Playboi Carti has come a long way from the production he was rapping over two years ago. Back then, he was still in the basement with Awful Records, kicking rhymes over Dexter and Ethereal beats. He was also working steadily with Atlanta stalwart MexikoDro, though they no longer seem to mess with each other.
The 23-year-old producer, originally from South Carolina, first caught eyes and ears when he produced more than half of Atlanta rapper and 21 Savage affiliate Young Nudy's 2016 mixtape, Slimeball. Then in early February of this year, Nudy dropped Slimeball 2, produced almost entirely by Pierre (he mixed and recorded that whole project as well.)
The following month in March, Playboi Carti released "wokeuplikethis*" featuring Lil Uzi Vert and produced by Bourne as well. A little over a week after that, Carti previewed another new record on Twitter ("In New York I milly rock, hide it in my sock") produced by Pierre, and just days later, after Lil Yachty and another Atlanta rapper, Thouxanbanfauni, got into a physical altercation, Uno The Activist threw shots at Lil Boat on "#FREESMOKE," once again bearing Bourne's name on production.
Bourne made the "#FREESMOKE" beat on Instagram Live in about 20 minutes, but when he sent Uno the beat, he had no idea it'd be used for a record dissing Carti's friend, Yachty. "I ain’t send no beats for no fucking diss," Bourne told XXL in March. "That ain’t me, I don’t do shit like that."
All's well that ends well, however, as Yachty and Bourne have been in the studio working on new music recently.
Growing up, Bourne listened to G-Unit, Dipset and Jeezy and sampled a lot of Willie Hutch and Curtis Mayfield until his uncle told him he'd never make any money that way because of sample clearance fees. When Bourne started working with Atlanta-based DJ Burn One, he saw how Burn One avoided sampling and instead brought session players to the studio to play instruments. Burn One would sample them and Bourne would add the kicks.
XXL spoke to Bourne prior to Carti's tape dropping and got the scoop on how he first started working with the young Atlanta rapper (through Yachty's brother K$upreme), engineering pop records for Epic Records before working with DJ Burn One, his relationship with Metro Boomin and much more.
XXL: How’d you first get to Atlanta?
Pierre Bourne: School. I dropped out of college, tried to figure out something else that made sense and started school for engineering in Atlanta at SAE institute. And doing that really got my network better. Just meeting people at different studios and them introducing me to this person. After a while, you start to notice the circle, and then you can decide who you really wanna work with and grow.
What was your first entry into this network?
I was interning at Hustle Gang for like a week. I quit. That was my only internship in Atlanta. I hated it. I was like, Maybe this isn’t what I moved out here for. Maybe I just need to go into a studio and play my beats. Like just play it. I don’t need to clean up or wipe the window. Like maybe I’m already ready. So I stopped, and then I just kept that belief.
And then I met Nudy on the Eastside [when I was] engineering at this studio. And I didn’t even play him any beats the first day. I just liked his voice. I was like, Yo, he sounds just like Gucci Mane. I was like, We could be Zaytoven… and Gucci Mane! Like while I’m recording him, I’m thinking this. I’m like we’re on the Eastside… I’m like, Oh shit. We can do it. And then he came out the booth and he was like, “Man, where the fuck you been at?” And I was like “… What you mean?” He was like, “Man, I need you to record me all the time!” And I was like, “Alright, cool! 'Cause I want to record.” It was just weird, we just clicked, and we just been cooking up ever since. That was like two years ago.
When you were in the studio with Nudy that first time, were you guys recording a song together?
He had some beats already. Well, actually, he had went through some beats, and one of the producers, I went to high school with—JetsonMade. He’s on Slimeball 1. It’s me, him and Metro on Slimeball 1. And I just felt like, Damn, he sent you some beats, man, you gotta get on his shit, 'cause that’s the homie. And then that ended up being the “Slime” song that’s on 21 Savage project [Slaughter King].
So if I would have played my fucking beats, I probably would have already worked with 21 Savage if I had to wait for Slimeball 2. Little shit like that, I’ve learned you just got to be smart with your decisions and watch the seeds you plant because they will grow, whether it’s good or bad.
Working with Nudy, that was the first thing, but then 2015, like around September or October, I got offered a job to engineer for Epic Records, and that made me super busy. So me and Nudy kind of stopped working as often as we were. That got weird, because we weren’t working and then I started seeing 21 everywhere, so I just felt really bad, like… that could be [Nudy] too, but I gotta do this job.
I thought me taking that job was gonna get us in the door in a better way, but everything happens for a reason. It was a learning experience. I learned a lot, I got more connections through that, but Nudy’s stuff and now Carti’s stuff, that’s really what I’m getting noticed for, so I know what I need to be doing.
So how old were you when you were interning at Hustle Gang for a week?
I had to be like 21. I had to have just turned 21. My birthday’s in September. I had moved to Atlanta when I was 20. So damn, three years, yeah.
And how exactly did you meet Nudy?
Well, I got the job engineering at that studio because I was making beats with DJ Burn One and he used to book time at that studio.
Which studio is this?
Mad Studios. It’s in Atlanta. It’s Cory Mo's—he’s Pimp C’s engineer. He’s a legend. His studio is just cool. The vibe there was dope. So we’d go there to make beats, and that’s when [Cory Mo] found out I went to school for engineering. He was like, "Man, come work!" I was like, "Okay!" First couple sessions, Nudy [shows up].
His manager One [Dollar] and Cory Mo, they were already working together a lot in the past, so when I came, I was just in the mix, so I guess he was already getting sessions there, but then when I started recording him, [Nudy] was like, “I want him to record me more often.”
And how did you get the job with Cory Mo?
DJ Burn One. I basically got the job just because I went to school for engineering. Like he didn’t see me work or anything like that. He was just like, “You go to school for that shit? Come work!” So I started working with them, but I was already recording myself on Pro Tools and stuff, so I was familiar with the program, I just needed to get into a situation. And that’s why I didn’t like the internship [at Hustle Gang], because I felt like I was already a couple steps ahead. So I just wanted to be in the studio.
How did you get in touch with DJ Burn One?
It was a beat battle at my school. And I got like second place, I thought I won that shit. Whole crowd thought I won, because every round I was just knocking people out. Then the last round, it was like a little debate, and that’s when they picked the other guy. And everybody was like, "What?" But I was like, Alright, I lost, and then they gave me a pass to another beat battle. And that was the more important one, the iStandard beat battle. And I met DJ Burn One there. I had a 15-minute session with him or something to play him like three beats. I played him this Street Fighter beat and he feel in love with that shit. I still haven’t released those beats, I can’t wait to do that shit. I have a whole project of Street Fighter sounds. And I knew he would fuck with it, just because it’s a video game. And then I press play and he’s like “…What!? We gotta cook up!” So I was like, Aight.
I had just moved out there to Atlanta, so I was just excited. I didn’t know that would start this, to start that, to start this. It’s a beautiful process.
Me and Burn One start cooking up on a consistent basis, and then because I was in school while we were cooking up, Cory Mo found out I was in school for engineering and was like, “Take a job.” So I started working with them.
It definitely was hard at first. I moved to Atlanta not knowing a soul. Not one person. Didn’t have any family out there. And then my school didn’t tell me I didn’t have dorms.
So you had to get your own place?
After a couple months. It was a lot, bro. But it was a learning experience. And that was like the worst part of my life, ever. It was that bad to where I knew after this, life was gonna be sweet. So everybody’s like, “Oh, you’re so chill.” Man, I done been through hell already. I’m happy I don’t have to do that anymore. So now, just trying to wake up every day, make some beats, do some songs and keep doing it every day.
So you start cooking up with Nudy. When do you start branching out?
My job with Epic, they gave me studio time after 2 a.m. So I stayed at the studio. From noon to 2 a.m. I was engineering sessions, Monday to Saturday. And Sunday, I had the whole day to myself in the studio. And then after 2 a.m. during the week I’ll have a session.
What studio is this?
12 Music Group Studios in Atlanta. Epic would get time out of there every month. So whenever I would get done with my sessions, I had to work. I would call Nudy and just tell him pull up. So he’ll pull up like 3 in the morning, 'til like 7.
So you basically snuck him into the studio.
Basically. I had to figure out how it was going at first. I was curving him for months at first. He even unfollowed me on Instagram. I was like, Damn… it’s not like that man! I just need a schedule! And then after Epic gave me a schedule, then I knew what time everybody would leave. Just because I didn’t want people to feel intimidated or uncomfortable. I just didn’t want people to create a problem.
Because he wasn’t coming to start a problem, he was coming to record a song. But sometimes I feel like if he would come during the day, people have weird perceptions of trap rappers, so they think they’re coming to fuck shit up. Really, they’re leaving their side of town where they were doing lord knows what to focus on some music! But everybody else is just, “Ooh, the bad guys are here!” So they’re just scared. But they’re trying to get out of their situation too. It’s just weird.
Doing that shit and then recording Nudy, I just got to see the best of both worlds. I was recording pop music all day and then he’ll come in and we’ll do some real gangsta shit.
What was the kind of stuff you were engineering for Epic?
Like guitar songs, more ballads. Reference songs for people on the label, so stuff that could possibly get to Meghan Trainor or Fifth Harmony. Those type of songs, which showed me how to make songs, like song structure. So whenever Nudy would come and record, I would just piece everything together. He’d just go in there and do a couple takes, and then he’ll be like, “Man, find the hook or the verse.” And I’d be like, "Shit, that’s it and move it over and you just go do some ad-libs." And that’s how we knocked them songs out.
And he gets that, he understands how I do everything. So now, he’s waiting for me to come back to Atlanta. He’s like, “Bro, what the fuck? Bro… I need to record. A good song. I can go to the studio, but I need you in there!” So I’m starting to understand my role and how important I am to certain situations.
So you’re doing stuff for Epic and working with Nudy. How does that progress into working with other Atlanta artists?
I had to quit working for Epic on November.
It was my decision. They didn’t expect me to leave at all. I just dipped. Really, I just felt like things were getting stagnant and I just want to keep going up. So that’s basically my whole thing. I just want to keep progressing. While I was in the studio, because I worked so much, I didn’t have any free time to work with anybody else, so that’s why I would tell Nudy to pull up so late. And he was the only one who understood my situation, so he would pull up. But some people, they wouldn't pull up because it was too late.
So it took a while to finally get out of that, and in November of last year, I quit. I was there for a year and a couple weeks. But the same day I quit, I cooked up with Metro Boomin. That shit was weird. I quit my job and then got a call saying Metro wants you to come to the studio. This is my first time meeting him and everything, and I’m just like, What!?
Who was the call from?
Nudy’s manager. Because Nudy was locked up at the time, so I just wasn’t expecting his manager to call me for anything. Because he’s not out.
Who’s his manager?
One Dollar and E. But One called me and was like, “Where you at?” I was like, “I’m leaving the studio.” I didn’t tell him the whole situation, but I was like, “I’m leaving the studio right now. What’s up? I’m free.” He was like, “Metro wants you to come to the studio.” So I went over there and cooked up with him, Southside and Spiffy Global. That was like one of the best sessions I’ve ever had.
We didn’t have to even really talk. The computer was up, we all knew how to run the shit. So it wasn’t like he had to explain, “I’m working on this right now.” That shit was so cool, I was like, Man, I’m glad I left. That was the sign, just being in Atlanta, going out there by myself, I started to see that I’d been shown signs, and it’s either you pay attention or you don’t and then you have to deal with the karma of that and wonder why you haven’t gone up yet. Maybe you’ve blocked your blessing. I’ve learned a lot out here by myself.
My family is out here in New York. They’ve been out here since the 1970s. They moved here from Belize, came straight to Queens. My grandparents. My mom is like the first born in America, so this shit deep. The reason why I work so hard is because of them.
How’d you start working with Playboi Carti?
My bro K$upreme. Yachty’s brother. I met K$upreme either in the end of December or January. I was engineering at this studio 12 Music Group. I was doing another session there. I’d already quit Epic, but gotta eat. So I engineer some sessions every now and then if I wanna make some money. So I was up there and they told me K$upreme was coming. And I was like, "Alright, word."
And my session, the other artist was acting weird. It was just an awkward session. So I introduce myself all the time as P. So everybody knew me in the room as P. at the time. And I was leaving, because I had to go pull up on Nudy. I was like, “Y’all aren’t trying to work. This is awkward. I gotta go play some beats for Nudy real quick.” And [K$upreme] was like, “Oh shit. You Pierre? Oh shit! I love your beats!” I was like, “Oh shit! You know me? What the fuck! Let’s work!” And that just killed the whole awkward vibe. I was like, “Why’s everybody acting all awkward in this muthafucker? We all cool.”
But before I left, I played [K$upreme] three or four beats. My friend had just gave me some new drums either earlier that day or earlier that week, so I had some fire beats. I pressed play and he was like, “Yo, send me a couple of those.” I sent him the “wokeuplikethis” beat. He had the “Woke Up” beat. And then the next time I saw him in the studio, maybe a week or a couple days later, he was like, “Yo, Carti hopped on that shit.” And he said it so lightly… I was like, “Who got on my beat? Like what the fuck? Why you ain’t call me?” I don’t like when people do shit like that with my shit. So I was like, Alright, so Carti got on my beat… where’s Carti? [laughs] I need to figure out what’s going on, because I can make a beat for him. I was like [to K$upreme], “I gave you those beats for you.” He was like, “Nah, bro… he wanna hop on it. Shit, hop on it.”
And then, the same day, because I couldn’t figure out where Carti was at, that shit is already on the internet. The clip of him in the car was just going viral. So I’m looking like, Damn, I wish they would put “produced by Pierre” or something. Like, yo, that shit’s crazy. That’s my beat! And then maybe two days later, I seen Lil Uzi on Snapchat playing the song. So I didn’t think he was on [the song] yet. Then that’s when Carti was like, “Yeah, we got Lil Uzi on it.”
The first time I talked to [Carti], he called me like, “Bro, I love your beats, man. We gotta cook up. I’ll be back in the A soon.” He was telling me he was about to move back to the A and everything. So I knew this going into February, so I just made sure I had some beats for him. And he started hitting me up to come to the studio. It was weird because it was just that one song, and then we kept doing another song and he just kept adding it to the tape. And I was like, "Bro, you’ve been working on this shit for like three years. You can’t just erase what you already had for the tape."
It sounds like you have a good perspective of everything, because you know the label side, you have the musical side in terms of working with pop artists, and then you have the rap side.
Basically now, I feel like I can understand everyone in the room, as opposed to just the rapper or the producer or the engineer. I might know how the writer might feel or the label exec that comes in, just because I’ve heard so many conversations on how they handle things. It just shows you this shit ain’t no game.
So where were you and Carti recording?
Means Street, DJ Drama and Don Cannon’s studio. I met them, they’re cool as fuck. I love their studio. The first day I went to cook up with Carti, I was nervous as fuck. But I walked in and I was like, Yo… this shit!? This is home! Is there a shower here? And that’s how I felt when I started working for Epic, because their studio was like that for me. But it was just studio shit in there. I loved the vibe in there.
When I went to Means Street, they had actual games and arcade, big ass room and TV. I was like, Okay, I understand what y’all doing. Sometimes you gotta take a break, take a load off for 15 or 20 minutes because you’re stuck on a song. And you can clear your mind in there. Because most places you can’t. You’re just in the booth, and then in the room. And they might have a lounge where you can smoke, but it’s not like they got shit for you to do just to get your mind off of it. And I’ve noticed that helps. Even if you just go bullshit for 30 minutes. That might clear your mind, and then you go back in the booth and say something crazy.
When were you guys recording?
All of February, and up to maybe two days before SXSW. But we’ve been doing a lot of songs. Honestly, I don’t have all the fucking songs.
You got a favorite song on the tape?
“Dothatshit!” That’s my favorite, because it has a message, and I told him, “I fuck with this one the most because you’re really telling them some shit they need to do. There’s nothing wrong with having a message in your music."
That’s very important. That’s good for the culture, when you have good messages. And I’m a part of that, so that shit felt good.
How did you start working with Uno The Activist? Is “#FREESMOKE” your first song with him?
That’s my first song out with Uno, but him and Carti have been hopping on my beats all last month. But he hit me up and told him send me some shit. I was literally on Instagram Live making beats, and “#FREESMOKE” was like number five. I think I was on number seven, and when he checked in I was like, “Nah, I got a beat for you, not this one." Played the other one and he was like, “That shit hard,” so I sent it to him.
I had went to another studio to work on some shit and I came home at like 11 and on my phone… “Lil Yachty Diss.” I’m like, Nooo! I was trying to get on [Lil Yachty’s] album! I thought I was on his album! I was like… I don’t think I’m on his album anymore. And that was crazy, because I just started working with Yachty like a week before SXSW.
Everybody has their own studio, but everybody’s studio is down the street from each other. Maybe five, 10 minutes, so it’s easy for me to travel and play shit for people, but I wasn’t able to do that when I was engineering all the time. So I had to stop engineering at the beginning of this year, like gradually stop, because I was kind of helping an artist and I had faith in their music, so I didn’t want to stop cold turkey, I wanted to find somebody to at least record you or something.
Who was it?
This guy named 5 A.M.. He’s coming out of Atlanta. He’s really dope. I met him working at Epic and then we just remained cool, and then once I got out of my situation, his manager reached out to see if I wanted to engineer, and I was like sure, but I told him I got a lot of other shit I’m really trying to push this year, so I don’t want this to take over. That’s why I left Epic, because I couldn’t really be 100 percent with all my stuff.
Like most of the beats for Slimeball? I was like a zombie when I made those beats. I was half asleep, so the shit I’m making right now? I know for a fact people are gonna like it because they like the other shit. Like just wait until I make a beat with some sleep, some good rest!
So how’d you start working with Yachty?
Everybody in Atlanta, they’ve heard Nudy’s tape. Anybody that’s from Atlanta, they’ve heard of Slimeball 2. And I did not know that, but I saw after Slimeball 2 dropped, a lot of people were tweeting the tape, and Yachty hit me up. But the thing was, I had just gotten cool with his brother. So it was weird because his brother would hit me up like, “Yeah, Yachty said do this.”
And I’m like well, he just fucking texted me! But I feel like that was gonna happen eventually because I got cool with his brother, it just happened a little faster because we dropped Slimeball 2. The first thing [me and Yachty] did was a couple weeks ago, but I knew of him before he blew up because he was cool with one of my friends that does like fashion and clothing, and he’s popular in Atlanta. He’s got the trap clothing, my boy Trap Zeus. And I saw him hanging around Lil Yachty and I was like, “Who the fuck is this… red beads?” Lil Yachty.
Before I took my job with Epic, I had a meeting at Quality Control to be an artist/producer/engineer, and I didn’t take it. I felt like it was a low ceiling. I just felt like that at the time because it was Skippa Da Flippa, Jose Guapo. I was already working with Nudy. I was like I don’t wanna oversaturate my sound. I can only do trap beats with y’all, for a fact, and that was before Lil Yachty was there, so there were no happy trap beats. So I was just like, Nah… this is cool but if I have to engineer for all these people in here, hell no. Just because... I enjoy it, even though after a while I didn’t want to engineer anymore, but I enjoyed engineering the pop music more than the rap music because the songs were better. Like this singer can actually come in and really fucking sing. That shit is amazing. I had more fun in those sessions. That’s why I was like, Nah. I made a good decision for the engineering role, to get better at engineering, going with Epic, but if I wanted to blow up. I should have went with QC.
How fast did you make the “wokeuplikethis*” beat?
I think I made it in my Uber, on my computer. I plug up my AUX to my computer and just cook up. Just like if I were in the studio. I don’t know how everyone else is when they make beats, but I’ve just been doing that shit so much, it doesn’t matter where I am. As long as I can hear what’s going on, I’m good. I know I’ll probably take it to a studio later and tweak it, but the idea is done. So I try to get as many ideas out as possible, and if I do ten a day, eventually that’ll add up to seven beats in a week.
I Uber everywhere in Atlanta because I got to go to multiple studios and shit, so it’s the easiest way. You don’t have to cut on your car and let it get warm, because it get cold as fuck.
What do you make your beats on?
Ableton and Fruity Loops. I started on Fruity Loops when I was like 10 or 11, but when I moved to Atlanta for SAE, they gave me a MacBook and it was loaded with Pro Tools, Ableton and Logic, and I didn’t have Fruity Loops, so I had to learn something else. Everybody at my school was learning Logic, so I was like, I’m gonna use Ableton. Because we’re all paying for this shit, and y’all are learning this one thing, so I’m gonna learn the other thing just so I know my beats won’t sound like y’all. And I got lucky, because my teacher was certified in Ableton, so once I figured out what questions to ask him, I figured out the program.
Your solo projects are dope.
I did those at Epic. All the songs I recorded at Epic, except “Pharrell” I think. The last two projects, those are out of frustration. Just because I had just left Epic, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on with my life after that, because that was supposed to be it. I thought that was gonna be my big break. So when I left, I felt great leaving the first day, but after a while you’re like, Alright… what the fuck are we gonna do? And then after a while, I was like relax, just make 10 beats a day and get into the studio as much as possible. Nudy about to get out, so you have some beats for Nudy, finish his tape and just keep going.
Most of the beats on Carti’s project? Those are all new beats that I made either the day before I came to see him or the day of. The last session we had, they were blowing up my phone all day, but I just didn’t have any beats. I was like yo just give me like three hours, I’ma come with a pack, just chill. They were blowing my phone up, I was like y’all getting worse than Nudy!
What’s it like recording with Carti?
It’s easier, because he has his own engineer Keisha. I knew of her at the other studio I used to work it. Polow Da Don used to have a room at 12 Music Group and I think she used to be his understudy and work with him, so I’ve heard of her and seen her at the studio. She’s dope, she knows what she’s doing and she works with a lot of people, so I don’t have to worry about how the song will turn out.
Who’ve you been working with recently?
Carti, 21 Savage, Uno, Lil Duwop, Famous Dex. A lot of people have been hitting me up but I haven’t worked with them yet. Key!, Rich The Kid, Rob Banks, Jay Critch, Nessly, Uzi.
Metro wants to work with me a lot too. I fuck with [PDE and Slaughter Gang] just because they've really been looking out for me since I've been in Atlanta. Nudy Land on the way too, and I'm working with 21 Savage's little brother Lil Tip.
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