Atlanta producer Turbo’s signature sound—woozy flecks of guitar and drums that blend blown-out bass and intricate hi-hats—is as essential to many of Gunna’s biggest records as the rapper’s melodic flow and rolodex of fashion references. So when Gunna linked up with fellow fast-rising Atlanta rhymer Lil Baby, it was an easy choice for Turbo to play a role as the architect of their joint sound.
His contributions to the pair’s dynamic are so crucial that an early version of the cover for their new collaborative project, Drip Harder, even spells out “Prod. by Turbo” across the bottom. The prolific beatmaker says he served as an executive producer, helping to curate and steer the ship for one of this fall’s most hyped releases. He also threw his own production into the mix, including credits on standout “Belly” and the quick-twitch bounce of “Drip Too Hard.”
Turbo, who has worked with everyone from 03 Greedo to Young Thug, says that putting together Drip Harder wasn’t always an easy process. They began kicking the idea around last fall, but as the profile of each artist grew in recent months, they were forced to find studio time on the fly. The fact that Gunna is a night owl and Lil Baby would routinely hit Turbo up for a 6:00 a.m. session on short notice didn’t help the situation, either.
“That was kind of the hardest part [getting them together], but it was still a cool process. It was still organic,” Turbo explains. “They would always critique each other. If one of them sent something back and the other didn’t like it, he would have to do it again. They always critique each other. It wasn’t just like, ‘Yeah, I’m sending music here, I’m sending music there.’ It was like, ‘Shit, I’m here. We’re just working in two different studios at the same time.’”
That collective chemistry sits at the core of Drip Harder, an infectious project that speaks to the power of collaboration. On the eve of Drip Harder’s release, Turbo spoke with Complex about quarterbacking the project, how Drake got involved on “Never Recover,” Lil Baby’s unorthodox recording habits, and more.
How would you describe your role in the making of Drip Harder?
I executive produced the album. From the time that they started even talking about it—before it was known to the public—I was there through the whole process. We were thinking about names and coming up with all types of things. That was maybe September of last year. Since I’ve worked with both of them on their separate projects, it just made sense. Like, “Yeah, Turbo should executive produce this because he knows our sound.” It got to the point where they didn’t even want to put out music unless I touched it or unless I heard it—especially with Gunna.
Did anything make it onto the record from those early days when you were first mulling over the idea?
Yeah, a song called “Belly.” That was one of the first songs that we recorded. “Sold Out Dates” was one of the first few songs that we were working on, too. It didn’t make it to the tape, but it was one of the first songs when we had the Drip Harder idea. They did “Belly” the same night that they did “Sold Out Dates.” It was kind of crazy. That was one of the ones that completed the sound. It was like, “Okay, we’re gonna start working on this tape now. This makes sense.”
Me and Gunna work every night, so that’s natural. But Baby is usually out of town or doing his own thing, moving how he moves. He’ll pop up at 6:00 a.m. at the studio. He’s all extra energized and I’m burnt. But he’s just like, “Let’s do a song real quick. Let’s do a song before you go to sleep.” He did his verse on “Sold Out Dates” and his verse for “Belly” right then.
How much were the three of you able to all get in the studio together?
That was kind of the hardest part [getting them together], but it was still a cool process. It was still organic. They would always critique each other. If one of them sent something back and the other didn’t like it, he would have to do it again. They always critique each other. It wasn’t just like, “Yeah, I’m sending music here, I’m sending music there.” It was like, “Shit, I’m here. We’re just working in two different studios at the same time.”
If it wasn’t for “Drip Too Hard,” we probably would still be working on 'Drip Harder,' just because we’re such fanatics about the quality of the music.
Is there a song on the project that you think best shows the connection you guys have together?
I could say “Drip Too Hard.” That is what put us back on track with the project. We had been working on it so long, and everything had been going on. Baby was on the road, “Sold Out Dates” was picking up, Gunna was on the road. He put out Drip Or Drown and Drip Season 3 had dropped, so both of them are going. It’s no more, “Okay, we’re in Atlanta, we could just fuck around and see one another at any time.” There wasn’t any more of that. We were busy.
When we did “Drip Too Hard,” Baby would always call or text at random times. When we were in L.A., he texted me, “Send some beats.” I sent him some, and I think I fell asleep or something, but the next day Gunna and I are just riding around L.A. He doesn’t say anything, he just starts playing a song. I’m like, “Okay, this beat sounds familiar.” Then Baby comes on and I’m like, “Damn, this is hard.” Then I hear Gunna’s verse and I didn’t even know he’d recorded it. I record a lot of his stuff, so when he do new shit it’s kind of shocking. He played it, and we were all in the car like, “Oh shit. This is the one. This really put the momentum back into the project. We’ve got to finish the project now because this is a hard ass song.” If it wasn’t for “Drip Too Hard,” we probably would still be working on Drip Harder, just because we’re such fanatics about the quality of the music.
I remember reading a tweet of yours where you talked about how detail oriented you are with your music. Would you say you’re a perfectionist?
Oh yeah, for sure. I think all of us are. I appreciate recording Young Thug and being around him so much because he’s the one who gave me the confidence to know that it’s okay to be a perfectionist. It’s okay to make sure that you’re all the way satisfied with something, because he’ll bounce a song 17 times, then go back and listen to it and say, “No no no, we’ve got to do this or do that.” I was always like that, but people would be looking at me like that’s strange, wondering why I keep stopping tracks or doing this or that. I can appreciate it when me and Thug started locking in and I was working with him so closely. It kind of rubbed off on all of us, so I think all of us are perfectionists to a certain extent.
As executive producer, how did you go about getting contributions from guys like Tay Keith, Wheezy, and Quay Global on Drip Harder?
I just felt like it was only right for Quay and Wheezy to be part of it, just because of the relationship between both artists. Quay is Baby’s producer and he knows his sound, so he might know something that I don’t know that he could bring to the table. They have a particular sound that the fans might want. I was like, “I can’t do this without them. It wouldn’t even make sense to do it without them.”
Wheezy is my brother, even before all the music and even after all the music, that’s going to always be my big brother. I’m going to always listen to his opinion. Even outside of the executive producing and all that, there were a lot of nights where we just sat and talked about how we should make it all as big as possible.
Tay Keith is my guy, too. I ran into him [at Blue Room in Atlanta]. We chopped it up, and I think BlocBoy JB and [Hoodrich Pablo Juan] had to go and do an interview or some shit. It just gave us some free time and we made like 15 beats, just sitting in there talking and smoking. He had a few of his friends from Memphis in there so they were just dancing and shit. We were vibing. Since then, it’s just kind of stuck, and we’ve always been cool.
With the Tay Keith record, “Never Recover,” he and Drake had been working and doing their thing for a long time, so when [Drake] said he wanted to be a part of it it just only made sense: “We’ve got to do this with Tay Keith, it wouldn’t even be right otherwise.”
I appreciate recording Young Thug and being around him so much because he’s the one who gave me the confidence to know that it’s okay to be a perfectionist.
So that’s how “Never Recover” came together?
Drake, Baby, and Gunna, they’ve been talking. They’ve been having conversations and seeing each other when they’re in the same cities. I think Drake is on tour right now, and he’s been reaching out, saying that he wanted to be a part of it. Just amping them up about the project. That was in the last couple hours.
Before you turned everything in?
We had so many drafts of that fucking song, it was crazy. [Laughs]. Just trying to get it right. It was that thing where Drake’s in one place, Baby’s in one place, and Gunna’s in another place, so that shit is difficult.
There’s a good story behind that song, too. Before we turned it in, Baby was recording his verse and didn’t like how it sounded, so we had to re-record it. I think he had to do a show, so he recorded it at another studio and didn’t like how it sounded. He got back home at 6:00 a.m. and he called me like, “I got a flight at 10:00 a.m., but let’s go to the studio real quick so I can knock this verse out. I’m finna send my driver, he’s gonna be at your house. Come on.” I’m like, “Alright. Whatever.”
The driver ended up at my gate and Baby called me like, “I gotta go to the airport right now. I’m finna call the driver back and say we’re going to have to do it another time.” Then he called me again when I was asleep: “Man, I missed my flight. Let’s go to the studio.” I’m like, “Bro. Damn. You’re really crazy.” But we got it done and it’s just perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other type of way.
How would you describe the way Gunna and Lil Baby complement each other?
There’s a number of ways, especially sitting there in the room with them. Gunna is always going to come with that melodic side and he’s going to always give you that feeling—that melody and that cadence. And Baby is always going to give you a story. He’s always going to say something that’s off-the-wall and that is going to make you think. I think that’s why the fans are receiving it in such a way. It’s such a new wave and it’s such a new sound.
I noticed the guitar has become a hallmark of your production. When did you decide to start incorporating it along with other live instrumentation?
That’s not something I wanted, it’s just something that happened. It just became a signature sound. I always loved acoustic instruments and I always loved playing Rhodes pianos and that type of sound. I was never into the synthy type of thing, that just wasn’t my style. I guess it kind of all came together at the right time. Perfect timing. I mainly work with a guy named Ghetto Guitar.
You spend a lot of time with prolific artists who are always in the studio. Has that affected how you produce?
It changes my approach and it makes me make all of my steps calculated. They feed off the producer’s energy—we all feed off one another. If a certain beat comes on and we’re not feeling it, then know that it’s not it. If I’m playing 30 seconds of a beat and Thug didn’t tell me to pull it up, I’m just gonna go to the next beat, because I know that’s not the one that he’s on.
It kind of changes how I make beats and how I sequence things, because a lot of times I’ll be making a beat, like “Sold Out Dates,” where I’m making the beat when Gunna walks in. I’m not even done and he’s like, “Pull it up. I don’t care about all this other stuff you want to add, pull it up.” So now I’ve got to give myself something to work with other than how it looks inside the FruityLoops program that I use.
What’s next for you?
I think right now we’re just cataloguing, trying to find a new lane. Not necessarily a new lane, but expand the lanes that we’re already doing and make it good for everybody. Keep putting on for the city, and making this shit as big as possible.
I’m working on my production company, The Playmakers. I’m looking for young producers, young musicians. I’m looking for people who are working, passionate, and know what it takes to get to the next level. That’s one of my next goals, to try and get a few people together and build them up. It might be another Gunna and Turbo or another Quay and Lil Baby or another Wheezy and Young Thug relationship that might come out of Atlanta.