18, I went full into music 'cause my dad moved to Arkansas out of Lancaster, and I just stayed with my mom. And it started takin' off.
Some of the earlier stuff from you that's still up on your YouTube channel is in the style of Drake, in the style of Meek Mill. Why'd you do those and what did you learn from making them?
What I was doing is I was on YouTube trying to make hype beats, like Meek Mill-type beats and all that, just to sell that. That's when I was starting. I was making money that way, selling them online. I still do that, but now I started doing my own style and getting placements in songs and all that. But I still do. I have a website where I sell beats, too.
Yeah, I saw that. Or you lease them, right?
Yeah, I just lease them and then some kids buy the exclusive and I delete the beat if it’s sold.
How did you get into leasing? How did you figure out that existed?
I was a big Johnny Juliano fan at one time, and he was doin' that on SoundClick, and I just kind of followed that. I would always watch him and SuperStar O, this other producer that was on SoundClick. SuperStar O had a Lambo and all this shit off sellin' beats online, and I was like, "Damn, I should do that." And then I started bringin' in a lot of money—more money than I have off of placements, so far. The placements are startin' [to bring in] money now.
You're at this new position where you're getting placements, but you have this career leasing beats. How do you manage that, if you have some beats that you're leasing for $20 a pop and then you're also selling beats—hopefully for more than $20— to bigger-name artists?
I'm signed to somebody, a label, and I have a price for major label artists—there's a certain type of artist [who has to pay] a big price. But the beats on the side are just beats I put up there that I don't really care about. Actually, I do care about them, but I don't know.
I just make enough beats for both sides; and I make the website thing my income, my steady income, so I can pay bills, 'cause that's way faster than waiting for royalties and all the lawyer stuff to go through for advances and all that. With placements it takes too long; you gotta wait for all these contracts and blah blah blah, the advance, and then you later on get your royalties every other three months. It takes too long, so you gotta sell beats on the side to make money.
Thinking back to 2014 or so, can you tell me about going from copying peoples' beats to making stuff in your own style? How did you develop a style out of trying to sound like whoever was hot at that moment?
I feel like 2014 to '16, I was just trying to copy people. And then all of a sudden in 2017, I just started... I started just doin' drugs and then got good or something. I started figuring it out, and I didn't care, I just wanted to make any type of beat. I mean it's probably 'cause I was high. I'm sober now—I'm seven days sober.
Yeah. So that's what happened. I just started finding my own groove and I started living a fast life. I left my mom's house and I was jumpin' around all these houses in L.A. I was stayin' at Lil Peep's house; I was stayin' a bunch of places. And then I finally got a little house in North Hollywood, and then I left back to my mom's recently and I got sober.
What was behind the decision to get sober?
I'm Lil Pump's DJ, so I have to travel a lot, and the drugs... I just didn't wanna always have to carry... if some type of drug is always on your back, you have to depend on something every day, and I was tired of depending on something to make me feel good: drugs. And then also, one time in the airport, the last time traveling, I lost my drugs and my wallet, and I was withdrawing really bad. That's when I realized, I think this is a sign to stop.
And then when I did the sound kit with Splice, I was goin' sober, and then I relapsed and made the sound kit. After I was done makin' the sound kit, I sent it off to Splice, and I was like, "I'm done." Splice, it kind of helped me go sober as well.
Tell me about how that helped you out.
So I was making the kit. I relapsed and I had to make the kit. I was too sick from withdrawing to try to make the sound kit, all those hundred-plus sounds. So I had a relapse, got it done in two days, three days, and then I got the money, I felt a little comfortable. I was just so happy 'cause I got something done. I got everything I needed to get done. I finished a bunch of beats, I finished the sound kit. And I was like, "OK, it's time to take this course of going sober." 'Cause going sober, it hurts really bad. First three to four days... I mean, I'm on day seven and it's still hell. I can barely move, but I'm runnin' and doin' push-ups and stuff.
That's great. Have you tried to make music yet, since you got clean?
Yeah. [Laughs.] Since day four to now, I've been making beats and I label every beat "Sober Beat 1," "Sober Beat 2," "Sober Beat 3"—they're all labeled "Sober Beats." And they actually sound better than how I've ever been, I think.
I'm really glad to hear that. And so, with this thing with Splice, do you feel weird about giving away your sounds?
Uh... Not really, 'cause I want the kids [who are where I was] when I was 17, 18 to really have sounds, 'cause sometimes it's hard to find. I don't know, I just like to help. I don't feel weird about it. I love giving. It just feels good to give out and see the response that they give, 'cause I’ve gotten a bit of good feedback from it.
Some of your earliest beats that I've found, you would make beats for Vines. How did that start?
Oh, yeah. So I had this Vine channel. I had like 13,000 followers and I was just taking people's Vines... this was before Vine switched so you could upload your own videos. I learned a hack to upload a video with the beat behind it. And I would just pretty much take people's Vines of them singing and then put a beat behind it, and it started getting me a following. And then that's when I started selling beats online, 'cause kids were hitting me up like, "Yo, make some beats for me." So I was like, "Here's my website."
I was gonna ask how you marketed yourself.
Vine was a big first step of marketing. I remember I was at In-N-Out, and I got noticed from Vine, and I was like, "Oh shit, Vine's kinda working." That was a long time ago. And then this song "Kyrie Irving" by Lil Cray kinda got things goin', too.
Why was finding out that GBC [GothBoiClique, the emo-rap crew consisting of, among others, Horse Head, Lil Tracy, and the late Lil Peep] even existed in the world important for you?
So, I was listening to GBC. This girl showed me a song by Lil Peep, and I was just digging into it, then I found Lil Tracy, and I was like, "God, I love this guy's music." We ended up being really good friends since last year, November. We would go everywhere; we would just make music everywhere. He would come out to my mom's house sometimes, we would go out to L.A., stay at Peep's, everywhere, just travelin' around, makin' music, and we went on a tour and all that. I just really like their music. That's one of my favorite people to make music with.
How would you describe your style as a producer?
I guess since I've been working with Pump a lot, it's a more gritty, a lot of bass and mosh pit style. But I also like making the GBC guitar beats, I make those a lot still. Sometimes I like to still make smooth Lil Tracy beats. If you go back and listen, that's all me and Lil Tracy this year, in "Pictures" and all that. So I can do the grungy mosh pit-type beat, or a smooth, singing beat.
"Dope Fiend" was very much in that smoothed-out vibe.
Yeah. So I don't know—I'm kind of all over the place. But most of the time right now, since "Gucci Gang," everyone's asking me for that gritty, simple... I think my style's more simple now, too. I don't add too much melody. I tend to add too much sometimes, so I have to force myself to chill out, like, "Alright, chill out, just lay the beat out."
How has DJing on tour been? You were producing before you were a DJ, right?
Yeah. I started DJing 'cause I got booked for my own show with Gnealz, and then I started DJing for Tracy, and that was really fun. I went on tour with him, and then Pump was really fun. We went to Canada and all these places.
But then, to be honest, the drug usage started getting too much, to the point that I didn't wanna be around people that weren't using drugs. So I didn't wanna go on the road and DJ no more, 'cause I wanted to stay home and just get high and make music, and that was stupid. That's a real big reason why I stopped.
I'm about to go on a 30-stop tour, so I'm kind of excited to DJ again now, even though I still feel like hell. I still feel shitty, I'm withdrawing. I've had a headache for four days straight.
One of the things I noticed is you're a big Beavis and Butt-Head fan. You use them all in your flyers and all that.
Yeah, I'm looking straight ahead at a Beavis and Butt-Head 3-disc movie... not movie, it's all the shows, that this kid sent me in the mail.
I don't know, I just like Beavis and Butt-Head. I had a friend, probably when I was five, 10, and we would watch a lot of Beavis and Butt-Head, just 'cause. We thought it was funny 'cause they sat on the couch and reviewed music videos. And it was rock music, and I like rock music.
You mentioned Gnealz. You work a lot with him. When you're making beats with him, what's your workflow? How do you guys divide stuff up?
I'll do some things, and when I get bored of doing things to the beat, I let him take over. Say if he's making somethin' and can't figure out any more ideas, I step in and we just lay the beat out. Like "Gucci Gang," he did some of the percussion, he did a little bit of the bass, kind of. And then I did the pianos and all that instrumental side.
You've obviously had songs that were popular before, but you've never had a top-10 hit like "Gucci Gang." What has that been like to navigate?
I don't know. It's exciting, but it doesn't really excite me too much, because I want 10 Billboard hits at once. I don't want just one. I always feel like when I make an accomplishment, I always hope that I get more accomplishments. It kind of scares me when it's just one. I wanna be all over Billboard. I'm not that excited just about one yet; I can't get excited yet. But it is sweet, though. It is cool, 'cause my mom heard it on the radio and she was cryin' and stuff, so that was cool.
Wow. That's awesome.
Yeah, she called me cryin' and stuff. I was like, "What the hell?"
When you hear the song in public, do you tell people, "Hey, that's me?"
Nah, I just sit there and laugh. I'll be there with my girl or my homie, and we'll be like, "That's crazy."
But that's happened with other songs, too. Like Tracy's songs, Peep's songs. Famous Dex songs, it's happened with.
You had an early song with Bobby Shmurda, right? Was that before his hit?
That was after his hit.
How did that happen?
My homie Foolie tha Prince knew Bobby Shmurda really well, and they just did a song together. I gave them a beat, and I was like, "Oh, that's tight." And they were all on it. So shout out Foolie, that's the homie.
You said you played drums growing up; how do you think that's influenced how you are as a producer?
Well, the drum thing... I was a big fan of John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and Travis Barker, obviously, from [blink-182], and Neil Peart from Rush, even though that sounds corny. But he's just sweet as hell.
I could make a list of drummers. Maybe it made my appearance, I guess, kind of copy a rock style a little bit.
I feel like as a producer, I act kind of weird. At the end of the day, I'm this druggie producer that happens to stay super-functioning. It doesn't mess me up. But I'm just weird, I'm really weird. I don't know where it came from.
It's not like you're trying to use John Bonham-style drums.
See, the thing is, I listen to a lot of rap. But when I'm chillin', I listen to a lot of blink, a lot of Zeppelin, a lot of Sum 41, a lot of... I could go on forever. Everything. Literally everything. All the mainstream. And the reason I listen to the mainstream pop hits, like those punk pop, blink-182 type hits, is because those made Billboard, lowkey. The notes are very simple. Everything is a very simple hit. And I wanna make hits.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Simple music is good music, because if a three-year-old or a four-year-old can sing it, that's what I aim for. Like "Gucci Gang"—a little kid can sing that. Gucci gang, Gucci gang, you know what I'm sayin'?
So you're newly sober, you're about to go on tour. What else do you have coming up?
So me and Yachty had beef before, but we squashed it and we've been texting. I've been sending him some beats. I'm actually about to send some beats today. So possibly some work with Yachty, some Smokepurpp. Just workin' with everyone that I'm still workin' with. Still workin' with Pump, I think. I wanna get stuff with Migos and Gucci and stuff. Even though I got the Gucci Mane placement, I want a Gucci Mane song. That would be cool as hell.
I met Travis Barker recently, and he's making an album. I wish I could make a beat on that album. He's been working with Young Thug and stuff. We've been talking. When he replies, I get super-hyped.
Do you have anything to follow up "Gucci Gang"? Any big plans with Pump?
Probably his next album, I'mma work on. I'm always gonna work with Pump, 'cause we have a good little thing. And I wanna work with Lil Tracy again, and just get him goin'. I think me and Tracy got good chemistry and me and Pump got good chemistry. So I'm gonna be stickin' with all them. I wanna make hits, but I also like makin' music with people I enjoy makin' music with. But I'm willing to work with anyone. I wanna get put into studio sessions and stuff.
Speaking of working with anyone, was it tough to squash the beef with Yachty? I don't know how serious it was, but what happened was very public.
What happened is we seen each other at a Pump show, but we didn't really get to talk, 'cause I was really sleepy. I had stayed up 20 hours before the show, so I was in the green room, sleepin' before I DJ'd. And then I seen him [but] I didn't get to say what's up. But he happened to do the No Jumper interview, and he mentioned me and said, "I don't have a problem with Bighead." So I told Adam from No Jumper, "Yo, text Yachty my number and tell him to hit me up." And then we just talked.
We act like it didn't happen, 'cause I'm not gonna say what happened, but we got into a big altercation in Miami. And didn't nothin' happen to me or nothin', so it wasn't a big deal. And I deserved it. I respect Yachty and I like his music, and I've always been a fan. I want me and him to hit the Billboards. I think I could do it for Yachty. If he takes the beat and just goes for it, I promise him that it will be a hit.
Anything else about you or your production that you want people to know?
I think people need to use Splice, because there's samples from Splice that were in Young Thug's songs and all types of big hits. There's a lot of gems on Splice. If you don't have Splice, you're missing out, at the end of the day.
You can go in the EDM section and find a nice pad sample and make a beat out of it, and just go ham. You can get really deep into Splice and it can really kill. If you have beat block and no inspiration at the time, Splice can really fix that.
Finally, are you keeping the name Bighead?
I'm probably gonna keep it, 'cause I was called that since I was four years old. [Laughs.] I wanna change it. I just don't think it would work. It sounds funny as hell—it's stupid. I wish it was "Kill Bighead," like my social media, but oh well.