Ambition is more than just drive; in the case of burgeoning producer Mike Will, it’s part of his DNA. At 22 years old, the Marietta, Georgia-native has endowed quite the name for himself with his long list of production credits for everyone from Rick Ross ("Tupac Back") to Young Jeezy ("Way Too Gone") to 50 Cent ("Girls Gone Wild") to Ludacris ("I'm on Fire") to Future ("Ain't No Way Around It'), and more.

Taking some time out of his busy schedule, Mike reached out to XXLMag.com to discuss emerging as a young producer, crafting both Jeezy and Fif’s latest bangers, and just what he has in store for 2012. —Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)

XXLMag.com: How long have you been producing?

Mike Will: Well, I've been making beats since around the age of 14. Really going in and producing records, I’ve been doing that [since] around the age of like 19, 20.

How old are you right now?

I'm 22.

So how did this whole producing thing become a career path?

It really started when I was playing basketball. I grew up with one of my close homeboys and I used to just love hearing him rap. We would ride on the bus and he would be rapping the whole way home. [We’d] come to the crib and when certain songs were on the radio, I would take [this] little keyboard I had and play it right back. From there he was like, “Bro, you need to start making beats.” So, I went to the local music store [that] was called Marz Music and I was messing with the MP 1000. I was trying to ask the people there how to work the machine and they just showed me the little basics. [From there] I took Fabolous’ “Holla Back (Youngin)” joint and re-made it into another beat.

That was a mean record back then.

You know what I’m saying, it [already] had a Southern feel to it. [So] they were like, “How long you been making beats?” I was like, “Shit, I don’t make no beats. I ain’t got no equipment or nothing.” They thought I was playing so, next thing you know I hollered at my pops. From there he grabbed me my first beat machine which was the KORG ES-1 and I started working with that.

What was your first major production credit?

Gucci Mane was the first person to ever rap on my beat. First major to rap on my beat and told me he was gonna put a stamp on me to take me to the next level. From there it was no looking back.

Now, you got a crazy record on Jeezy’s TM:103 “Way Too Gone.” Tell me how that collabo happened?

It was crazy, man, being back in the club and “Lose My Mind” would come on and I [was always] like, “Shit, if I can get one of these tracks over here to Jeezy for 103 I already know what we could do.” At that point I wasn’t a big brand so it wasn’t even no extending the hands, it wasn’t even no connection, and me doing everything out of my home I was young, it wasn’t like we was gonna bump into each other. Really what happened was I was in Magic City on a Monday and Jeezy was in there. My boy DJ Esco was going in and he just paused the club like, “Man, I don’t think y’all understand. We got the hottest producer in the world in here!” and was going crazy playing all of my joints back to back. Jeezy’s manager Carbon had came into the DJ booth and told the DJ to tell me to come up there so, I came in there and me and him chopping it up he was like, “I need you on that 103 you got the sound.” I’m like shit, “What you mean, consider it done. Anyway you wanna go I got it man, tell Jeezy if he need me we can do that.” So, we exchanged numbers and [later on] me and Jeezy went in to do some joints for the album.

How was it during your first encounter in the studio with him?

The first time me and Jeezy went in, we came up with like seven different concepts. Every different beat I put on, we was just messing with each other and coming up with different concepts and stuff like that, so that’s when I had left the beats and dipped. He had plenty of concepts and he had another record that was crazy but he messed around and forgot about the record. When I left, he lost the beat and he did two other songs which were “Sittin’ Low” and “Nicks 2 Bricks” [which] were on The Real Is Back 2.

So, how’d you feel when the “original” TM:103 tracklisting was released?

When they came out with a track listing for TM:103 and I [was] like “Fuck! I thought I was gonna be on it.” I wanted to be on there bad, ’cause I knew it was gonna be a crazy album. They had the listening party up in New York and I’m like, "Man, it's official. I ain't even make it and I ain't even make the album. So, next thing you know his manager, you know my nigga Carbon, hit me again [and] he was like, “Look Mike Will” it was a Wednesday and he hit me like “Will, on Friday we gotta rap up this album and we need a crazy club banger, send me some joints.” I’m like man bruh, “I’m not even just gonna send you no beats, I need to make sure he (Jeezy) hears these beats [and] see him go through [them]. Imma send him some club bangers but, I think I got what he need.” He was like aiight you can pull up to the studio, and [when I got there] I’m just playing the most ignorant shit that would go in the club, extra dark that’s just gonna rock the club and just go crazy. I’m playing them joints back to back and everyone like “Cot damn” and Jeezy [was] like “Put that one aside, put that one aside.” I’m like cool, “Aight I played yall the club joints, now look Jeezy I let you hear this joint right here like two months ago, I don’t know what you was working on, but you told me to leave the beat and I don’t think you never did nothing to it. This shit right here is epic, this shit right here sound like a movie and we really need to knock this out.”

What did you call the beat?

The beat was called “Champagne Campaign.” So, I turned [the track] on and he was like, “Aww I remember that beat, pause that shit. All I need is two blunts” and by Friday that shit was knocked out. Then you know Future, that’s like my brother, so he got on the record and he [was] like, “That shit on Jeezy album, you know he got me to put a verse on there. That shit gonna be one of the hardest joints of 2012, its gonna be one of the hardest joints on his album,” and I was like man “Shit bruh I keep hearing a lot about it, but I aint never heard it.” Then I pulled up on Jeezy one night when we were mixing it, and that was the first time I heard it. The shit sounded crazy you know what I’m saying, we got the mix right and then from there, it hit the streets and folks [went] crazy.

Now you’re responsible for one of 2011’s biggest hits, “Tupac Back” that was like your breakout single, would you agree?

MW: Yeah it definitely was a breakout single that was my first single ever. Different folks heard about me like outside the neighborhood cause I finally caught that single. Right after that with the Future “Aint No Way Around It” joint, that joint got real hot in the streets and when that joint got hot that just added fuel to the fire, and then I put out “Itchin” and then that added even more fuel to the fire, joint with Luda and Big Krit, “I’m On Fire” all the remixes like to Tupac’s Back and all the other joints that just came out.

How was it producing 50’s new joint, “Girls Gone Wild”?

MW: I was in the studio with Jeremih, he had the record first and started going in on it. It was half way done and then 50 had heard the record and was like, “Yo let me rock to this shit.” [So Jeremih] hit me and said, “50 said he might wanna jump on that joint.” I was like, “Word?” So we waited it out a couple weeks and then [Jeremih] hit us back and said, “I think 50 want that joint, he working on a new album.” I’m just waiting for it to play out but, I had let Ludacris hear the joint too, [and] they were messing with the joint. Next thing you know, 50 people reached out and we handled the paperwork on it and then I heard the record with 50 on it.

What was your response when you heard it?

“This record is crazy.” Shit is crazy. The way 50 did it, it’s just a whole ‘nother sound. He kinda switched it up from the first one, but I like what he did. It’s like a whole new sound, you never heard 50 come that way and it was really creative to see him on the animated side. Its a fun record, its live, it will go crazy in the club, it will go crazy in the summertime barbecues, and all that. It’s just a crazy record. He definitely painted the picture, and you know what, guess what the name of that beat was?

So what’s next for Mike Will in 2012?

MW: Really to continue to build that catalog I feel like I gotta still build the catalog, there’s still areas I haven’t touched like with R&B, the Pop side, and stuff like that. As well as getting together with some movie companies and putting together some movie scores and start to do music for movies and commercials and building [my] Ear-Drummers Entertainment production company.