In his book, Diary Of A Madman, this is how Scarface describes meeting Mike Dean for the first time: “Mike Dean was a straight-up fucking cowboy. He was in his early twenties and he was like a damn hippie redneck. Not on some KKK shit. He was more like a redneck stoner, like Willie Nelson, but down to kick it in the hood. He had a pickup truck, long hair, and a shit ton of dogs and guns. He smoked a lot of pot and did a lot of drugs, and he was definitely on one, that’s for sure.”
Dean is, quite simply, a mad genius. He started his career as the musical director for Selena when he was barely out of high school, then spent years holed up, playing instruments and doing drugs. When Rap-A-Lot picked him up in the early ’90s, he became, along with other incredible producers like N.O. Joe and John Bido, the aesthetic backbone of the label. More than 20 years later, he’s still shaping the sound of hip-hop today, most notably as Kanye West’s righthand man.
Tomorrow Travis Scott releases Rodeo, and Mike Dean has tons of production and mixing credits across the album. To celebrate his work, we dove into his catalog of production and plucked the best Mike Dean remixes we could find.
5th Ward Juvenilez – G Groove (Dean’s Remix 2) 
John Bido was the guy who taught Mike Dean how to engineer and make rap beats, and the first song Dean worked on for Rap-A-Lot was Scarface’s “Street Life,” which was later included on the ’93 Geto Boys album Til Death Do Us Part. Dean hit the ground running, eventually producing for acts across the label’s roster like The Convicts, Big Mike, and the 5th Ward Juvenilez.
“G Groove” was Dean’s first remix, and the guy is such a workhorse he did two different versions. The one above is the second, more G-funkified of the two, and as Dean makes the synths fly, you can hear his 18 years of classical piano lessons going to work.
Scarface – People Don’t Believe (Mike Dean Radio Remix) 
The only person Mike Dean can really be compared to at this point in his career is Dr. Dre. They both incorporate incredible live instrumentation, they are both go-to engineers for mixing records, and they’re both still producing fresh music in 2015. This remix of the classic ‘Face single is almost as good as the original version. Everything from the drums to the bass is lush and vibrant.
Monica – Before You Walk Out Of My Life (Mike Dean Remix) 
Like any top-tier producer, Dean can jump between genres effortlessly. It sounds like Dean switches the original synth for a filtered piano on the intro, and you can hear him adding his little flourishes before dropping the drums. Speaking of, dude’s drum kit was mean as fuck too.
Scarface – Mary Jane (Mike Dean’s X-Tra Remix) 
Just imagining all the drugs Dean and ‘Face might have done together makes my head spin. Brad recorded this song while rolling tits on ecstasy, and Dean takes the remix all the way out there. It might be one of the best beats Dean has ever made, as it fits Brad’s spacey mind state on the record.
Eternal – Dreams (Mike Dean Radio Remix) 
This beat gives me the screw face every time I hear it. The simple fact that you’re hearing Mike Dean produce a cover of one of Fleetwood Mac’s most powerful songs makes it worth your time. Spin the (slightly awkward) Frankie Cutlass remix featuring Grand Puba and Sadat X, too.
2Pac – Hell 4 A Hustler (Unreleased Mike Dean Remix)
In an in-depth interview with NPR, Dean dropped something of a jewel about working with Tupac on ‘Face’s “Smile”: “Pac would rap on anything. He wanted to get his lyrics out before he got killed. He knew he was dying, he was kind of going for it, trying to record as much as possible. So he didn’t get lost in the minutiae of beats. That’s why you hear him rapping all over all kinds of crap.”
Back in 2013, Dean admitted to stealing unreleased Pac reels from Death Row with Daz Dilinger and releasing about six of them. One of them seems to be the above version of “Hell 4 A Hustler,” which is head and shoulders above the original.
Do Or Die – Still Po Pimpin’ (Mike Dean Remix) 
People forget that vintage Chicago group Do Or Die was signed to Rap-A-Lot, and here Dean one-ups Mr. Lee’s original beat with signature piano stabs. Plus, Mike’s production is a better match for the chorus. Listen closely to how he sneaks those synths in, too.
Doc Gyneco – Passement De Jambes (The Geto Boys Style Remix) 
Beats me how Mike Dean and this French rapper connected, but it also tickles me how it’s billed as a “Geto Boys Style Remix.” This doesn’t really sound like anything from that era. It’s a bit more reminiscent of something on Scarface’s Untouchable album.
Depeche Mode – Soothe My Soul (Mike Dean M.W.A. Remix) 
Part of why Dean is such a genius is because his modern sound is so different from what he started with. His mind-numbing minimalism, best captured with heavy, rumbling bass, is on full display here for this classic Depeche Mode song. As Dean said about his own minimalism, “If you have something in your song that didn’t turn up loud, you should just turn it off.”
Beyonce – Drunk In Love (Remix)
The original “Drunk In Love” was produced by six people, but Mike Dean single-handedly gave it a facelift with his bass, synths, and vocal easter eggs. It almost feels like Mike Dean is becoming the 40 to Kanye’s Drake, as most ‘Ye songs go through his hands before completion, and Dean is often the only other guy playing keys and guitar onstage with Kanye.
Bonus: Mike Dean Live Remixes And Solos
Travi$ Scott – Uptown
Chief Keef – Don’t Like
Kanye West – Say You Will
Kanye West – Black Skinhead