As the New York City drill scene continues to morph and evolve, Surf Gang’s lead producer EvilGiane stands at the meeting point between Brooklyn drill, Bronx drill, and sample drill.
The Brooklyn-born producer has been making beats since he was in his early teens. He was raised in a household where both R&B and alternative rock filled the rooms thanks to his mother and father who wrote and produced music respectively. Now in his 20s, Giane’s musical background and knowledge of classic deep cuts give him a leg up when choosing samples for Surf Gang songs. Surf Gang is a collective of young artists and producers who make music together out of New York City, reminiscent of a new age East Coast Odd Future. As their main producer, Giane is one of the pioneers of the sample drill scene that has exploded in New York over the last three years. His eclectic approach to sample selection and beat choices landed him on ASAP Rocky’s radar; the two worked together on Rocky’s song with Playboi Carti, “Our Destiny,” which samples a loop from the 2004 Destiny’s Child cut “If.”
“I've been around the whole AWGE [A$AP Worldwide Greatness Entertainment] shit, because I used to model and be around people that were connected with them,” Giane tells Complex. “My friend used to work around their team, and that's kind of how it just happened. My homie was just like, ‘Yo, this would sound good.’ And they went for it. They were fucking with it and that shit was also really shocking [for me].”
Fast forward one year later, and Giane is still just getting started. He connected with Baby Keem on Instagram and sent him some of his beats. Now, Giane finds himself as the centerpiece of a new massive track featuring the Las Vegas rapper and his legendary big cousin, Kendrick Lamar. “Hillbillies” has production nods to Jersey Club, specifically in the six-count beat pattern that outlines the skeleton of the track. When Keem shared the song on Twitter, he also labeled it a “Sticky Dub.” Keem and Kendrick borrowed some of Drake’s flow from the Honestly, Nevermind cut on the hook of the song, and the result is a dynamic track with the familial duo trading bars over the club beat.
“We've been trying to mix drill and Jersey Club for a couple of years now,” Giane says of the rising sound with influences from both subgenres. “It's coming up on some East Coast shit because it's really just like East Coast rap. Before, it was when it was samples and shit, but now the samples are just being used differently.”
We sat down with the Brooklyn producer over Zoom to talk about the making of Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s latest single “Hillbillies,” sending beats to Drake, the evolution of sample drill, and more.
How did you get started making beats?
I've always wanted to make beats and stuff. My dad used to make beats way back in the ‘90s and my mom used to write songs and make songs. They always tell me when I was a baby, I was in a car seat in the studio. I've always just been really interested in this music in general. But I started making beats on my phone on FL Studio Mobile. I had this little shitty Android phone that you get for free from welfare. And then after a year of just doing that, just playing around with it, then I got my first laptop and from there it was history. That had to be five years ago.
What music did you listen to growing up that might have influenced your production style today?
Just mainly a lot of the stuff produced by Timbaland and Static Major. And just growing up listening to a lot of R&B through my mom and stuff. But my mom just put me on to all of my music and kept it diverse because she was always into rock too and a lot of alternative rock. And she put me on a lot of grunge stuff, which got me into just listening to different types of music.
How did your musical upbringing influence the songs you like to sample now?
I would say just how my mom would keep putting me on stuff. I want to do the same with samples to maybe the people that are in different situations that wouldn't hear the songs that I've sampled originally and have them hear and be like, “Oh, this song is sick.” Besides it being a cool song being sampled. That's really the main goal. Putting people on to the original music when I choose samples.
How did you connect with ASAP Rocky, and what was it like working with him?
I've been around the whole AWGE shit, because I used to model and be around people that were connected with them. My friend used to work around their team, and that's kind of how it just happened. My homie was just more like, “Yo, this would sound good.” And they went for it. They were fucking with it and that shit was also really shocking [for me]. That shit was super surreal. They already knew about that song, but then I didn't know when it was going to drop. And then I just woke up one morning and everyone was like, “Yo, congrats on the song.” And I'm like, “What song?” My Instagram is like fucking “Our Destiny.” Everyone was freaking out over that. That shit was super exciting too. It was kind of the same feeling that I feel with this shit. Like, how the fuck did I do this?
Did the Drake Instagram follow come before or after you produced for Rocky? Have you sent him beats?
That came before I produced for Rocky and yeah I've sent him shit. You know how it is with big artists though, you don't really get that much info. But I've sent him a bunch of stuff. He hit me up after I sampled him actually for this one song for this Queens rapper Dee Aura. He's a drill-type rapper and kind of underground but he's super good. But yeah, I sampled Drake on that one song, “Give Back,” and Drake heard that shit and reposted it and just hit me up on Instagram and said, “Yo send me shit” and just was showing love. I appreciate the love for real. He kind of was earlier on, he was the first out of all of the [big artists] to show me some type of love.
In what ways has your work with Surf Gang helped prepare you for these moments?
I like working with Surf Gang, I developed my style working with Surf Gang. I owe all of this shit to Surf Gang because I feel like no one would even attempt to listen to my stuff if we didn't make all the music we did in the time we did.
You describe Surf Gang’s music as “post-apocalyptic rap.” Can you explain that further, why does that description fit their music and your production style?
That was kind of a joke that we've always just had running because before people didn't really like our stuff in the beginning since it was a little too different I guess, until people started catching on. It takes one person to put everyone else on and shit. So, we always used to be joking, like oh I guess we're like post-rap. Because you know how it's like post-punk and shit like that. We were like, yo, I guess we're post-rap, but apocalyptic because it was around the time it was COVID. COVID was going crazy and it was a shutdown but we were just like damn, the world's ending and everything's shut down and we're still trying to get this rap shit going, but that's kind of where that joke came from.
How did you connect with Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar for “Hillbillies?”
I just connected with Keem through Instagram. He hit me up randomly just saying he fucked with my music and I was just like, “Damn I'm gassed.” That shit is wavy. I already fucked with Keem's music. And then from there it was just natural, it was back and forth and just sending him stuff, and out of that, that was the beat that he chose. So, I guess they shot a video for it, which was pretty surprising. I didn't really expect him to jump on one of the drill ones because I sent him a bunch of different styles, but then the drill one I guess fit for him and niggas made the classic for real.
What do you think it says about the Jersey Club and New York drill scene that Keem and Kendrick gravitated to that beat?
It shows that what we are doing is right, it is growing and we've been doing that. We've been trying to mix drill and Jersey Club for a couple of years now. It's coming up on some East Coast shit because it's really just like East Coast rap. Before, it was when it was samples and shit, but now the samples are just being used differently. And also I really just fuck with that. I feel like it's a renaissance. It's hip-hop starting over, it's the new hip-hop.
Where were you when you heard the song for the first time with Keem and Kendrick on it?
Dude, I was just waking up and literally mad people were blowing up my phone. It was like, “Yo, yo, congrats bro. Congrats on the song.” I'm like, “Bro, what song?” And then it was kind of waking up to the Rocky and [Playboi] Carti shit as well, and I just opened up Instagram and saw everyone reposting this shit. Everyone is texting me about it. Keem texted me and was just like, “We going up.” And I was just like, damn bro.
What are your thoughts on sample drill? Do you see yourself as a forefather to it?
I wouldn't say I'm the forefather but I've always fucked with it. I kind of did it in a different way than others did. No one was doing the samples I was doing, but people were kind of sampling shit before me. But people were just choosing regular hip-hop ass samples, just R&B shit, which was also hella fire. But then, once I heard that shit, that shit inspired me and I was just like, “Bro, if niggas can sample Aaliyah a million times, what if we just sampled this Foo Fighters track or some shit?”
And that shit inspired so many people to do the same. People always ask if I be upset about shit like that. And I always tell niggas like, “Hell no.” Fuck credit and all this extra shit. If I could just inspire somebody to just make music that I like, even if it's inspired by me, I'd rather have other people making music that I want to listen to anyways as opposed to everybody just making the same shit. I'm just trying to continue rap.
What are your thoughts on how Jersey Club and New York drill have been fusing together more lately as well?
I love it. I think it's natural how it should be. Just how back in the ‘90s niggas used to rap together. So, we've got niggas like Method Man and Redman, we need shit like that to keep this shit going. Because at the end of the day, this is where hip-hop was born. I love it. We got to keep the motion really. I think that it’s fire that New York and Jersey are cliqued up because, nigga it's the tri-state area, you know what I mean? We all listen to the same radio at the end of the day.
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far after landing these massive placements?
The biggest lesson I learned is to be patient for one. Because with not knowing that shit's going to drop, people tend to get antsy. And it's hard not to be like, is anything going to come from this? Is this even worth it? If you are patient, you receive blessings. Just be patient and be positive about everything and don't just box yourself in as well. It's easy to get stuck doing the same thing over and over, and yeah since I'm getting all this sample drill motion and shit like that doesn't mean that's going to be the only thing that niggas see from me. You know what I mean? And that's what I don't want people to see from me. Just sample drill because I got so much else going on.
Looking ahead, what do you still hope to achieve?
My goals ahead are to just keep making good music. Keep making good music and keep the hoes guessing man. I want people to always be like, “Yo, what is he going to do next?”