Listen to the radio or step in the club, and when it comes to the hottest songs, chances are Mike WiLL Made It. The 23-year-old producer got his start with Gucci Mane for the self-proclaimed Trap God’s Writings on the Wall mixtape, shocked the world with MMG’s “Tupac Back” and the rest, well, is history. Speaking on his impressive 2012 run and beyond, XXL’s Hottest Producer of 2012 award recipient talks success, comparisons and what he has up his sleeves for 2013. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)

Before I get into anything else, how does it feel to quickly go from being the guy who made “Tupac Back” to one of the game’s hottest go-to producers?

First of all, it’s a blessing—you know what I’m saying? Can’t nothin’ happen without God. I pray every night and every morning, so it’s a blessing. I tell a lot of people, a lot of stuff is changing so fast because it’s like, damn, four months ago they were just up-and-coming producers and now they’re the hottest producer in the game. But it happens so fast. So really, I don’t get caught up with all the titles and different stuff like that, I just try to focus on what I love to do and what I was trying to do, and that’s changing music. Even though I have so much going on, there’s so much more that I want to do. So I think that’s the most important thing, continuing to do what I want to do and continue to knock down my goals and check everything off on the checklist.

So you feel like you haven’t accomplished everything you set out to do?

Nah. Because I didn’t even see all this stuff going down. I’m only 23, so I ain’t seen this going down this fast anyway. I wasn’t looking at it like, “Yo—at 23 I’m gonna be the hottest producer,” I was more looking at it like, “man, I gotta be doing this.” I’m thinkin’ I gotta work extra hard until 30. So that was my plan, to work extra hard until 30. Just because they’re putting that title on me, if I sit here and get caught up in the title, then I’ll sit back and get comfortable like, “Yeah, nigga—I’m the hottest producer in the game right now,” or “I’m the go-to guy,” whatever title everybody put on me.

That’s the title you’re being given.

If this guy feels like I’m the hottest producer in the game and this guy over here feels like I’m the wackest producer in the game, then my job is to get this guy right here to believe that I’m the hottest producer in the game. And [whether] he believes that I’m the hottest, if he believes that I’m falling off, it’s my job to believe. I gotta just keep going. Everybody’s gonna have their own opinions and titles and everything, but that’s one thing that I can’t. I don’t read blogs, I don’t read comics or nothing like that, it’s not even about getting these people to feel like you’re the hottest producer in the game because really, all that is an opinion. It’s good to hear that. It’s like, “Damn—that’s how they look at me?” But at the same time, I know how much more I have to work towards music. The titles, you can’t really get caught up in, you’ve gotta keep working.

Do you feel like you’re the hottest?

I felt like I was the hottest before they even knew who I was. But that’s the attitude to have. I’m a fan of all production and all producers that came before me and after, but you always feel like you’re the illest one. I like what this person does, I like what that person does, but I feel like my shit is just the illest. That’s not trying to come across cocky or nothing, that’s just being real.

How does it feel when you rub shoulders with veteran producers and highly touted artists?

Being cool with a Timbaland, being cool with a Puff, being cool with a Sean Garrett, being cool with different people like that, those people kind of humble me. Those people really humble me. Really. Knowing that Sean Garrett got 17 number ones and 42 top 10s, it’s just like, man, I only got, shit, three number ones and like four top 10s. This man got 17 ones and 42 top 10s, Puffy got countless joints, Timbaland got countless joints-—number ones across the board, top 40s and all that. So it’s like, man. Knowing those [people] and being cool with Juicy J, him having an Oscar and all that—there’s a lot more work that I have to put in.

Funny, I remember speaking to you a year ago and your goal for 2012 was to make the best of last year the worst of this year. You did quite a good job making that happen.

Yep, the best of last year is the worst of this year—yep. That’s how it was. A lot of people were sitting around like, “Yo, in 2013 I’m finna do this,” or, “In 2013 I’m finna do that.” But shit, I wasn’t saying nothing. When 2012 came, and I just—boom, seven singles. Out the gate, not even three weeks in. Seven singles. Rihanna’s [“Pour It Up”] is plus 600­–700 a week and the Lil Wayne joint [“Love Me (Good Kush & Alcohol)”.”] is plus 500–600 every week. I’m taking meetings with different labels, the heads of different labels, and they’re telling me that they want me to work with different people that I’ve never even thought that I would work with. I always said, “Yo, I wanna get in with this guy or this guy,’” and now these folks is like, “Yo, this is perfect for y’all! This needs to be the first single!” So having that is just dope. I feel like last year was definitely a good year. I got my first platinum plaque, three gold eight number ones.

It’s like all my records are battling each other. If it’s not “Pour It Up,” it’s gonna be “Love Me (Good Kush & Alcohol).” If it isn’t “Love Me (Good Kush & Alcohol),” it’s gonna be [Kelly Rowland’s] “Kisses Down Low.” If it isn’t “Kisses Down Low,” it’s gonna be B.o.B’s “Still in This Bitch”. If it ain’t that, it’s gonna be Ace Hood, “New Bugatti”. If it ain’t that it’s gonna be Ciara, “Wake Up, No Make-up”—you know what I’m saying? They’re all battling each other. I feel like that’s the goal for this year, to keep expanding, keep tapping into the R&B world, and continue to change and move the hip-hop game.

What went through your mind after getting the call that you were nominated for a Grammy (for “Mercy” and 2 Chainz’ Based On a T.R.U. Story)? [Ed. note: This interview was conducted before the 55th Annual Grammy Awards]

Man, that’s another thing. I don’t really get caught up in that stuff either. People be like, “Yo, you gonna be in L.A. for Grammy week?’ I’m like, “Nah. Not until they call me like, ‘Yo, Mike Will, you’re nominated for a Grammy,” then I have to go. I’m gonna be coming with more shit. I’m a freak; I’m an animal. I just want to stay on my grind and stay on this because it’s easy to get thrown off when you’re trying to get to where you want to get to. There’s hungry producers that’s trying to come into the game every day. Not even taking no showers, just sitting downstairs in their mom’s basement. I was like that. “I’m comin’ for this nigga’s spot,” and that’s just how it is. So there’s someone out there right now that’s watching my Twitter and will read this interview like, “Yo, I’m comin’ for that nigga’s spot.” I’m not mad at ‘em. I was never the type to say, “Yo—I’m comin’ for a nigga’s spot.” But I always wanted to be in a nigga’s position in my own lane though. I don’t want to be in Timbaland’s spot or in Puff’s spot or in Kanye’s spot, I just want to be respected like them in my own lane.  So you just gotta stay focused, man. Don’t get caught up in the hype and all that stuff like that. The fame is cool, but you gotta know what you’re doing. I do it for my fam and my people.

What was your biggest surprise of last year?

When Puff reached out. Puff was always there, but when Puff reached out and Puff was on the phone just like, “Yo.” We chopped it up and then I went out to L.A. and I went to his crib to a house party, then I came back and just chopped it up with him, just chopped up business and whatnot, and then I was just at his crib kickin’ it. Puff did the intro for the Est. In 1989 (Part 2) mixtape.

That intro was like no other, and now you took it up a notch with opening 2.5.

Yeah. I was meeting with Jimmy Iovine last year, and we were sitting down and walked into the room and he was listening to beats and he was like, “Yo, you’re like a new genre. You’re like a new genre of music.’ Jimmy like, “This is him, man—this is the one!” All that kind of stuff happened in like a week or two when I was out in L.A.; it was crazy. Even being recognized for your sound and having Def Jam and Roc Nation like, “Rihanna wants to be in the club, we need your shit.” I knocked out a joint and Chris Brown came into the studio and heard the song and was like, “This shit is crazy,” and just took it. He told Rihanna about it, then Roc Nation took it to her and she recorded it and now it’s her single. That shit is just crazy. Being on Brandy’s album, Kelly Rowland. Kelly Rowland is “Bills, Bills, Bills,” all that. 2012 was a great year, so now it’s time to capitalize on all of it and continue to build. Make the best of last year the worst of this year.

Now when you listen to joints like “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” or “Pour It Up,” some folks would argue that you create these joints to cater to the strip clubs. Do you agree? Disagree?

I think we made that hot for the strip club. I’ve never heard anything like that before in the strip club—you know what I’m saying? I let a couple of people hear that and they were like, “Nah, I need something for the club, I need something crazy.” At that point, the biggest club record they heard from me was “Tupac Back,” so they wanted something like “Tupac Back” with the aggressive sound. So when they heard “Bandz a Make her Dance,” they weren’t like, “Oh this is some shit for the strip club,” they were like, “Man—this sound like some dark murder, murder, kill, kill shit—some street shit.” But now that there’s such a big strip club smash, people are like, “Yo—that’s that strip club sound.” “Nah. That’s our sound that we made for the strip club.” I don’t really like when I hear that because now people don’t even like to give us credit. And they might do it without even knowing, and I’m not even saying you I’m just saying people, they don’t really notice. “Okay, this is the first time we’ve ever heard anything like this instrumental.” They don’t look at it as a trend-setting thing, they look at it like, “Oh, he’s just another beatmaker doing one of those down south beats.” They’re not respecting it in the trendsetting light. They keep putting me in this bracket, when they should be putting me in this bracket, because in the same bracket that they’re trying to put me in, a lot of those cats are trying to figure out, “How in the fuck can I do some shit like that?” They put me in this bracket just because I’m newer like them. But they’re not changing the game like I am. They’re not changing the game, they’re not trend-setting like I am. So a lot of the time they look at it like, “Man—that’s that strip club sound.” Nah. If you ever hear anything else like that in the strip club that means somebody bitin’. Because there are so many niggas out there biting my sound.

How do you feel about that?

One of my big brothers in this game is Gucci [Mane], and Gucci told me he had to kick a nigga out the studio because he brought in a bunch of beats that sounded just like mine. He was telling me, “Don’t get mad at that shit, that’s the best form of flattery.” So those were like my biggest fans. When Kanye did what he did, he was the birth of many. Jay-Z doing what he’s doing, he’s the birth to many. Three 6 Mafia is a birth to many. I just feel like after my wave and after I do what I do, I’m a birth to many. Of course I’m not the first person to do the filtering, but I’m the first nigga to do the filtering on the street beats. It was poppin’ in the pop world, but they weren’t doing it in the way that I do it. Now those people are trying to take those same elements like, “Ahh, yeah—you didn’t come up with this.” T-Pain didn’t come up with Auto-Tune, but he made it hot as hell at his time. Ace Hood didn’t come up with his flow but everybody in the game bit his flow. That’s just the way it goes. DJ Drama, I’m pretty sure he’s one of the first DJs to yell, but he set the trend of yelling on mixtapes—you know what I’m saying? Now there are a whole bunch of DJ Dramas. It’s the best form of flattery, and it’s motivation for you to do what you know they cant do.

What are some of your other plans for 2013?

I’m working on my album and just continuing to grow and place tracks on different other albums. Hopefully, I’ll bring new talent to the game.

Tell me a little about the album.

Just like the mixtapes, but there’s more thought put into it. So there more creativity involved. The mixtapes are incredible, you can listen to them from tracks 1 to 25, but the album is gonna be from 1 to 12 or 13 but it’s gonna be on some other shit. All original tracks. The last mixtape, 2.5, we put 11 original songs on there. On this one, I plan having about 12 or 13 and just doing everything that I wanted to hear when I was growing up. I wanna hear Mannie Fresh, etc. I just do it for the folks that are a fan of music and love the hip-hop culture and love the pop culture and different shit like that. I’m doing it for them.

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