“I’m building a community for producers. I have at least 10,000 of them on my phone right now—no joke.” And it’s not hard to believe.
For the last five years solid, North London’s M1OnTheBeat has been inspiring producers—under- and over-ground—with his melody-driven drill instrumentals, many of which have been laced by some of the biggest in the scene; most notably OFB frontman and fellow Tottenham native Headie One, with whom he has worked on countless hits and arguably the biggest UK drill collaboration of all time: the Drake-assisted “Only You Freestyle”. That was in 2020, but it was three years prior when M1 first rocked the music scene, collaborating with MKThePlug to bless Forest Gate rhymer CB with his breakout hit, “Take That Risk”. Heavy on the drum work, it was the eerie melody—those chiming bells!—beneath CB’s equally menacing bars that won over hearts.
“All the drums have to be crystal clear, the drops have to be really nice, and you have to be able to make melodies,” says M1, giving sound advice to the aspiring beatsmiths wanting to do drill. “If you can’t make melodies—go and learn! Seriously. It’s important.”
M1 is all about sharing gems with the next generation, and the community of producers he’s been cultivating for the past six months is something he plans on taking to the stars. “These producers, if they had the links that I have, they’d be rich already,” he says. “I want to help facilitate as many things as possible to help get them to the next level, and get as much exposure as possible.”
Since 2017, M1OnTheBeat has been on a non-stop roll creating soundscapes for artists and their personal missions for greatness. He was faceless for a time too, with only his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it but unforgettable producer tag being a point of reference for most. But with his recently released debut project, M1OnTheBeat: The Mixtape, the 24-year-old star is stepping out in full super-producer mode, this time with the artists he’s previously helped win (many times over) assisting in his mission for greatness.
“I’m gassed to finally release this,” he explains. “The name is already, like, a brand in itself, but I’m branding myself as a face now so I just wanted to keep the title to the point. M1OnTheBeat, some people don’t even know where it’s from—they just know that they’ve heard it. Me, the mandem and my manager, Jam, we spent days trying to work out the name for the project. It got frustrating after a while. But then we came to the conclusion—keep it simple: I’m M1OnTheBeat, and this is my debut mixtape. Boom!”
We caught up with M1OnTheBeat to talk working with Drake and the OVO crew, how he helped formulate the blueprint for drill production today, why grime’s influence on the scene can never be denied, and much more.
“One day, I wake up to a DM from Drake saying, ‘Yo! Send me some beats.’ It was crazy, man!”
COMPLEX: You grew up in the gritty side of North London—Tottenham, to be precise. How was it growing up in that part of town, and how would you say it’s influenced the man you are today?
M1OnTheBeat: Growing up in Tottenham, I guess it shows you that there's different variations of people living certain lifestyles that’s both good and bad. If you grew up in, say, Coventry, you wouldn’t understand why a London person thinks how they think. That’s why people who work in the countryside have to adapt when they go there because it’s totally different settings. But I think being from Tottenham helped me to talk to people because the industry is just like everyone.
We got to properly connect last year when we filmed for Complex’s Best British Rappers Of 2022 show. From our few meetings so far, and even seeing you in clips from interviews across social media, you come across as someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Basically, you’re always happs whenever I see you [laughs]. Have you always been like that?
[Laughs] That was a fun day, man. You know what it is, JP? I’m just being myself. I don’t know how I come across to people, but it’s good to hear what you just said. I’m calm. I’m cool. When you meet me, you’ll know that this guy is genuine.
What were you like in school? Were you always the guy giving everyone jokes at the back of the class?
I had my moments, man. I didn’t take school seriously at all, though. I should have. I did certain lessons, like music and drama—I actually did pretty alright. I went to college after, but I was there for, like... So, basically, I went to a series of three different colleges. There was one in Hornsy, and it was like one of those really quiet colleges. I don’t know why, but I just wanted to go to a quiet college, because I went to Conel before in Enfield and it was mad loud. And then, from there, because that college was like a year for some reason, I moved to Blackpool Road: BCE, which stands for Big Creative Education. That was a cool college. I did music there, but they ended up kicking me out by accident [laughs]. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time; I was thought to have had something to do with that situation, which I had nothing to do with. They eventually brought me back and it was a blessing, but I started taking production seriously at the same time so I didn’t continue the college course because there was a lot of work. I felt a bit pressured. I wouldn’t say that’s the right thing to do, but yeah..
To me, you seem like one of those producers who is self-taught in a lot of things. But did you pick up any skills during college that have helped you along the way?
Because I went to creative colleges, colleges where creatives go to, I think I learned that there’s a lot of people out there who want to do music. Going college and seeing all the types of musical characters helped me to understand the people who I work with now, like really passionate people. It’s helped me to adapt to the way certain people work and I know how to be around them. But before I even went to college, I used to go to drama school, at Anna Shears. I didn’t really see the point when I was younger going there; it felt like a bit of a chore. But now that I’m getting into things and talking to people, it’s helped me to project myself. Same way with college. So it’s like realistic learning, I guess. But in terms of the teachings, I wouldn’t say I didn’t learn anything—I just don’t remember what I learned. I guess they were teaching Logic, so it was hard for me to focus. It was hard. I was very out of focus in my academic years, I can definitely say that, but I did okay. I had to show my dad a little sign; I needed to show him that I wanted to do music on a serious level and that it was all worthwhile. I was already self-taught. I knew how to play piano, I was already learning beats on FL, and none of the colleges were teaching FL so I just took it upon myself to learn all about it.
Take me back to the day, the moment you realised you had a real talent for producing. Can you remember the first production you made and what inspired you at that point?
I remember when drill first started coming out and it was all about the 808 slabs. People would do a majority of two 808 slides in their beats, and this was when I was just getting into it. So I’m studying the game, seeing what people are doing, and obviously, you have to spin it in your own way after. Man were doing, like, five slides in a four bar of the beat. There’ll be, like, seven slides in different places. I used to do all that! Then I saw producers like Ghosty and them started doing it. Then everyone started doing it. And I was a stubborn guy at the start. I used to say to man, “Why are you trying to copy my ting?” You could even ask them, bro. But then, as I’ve grown up, I’m learning that I’m just inspiring people out there and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d hear Pop Smoke on some crazy beats and I’m thinking to myself, “You know what? I’ve actually changed the damn sound of this ting!” That was time ago, though, before all the bangers started coming. I thought to myself, “Let me be consistent now.” Then “Take That Risk” with CB dropped and started getting featured on the news and stuff. I was around 17 at the time and I remember it going mad viral.
That’s easily one of the best drill tunes of all time. You should be proud. Which producers were you inspired by coming up?
I can’t lie: I was listening to bare Skrillex! I was listening to him from when I was in primary school. I used to love the bass. And Chief Keef had a specific producer called DPOnTheBeat, who was super-cold. He also had a lot of bass in his productions and that used to gas me [laughs]. When I started hearing Chicago drill back in the day—especially artists like G Herbo—and even seeing UK rappers like Grizzy 150, that’s when I said, “Yo! I need to get involved.”
“Without grime, drill production wouldn’t sound the way it sounds now; I’m talking about the sound everybody loves, from the likes of Pop Smoke right the way through.”
Where does grime come into play? I can hear its influence loud and clear in the drill that’s come out over the last five or more years.
Without grime, drill production wouldn’t sound the way it sounds now; I’m talking about the sound everybody loves, from the likes of Pop Smoke right the way through. Loads of people will sit there and say, “Bro! It’s directly from Chicago drill.” But nah, blud. It’s not just that because, moretime, if you listen to a lot of Chicago drill, it’s actually trap beats.
That’s very true. I’m glad you said that. No one can take away what UK producer 808 Melo did for the drill scene, having worked with the late Pop Smoke to build a whole new vibe across the pond, but you have consistently been pushing the sound on a high level for years, and you’ve had some big placements too. Would you say you’re the king of drill production right now?
I don’t necessarily know what king means, but I’d definitely say I have the most influence to date when it comes to UK drill. Because without me to go woo woo woo with the bass, peeps wouldn’t have sounded like that. You can ask Ghosty. Like I said before, I used to go mad but then I realised the inspiration I’m giving to people and I apologised to everyone. I was like, “You lot keep doing your thing, because you know what? You’re pushing the sound.” But then I said to myself, “Now I’ve got to work really hard and actually be the guy at the front.” I had to be consistent, man. And now that the tape’s coming out, I guess it’ll be talked about for a good while to come.
Let’s talk about your new, debut project—M1OnTheBeat: The Mixtape. How excited are you to finally get this out into the world, and why did you decide to keep the title so to the point?
On the title, I needed to put a face to the name. The name is already, like, a brand in itself, but I’m branding myself as a face now so I wanted to keep the title to the point. M1OnTheBeat, some people don’t even know where it’s from—they just know that they’ve heard it. Me, the mandem and my manager, Jam, we spent days trying to work out the name for the project. It got frustrating after a while. But then we came to the conclusion—keep it simple: I’m M1OnTheBeat, and this is my debut mixtape. Boom! I’m gassed to finally release this, though. I feel like there was a lot of pressure, but I overstood a lot of things during the process. You really overstand how artists feel about you… I’m going through a process that no other producer in the world is going through right now when it comes to UK artists. You might think that something could work and it doesn’t even come close! So then, when these things ain’t working like you’d like them to, it gets long. This project took over three years to complete. Imagine that!
I could well imagine. But we’re here now and that’s the main thing, right? It’s not just drill on this project, though—you really show how tapped in you are to various styles of rap music. And you worked with everyone from Meekz and Krept & Konan to Rimzee, Ghetts and Headie One on it, all completely different artists. I swear I even heard some boom-bap on there! Why was it important for this not to be solely a drill release?
Obviously, in my head, I would have loved to have made a 100% drill tape. I love drill. I love the genre and the sound, but it’s me having to mature up and say, “I can’t just put out a project focusing on one genre, unless I’m trying to actually sink into people’s heads that it’s that—full stop.” I’m trying to step into other fields of listeners as well; it’s not just about the drill scene... Our whole UK music is based on, like, five or six different genres anyway, so it makes sense to not just be based around one thing. But drill is where the heart is, and will always be. For sure.
Talking of Headie One, the “Only You Freestyle” you guys did with Drake is one of the biggest drill tracks ever released. I want the full story of how that came about because I don’t think it’s been told at length as of yet.
Anything for JP, man. Normal [laughs]. So, I had a studio in Lea Bridge—a very tiny studio— years ago and I do remember making the beat. I got a melody from Splash, which is a royalty-free, melody vocal system where you can download drums, melodies, and if you use it in your advert and whatever content you did and it blew up, no one can chat to you. No one can come to you and take anything because they’re paying the people that upload on Splash thousands of pounds to upload. So yeah, I got the melody from Splash, put it on some drums and I didn’t really see it as anything at the time. Then, one day, I wake up to a DM from Drake saying, “Yo! Send me some beats.” It was crazy, man. I said to him, “Send me an email address and I’ll do that right now.” But before this, one of his guys at OVO, Oliver [El-Khatib], he hit me up and was like, “We’ve been preeing your stuff. It’s dope. Good luck with everything you’ve got going on.” After I’ve sent beats to fuckin’ Drake, Headie’s hit me up. He’s saying Drake showed me this beat and that he was gonna jump on it. It was all mad! Funny thing as well: you see how it’s called “Only You Freestyle”? That was the name of my beat. That’s on everything I love. The beat was called “Only You”.
“[The ‘Only You Freestyle’] was one of the first UK-US-Canada link-ups to actually put our genre, our culture on a pedestal. I think, after that, the transatlantic collabs started going crazy.”
Sounds like it was a surreal moment for you.
It definitely was. It comes out what, like, a month later or something like that… I was invited to the video shoot but on Headie’s behalf because Drake shot his section in Toronto and Headie did his part in England. So we’ve gone to this mad warehouse and the shoot is looking crazy, bro. If you look, you’ll see me playing pool. The track was one of the first UK-US-Canada link-ups to actually put our genre, our culture on a pedestal. I think, after that, the transatlantic collabs started going crazy.”
Did that track get you more attention from more mainstream artists?
Yeah, more attention than ever. That actually helped me out a lot. I don’t think I would have been as motivated if that track didn’t come out. Even though there were other tracks, when your ambition and imagination is such a massive, massive room where you can’t even see the end, it’s like when you only have this much done. So what I’m trying to say is, when I had all these UK songs, I didn’t care. You’re just looking at so much and they can only go two ways. You can have that big room in your head that can never see the end of and get really motivated, or you can go the other way and find the whole thing long and you end up giving up. I was in between those mindsets at the time… You see how I just put everything into a metaphor? I started doing that and then that kinda helped me. Then “Only You” came out and I was like, “I’m back on, still.”
I was a music person before I made music, so by the age of 11, I was playing piano. My dad plays three instruments: saxophone, guitar, piano, and he sings. He taught me and my brother how to play guitar, but I used to hurt my hands so I stopped and decided to play piano instead. And then once I’ve gone through life and done a bit, I started making beats on my laptop for no reason. I had no reason, bro! When you listen to music, you don’t think about a lot of other stuff that’s negative because music is so nice. Especially when you might be fried or something [laughs]. That was what I lived for. I was happy with life when I was doing my little thing on the side, making beats at home and chilling with my mandem, and we're freestyling and enjoying the day. I was living in that and enjoying it. I didn’t used to upload pictures on Instagram and stuff. And you might remember yourself, bro: back in the day, you wouldn’t see my face because I didn’t care for fame and all that stuff. But I feel different now, obviously, because it can bring in opportunities that can help me better my life and everyone around me. It took a while to get here, to change my way of thinking, but we’re here now and doing what needs to be done.
“If you ask me, drill is alive and well, but it’s tekky because a lot of people are in jail right now... The foundation of drill is in jail.”
To those who say drill music’s dead or dying out—what’s M1OnTheBeat’s response?
When people say that, it’s like an ignorant way of saying that everybody’s in jail or there’s not a lot of good rappers. Why don’t you just say that? People are very ignorant to pop down Black people. They’re just ready to pop down the genre and switch up to something else until a man like Arrdee comes through and shows man how it’s done. These people, these artists, they’re acting up. They just want to build controversy and talk nonsense. And, if you ask me, drill is alive and well, but it’s tekky because a lot of people are in jail right now, like Zone 2, Moscow, Active Gang, 67, Loski, etc. The foundation of drill is in jail. More content creators or TikTok-based young brothers are coming in and blowing up with the sound—it’s actually mad. Central Cee is the cleanest guy in the world; he’s come through and blown up massively as well. The psychology of that is telling people who actually do real drill music—they’re not doing no drillings in real life, and because they’re not doing drillings, I feel like what people mean is the physicality of the subject of drill, the physicalness of drill, that part of it is dead.
I feel like we need more people to help us build the drill ting again. Me releasing this tape is one of the reasons, too, so the genre doesn’t die out. It’s not a complete drill project—probably 70% of it is drill—but there’s different varieties of drill. I look at it like Kellogg’s: Coco Pops would look and taste a certain way, but then you’ve got Rice Krispies which is totally different. That’s what my drill beats are doing. There’s a lot of contrast. You’ve got the sweet drill—the “nice” drill—and then you’ve got the drill that’ll make you feel motivated. Then, on the other side of that, you’ve got the drill that’ll make you wanna jump out and scream you’re the maddest man in the world! [Laughs]
You won Producer Of The Year at the 2021 MOBO Awards, which, funnily enough, I was on the panel for. I’m sure, like most young Black kids growing up, you watched the MOBOs every year on TV, so you know how big of a deal it is in the UK music industry. How did it feel to actually win an award yourself?
It was cold! I can’t lie. It’s nice to see there are people out there, maybe even from backgrounds to me, who appreciate what I’m doing. I didn’t mean for all this to happen and, like myself, there’s loads of producers who really go out their way. I’m just mad grateful, innit.
You’re building a little community among underground rap producers at the moment with your regular get-togethers. What inspired this move, and who are you rating the most right now?
One of the producers I’m looking out for is a guy named Stars. I think it’s actually StarsOnTheRiddim. He’s 15 years old, from Birmingham, and he makes all of the beats for Marnz Malone aka Double M right now. Even at his young age, he inspires me. Another one is X10. When I’m with them in the studio and he’s making beats, I feel very inspired to make better and challenge myself. I like to be with those types of producers in the studio because it just makes me better. Oh, and there’s this guy from Germany called Ampee—dope melody-maker! He sends me some of the hardest drill tunes I’ve heard in a while...
In your opinion, what makes a good drill producer?
All the drums have to be crystal clear, the drops have to be really nice, and you have to be able to make melodies. If you can’t make melodies—go and learn! Seriously. It’s important. There’s a lot of producers who are well over their heads right now, but they can’t make melodies. I’m not discrediting their ting, but I’m just stating the importance of it: you have to know how to make a melody because that’s gonna make your thing original. That’s my advice for producers.
Where do you want to be by the end of 2024?
I want to have at least two mixtapes out. Like you mentioned, I’m building a community for producers—I have at least 10,000 of them on my phone right now; no joke. I want to have a school running for them, an online school running that producers can pay monthly for, and depending on what subscription you’ve got—if you’ve got a big subscription, you’ll get access to me and even have a chance of me sending your beats out. These producers, if they had the links that I have, they’d be rich already [laughs]. I want to help facilitate as many things as possible to help get them to the next level, and get as much exposure as possible. I’m trying to be the Corteiz/Clint for producers: I do a call out and thousands of people pull up to see what’s popping.