Studio Session: GTA Break Out of the Box and Say “Death to Genres”
One of the coolest things in music right now is the blurring across genres. Now more than ever artists are infusing bits and pieces of hip-hop, rock, soul and more to create fresh, new sounds. The marriage between electronic and dance music with hip-hop is one of the best examples of this. Producers and DJs outside of rap are adding elements of trap into their new projects and collaborating with rappers even more.
Two years ago, RL Grime joined forces with Big Sean for "Kingpin," Baauer tapped Pusha T and Future for "King Fu" in February, Zeds Dead just released the track "DNA" with Jadakiss and Styles P and about a month ago, Brodinski released The Sour Patch Kid, a project featuring a large number of young new talent from Atlanta like Lotto Savage, Johnny Cinco and Jose Guapo.
Following the same path is GTA (Good Times Ahead), a Miami-based production and DJ duo made up of Matt Toth and Julio Mejia. Not only do they continue to blend genres but they take it to a new level. The 25-year-olds have done official remixes for Jay Z, Rick Ross and Rihanna. Earlier this month, Toth and Mejia released their debut project, Good Times Ahead under Warner Bros. Records, introducing fans to original music that represents the sound of their outlook on life. Their mantra, "Death to genres," is a statement that they don't want to be put in a box because they love to create different sounds to groove to.
The album's tracklist highlights their sentiment. The 10-track LP features Vince Staples, Tungi Ige, Iamsu!, Jarina De Marco, RKCB, Tinashe and Karina, all artists from a wide array of genres and musical influences.
While on the phone, Matt and Julio talk to XXL about how Miami influences their music, their "Death to genres" mantra, hip-hop influences and why this album is so important to them.
XXL: What was it like growing up in Miami?
Matt Toth: It was pretty awesome growing up in Miami. I’m Cuban and Julio is Honduran and we both grew up in a huge Latin culture around us as we’re growing up, listening to a bunch of salsa music and stuff like that. It was cool; all the different music around in Latin culture, the whole party atmosphere is very prominent in a lot of the culture and family gatherings and all that stuff. So we always have been surrounded by it, having a good time, laughter and family time and good times all around. It’s pretty awesome.
When did something like producing dance music become a profession both of you saw as doable?
Julio Mejia: We started producing together when we’re about 16. That’s really when we both started getting into electronic music. Matt went to the Ultra Music Festival in Miami for the first time. I think that’s where it kind of sparked an interest in electronic music. For me it was when I worked for at Ultra with my cousin. I was listening to mad rap at that time. That pretty much got me very interested in the electronic scene.
Miami has such a storied hip-hop history from veterans like Uncle Luke to Trick Daddy to Rick Ross to newcomers like Pouya and so much more. Where did rap factor into y’all lives?
Julio: I loved the different energies that the people show especially when performing. You mentioned Pouya, he’s one of my favorite rappers right now. His energy at his shows, it’s just crazy. I feel like Miami rappers are kind of known for that. He can bring around the party vibe, the craziness of a party.
How does Miami inspire y’all music?
Matt: Growing up there, you’re inspired every day. That’s why we make such different music all the time. We’re into hype stuff and that’s just what Miami is. It’s so much energy down here and so many different places and cultures but everyone comes together for the music.
Where did the "Death to genres" mantra come from?
Matt: That came to us when we were doing an interview. It was actually the last question during the interview, “Death to blank” and we put down “genres.” We thought about it and it pretty much speaks to exactly what we want to do for ourselves as artists. We always wanted to make different type of music; we didn’t want to restrict ourselves from being able to produce anything, our fans expecting to produce one kind of thing. So that’s where that kind of came from, it’s not so much as like there shouldn’t be any genres and things like that, we need that for classification but it’s more about being open-minded and different styles and tempos.
Over the last couple of years, there’s been this cool marriage of hip-hop and electronic music, with a ton of artists working together. Where do you see this going in the future? Trap is becoming more intertwined within electronic music. Why do you think it’s such a great space for the two genres to work together?
Julio: I think musically it's in a great place but it’s also kind of in a difficult place. Like a lot of the new trap that’s coming out now, it’s so many different styles, it’s so many vibes that you can make and the internet is a click away. You can put it up there, and it can blow up overnight. It’s still cool on how it’s very innovative and how you can create and make something new and fresh. Trap music it’s still new I feel to a lot of electronic artists and they’re still having fun listening to… Even like old Waka Flocka Flame play on our site and people still turned up.
Matt: I think it's going to become even more of a marriage. All the different genres, multiple blends of different genres, like Post Malone, he did a track that kind of had folk sound mixed with Rap. That was super dope and he did it so well. I think it’s going to be like that, a blend of different styles put together.
Where do you see the similarities and differences between hip-hop producer and electric producer?
Julio: Producer-wise, they whole approach is different. Rap producers, they make tracks for artists that they are working with. Electronic producers usually produce stuff they see their crowd and their dance floors react to. So a lot of the things that we make are hype and really loud and crazy because that’s what our fans react to. Especially when we play festivals and big places, it really goes well. The approach is different.
Matt: And now for this album, we’re making music for ourselves. It’s way different from the previous stuff we put out before -- way more vocals and way more vibes all around.
It was pretty awesome. We tried to push ourselves outside our comfort zone and all those loud, crazy club and festival tracks. We sat down with a bunch of songwriters and sat in the studio for days and just worked. We didn’t really go in with too much of a mindset. We just wanted to make really good music and stuff that we would vibe to and we just kept doing that. It took a while, almost two years to make it. Just retooling everything.
Are there aspects of the electronic industry or the industry in general that you dislike? A trend per say?
Julio: For me, it’s that people try to copy each other. Producers just try and copy each other and make it out to be some kind of formula. Like, “If I want a hit record I got to have a Mustard-type of beat.” Everyone wanted to be DJ Mustard or Metro Boomin or Diplo beat like “Lean On.” Everyone was chasing that same sound. To me that’s kind of annoying. The innovation is there it’s just wanting to do it and not being afraid of what people think.
Have you seen an influx of rappers reaching out to y’all or wanting to work with y’all?
Julio: Overall, I think a lot of artists, not just rappers, they are all interested in electronic music now and I think that’s great. I’m seeing areas to create and make something cool and new.
Matt: We’re all open to work with pretty much anyone as long as they are dope creative people and have a open mind. Those are the kind of people we have been working with for the album.
You worked with Jay Z and Rick Ross?
Julio: We did a remix for them for “Movin’ Bass.”
How was that?
Matt: It was cool, man, especially being from Miami and being a fan of Jay Z, it was an honor to remix that and have it come out officially. The whole beat already was Miami-based on that record so it hit closer to home for us. We did that remix in a second without even thinking about it.
Good Times Ahead is out. What are you excited for your fans to hear and in your own words why do you think the album is important?
Julio: For one, I think our fans are going to be surprise at the musicality of the album ‘cause you have everything. And a lot of stuff that’s on the album they haven’t heard us do. This is important because it showcases what producers can do and what they could offer.
Matt: It’s a milestone for us too because it’s such a big project putting together an album. You don’t realize how intensive it is. It’s a pretty large intensive process. We kind of feel like real artists now, we have a whole album together.
How did y’all link up with the hip-hop artists on the album?
Matt: We just reached out to their team. We were working on the project and we were just looking for people to work with. We’re big fans of Vince Staples and Tunji Ige. Actually we’ve been talking to Tunji for a while. He’s been looking to expand and work with a lot of people from outside of Philly. We just happened to get him on that record. Vince, we’ve been a big fan, Summertime 06, all of that. So we just wanted to see of he’s down to work and we’ve sent him that weird ass beat and he fucked with it. In a few days he sent back that whole track.
Any specific South Florida rappers you both are into?
Julio: There are a few [rappers] we love. Denzel Curry is really cool and Yung Simmie. Pouya is who I really listen to. There’s Rob Bank$, there’s a few.
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