When Drake wants to make a hit, he has a new go-to producer he likes to call.
OZ is a 28-year-old musician from Switzerland who has been quietly building one of the most impressive resumes in rap over the past few years. Since 2018, he has earned three No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. First came "Sicko Mode" with Travis Scott and Drake, followed by Travis' "Highest in the Room" and Drake's "Toosie Slide." In the process, he's picked up multiple Grammy nominations and become a mainstay at the top of Billboard's producer and songwriter charts.
Making his beats out of a home studio in Switzerland, OZ has opted to keep a low profile and let the work do the talking. He acknowledges that he might be more well-known by now if he used a producer tag, but he's avoided slapping his own name all over his beats because he would "just annoy people with my tag." The quality of the music is more important to him than anything.
Hitting a groove over the past few years, OZ has formed a particularly close relationship with Drake. They first collaborated on 2016's Views album cut, "U with Me?" Then, following the success of "Sicko Mode," they reconnected on Drake's 2019 songs, "Omertá" and "Gold Roses." Forming an even closer bond in 2020, they've already released six more collaborations: "Life Is Good," "Toosie Slide," "Time Flies," "Losses," "Greece," and "Popstar." Half of their 2020 releases rose straight to the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Throughout Drake’s career, he's been known to strike close collaborative relationships with producers like Boi-1da and Noah "40" Shebib, who he keeps going back to for beats. It's still early, but based on their track record over the past couple years, it seems Drake has begun to feel a similar groove with OZ.
"Whenever I make beats, he's actually the first person that I'm sending the ideas to," OZ tells Complex.
OZ says he receives simple messages like "I need a slapper" or "I need a club record right now" from Drake, and so far, he's held up his end of the bargain. When Drake releases his sixth studio album later this summer, it seems extremely likely that we'll see OZ's name all over the production credits.
Instead of owning a specific sound, the Swiss producer has focused on polishing his skills to the point that he can make any kind of beat. At the moment, he says he's having the most fun producing dark, bass-heavy beats, but that doesn't mean you won't find him making a dancehall beat tomorrow.
Beyond the Drake and Travis collaborations, OZ has been landing placements with artists like Meek Mill, Trippie Redd, Lil Baby, Gunna, and 6lack. He says Kendrick Lamar and Young Thug are high on his lists of rappers he wants to work with, and his next big goal is to receive a nomination for Producer of the Year at the Grammys.
Celebrating the success of his most recent placements—"Greece" and "Popstar" with Drake and DJ Khaled—OZ hopped on the phone with Complex for a conversation about how he's become one of rap's hottest producers.
When did you first start making beats?
I started making beats between 2005 and 2006. It was a long time ago. For the first couple years, I was just making beats for fun. It was just a hobby. Then in 2011, I started working with German artists, which took it from a hobby to something that was a little more professional. I still had a real job and all that, though. But in 2013, I started working with Meek Mill. From there, I really started taking all this stuff seriously, and built my relationships with all the American artists.
What were some of those early placements?
My first big placements were with Meek Mill. Then I had a record with DJ Khaled, which was called "How Many Times" [featuring Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Big Sean]. G-Eazy was a big placement, too, and then Jeremih. Logic was also working on my beats. Then in 2016, I was on Drake's Views, which was a big placement for me.
How did that first placement on Views grow into the steady working relationship you have with Drake now?
The Views placement was through Vinylz, who is another producer that works close with Drake. Two years later, I met my manager, Simon [Gebrelul]. Simon and Drake have been friends for a long time, and he started sending my beats out. That's how we started working. The first record was "Omertà," which started the run with Drake. After that, I was invited to a couple shows. I met Drake in L.A. last January, and from there, the relationship grew.
Do you know why Drake keeps coming back for your beats?
I have quality beats and I'm working on music constantly—pretty much every day. So whenever I make beats, he's actually the first person that I'm sending the ideas to. The more I work, the more I get the chance to get big records. And I guess I have a special sound. I always try and find the new wave and what's next.
Has he ever told you why he likes your beats so much?
Not really. The artists never know what they're looking for. If I knew the formula, and why people pick my beats, I would be on every album.
You recently tweeted, "In 2018, I thought I couldn't go higher after ‘Sicko Mode’ was released." What's your secret to sustaining success after a massive hit like that?
I don't have a secret. But back when "Sicko Mode" came out, I didn't even know it was going to be that big, because it's not a regular single. It has three beats and it's not a regular single at all, but I'm really happy it worked out. Then, after "Sicko Mode" charted No. 1 on Billboard, I thought, "All right, maybe this is my first and last No. 1." I was like, "Let's just enjoy the moment." I wondered if I was ever going to be able to make another club record like that.
So I just kept working and tried to find new ideas that would work in the clubs. And then "Highest in the Room" dropped, which went No. 1, too. That was insane to me. After that, "Life Is Good" came out, which peaked at No. 1. It was still a big, big, big record. And then, there was "Toosie Slide." It's crazy. I did it once, and then it was just coming automatically. I worked hard, and it all happened.
"Drake gave me his room [in the studio] and he was like, 'Yo, feel at home, just make whatever you like.' I had great hookahs over there. Everything was perfect."
You've had all these No. 1 hits and you've already reached the mountaintop of success in some ways. Do you have a next personal goal for yourself?
That's a good point. "Sicko Mode" had a lot of producers on it, so my goal was to have a big record just by myself. And I did it. So now a goal is to be nominated, or even win, Producer of the Year at the Grammys. I feel like I'm so close to it right now, because I've had a huge run. Maybe it's not even a run, because I've been in the game over the last five years. I feel like I've constantly been on important albums.
You've been getting all these placements with the biggest rapper in the world. How has your relationship with Drake affected the rest of your career?
It really changed a lot in my career. All the records that I have with Drake really opened a lot of doors to me. I had placements before, but getting big records with Drake gave me a lot more opportunities. Bigger artists hit me up directly. Since people see I'm working closely with Drake, and his last four singles are produced by me, artists try to reach out to me through Instagram or my manager. That shows me Drake's really opened crazy opportunities to get more placements. I really appreciate him.
Obviously Drake isn't not the only big artist you've worked with. You've worked closely with Travis Scott, too. How did that relationship develop?
Yeah, after "Sicko Mode," I got a lot of opportunities, too. I send Travis beats, and we have sessions when I'm in L.A.
How does your relationship with Travis compare to someone like Drake?
My relationship with Travis is based on music and just working: giving input, going back and forth, sending beats, and stuff that. With Drake it's about the music, too, but I was also at his home and met his friends and everything. It's more like we're friends, too.
You have lots of songs that you solely produce, but I know you also like to work with co-producers like Nick D or Tiggi. What about that collaborative process do you like?
I just love to collaborate. There are a lot of talented producers out there who are on a crazy musical level. And it saves me a lot of time, too. I just like to hear different ideas, then give my touch to it, and go back and forth. But also, there are days where I just want to sit down and create something from scratch by myself, just to freshen up my skills. I can't do beats all day long just by myself. But since I get a lot of requests about beats, it really saves my time [to collaborate] so I can work faster. I'm working faster, but I won't lose quality to my beats. It definitely saves me a lot of time when I'm collaborating with Nick D or Dez Wright or Cubeats or people like that.
How does that process usually work? I know lots of times someone will make a melody loop, then someone else will do the drums. How do you approach it?
It's always different. But, let's say, 70% of the process is: I get samples and melodies from other producers and I go through and pick the ones that I want to work on. Or I pick the ones that the artists I'm working with would like. I pick them, flip them a little different, or just let them be how they are. Then I try to give it a unique sound and find a new bounce or a new drum pattern. But sometimes, I also make the samples and send them out to other producers. Travis Scott's "Outside," or even on Drake's Views album, those were records where I worked on the sample. It's just about how I feel.
Let's talk about the songs you just did with Drake and DJ Khaled. How did "Popstar" come together?
I made the beat, which is very, very simple. I sent it to Drake, and a couple days later, he sent a crazy idea back. At first, it was just the hook. Then a couple weeks later, he sent the whole song, and we were going crazy. I think they had a session, and then Khaled ended up taking it for his project.
Do you remember your conversations with Drake about the song?
It's always messages like, "I need a slapper." Or, "I need a club record right now. Something up-tempo." There's not a lot of input for me as a producer, so I've just got to find out what he wants. That's why I work all day to make any type of music to make a touchstone. I've got to find the right sound that he has in his mind.
Are you the kind of producer who usually makes beats with a specific artist in mind?
It's so random. Sometimes my manager Steve calls me and says, "Yo, we need a pack for this artist." Then I know I have to do new beats in that direction. But most of the time, I just make beats and try anything that I would listen to in private. Then when artists hit me up, I just go to the beats and listen. I don't send the artists the type of beats that they normally use. Like, I don't listen to their last album and be like, "Oh, this could be the sound for him." I send anything, because you never know what they'll like. Even if there's some beat that he usually wouldn't jump on, maybe he will this time. It's all about timing.
Do you have any other memories about the making of "Popstar"?
Not really. Of course, when I made the beat, I was like, "Yo, this is definitely a slapper," so I sent it to Drake. But it was never planned from the beginning, like, "Oh, this is going to be a Khaled thing," or anything like that.
"Back then, the clubs were open still, so I thought ['Greece'] would be a crazy club record."
What do you remember about making the beat for "Greece"?
That was the end of summer last year. I got the sample from Tiggi. At first, the melody was completely different. It was slow. It was down pitch, really low. It was more R&B. Then I flipped it, pitched it up, and made it way faster, because I felt it could be something for a summer vibe. Back then, the clubs were open still, so I thought it would be a crazy club record. And, you know, it was up-tempo. I made it faster, flipped it, and chopped it differently to make it not too much R&B. Then once that beat was done, Drake got it and he loved it. He loved the beat, but it wasn't like "Popstar," where he sent the idea back right away. It took a couple weeks, and then he sent the song back. From there, we knew it was just crazy.
He's playing around with his vocals in ways that I've never heard him do before on "Greece." Were you surprised when he sent it back?
Yes. We were all surprised and also excited about it, because as an artist, from time to time, you don't get too excited about your own songs. But once you have a new sound, or something new that you love, you get excited. It's like a challenge. We all loved it. It's a special sound for him.
It sounds like you always knew this would be a good song for summer?
I don't know how Drake felt about it, but for me, it was always a summer song. This song gives a lot of emotion. It's a crazy vibe. You just want to go on vacation or go to the club or have a good time. But also, it's emotional, and it's good for nighttime driving, just listening to that beat. For me it was always a club or summer vacation song.
I know you started by sending beats to Drake. But how often have you worked with him in-person?
Last year, I worked with him a couple times in L.A., and also in Toronto. At first, it was just sending beats. Then he flew me out a couple times, and we were just vibing. I was making beats from the scratch. It wasn't like he was sitting there and waiting for me to make a beat. He gave me his room [in the studio] and he was like, "Yo, feel at home, just make whatever you like." I had great hookahs over there. Everything was perfect. It was a crazy vibe.
“I think if I had a tag, I would be more well-known. But I feel like I would just annoy people with my tag.”
Did you notice being in-person changed the creative process?
It didn't really change my working process, but it definitely changed the way I think about my sound. Now, I know more about what he wants. It's hard to explain, but I learned a lot about collecting my sounds now. And just making simple but great beats. That's the hard part.
What kinds of beats are you having the most fun making right now?
Lately, I really love to make hard beats. Just dark-ass beats with different bounces. I'm just trying to find new 808s and new basslines and stuff that. I love to make dark beats, but it changes every day. My moods change all the time. I can make a dancehall beat now, and then two weeks later, I don't want to listen to dancehall anymore. Then I'm just making rap beats and R&B. It's always switching. But today, I made crazy dark beats that you can just spit bars on.
Is there anything you've noticed that you've been improving at lately?
What I got better at is finding and collecting new sounds. I can hear better now. I hear better when it comes to picking the sounds for the drums or the samples. I can open a drum kit, and I know what I would like to add to the drums or whatnot. I think my beats in general got really good. Whenever I experimented with my beats back in the day, I would listen a couple days later, like, "This is the worst beat I've ever made." But now, when I'm making experimental beats or I make a completely weird-ass beat, I'll listen a couple days later, like, "Oh my God, this is crazy." I know what is good and what is not.
Are you still spending most of your time in Switzerland?
I'm trying to stay in Switzerland for now. I love to go to the U.S., but I only go there if it's important. When I know the album is about to be finished or whatever, and there's one more session, I'll go. But other than that, I love to stay home with my family, making beats over here. I'm the most creative in my own home, so I have to make beats over here. Then when I go to America, I just play the beats that I made here.
What is your set up like in Switzerland? Do you have a home studio?
Yeah, I have a home studio. It's just a simple build. I have two synthesizers, one MIDI keyboard, two speakers, and a laptop. I just built a studio with a real nice vibe, with the LED lights and stuff. It's really, really fun to be here in this room. I just made it as comfortable as I could. I made it nice in here, so I just stay here. I have everything here—even my PS4—everything. I don't even have to leave the room during the night.
Do you think being in Switzerland instead of America has helped or hurt your career?
I feel it helps me more to be from Switzerland, but I know there's a lot of people who don't have the same opinion. Of course, I could be there in America and have lots of sessions. But I feel making beats over here and being successful over there is kind of special. I'm not from America, but I have big records there. When I'm there, people are hitting up my manager, too, because they know I'm around. Everyone's like, "Let's do a session." Everybody's calling. But if I would live there, it wouldn't be that special. It would be like, "Oh, OZ is from here so we can reach out any day, whenever we want." I feel it's better this way.
You have a lot of hit records, but you're still relatively mysterious at this point. People don't know a lot about you. Do you have goals to become more of a public figure? Or do you prefer to be mysterious and stay behind the scenes?
I like both. I like when people appreciate my work and show love on social networks and even on platforms like Complex and Billboard. If I see my name in an article without having an interview, I appreciate that. But I know, for the stuff I'm doing, I definitely don't have that much attention from people. I think if I had a tag, I would be more well-known. But I feel like I would just annoy people with my tag.
Who are some rappers you would like to work with next?
I would love to work with Kendrick Lamar. Young Thug. I love his music. Jay-Z. Gunna. Lil Baby. I just love to be on different albums. There's a lot of people.
What should people expect from you the rest of the year?
There's a lot more music on the way. A lot of big records. I'm excited.