This summer, the UK drill producer collaborated with Fivio Foreign on “Big Drip,” which exploded to nearly 10 million views on YouTube within a few months. One of those listeners may have been Drake, because two months ago, AXL received a call from the Toronto rapper’s manager.
“He told me Drake listened to some of Fivio Foreign’s songs produced by me,” AXL tells Complex. “So he must have heard ‘Big Drip’ and wanted to hit me up.”
AXL sent Drake a beat he had been working on, and a month later, the superstar rapper released “War.” AXL says, “The beat sounds like mid-trap and mid-drill. It doesn’t sound like a regular aggressive drill beat. It’s more calm. It's a soft tempo drill beat. I think that’s Drake’s vibe, and it clicks with him.”
With more attention being paid to AXL and his sound than ever before, the 19-year-old producer says he’s just getting started, and he has more big collaborations in the works. One of those is with Travis Scott. “I ain’t going to talk too much on that one, because it’s super heat,” he says. “I mean, Travis Scott on a drill beat. That’s going to blow people’s minds.”
AXL got on the phone with Complex to talk about his Drake collaboration, bringing the UK drill sound to America, why he thinks drill music is going to take over 2020, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
When did you make the “War” beat and how did it get in the hands of Drake?
I started working on it a couple months back. I didn’t actually finish the beat at first. I just started working on it. I wasn’t really popping. Then Drake’s manager hit me up, so I finished the beat off and sent it to him. He liked it, and he said Drake fucked with it. So Drake hopped on it, and he put that shit out like a month later.
Do you know how Drake found out about you and why he wanted to work with you?
I think it’s the “Big Drip” song. That was going crazy, so I think he might’ve heard that song and thought, “Who is this producer?” Because he told me Drake listened to some of Fivio Foreign’s songs produced by me. So he must have heard “Big Drip” and wanted to hit me up.
Why do you think Drake was drawn to your sound?
I think it’s the beat. The beat sounds like mid-trap and mid-drill. It doesn’t sound like a regular aggressive drill beat. It’s more calm. It's a soft tempo drill beat. I think that’s Drake’s vibe, and it clicks with him.
Was there much back-and-forth with Drake and his team after you sent the beat?
They did tell me to keep it a secret, and not to tell anybody. Then a few weeks later, he just dropped it. Boom. With the video and everything.
I’ve seen a lot of comments from people saying, “Oh, Drake made a grime song.” Can you break down what exactly drill is? And how it compares to grime?
Yeah. Grime is a whole different genre compared to drill. There’s some aspects of grime in UK drill, like the 808s, and you’ve got the slides and the fast-tempo snares. That’s kind of interacting with grime. But grime is different than drill. And the drill you’re hearing now, like the one Drake is on, is a mixture between grime and drill. DJ L, we created the sound. Shout out to him, he started off the sound. We took that sound and changed it to something else that’s way cleaner and neat. Something everyone could hop on. That’s the difference.
I’ve got Pop Smoke, Travis Scott. Working with ’em right now. I ain’t going to talk too much on that one because it’s super heat. I mean, Travis Scott on a drill beat. That’s going to blow people’s minds.
You’ve had success bringing the UK drill sound to America, and you're working with lots of Brooklyn drill artists. How did that happen? How you were able cross over and translate that sound to an American audience?
This started a couple years ago, the whole Brooklyn drill wave. In 2016, I got connected to some of the rappers. You’ve got 22Gz; you’ve got Sheff G. They’re building the whole movement up strong, taking it to them heavy. After that, I connected with Fivio Foreign. We just have a connection and we clicked with it. His sound is crazy, and we're building something crazy. Now you’ve got all these big artists. You’ve got Pop Smoke, blowing up, trying to take it to a whole other level. I think that’s going to be the sound of 2020. Because it’s popping right now. Crazy.
Who are some other artists you’ve been working with that people should check out?
I’ve got Pop Smoke, Travis Scott. Working with ’em right now. I ain’t going to talk too much on that one because it’s super heat. I mean, Travis Scott on a drill beat. That’s going to blow people’s minds. That’s going to blow everyone’s mind. I’m working with Wiz Khalifa right now. He want to hop on the wave. That’s going to be another big one. No one’s going to believe that shit. So yeah, there’s a lot of rappers I’m working with now.
Do you have any concerns about the UK drill sound getting watered down if it becomes super trendy in America? Or do you think it’s good for the genre to spread across the world?
I’m cool with it. I mean, that’s how music works. It transforms itself. That’s how music starts to change. That’s like what we heard with Chicago drill and UK drill. The sound transforms into something else. So if it changes, let it happen. That happens. That’s music, man.
We're ending 2019 with Drake, one of the biggest artists in the world, jumping on a drill song. What’s next for drill in 2020?
A lot of rappers are going to hop onto the wave. A lot of rappers. A lot of mainstream rappers are going to hop on drill. We already see it, because it’s going crazy right now. Even though Drake wasn’t making drill music before, he’s into UK culture. And I could see it. I could see big rappers hopping on it. Gunna hopping on a drill beat. That’s crazy. That would blow everyone’s mind. Young Thug hops on a drill beat, that would change everyone’s mind. Everyone would go crazy.
How do you think fans of this scene in the UK will react to Drake making a drill song like this?
I don’t think they like it, but at the same time, why wouldn’t you like Drake on a drill beat? He’s trying to make the culture big. He’s trying to get the whole UK jumping to another level. So if you’re saying, “Oh, I don't like it,” or you’re not supporting it, it’s cool, but you don’t have to rant about it. It’s a good thing. It’s making the sound go bigger than it already is now. I’m good with it.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2020?
I’m just trying to get a drill song to the Billboard [charts]. That’s the aim. And I want to get more connected with different artists. I’m trying to get the sounds more spread out. Not just working with people in the US and the UK, but getting it to the Latino community, and areas all over the world. I’m just trying to get the sound out there.