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Last Friday at midnight, Cardi B released the highly anticipated follow-up to her smash single, “WAP.” On the new song, “Up,” Cardi is locked into a natural pocket, rapping hard-hitting, raunchy bars full of braggadocio. It’s safe to say the track has lots of hit potential.
One of the first things you notice when you press play is the beat. It features hard pianos with booming 808s, a Memphis bounce, and intricately placed transitions, giving the track a pop feel. When the song first hit streaming services, there were no producers listed in the credits. Yet, a few hundred retweets of a lone tweet revealed it to be the work of Yung Dza, a 25-year-old producer from Serbia. The song features co-production from DJ SwanQo and Sean Island.
So, how did a Serbian kid get his beat chosen by the Bronx-bred rap star? We hopped on a quick Zoom call with Dza, connecting across oceans, continents, and time zones to get the full story. As English is not Dza’s first language, this interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Where are you right now?
At my family home in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
How long have you lived there?
My whole life.
Before we get into your full story, what was the process of making the beat for “Up”?
I made that beat in January of last year. Quavo from Migos hit me up at 4:00 a.m. on Instagram and asked for a 20-pack of beats. He’d already recorded on one of my beats from YouTube, and he specifically asked for that type of vibe: hard piano and bass. So I was cooking 20 beats in four to five hours at 5:00 a.m. in Serbia. I sent the pack to Quavo, and one of those beats was this Cardi beat.
Do you always make that many beats at once?
Usually, I don’t. I like to have a special relationship with my beats. That day, I made too many. I don’t even remember how. I hated everything I made that night, because I don’t like to make beats in five minutes. One month after I sent the pack, I was listening to that beat, and I was like, “Oh, this is a Cardi beat, and I should definitely send it to her.” The whole year, I was trying to send a beat to Cardi. I sent it to all the A&Rs and Cardi’s team at Atlantic. I don’t even know how that happened. They just told me, “Cardi recorded on your beat. You have a placement on the next single.”
“Quavo from Migos hit me up at 4:00 a.m. on Instagram and asked for a 20-pack of beats. He’d already recorded on one of my beats from YouTube, and he specifically asked for that type of vibe: hard piano and bass.”
When exactly did you find out Cardi was going to use your beat?
My birthday is the 25th of December. I was celebrating the day after. That night, her team sent me a DM on Instagram asking for that beat, but they didn’t tell me who the beat was for. Then they called me and said, “Bro, you have a placement with Cardi B. The next single is yours.” I was going crazy. I couldn’t go to sleep for the next 10 days. They sent the papers two days after, and told me the song would drop in January, and that’s it. It was my birthday, so it was the best present I can get.
Have you been able to have any contact with Cardi since you knew you had the placement?
Not from her, but from her team, because we are working. I keep sending packs to her A&Rs and everything.
Do you have hopes of getting more than one track on her album?
I wish to get two more, I think. Two more is perfect.
When you finally heard her on the track, what were your thoughts?
[At first,] I didn’t know if I liked it. I was with my family in Serbia when the song dropped. I was in the living room, watching TV, waiting for the song. I was stressed out. So when I heard the song, I was like, “OK, this is good, but I don’t know.” Then I took a little nap for two hours. Then I played the song like, 1,000 times and was like, “This is the best song ever!” How she flowed on that beat, it was perfect. Everybody liked the song. Everybody in Serbia shared the story on their Instagram. When I saw the hype around me, I was like, “Damn, this is something big.” People really liked the song, and I like it now a lot. I play it all the time.
Do you think your ear just had to adjust based on your expectation of what you thought it would sound like?
I think there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know if I liked someone to make that difference on my beat, if that makes sense. I like my beats a lot, so it took time to get used to that.
Did they make any adjustments to the beat?
Yes, little things, but not too much. The beat is almost the same.
Have you been able to hear anything else from Cardi’s upcoming album? Or do you know how “Up” will flow in the sequencing of it?
I don’t know nothing about that. [Flashes a knowing grin.]
Let’s take it back now. How’d you get introduced to hip-hop and start making beats in Serbia?
When I was a kid, I was watching TV, and I didn’t know what was rap or what was pop music. But rap music always caught my attention. I’m talking about Serbian rap. I first started doing graffiti, skateboarding, and listening to more and more music. Then one day, my uncle gave me a CD with everything—music programs and funny videos. On that CD was FL Studio, the program for making music. I installed it and started making beats with the program. Then when YouTube tutorials came, I could see how to make beats. Before that, I couldn’t see how to make beats anywhere. Then I was making beats like ASAP Rocky, Three 6 Mafia, Cash Money, Lil Wayne, and everything. But when I first heard Migos’ No Label 2, I was like, “Damn, these beats are crazy!” The production was from Murda [Beatz], Metro Boomin, and 808 Mafia.
Then I was like, “OK, I should definitely start making more and more beats and put them online.” At that time, I was in high school, about to go to university for architecture. So I needed more money. The easiest way was, I had a big love for music, and online, you could make some money uploading “type” beats. I was picking a big single. When it dropped, I downloaded the single, remade the beat, and uploaded it on YouTube so people could freestyle on it. That’s the way I caught attention, because beatmakers would come to see how I made it. Then the rappers would come to freestyle. I did it with 21 Savage and Future’s “X,” and it had 2 million [views] in like three months. I uploaded the beat and the FL [Studio] file so producers could download the beat and see how I made it.
You mentioned Cash Money and Three 6 Mafia. What about their styles influenced you?
Cash Money music videos are in Serbia on old MTV. I remember seeing Three 6 Mafia on MTV Cribs. Juicy J was crazy on that video, bro. He was wearing sunglasses with changing colors on the eyes, and I was like, “I need to find out who this is.” Their music was always futuristic. This sound right now is their sound. All these 808 patterns, kicks, snares, and hi-hats, they already made it in 1995. I was born in 1995, so that’s crazy. This Cardi beat is like a classic Memphis bounce. The kicks, that bass line, and that melody is something Juicy J and DJ Paul did way before I was even born.
Who was the first major artist to hit you up for a beat pack?
First, one of the biggest artists found out about me in Serbia. I live in Belgrade, so I can go to the studios everywhere. That’s how I first went to the studio to see how that works, because that was completely unknown for me. Then, after that, a lot of artists hit me up for beats in the US, but they were more bubbling.
So off of the work with Serbian artists, you gained traction?
People were listening to my beats in Russia, and that went everywhere. That, with my YouTube “type” beats going up, got attention from US artists. I think my first big thing was with Duke Deuce. He is Offset’s artist from Tennessee, and he really liked my stuff because he likes the Memphis style. I’m most popular in Tennessee on my YouTube page, so I made the beat for Duke Deuce to record, and at the time, he was signed to QC and Offset. Then I thought, “This song will go big!” I remember Lil Pump dancing to the song on Live. Lil Pump was the biggest thing in, like, 2018. Then Cardi B listened to that song on her Story. Everyone was posting, but that song didn’t go big. I was a little bit disappointed.
Then after that, I started working with Octavian, who is an artist from the UK. I made one song on his album. Then I made a lot of beats for unknown artists, and when they signed to big artists, they started asking about my beats. That’s what happened with Quavo. His artist  Reebok rapped on one of my beats, then he asked me for a pack. I was well-connected with other well-known producers in Europe, like Gezin from 808 Mafia. He’s my good friend. When he needed beats for Offset, Juice WRLD, and Gashi, I sent him a pack. But they didn’t make it, so I was like, “Damn, when will this moment happen?” European producers, when they upload a beat to YouTube, they are waiting for some unknown artist from the US to make the biggest song on TikTok with it.
What’s the hip-hop scene like in Serbia?
In 2001-2002, all the artists here were making Puff Daddy-style music. After that, when trap started blowing up in the US, everybody started making that. There’s a weird mix of old Serbian pop music and trap. It’s different. A weird fusion.
Who is an artist that you feel represents the sound people can check out?
Definitely Coby. He’s the first person I was in the studio with, working on songs. He’s not just an artist; he’s also the biggest Serbian producer ever. He worked with Rick Ross, French Montana, XXXTentacion, and his beat was on the BET cypher two years ago. But he doesn’t do music for the USA [anymore]. He’s now an artist, working on him.
Has he mentored you at all?
Yeah, he’s my good friend. When I got this placement with Cardi B, he told me what to do in Serbia and how to work it. He’s a really good person and mentor. He has crazy experience. He produced all the Serbian songs from 2005 to now.
What would be your absolute dream placements in the future?
I like Baby Keem a lot, and Key Glock. Definitely Megan Thee Stallion. Then I don’t know, maybe Drake. That would be crazy.
After securing the Cardi placement, does that feel more within reach?
Yeah, definitely. But I think I should keep working more and more, because I need to catch the next single as soon as possible. I need to work more on my own style and make my sound recognizable. So, when they hear my beat, they know it’s me. No need for my tag. It would be perfect to work with [more] female artists to make that lane. There’s a big space for producers to take over that. I feel like my sound is perfect for that. I want to work with as many female artists as I can.
There’s been a bit of a rise of European producers getting major mainstream hip-hop placements as of late, like OZ on some Drake tracks. Why do you think that’s happened?
OZ is really big in Europe, then he became big in the USA. European producers always want to work with US artists because we listen to that music. It’s our inspiration. We cannot go with any artists in the studio or blow up with someone from our hood or our city, so we are working 10 times harder. Every producer in Europe blows up because they send melodies to popular US producers. We are trying to find our way.
I have to ask, are you aware of the rapper Smoke DZA? If so, did his name give you any hesitation in naming yourself that?
From 2006 to 2007, I was writing graffiti and D-Z-A were the perfect letters for me to draw. The perfect combination. After that, when I found out about Smoke DZA, listening to US music, I was like, “I need to find some Smoke DZA interviews to take a tag for my beats.” I found a Snoop Dogg show where Smoke DZA was the guest. Snoop Dogg said, “We got DZA in the house!” I cut that and put that on my tag. So, thank you a lot to Smoke DZA. He’s a really good artist.
Wait, is the tag on “Up”? I didn’t hear it.
No, it’s not on “Up,” but I want to change it now. We will see.
What do you want to accomplish next?
I will try to work 10 times harder than before the placement, because many more artists are asking for my beats. I will make the next wave of sounds. The sound I have is something very different. I’m looking for work with new artists, up-and-coming artists, and female artists.
Lastly, how does this moment feel right now?
I feel the same. Nothing’s changed. Everybody around me is hyped up. But for me, it’s, “OK, what’s next?” Maybe it’s because I’m in Europe and I don’t know what it’s like to be in the US and hear the song on the radio.