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Before 03 Greedo began his 20-year prison sentence, he says he recorded more than 30 albums and 3,000 songs. He told Complex he plans to drop the unreleased music throughout his sentence, and so far, he’s delivered on that promise.
Seven months after releasing Still Summer in the Projects, Greedo is back with another full-length project. This time, he has teamed up with producer Kenny Beats for their joint album, Netflix & Deal. The project came together as a labor of love in the eight months leading up to Greedo’s prison stay, and it was inspired by movies like Blow (2001) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), which represented various chapters in his life.
“He literally was using movies to tell his story, and tell things that happened in his life, without having to outright say things about his life,” Kenny Beats tells Complex about Greedo’s movie-centric influences for the project. “Whether it was crazy things, business dealings, how he was living, or cars he was driving, he would use these characters to give people imagery that says, ‘My life was just like that.’ Listening back to them a year later, knowing way more about him now than I did before, it’s pretty crazy how he only picks the movies that he can see all these parallels in.”
Greedo is one of the most important California artists of our generation.
The tracklist for Netflix & Deal is 14 tracks long, with carefully-placed features from close friends and fans of Greedo’s, including Vince Staples, Freddie Gibbs, and Maxo Kream. Kenny admits that Greedo wasn’t completely happy with the project’s length (he enjoys albums with 20+ songs), but the tracklist they settled on is “the best” assortment of tracks. It includes a mix of Greedo’s classic sounds, but there is also “a lot of new ground for me and him at the same time,” according to Kenny.
Netflix & Deal might just be the beginning of the duo’s collaborative releases, though. Kenny tells Complex they are sitting on more than 80 records, some of which have nothing to do with movies. He says that isn’t out of the ordinary for an artist as prolific as Greedo: “He has an unbelievable amount of music. Me saying I have 80 songs with him isn’t some crazy feat, because I know a lot of producers who have a lot of Greedo songs.”
“Netflix & Deal was the crux of our relationship and what we always were working towards,” Kenny adds, before alluding to the possibility that there might be a second project that comes out of the rest of their unreleased songs. “We still have time. We still can put these songs out. Greedo said on the phone to me less than a week ago, ‘We just got to do part two then.’ And we can do a part two. It’s not something where songs that didn’t make this project won’t ever be out. It’s just this project, at this time period, needs to feel a certain way. It needs to give people context for how great he is, what he’s going through, and what he’s already done as an artist and as a person.”
Then, reflecting on Greedo’s overall impact, Kenny Beats says, “Greedo is one of the most important California artists of our generation.” Explaining how important Netflix & Deal is to him, he tells us, “Me and my group of friends got to help one of our favorite artists make a legendary project [...] If I produce a Drake and Kanye collab album, I don’t think it would make me feel what I feel about this project.”
Complex spoke with Kenny Beats about Netflix & Deal, his friendship with Greedo, how a conversation with Rick Rubin changed his life, and what else is coming for him in 2020. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
Can you talk about the creative process for this album?
The title was not something that was a discussion or up for debate. We’re making an album, and it’s Netflix & Deal. That was it. I met Greedo via one phone call with Key! I showed Key Greedo’s music a few months earlier, and he had never heard of him. Then all of a sudden, I got a phone call from both of them. Key’s like, “You're making a project with Greedo, he’s coming to L.A.” And they hung up. Greedo got to L.A., and the first song he made on the project was called “Traffic.” By the time we got to the third or fourth song of the night, he was talking about nothing but movies. He was talking about Maria Full of Grace over and over, which was the single for the album, “Maria.” We made that the first day I ever met him, and because he had related to this movie so much, he had this concept in his head of, “Every time I go to Kenny’s spot, I’m going to talk about movies or make something about a movie.” Greedo and I have 80-plus songs. We have a lot of non-movie songs.
Netflix & Deal was the crux of our relationship and what we always were working towards. Other features were going on at the same time period, but the intention was always to do this project. I think Greedo at one point was still facing a life sentence. He was getting married. He had all these different things going on at the same time before he went to jail, and he literally was using movies to tell his story, and tell things that happened in his life without having to outright say things about his life. He could use the story of Blow to show similarities between character types and people in that movie, and how he was interacting. Whether it was crazy things, business dealings, how he was living, cars he was driving, he would use these characters to give people imagery that say, ‘No, my life was just like that.’ Listening back to them a year later, knowing way more about him now than I did before, it's pretty crazy how he only picks the movies that he can see all these parallels in.
Me saying I have 80 songs with him isn’t some crazy feat, because I know a lot of producers who have a lot of Greedo songs.
In the documentary about this album, you mentioned sending him songs that had the “old Greedo” sound. Can you describe the type of songs that you were sending him?
At the time, everybody around me and in California was listening to Greedo. It was like you hear “Rude,” or you would hear “Sweet Lady.” Right before he put out Wolf of Grape Street, you hear all these things from his old albums getting played all the time. So I felt like, “Okay, if I’m going to make a song with Greedo, I got to try to make the best version of this Greedo that everybody’s playing all the time.” His music is very California, as far as the tempo, and the vibe, and the core choices.
Greedo’s a great producer. I was trying to respect the fact that this guy really knows what he’s doing, so let me come in and give him a pallette he’s comfortable with. That was the most ass-backwards thing I could have done, knowing him now. As soon as you put him in a box, he’s going to jump right out. As soon as you tell him, “You don’t sing,” he’s going to sing 10 sings. “You don’t really rap anymore, you just be singing.” He’s going to rap 10 songs. Making assumptions taught me a lot as a producer, because it’s something I never do now. If someone walks in, I don’t ever play them a beat. I always ask questions. With Greedo, me making the assumption put me in my place really quick. He asked me for something that was way left of center for anything you’d ever heard from him. That’s how songs like “Disco Shit” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” happened.
Netflix & Deal, there’s a lot of hard shit on it. There’s some stuff that feels California. There’s some stuff that touches on old Greedo-esque vibes. But there’s a lot of new ground for me and him at the same time, as far as just what we were picking from. For us to watch a movie and then use that soundtrack to inspire a beat I made, it really just gave the whole thing a very cohesive feel. But also in the studio, it felt fluid. It didn’t feel like you were reaching. He can do anything, so we’re going to do anything.
You both planned on making this project before he went in, but how long did the project take from start to finish?
I met Greedo about eight months before he went in. Like I said, day one, the project was decided. It was many months back and forth of seeing him every couple weeks, or a couple days at a time here and there, and slowly working towards it. Because of both of our attention spans and how much momentum he had, all these other sessions and songs and things got mixed in the process. There’s also a lot of Netflix & Deal stuff that you won’t be able to hear for different reasons—sample clearances, movie stuff with features—but we always were working towards this one thing.
Greedo told us a couple months ago that it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to record 15 songs per session. Was that your experience with him?
Greedo doing 10 songs in a session wasn’t a stretch. It wasn’t like, “All right, let me just keeping myself up drinking Red Bull and doing anything I can to stay here as long as I can.” He would make them quick and go to another studio. His mentality is not something I could ever pretend to understand or relate to. He was facing this enormous mountain in front of him, as far as his whole life being battled with in court, you know what I mean? Greedo wasn’t someone you could necessarily say, “Oh, why don’t you slow down?” Or, “Why don’t we take a second, and go back on this song from yesterday.” You can see in the documentary. He was asleep because it had been NBA Weekend. He did nothing but work and play shows for three days. I think the exhaustion Greedo put himself through was because he knew that there would need to be music for people who were just finding out about him before he went in.
Everybody in California and everybody in my friend group was already up on Greedo, but that was just happening as he was going away. Whether it was Tupac-inspired, or Wayne-inspired, he’s like, “I need to have so much music, that there’s never a second where I can’t drop. There’s never a second where people are waiting to hear more Greedo.” He has an unbelievable amount of music. Me saying I have 80 songs with him isn’t some crazy feat, because I know a lot of producers who have a lot of Greedo songs.
Greedo didn’t have all the studio sessions, and all the access and resources, and managers, and these different things that so many other artists that I have worked with had. He was doing it all himself. He was making all these things by himself in his room, on his own computer, producing them, recording it, and then playing them for everybody in his hood. I think he really had a work ethic that’s beyond anything you can even describe. I can’t tell you how the sessions went, because it felt like we were just having fun the whole time. Then I look at the edit and I’m like, “I made nine songs with you? I haven’t made 9 songs this week, and I did 10 sessions.” He knew how important what he was doing was, which is insane, because a lot of people are biased and they’re just trying to make their stuff the best. Greedo was like, “My music's unbelievable. I need to make more of it, so everybody can have it.” That’s how he was.
I think the exhaustion Greedo put himself through was because he knew that there would need to be music for people who were just finding out about him before he went in.
How many songs did you make for this project versus how many are actually on it?
He’ll kill me if I tell you the real number. Greedo likes long projects. He said it a million times. He hates short seven or eight-song EPs or 10-song albums. He gets very upset. The fact that this is 14, he was already mad at me, because he wanted this to be longer. He wants people to have a lot of music to listen to. We still have time. We still can put these songs out. Greedo said on the phone to me less than a week ago, “We just got to do part two then.” And we can do a part two. It’s not something where songs that didn’t make this project won’t ever be out. It’s just this project, at this time period, needs to feel a certain way. It needs to give people context for how great he is, what he’s going through, and what he’s already done as an artist and as a person. I think the songs that we picked for this point are the best.
Were you the one who was going hard for the 14 song tracklist?
Not that specific number. I was just going hard for certain songs. You got to remember, we were drinking and were getting fucked up and doing all these things, and it was a stressful time period. We both were working with all these people at the same time. I’ll call Greedo and play him a song on the phone and he’ll be like, “I can’t believe I even said that.” I can't even remember making this song about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. There’s certain times where I’ll go back and play him certain things, and I’m like, “Greedo, you don't understand. I play this for everyone. They don’t know your story. They don’t know where you are, and this song makes people want to cry every time I play it. It’s going on.” He’ll just yell at me, but we made it work. He overall knows that I’m his biggest fan. As much as I can pretend to be his best friend, it started with me being his fan. I have such reverence for what he did and how important he is, and the fact that he let me be a part of it in any way, that I want to make sure that if me and my team have any access to the art that he left, we’re going to do it the most justice we can. So him and I never have these long back-and-forth conversations about the artwork, or about the song titles, or what’s going to make it. It’s like he knows what I’m pushing for.
How would you describe your overall relationship with Greedo?
He’s hysterical. He’s one of the funniest guys ever. Even in the darkest moment, when you’re with someone who is facing life in prison, and they’re cracking jokes with you, it’s hard to know how to act. I’ve had family in prison. I’ve had really close friends of mine go away, and I’ve dealt with it in different ways, but I’ve never had a relationship with someone from a musical perspective who is facing what Greedo’s facing right now. When we do have calls, or even before he went in, we were just with each other a lot, making music. I think you just start to accept that there’s not always the right thing to say. There’s not always something that’s going to make him feel better. There’s not always something where you can try to relate, because you can’t relate. I can’t even understand where he’s come from, or what he’s been through up until then. Him telling me his life story, telling me about Watts, or any part of his crazy story, all I can do is be there as a friend and as a collaborator to help him with whatever he needs help with.
Every time he would call me, I felt so privileged that he considered me his friend, because I would have done everything I’m doing as a business relationship. You don’t have to be best friends with people to make music. But the hours we spent, and the harsh time periods we spent together, just made us close. Now when I talk to him, I make sure that a large piece of every conversation we have is not music-related. When someone asks you how you’ve been, and you start talking about your releases and what’s going on, that’s not how you’ve been. That’s what you’ve got going on. I always like to talk to Greedo about how he is, and how he’s feeling. If I can say something that’s going to pick him up, or that’s going to help him realize something and help our friendship, I always will. But a lot of the time, it’s just listening.
Greedo taught me a lot. I don’t say that about every artist. Some artists might teach me stuff musically, but Greedo taught me stuff about being a man and being a musician and being a creative, and being different from other people. He was like an uncle to me, to Key, and a lot of artists. It’s a different kind of relationship.
What was the selection process like for guest features on the album?
For me, I've decided to make this album about what this time period was, and I think that’s what Greedo always wanted as well—just to describe this moment in time of how he was feeling. Not to be a retrospective, and to tell the entire story of Greedo. That’s not my place. Whether in the documentary, or a project, I’m not trying to do a retrospective of everything Greedo’s done. [The features] were all people who interacted with me and Greedo during the making of that project. Those are people who we were either talking about actively, Greedo was working with, or mutual friends of ours. It was like, “Let’s not just get the hottest person we can who will get on a Greedo song.” A lot of people respect Greedo. We’ll get big features for him. That wasn’t the point. It was about people who he has close relationships with. The link-up that him and Freddie had via me for Freddi’s project made Greedo so happy, because he had always loved him. Vince was playing “Mafia Business ”at his shows, and Greedo considers him the first rapper who was really putting on for him. Buddy grew up a fan. All these people are people who are coming to my studio to hang out, and listen to the Greedo songs. You don’t know how happy we are that we have Greedo songs that no one can ever hear. A lot of times, going to get the feature is this whole thing. We go reach out, what’s the budget? I don’t like to deal with that world at all.
Greedo overall knows that I’m his biggest fan. As much as I can pretend to be his best friend, it started with me being his fan.
That makes it much more authentic. You can feel the genuine energy in the documentary. You and Vince. And Buddy was hilarious.
The energy reflected that. Buddy's texting me all day right now mad that he doesn’t have the song with Greedo that he was on already because we really are stans of him. Before I worked with Greedo, I was a stan. I was like, “He’s the coolest, hardest rapper in California period. If I could get one session with him. I'd go so crazy. All I need is one session, I'll go crazy.” I remember thinking that and talking to Buddy about it and being like, “Bro, if I could get in with Greedo.”
Do you know the story behind “Disco Shit?” There’s a part in the song where Greedo says, “Don't you fucking touch me, and it’s supposed to be a true story.
It's something Greedo could tell easier. But basically, when he was younger and different scary and gnarly situations he had been in—whether he had put himself in them or been thrown into them when he was younger—he felt characters in Blow were people he could relate to in a lot of different ways. I remember him explaining to me different stories about girlfriends he had who had ratted on him to his mom when he was a young kid. We’d talked about, “That's why I hated that girl in Blow. Whenever they were in the car and she told the cops and all this stuff.” He’s like, “I had a girlfriend when I was 18 years old.” He would go into a story immediately, and it was about every type of thing. He would be telling me these stories for way longer than it would take to make the song. The song would get done in two minutes. Greedo makes music like he breathes air.
Will other videos feature animation like “Disco Shit?”
Well, the thing about the animation is every scene you see, whether it’s the cover with me and Greedo, or the “Disco Shit” video, these were all preconceived ideas by Greedo. These are things where 03 himself was like, “I want the cover to be this exactly. We’re on a couch. There’s posters from the movies in the background.” He was telling us this way before he went in. It wasn’t like, “Let’s go make all these decisions of everybody’s behalf.” It was like, “We know exactly what we’re doing.” The only thing we threw into it was the claymation, because after a while, it was like, “How many times are we going to draw Greedo? Or how many pictures are we going to put up that people have already seen? Let’s give them something that feels like Greedo.” When you see the “Disco Shit” video and there’s this little caricature of Greedo doing all these things—everything from his mannerisms to all his tattoos, to his hair, to how he dresses, it’s so Greedo. Because our team knew him so well, getting that across to the animators and the marketing was so easy.
The documentary shows you powering through sessions while others slept. How many hours did you personally put into sessions?
I’m there a couple hours before he gets there and a couple hours after. Probably any day I had a session with Greedo, I had another session at the opposite time. So if he was daytime, I had a night session. If he was night time, I had a day session.
So you were basically just 24 hour days.
Yeah, I’m the janitor. I’m the therapist. I’m the engineer. I’m the producer. I’m the runner to the store. I’m all that. My spot is mine. No one pays studio time. No one does anything. We just come here and we make music. At that time with Greedo, there was no personal assistants and interns, and all this kind of fortunate stuff that I have now. It was me, dealing with everything myself. So when Greedo would come there, I had to do anything I could to get the most Greedo songs possible, so I could go flex on my friends. It was nonstop. We’re eating, we’re smoking, we’re hanging out. It was all that, but it’s like, I’m engineering and producing and just trying to wrangle and be there for him as a friend. There was no time for me to nap. It’s probably why my habits have gotten even worse. Even though it sounds crazy talking about it, it’s very standard these days.
What is your favorite song on the album?
“Traffic” is my favorite song. It’s the first song Greedo and I ever made. There’s a part in the verse where he says, “Either you get killed, go to jail, or have a jump shot. Used to have fire drills, they ain’t teach us how to duck gun shots.” There was so many lines in it that went by me. I remember just being shook by being a part of these records that were going to be so important for people. Greedo would say certain things that wouldn’t even resonate with me. Not something I could hear, but I know the second he plays this where he’s from, this is going to resonate in a different way. I really, really try my hardest to be authentic in every way when I’m working on any type of music, and that means respect the producers, respect the process, respect where the artist comes from, and everything that they need to make their music the way they need to make it. I’m just a vessel. I’ve never tried to get in the way of anything. I realized all that for the first time making that song, and I’ve never felt any different since. I work on music all the time that’s sad, or fun, or happy, or inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all important, but it felt like I had tapped into something new the day I met Greedo, because he picked me and said, “I’m going to let you be a part of this.” I owe him the world for that.
My best memory this year was when Rick Rubin picked me up in a pickup truck in Hawaii and drove me around for four hours. We listened to 100 songs, and it changed my whole life in a single conversation.
What’s the most important thing that you want people to know about this project?
I want people to understand that Greedo is one of the most important California artists of our generation. Greedo’s one of the most important artists of our generation, and I think me being fortunate to have been in California while he was on his rise, it’s the only way I could have understood it. Now I need to help other people understand that. I’m not a California native, so when someone’s talking about Watts or talking about all these different things that went on in there, I can only pretend to understand so much. But I got to be close to the guy, and I got to get it all explained to me. I’m not going to explain it for him, but I’m going to help him explain it on a bigger level. If I could use anything that I have as a resource, or use my momentum in any way to blast the signal for him, I’m going to do that.
What else are you working on at the moment? Do you have any exciting collaborations coming up?
I don’t think I can do any specifics, but I’m working with a bunch of bands. I’m working on a lot of non-rap stuff. Rico Nasty has got an album coming, so many things. I just dropped off in the last week, three fully-produced albums by me.
All of this is coming in 2019 or 2020?
The only album produced by me this year coming out will be Greedo. So toward the end of the year, but beginning next year, [I’m going to start dropping new music].
What's your favorite memory from this year?
My best memory this year was when Rick Rubin picked me up in a pickup truck in Hawaii and drove me around for four hours. We listened to 100 songs, and it changed my whole life in a single conversation. He’s been a close mentor of mine ever since that conversation. I play him pretty much everything I work on. I met a lot of my mentors this year, and meeting Rick and meeting Madlib are the first two things that come to mind.
What body of work are you most proud of this year?
Netflix & Deal is something I’ve never been prouder of. I’m not saying that because we’re in an interview right now. For us to be able to put out this album that is already getting so much love, and it’s not even out yet... Put out this documentary with all these other favorites of ours involved in it, and do all these things... I think when I reassessed what I was going to do as far as my career, this is the kind of thing I dreamed of doing. Me and my group of friends got to help one of our favorite artists make a legendary project. And now we have major labels reaching out to us to do marketing and creative for them. Not even just me—my friends and my manager. That’s a huge accomplishment. If I produce a Drake and Kanye collab album, I don’t think it would make me feel what I feel about this project.
Every year we do this Best Hip-Hop Producer Alive list. Where do you think you rank after this year?
I don’t rank myself. I think if you start ranking yourself, you lose sight of the music. I told someone if I was in your top 50 producers, you fucked up. I can’t even fit my top 50 influences. I think about my favorites and I have so many favorites that they all got to come before me.
Who is in your top 5 producers of all time list?
Rick Rubin, Madlib, Mark Ronson, Quincy, Berry Gordy.
What is your biggest goal for 2020?
Produce an album for D’Angelo or Jai Paul. I want to produce a Jai Paul and D’Angelo collab EP. I’ve been thinking about this lately. People always ask me who are my dream collaborations, and I always say some weak shit. I”ve been thinking about it lately, and every time I listen to Jai Paul, I’m like, “This is the guy. This is the person who is my dream.” Also, I got to work at The Roots original studio in Philly.