Studio Session: How Danny Wolf Became Hoodrich Entertainment’s Go-To Beatsmith
DJ and producer collective Hoodrich Entertainment is stealthily crafting some of the biggest street bangers in hip-hop right now. As the brainchild of Marcus “Rip” Rippy and DJ Scream, the Atlanta-based company has worked with the likes of MMG, 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane since it's inception, but behind their current star rappers like Hoodrich Pablo Juan lies a budding secret weapon in the studio. Enter 20-year-old Danny Wolf, a former intern for the company who turned into one of their go-to beatsmiths.
Hailing from the ATL via Mexico City—Danny and his family crossed the border when he was just 3 years old and he has been working in the U.S. legally for three years—the young producer started off behind the scenes at Hoodrich, doing everything from taking press shots for DJs to working video cameras in the studio, all while working on music of his own. At 17, Danny gained enough courage to assert his own musical talent and jump behind the boards.
"I remember I was making beats and I was shooting videos for rappers and I would said, 'I got some beats,'" Danny shares inside the XXL office. "I’d be shooting the studio session and they were like, ‘Who got beats?’ And I just said, 'I got beats.' They heard ‘em, they were like, 'These aren’t bad' and shit, now we’re here."
With only three years of professional experience, Danny has doled out beats to nearly every up-and-comer on the internet: Migos, iLoveMakonnen, Lil Pump, Ugly God, Rich The Kid and more. Danny's production has played a big role in Hoodrich Pablo Juan's two breakout mixtapes, Designer Drugz and Designer Drugz 2 and the two have such a great working relationship, they decided to drop a joint mixtape this year, aptly titled Hood Wolf.
With the project out today, XXL chopped it up with the go-getter about never being afraid to work the industry for all it's worth and using his talent to grow his brand.
XXL: You rep Atlanta really pretty hard, but you were born in Mexico City?
Danny Wolf: Yeah, I was raised there [in Atlanta]. I came there when I was really young. I was probably 8 to 10 years old. I don’t even remember. We did the whole nine yards, crossed the border, illegally immigrant and everything. I just became started [working here] legally like two, three years ago but I mean, we’re good now. Really it was Mexico City [to] Texas and then we had to go through a whole process that immigrants go through. Like we had to meet someone who would take us around and introduce us to everybody. We had to learn how to speak English, you know? I didn’t know what was going on. I learned English in maybe two months. I picked it up quick, which was a blessing really.
What kind of music were you influenced by growing up?
Man, really just like Spanish music. Bachata, Cumbia, all that stuff and then when i was like 10 years old...my mom’s really religious and I was like the black sheep and I would listen to rap. I remember when I heard Waka Flocka Flame for the first time I was just like, What is this?! I just like how it made me feel and then just one day I was like, I kind of want to learn how to make that.
I like that feeling of trap music and then it really went from like Christian and Spanish music—’cause that’s all I could hear because my mom. If my mom would catch me listening to bad music, what she called "Devil music"... I would have to sneak away. I started listening to more little by little and by the time I was 15 I was just like, Fuck it, I’m going to listen to what I want.
Would you say Waka was your introduction to trap?
Yeah, definitely. Lex Luger and all the producers that started that wave. All them.
When did you go from a listener and lover of music to making music and how did you learn to do it?
I was actually self-taught. My mom’s always been trying to force me to play instruments because I picked it up so naturally. Like the drums, piano, guitar, the bass. I play all those now. When I was little, she bought me a drum set and I was just drumming every day. My family was like, "Dang, you’re pretty good." So they bought me a piano and I picked piano just by hearing the tone. The way that I just picked up the instruments, I didn’t know it was going to build up to producing, it was just overtime I just decided, Man, I’m already good at this. I might as well just do this.
At first I was 10, I was listening to music. Then at like 14, that’s when I first Googled "Waka Flocka producer" and I just saw Lex Luger making beats and within 10 minutes of watching that I was like, Wow, that’s what I was looking for. I didn’t know who he was exactly at the time. I just knew he was Lex Luger because of the beat tag in “Hard in the Paint.” I saw him make the beat and I saw in the comments, people were saying what programs he had and then little by little, I got into it.
I downloaded GarageBand on my computer and I just cooked up something and I brought it to school the next day and my friends were like, "This is crazy, this is really good." I remember that so vividly. It was like a day in math class, I opened my computer and all my friends were like “Oh, shit!” Over time, [music] really became my escape. As an immigrant, I went through a lot of shit, like dodging cops, my parents worrying…so music was just my escape. When we would be going through some rough stuff, I would just turn to working on my music.
I was definitely inspired by jazz. I used to listen to a lot of jazz when I was little. That’s really what inspired me more. The melodies. I was learning from 808 Mafia at the time and then eventually, I'd come [in contact] with Hoodrich [Pablo Juan] and DJ Spinz. [To Spinz],I was like, ‘Yo, bro, I used to watch you in math class.’ It’s crazy because now we hang out every day. But yeah, Spinz was definitely one of the people that inspired me to produce and Southside. Curtis Mayfield, I like him a lot. I also listen to a lot of ‘70s music, a lot of rock bands too. I listened to a lot of Kiss. The intros of [my tracks] have rock influences. I guess I just do it subconsciously.
How did you link up with Hoodrich?
I was an intern for Hoodrich Entertainment. Hoodrich Pablo was actually the first person to hop on my beats. I was like 17 years old and I had met up with another artist in the studio. And then Pablo came busting through the door—you know, Pablo’s Pablo—and I was like, "I like your energy. That’s what I want on my music." And he told me to load up a beat and I did and he just went in and made stuff for his first Designer Drugz, his first mixtape. And then he made the song “J Money.” And I remember I called my manager like, “Sign this guy, he’s going to blow!” And we’ve just been down since then. I’ve been on all his tapes so far, Designer Drugz, Designer Drugz 2, I’m gonna be on 3 and then of course we have Hood Wolf coming out.
What can you tell us about Hood Wolf?
There’s certain songs that I just can’t wait for kids to hear. I was saying earlier, the sound is fresh, but you’re used to it. And it has my own twist on it. It’s just different. It’s trap music with Pablo and new artists and for me it’s a whole new sound. We’re both looking to really innovate.
Why did you guys decide to do a tape, just the two of you?
We were just making so many songs together so fast. We just decided to put it out together and we were like, “What should we call it? Hood Wolf. Okay, fits perfect." This was like a year in the making. We’ve probably done about 70 songs.
What’s been your favorite studio session to date?
Well, one was when I was working on Designer Drugz 2 with Pablo. And I just gave him a buncha beats the day before and I just hopped on all of them. And we just nailed three of them within one session and it went to the tape and people loved it. It was so random, it was so last minute and he just pulled up and snapped. I’ve never seen people do that before. I’ve see Makonnen do freestyles and stuff, but nobody really knock down songs back to back for a project and build them that fast.
Who else are you working with this year?
There are some people I can talk about and some I can’t until it comes out. But right now, so far, Uzi, Migos, Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, Pablo of course, Rich The Kid, Famous Dex, Fat Nick. I just did something with DJ Carnage and Young Thug because I’ve been working with Carnage a lot. He looks out for me a lot. A$AP Ferg, Rome Fortune. Just anyone and everyone in Atlanta really. Jose Guapo. All of QC [Quality Control].
I’m glad I got to get one song in with Bankroll Fresh too when I was an intern basically. I was doing a lot. Anything they needed me to get done I was just like, “Yeah, I’ll do it. Even if I don’t know how to do it, I’ll figure it out.” And then boom, I was working with everything. I would work with cameras and stuff. If I wasn’t good at photos, I would try to get better. That’s just how I met rappers.
I met iLoveMakonnen because I was supposed to shoot his video for “Maneuvering.” And then he blew up, but I had grabbed his email from him and I would send him stuff to keep in touch, keep that connection. Then he dropped the track “Trust Me Danny” in 2015, and that really turned me up too. For him to name a song after me—and that was the song right after “Tuesday”—that was crazy. And I kind of just branched everything from there. I started working with Ferg, I was working with Pablo Juan. There was a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes that just started to come to light recently, but I was just working. I just kept my head down, grinding and that’s how things escalated.
With so many producers trying to be as big as the rapper now, what’s the formula to raising your profile and really pop?
I mean, there’s producers and then there’s beat makers. Beat makers just email beats out all day and expect to leech off the artist, expecting to pop off. But with me, for instance when I did “Gang” with Max P, the song went viral. So when he had me in a little 30-second clip, that clip went viral everywhere. So I was like, Let me put some money behind it. Everything I do, all my hits, I put money behind them. I market them, I get them on radio.
All my records I make sure I push them. I don’t just sit here and wait for the artist to turn me up. Like I work on premiering songs as if I’m the artist. I never wait or count on another person to put me on because, like, if I give a rapper a million plays, he’s not going to get mad. If you make the most out of the song, they’re not gonna be mad, they gonna be like, "Bet, let’s make some more songs. Let’s make a whole tape!"
Some producers really don’t get that aspect of it. There’s a business aspect to this. It’s probably like 10 percent talent, 90 percent business. It’s knowing how to maneuver, how to finesse—not finesse in a bad way—and just time [everything].
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