Andrew "Pop" Wansel is either the luckiest guy on earth or simply fulfilling his destiny. The producer has stumbled into quite a few hits in his short time in the game; from records mistakenly sent to the wrong artist, records never making it to the right destination or artists somehow stumbling upon his songs, Pop has laced bangers for Kanye West, Big Sean and Trey Songz, among others. His might be the most fortunate career in modern hip-hop history.

Not the he's not talented, of course. Producing since the age of 10, Pop knows a thing or two about crafting beats, and it didn’t take long for artists like Nicki Minaj to see that. Scoring one of his first major collaborations with the Young Money rapstress’ "Your Love" by mistake, Wansel's odds were surely in his favor. But that mistake was just the beginning of a host of accidents and mixups, which later led Wansel to connect with artists like Usher, Rihanna and Eminem.

Only in the game for fewer than five years, Wansel's luck mixed with his undeniable talent has led to several Billboard chart hits, and more recently, the debut record off of Usher’s new album. But Pop hasn’t been on the journey alone—he has a whole crew of producers behind him, and is one half of the production duo Pop & Oak. XXL spoke to Pop about some of his most memorable moments in the studio over the years, and his five favorite hip-hop tracks he's produced. —Miranda Johnson 


“Your Love”

Nicki Minaj 
Year: 2010
Pop: That was a great time, because that was in the beginning. Not the beginning for me, because I’ve been producing since I was, like, 10, but it was just a carefree, worry-free time. I was in my mom’s basement. I did the record in my mom’s basement. I believe I was 18 years old, or 19. Me and Nicki were already good friends; I had met her on Myspace. We had been working already and I sent her the song by mistake. It was my song and I sent it to her by accident, but she loved it and she recorded it. We never talked about it. I never said, "Hey, how did it go?" She never said, "Hey, It’s great."

And two years later, after she recorded it, somebody leaked it at Hot Beats Studios in Atlanta and Nicki was devastated because she was singing and there was Auto-Tune, and the world had never heard it. At that point she had just done the Young Money deal and she had all those features out. She was horrified. But long story short, the song leaked in January and the label didn’t officially put it out until May because we thought, "It’s a leak. It will go away, nobody cares about shit like that." But it was a very strong leak and it did not go away. And it actually charted on Billboard by April. The demo of it had charted. So that was a sign for all of us, and we had to go back in and re-do the track. She re-recorded her vocals and it was officially released. It went to No. 1 and was No. 1 for eight weeks (on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart).

We revisited the song about a month ago. I was in the studio sitting with her and we were just talking about how crazy that whole situation was. That was just God saying, "I got a No. 1 record for y’all.  You just got to play the cards right." And we did.


“Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay”

Big Sean featuring Kanye West and Roscoe Dash
Year: 2011
Pop: Another mistake again in my mom’s basement. The coolest thing about that beat that a lot of people don’t know is I made that beat the same day I made the beat for Elle Varner’s “Refill.” Just a cool little fun fact. Both those beats were done in the same day. I made that beat and it was two years old by the time the song came out. I was in my mom’s basement with Andrea Simms—a writer of mine—and my brother DJ Camper, who’s my brother from another, an amazing producer. We were all in my mom’s basement just chilling, and we started vibing.

But that beat just sat there and I’ll never know how...'til this day I still don’t know how Roscoe Dash ended up with the beat. He ended up with the beat and the way I know it—I was in the studio in 2011 and I was working on something totally different and I get a call saying, "Kanye needs you to bring these songs to New York tomorrow." I was like, "Well, that’s odd because I didn’t do a song with Kanye. I’ve never worked with Kanye." And so they played the beat for me over the phone and they were like, "You made this beat, right? Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay?" And I was like, "Yeah." And then they were like, "We need them files." So I went up to New York to the studio and I gave Kanye the files.

I heard the song with the rest of the world; I didn’t hear it beforehand. I didn’t know what it sounded like, none of that. But that’s how it happened. To this day I still don’t know how the song got to Kanye West or to Roscoe Dash or to anyone.



Trey Songz featuring Drake 
Year: 2011
Pop: Okay, you may not believe me, but that was another mistake. When that beat was done, I had, like, a full 16-piece orchestra in the studio. I had strings and horns. I had organs and a guitar. So I was just feeling myself. I had live drums and everything. I was just vibing, and I put that beat together. I was like, "Yo, I made this beat for Kanye, and it’s going to go to Kanye." And I gave the beat to my man and I guess about two weeks later—not long; that beat didn’t sit very long—Mike Caren [Worldwide President of A&R at Warner] was calling like, "Oh, we need the files, because we need to send it to Drake to do his part for the Trey record." I said, "What Trey record?" And then I heard the song. I was like, "Oh shit."

Never in a thousand years did I think that beat would become an R&B record. But I guess the way I produce, I’m a hip-hop producer, but I have such an admiration for soul music. And I’m just so melodic that I guess when I make a track it can go either way. But in my mind I’m thinking intentionally, "Oh, this is a rap beat." But it ended up as a Trey Songz record, and that’s honestly the story.



Rihanna featuring Eminem
Year: 2012
Pop: Not a mistake, but a good story. So I was called to go to L.A. to work on some stuff for Rihanna, but I couldn’t go because during the dates, my son was expected to be delivered. So I couldn’t go...well, I could have gone, but I didn’t go. And since my producer who's signed to my company, Flip, went to go instead, Flip took a beat I was working on with an artist named T. Mills for a song called “Loud.” That beat, Flip was working on the “Numb” beat the same day as the session for the other song. We just never got to the other beat because it eventually became "Numb."

So Flip took that beat to London with him, the shit we had worked on in L.A. Oak [another producer] put some stuff on it. And a very talented guy named Sam Dew wrote a song to it, and that was it.  They came back from London and I’m like, "How’d it go?" and they’re like, "Uhh, we don’t know. We didn’t really hear back. We don’t feel too confident but we’ll work on some more shit." So I think like 40-something songs were done during that little camp. And I get the call that Rihanna wants to cut two songs, and one of them was “Numb.” She ended up cutting it and she asked Eminem to get on it.


“Good Kisser”

Year: 2014
Pop: Yeah it’s the first single [off Usher's upcoming album Everything You Can Imagine]. I’m honored to have that moment and that title. That’s pretty cool. He’s a tastemaker, he’s an innovator, he’s a legend, he’s an icon; especially for my generation. That was amazing, man. That was one that wasn’t a mistake right there. I had that in my mind and I knew where that was going and that’s what happened. I woke up singing the lyrics; I literally woke up out of my sleep singing, “Don’t nobody kiss it like you, don’t nobody kiss it like you. Bang Bang Bang.” So familiar with that, I thought it was a song [already].

So that day, I’m sitting and chilling with Flip and I’m singing that and I’m going along with it. I'm like, "Yo, whose song is that?" Flip is like, "I don’t think that’s a song, bro," and I was like, "Oh shit." So we went in the studio and we put that part down and that was that. Six months later I was going through old ideas on my computer and we pulled that one up. We were like, "Yo, we need to finish this one." So I did what I had to do and everybody loved the record. And I was like, "You know what? I want this song to be for Usher." And I was in L.A. and I found out Marcus was at West Lake and I went over there to meet with him and I played him the song. He went crazy. Shoutout to Marcus, 'cause he made it happened.

Then the next day my manager called  me and was like, "Usher wants the song. He wants to get on the song.” I gave Usher everything he needed and he went to Atlanta. Usher came and wrote some shit to it, did his thing. He made it an Usher song. He made a Pop Wansel demo an Usher song, and that was that. They were like, "This could be a statement, a first single." And I was like, "Yea, okay." I’ve been promised a single so many times that I never depend on them or count on them. And I knew he was in the studio with like, DJ Mustard and Timbaland, so I was like, "I don’t have the first single, are you kidding me?" And then low and behold, it happened.