Interview: Keanu Beats is the Producer Reppin for Australia on 'Revenge Of The Dreamers III'

How Keanu Beats went from Melbourne's suburbs to producing for Migos, J Cole, Skepta and more

Australian producer Keanu Beats

Australian producer Keanu Beats

Australian producer Keanu Beats

Keanu Beats is the epitome of low key. Sitting down for our Q&A, the 22 year-old producer is dressed in black Vans with black sweats and a black Fear Of God hoodie. For a Melbourne native, the all-black everything aesthetic is nothing new, but in this case it personifies Keanu’s low key come-up. You would never know this dude is a Grammy-nominated producer with credits from some of the industry’s heavy-hitters on his CV.

Keanu has quietly built a name for himself among rap’s elite, producing for Migos (“What The Price”), Octavian and Skepta (“Bet”), Logic (“Still Ballin”) and Jaden (“A Calabasas Freestyle”, “NOIZE”), among others. And he’s made it happen from Werribee, a quiet suburb deep in Melbourne’s west, known more for an open-plains zoo than as the home of the producer of “ZUU”.

Perhaps the biggest placement of Keanu's career came just last week, with the release of Dreamville's Revenge Of The Dreamers III. Keanu's work is featured on the compilation standout "Oh Wow ... Swerve", a collab combining a producer's wishlist of J. Cole, KEY!, Maxo Kream and Zoink Gang (that's Buddy, JID, Smino and Guapdad4000). 

The journey started like so many others; FL Studio, type-beats, YouTube tutorials. Along the way, Keanu discovered the way to take his passion from West Melbourne to the world was to put his head down, hustle and network. He's still keeping it low key, but the world is slowly waking up to Australia's next big-time producer.

I’ve read that this all started when your cousin’s husband gave you FL Studio, is that right?

Yeah. He was making beats for like 10 or 11 years, but it wasn't something that he went on and fully pursued as a career. Before he told me to get into making beats, he really just educated me on old-school hip-hop. I had no idea, besides Tupac. That's all I knew. This is starting in probably grade six for me. And then he was putting me onto Big L, Pun, Biggie and other rappers that are important in the history.

He told me to download FL Studio. I started looking at ‘type-beats’ online, just to listen to them. And then on [YouTube’s] suggested [column] it comes up with tutorials for FL Studio and stuff. I started looking at tutorials, and from then on, I was addicted. I would be in my room for like 14 hours a day, just staring at the computer, learning. My parents were getting worried about me, telling me, “You've got to go outside more," and all that shit. 

That's how I got started, and then from there it just becomes like second nature, bro. Like the only thing you do.

I think everyone reading this knows at least one person who makes beats or used to make beats, and it’s always the same story; Starting with FruityLoops, FL Studio, ACID Pro, all these kind of freeware hacks and so on. Everyone can start there, but you've obviously transcended that. It sounds like you did that because of your networking and because of your hustle.

I notice a lot of people – and this is no disrespect to anybody – especially in Australia, they're really talented. I'm not going to say names, but there's a few producers that are really, really talented, but they lack networking. And it's like, "Bro, I'm from Werribee, you can do it." You literally have to just DM people, email [them]. Get people’s emails; producers, artists, whatever.

For me to land that first [placement], which was with Migos, I'd reached out to certain big producers and just started sending in my samples that I made. A few of them got back to me, like, "yeah, whatever." And then one of them got back to me - Ricky Racks - and he was like, "Let's work", and we became friends. We're still friends to this day. And that relationship just helped me land that Migos thing with him. We just collabed on so many beats, and he'd send out like 100 beats that we'd done to everybody. And that's just how far networking can go. 

It was a simple DM, like, "Hey man, I've got some samples for you. Check them out," and then just building relationships off that. I think it's important, even with upcoming rappers. I don't mean upcoming rappers that have like 200 followers, but you see upcoming artists that are having a little buzz in their city or whatever, and then you can hit them up, it's a lot easier than you think. If you want to get to an artist, just hit up their friends. You see who they're following. Hit up their A&Rs, hit up their engineer. Hit up their producers, send them samples. You have to network or else no one's going to hear your music. No one cares. And there's a lot of producers that are super talented - more talented than me, more talented than a lot of people that are really big in the industry - but they're just not networking. That's the issue.

So going back to what you said there, you guys had made 100 beats prior to the Migos thing happening. You’re just grinding at that point. Did you ever get discouraged because you've been making this massive volume of beats and nothing's really happening?

To be honest, not really at that time because I was making money online from selling beats. And those beats that I was making, I was just putting them online. I didn't care. I was making money off it every day. Just selling type-beats. I was just making a bunch of beats, uploading them, and then randomly you'd just start seeing you sold seven beats in a day, 10 beats in a day. And then you see certain numbers and you're just like, "What the fuck?" It's crazy.

You’ve taken it from selling type-beats online to a Grammy nomination with Migos, and now producing for J Cole on Revenge Of The Dreamers III. How did the Dreamville connection come about?

I was in LA, and connected with Bizness Boi. Super-cool dude, we just hit it off, man. We kept in touch, and I just kept sending him stuff, like all the time; every week. Whoever I send samples to they know, every single week I send them a new pack. And then he got invited to the Dreamville Camp and then he hit me after and said, “So we're on the album". I was like, "Oh shit, that's crazy" and he goes, "Yeah, it's a two-part song". He told me Maxo and Key were on it, and I said, "Do you know who's on the first half?" and he put like, you know that emoji with glasses, the cool emoji. And I've got it right here. I'll read it off here, this is a pisser man because he didn't want to tell me, he wanted me to figure out for myself.

[Pulls out phone] He put, like, 10 of those emojis. I'm just like, "So you know?" and he put this GIF, kind of like, "Obviously," sort of thing. 

Then someone that was in those sessions heard the song and was just like, "Bro, you're going to be very happy" and all he said was "Captain of Dreamville", and I'm like, "Oh, shit!”

How much of your success would you put down to talent, and how much would you put to hustle?

Oh man, that's a crazy one. I'd say like 70% is networking, 30% talent. I’m not classically trained or anything, so it's more just by ear, like I know what sounds good. 

It also depends on what stage you are in your career because at the very beginning, bro, it's really no point networking, it's got to be all talent at that point. But nowadays it's more networking and work ethic. I think my success overall definitely would be like 40% talent, 60% networking.

Latest in Music