In the first week of 2020, a Smokepurpp song called "No Problem" leaked online. At that point, Purpp was no stranger to leaks—his Deadstar 2 project had leaked multiple times before its release in December 2019—but this particular track featured a guest verse from Kanye West.
"No Problem" has since been removed from most platforms, but Purpp recently revealed that he pulled the track from Deadstar 2 because Kanye denounced cursing on songs as part of his religious reawakening.
"I think it definitely would have made the project way bigger than it is," Smokepurpp tells Complex. "But at the same time, I don't mind. When the right moment comes, the right moment is going to come. I like having fun. If I'm not having fun making music then I don't want to make music."
Smokepurpp estimates that he made around 800 songs for Deadstar 2, which ended up costing a lot of money. "I don't do anything but go to the studio," he says. "My label be getting mad at me. I wasted $2 million recording Deadstar 2."
Purpp says he is currently in the process of working on a new album produced entirely by Ronny J. But for now, he is still coming down from the high of finally releasing Deadstar 2.
Despite several leaks and a missing Kanye track, Purpp and his collaborators—executive producer Mike Dean and Apex Martin—remember the creation of the album and their partnership fondly. "It just [worked]," Dean says of their bond. "We all have different tastes in music, so we all put in different shit."
Complex spoke with Smokepurpp, Mike Dean, and Apex Martin about how they connected, the creation of Deadstar 2, and what’s next. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
How did all three of you connect?
Smokepurpp: I had an A&R named Chad, who knew Apex. Eventually, they brought me to Mike's house. That one day at Mike's house, we fucking made that one song and it was crazy hard. Then we started working on Deadstar. Apex was like, “Yo, let's all get on this.” And that's what we did.
What was your overall vision for Deadstar 2?
Smokepurpp: I was trying to elevate from where I am and throw people off with shit they haven't heard from me. Back in like 2016 or '17, I met Apex, who brought me to Mike Dean's crib. I got on one beat that Apex and Mike Dean made and it was crazy. It was a fire song, and it got leaked. After that, I saw Mike more often, but I didn't really see him a lot until I started working on Deadstar 2.
What made Deadstar 2 such a departure from your other stuff?
Smokepurpp: I wasn't just talking about anything. I was talking about my life. I was talking about real shit. Not saying I never did a project like that, but I did that so my fans can know more of me, what I'd done, what I've been through, and all that shit.
Why did you think now was the perfect time for that versus earlier in your career?
Smokepurpp: To be honest, and no offense, but I feel like that whole not saying shit [approach] died out. That's why I stopped doing that shit like two years ago. It's not it. Back then, I was making this trend and it was going off, but I really don't even like this shit. Like, I'm making shit I don't want to. I'm making it less fun for myself. So it was like, I need to challenge myself. I need to do other shit. And that's what I did. I connected with Mike Dean and Apex and they created a whole new sound for me, and we went off from there.
What was the creative process like?
Apex Martin: It was the craziest experience I ever had working with an artist. Everything was happening with him. We were in the flow with where he wanted to go creatively and I think that was the first time in my experience that we became friends. That's my brother. You know when there's just a different energy.
How did those leaked songs affect the album and rollout overall?
Smokepurpp: That definitely was the reason [I delayed the project]. I had to remake songs. But the thing is, we were so locked in that it was like, "It doesn't matter, put on another beat. Let's make another one." We were in the matrix, just working.
How many songs would you say you recorded that you ended up not using?
Smokepurpp: Maybe like 500? 1,000? My manager just told me 800. Apex can vouch for me, I don't do anything but go to the studio. My label be getting mad at me. I wasted $2 million recording Deadstar 2.
What was the process like for picking those specific songs out of 800?
Smokepurpp: First, we sat with my label to see what they liked and what videos they wanted to roll out. Then we got directors and all that. Me, Apex, and Mike sat and we mixed everything, and chose the order and the flow together. Mike Dean added his touches, Apex added his touches. That’s what it was.
"I'm about to drop another project. Back to back. The next project I'm doing, RonnY J's producing the whole thing." - Smokepurpp
Why do you think this partnership and collaboration worked so well?
Smokepurpp: They just brought a whole new sound. I'm going to have my fans maybe not forever, but most of them are forever. So it's like, if I expand what I'm talking about and what I'm doing, I'm getting newer fans. I'm getting different fans, and that's how it's supposed to go.
Apex Martin: I think on a production side, it just works very well.
Smokepurpp: My other projects didn't really feel like an album. This one felt like it was like a movie.
Apex: Yeah, that was the discussion we had at first. We wanted it to feel like a movie or a story as opposed to just a collection of songs. It works well because it's not forced. We just go with the vibe. Mike will tell us if he thinks it's fire.
Mike Dean: It just [worked]. We all have different tastes in music, so we all put in different shit.
Were there any challenges working together having such different sounds?
Mike Dean: I feel like that's what makes it original.
Smokepurpp: I mean, the Kanye feature that we couldn't put on there because he cursed and he's a Christian.
Speaking of that Kanye track, how long before the album and Kanye’s transition was that song recorded?
Smokepurpp: Oh man, I think it was in Aspen or some shit…
Mike Dean: You made "I Love It" first, right?
Smokepurpp: Oh, yeah. I wrote, "I Love It," too. We made this shit like over a year and a few months ago when I was in Aspen for some college shit going on with Lil Jon, and that's when we got it.
"I was always f***ing with Kanye. Then when I wrote the song, "I Love It," the sh*t broke a record for him, like his biggest song in 10 years, so [we kept working with each other]." - Smokepurpp
How did that collaboration with Kanye come about?
Smokepurpp: Kanye was already one of my favorite artists, so I was always fucking with Kanye. Then when I wrote the song, "I Love It," the shit broke a record for him, like his biggest song in 10 years, so [we kept working with each other].
Do you think having to take the Kanye collab off the album after he stopped cursing took anything away from the album as a whole?
I think it definitely would have made the project way bigger than it is. But at the same time, I don't mind. When the right moment comes, the right moment is going to come. I like having fun. If I'm not having fun making music then I don't want to make music.
Apex: It ain't really even fit in the framework of the album, the version that we put out. It would have been cool for the future.
What was your favorite part about working on this project together?
Smokepurpp: I just like watching Mike Dean play with synthesizers. That shit is crazy to me.
Apex: Yeah, and what he did on “Red Bottoms.” The siren.
Smokepurpp: Oh, yeah. That was, that was stupid… But I love working with Mike and I love working with Apex. I feel like they're on go all the time and that's all I am. I don't like doing anything but recording.
Apex: My favorite moment was just the full-circle moments. Like he said, when me, Purpp, and Mike linked up for the first time, it was at Mike's crib in the studio. I think bro had just moved out to L.A. and shit…
Smokepurpp: Yeah, I couldn't even function that day. I had a Sprite that looked so pink. I saw Mike looking at me like, "Damn!” The picture's still on Mike's Instagram.
Mike Dean: I thought he was drinking a Big Red.
Smokepurpp: That's when I was drinking mad Lean and codeine and shit, but I pulled out a Sprite and it didn't even—it was crazy—that shit looked like a bubble gum drink.
Mike, you've worked with everyone from Scarface in the 90s to Kanye and Smokepurpp and Travis. Those are all very unique and versatile artists. Is there a blueprint that you've been following throughout your career? What draws you to all of these sounds and artists?
Mike Dean: It's just me, really. I do what I do, and it works out well.
How do you jump from a Travis Scott or Smokepurpp record to Kanye’s Jesus Is King? Is it challenging?
Mike Dean: No, it keeps it interesting. You do the same shit all the time, you get bored. You bore yourself.
What’s the reason for the gap in between projects?
Smokepurpp: I take my time with my music. I really care about my music. I'll drop a project once a year, but I might go two years. Whenever shit like that happens to me, it feels like it's new again.
Do you anticipate another hiatus between Deadstar 2 and the next project?
Smokepurpp: Oh, no, no, no. I'm about to drop another project. Back to back. The next project I'm doing, Ronny J's producing the whole thing. I've been working with Ronny J since I didn't even rap. Me and Ronny got our first million together.