You can trace the origins of trap music back to two progenitors behind the boards – Lil’ Jon and Shawty Redd. They provided the blueprint, but Lex Luger’s decadence came to represent that style in the wake of Rick Ross’ “BMF,” allowing lesser talents to copy his decadent drum patterns. Those lesser talents, despite showing glimmers of unique sounds here and there, have come to dominate the sub-genre and tire it out in the last five years.
Enter FKi, the production duo from Atlanta comprised of 1st Down and Raye Rich who have always strived to make beats unlike any other music out there. They formed in ’07 and struck gold three years later with “Make It Rain” for Travis Porter. Since then, they’ve diversified their sound and worked with everybody you can possibly think of, from 2 Chainz (“Watch Out”) to Iggy Azalea (“I Think She Ready”), Ty Dolla Sign (“Missionary”) to Mac Miller (“Weekend”). Lately, however, they’ve found full-blown success behind “White Iverson” star Post Malone, whose other wildly viral singles “That’s It,” “Tear$,” “Too Young,” and “What’s Up” all involve one or both members of FKi.
Lately it seems like 1st is the more public creative force behind their sound, so he’s striking out on his own for a solo project called First Time For Everything via Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint. The tape boasts high-profile features like iLoveMakonnen, Bankroll Fresh, London rapper Danny Seth, and Post Malone himself, so with its impending release, we talked to 1st about working on Post Malone’s upcoming album, what he learned from Diplo, getting in the lab with Kanye West, and more.
WatchLOUD: Post Malone has blown up in the past year, partially thanks to your production. What’s your favorite part of working with him?
1st Down: We’re both weirdos. We can just be ourselves around each other. There are no filters at all. We both like dumb shit, dumb comedies. Right now he’s buying swords, all this knight gear. He’s weird, bruh [laughs]. We just make good music people want to hear. It’s really the vibe; we just go in there and lay down a light melody with guitar or strings, whatever, and let it build on top of that. We take turns going back and forth adding input, and only good stuff can come out from weird people.
I can tell him something sucks, he can tell me something sucks. He produces also, so he’ll be like, ‘Man I want to change the drums’ or ‘I want to change the snare in the background.’ So we work hand in hand.
What can we expect from Post Malone’s album?
It’s called Album Of The Year and it is album of the year. Some amazing surprises. I can’t say all the features because all the features have not been fully, 100% [locked down] but some amazing people are coming through. He’s making songs with classic people. Whether people like those people or not, the songs are coming out on point. And this shit’s all original. Post plays guitar also. Diplo was actually just at the crib for the past couple days, we’ve just been going back and forth on beats.
What equipment do you use when you’re making beats?
Hardware-wise I use AKAI keyboards. I just bought a ROLI, this new keyboard where you can like slide your hands across the board and all the pressure goes to the VST. It’s crazy, it’s some cool ass shit. I had Scott Storch working on it last night. I can play keys a little bit, but of course Scott Storch can play keys so he was testing it out for me for a little bit [laughs].
[For software I use] FL Studio, Logic, and Pro Tools. That’s pretty much it. To make music you have to learn everything about how to make music in every possible way, so I try to sample a little bit of everything, every program. Test out new gear. That’s the best way to capitalize. If you’ve got the best stuff, you can’t go wrong with it.
Who were some of the producers you looked up to when you were growing up?
George Clinton, of course. Fucking crazy. Daft Punk, Neptunes, Timbaland. And from in Atlanta I would say Zaytoven and Lil Jon. Those are definitely some of my heroes and where I get a lot of inspiration. And randomly, Gucci Mane gives me a lot of inspiration. Gucci Mane and Jay Z. Those two guys, I feel like they’re two different parts of the conversation, but they talked about the same shit. It’s just one person was country and another person was from New York.
You’re out in Los Angeles a lot these days.
Yeah I’ve been going back and forth between Atlanta and Los Angeles. But I’m spending a lot of time out here [in Los Angeles] right now because we’re working on Post’s album.
Who are some of the artists you’ve been able to get in the lab with out there?
When I first started coming out here, I was living at Travis Scott’s house. Me, Travis Scott, Sonny Digital, and Metro Boomin were all working on the Rodeo album. Just kicking it, creating, putting our heads together and making some amazing shit. Then I randomly met Post too, and that’s when I was like aight, I gotta be out here a little more, this Post dude is definitely gonna be something. I also met one of the producers in Florence and the Machine, we’re supposed to be going to the studio. Hopefully FKi the Machine is in the works.
Did some work for Big Sean out here. Me and Jeremih always link up. Ty Dolla Sign. Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz just made a banger. That’s probably the third track we’ll put out after “Watch Out.” Key! is back and forth out here, we’re working on Martin Luther Key 2. And my homie Lil Uzi Vert. PartyNextDoor just came through the other night, we’re definitely gonna get in. I already know we’re gonna make some amazing music.
Last year you said you and Honorable C. Note were producing the next 2 Chainz album. How’s that coming along?
Yeah there’s a mixtape and an album. We’re basically done. We’re just pretty picky. We have about four or five songs that made it to the album that are amazing. Truthfully I want him to release these songs but he’s like nah, we gotta save it. I’m like bruh this shit is too fire! You can’t save shit these days, drop it! You know how everybody’s brains are these days, so quick. Anything can change at any time.
Your new solo project First Time For Everything is slated to drop on Diplo’s Mad Decent label. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned form Diplo?
That there’s no room for sleep and rest man. I always looked at him because I’ve got a son and he’s actually got two sons. We went out to the Clippers game the other day and he was like, “Yo this is my first Friday in L.A. in months and months.” I’m like holy shit, how do you produce all this shit bruh? How are you a dad and you’re on all these major tours and making everything work and getting all these hits? No room for sleep. You have to keep working, you have to have a great team around you. And I also learned [the value of] collaboration, collaborating with other good people who don’t mind collaborating, not a weirdo who’s gonna try to steal something. You learn something from them, they learn something from you, and you put it together and make something amazing.
You and Rich produce a lot of records. I hear that “Decatur Raider” record is picking up steam down south. What are some other records you’ve done that people might be sleeping on?
There’s a song I did with Bankroll Fresh awhile back that was on his Life Of A Hot Boy 2: Real Trapper called “Everytime.” That’s a little overlooked, it’s some real street shit. And on some other shit, my homie A. Chal has a song called “Round Whippin.” I’ve been around so many big artists and they randomly have it in their Soundcloud, and they don’t even know him. That’s very hard. Larry June is about to go crazy. He’s got some of the best adlibs I’ve heard in a long time. I like Fleet Foxes, that’s when I’m in my emo mood. But if I need to turn up, I’ll listen to Gucci and 21 Savage.
I hear you like a lot of emo music, actually.
Oh yeah I like Feist. Lykke Li. Majid Jordan. We’ve actually been meaning to work with [Majid Jordan] and I’ve met them two or three times but their music is just so crazy. I like Yuna too.
You’ve said in the past that you were definitely going to work with Kanye West. Has that happened?
Oh yeah that happened. [Laughs] I don’t wanna speak too much on it, they might put a hit out on me or something. Me and Post were definitely out there with Rick Rubin linking up. I definitely look up to Rick Rubin too – Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down. We all got to meet them, make new music, have them hear our music. It was pretty cool. Actually it was amazing. There are so many different versions of all the songs, I don’t know which one is gonna be which, but Kanye is a monster. I picked up a couple things he was doing. That was a major learning experience.