Young Fyre cares too much. Despite working within an industry that rarely values its hardest workers and frequently discourages innovation, Young Fyre just can’t bring himself to risk tarnishing his hard-earned resume. Some might call it vanity, but as our conversation reveals, the trait driving this concern and this fear of complacency is actually integrity. Read below to learn where this integrity comes from as well as how Young Fyre has developed as a producer. While his story isn’t particularly eventful in terms of life-changing moments , it is nevertheless rich in that it shows what an artist is capable of when the music is more important than the money.
RESPECT: My first question is what are you currently working on?
Young Fyre: Right now I’m working with Mario a lot and Tank and with Chris Brown, on a record called “Stay” that’s amazing. And those are the main projects I’m working on right now, with a bunch of other stuff that’s in the works.
It’s interesting that all those artists you’ve mentioned are R&B artists because you’ve previously said that your R&B beats are your best work. What makes you feel that way?
I just have stronger connection to the R&B music. I think it’s one of those categories that died off for a minute because the rap got so tough and so heavy on the radio. But they’re coming off of that now. TGT is coming out with their album and Miguel and people like him are bringing R&B back and it’s a great thing. For me it’s just a chance for me to showcase the other side of me as a producer, the more musical side versus some of the other stuff that I have out. [It was] very creative, but not as musical, so I’m just happy that some of that stuff gets to get seen now.
Right. When you say “musical” do you mean “melodic?”
Yeah, more melodic and more chord progressions instead of just a simple melody and more intricate patterns.
I see. So that actually ties into my question about how you feel about the state of R&B. I personally feel like it’s been kind of stagnant for the past six or seven years.
Yeah, it’s been stagnant for a long time and I think that people like Miguel coming in have made it cool to be an R&B dude again. For awhile it got lame to be singing about your feelings. Even Drake doing his thing has helped bring R&B back in a way. And now you have people like TGT bringing the real real R&B back. I think it’s doing well right now. With TGT doing well – they had good first week sales – I think we’re going to see a lot of new R&B acts coming out.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve used FL studio a lot in the past. Is that still your primary software?
Forever and always.
What’s its appeal?
I’ve been using it for 10 years, over 10 years, so it’s just one of those things where I feel like everybody picks their thing and it doesn’t matter what you use to make it, if you know that software or that hardware inside and out , that’s the greatest thing for you. So for me, my process is just FL and I love my maneuverability inside FL and everything about the program, so for me it just works.
How did it get first introduced to you?
Honestly, I think I started out with MTV music generator when I first started making beats, which was on the PS1 at first and then they came out with it on the computer and I started doing it on the computer. And I started looking on to other things that I could make beats on and I just found Frooty Loops one day. One of my friends was like yo, “Try FruityLoops!” At that point FruityLoops was super amateur. I think it was FL 3, so it had just broken as semi-respectable, but now it’s an incredible software.
Switching gears, I’m interested in the sessions from your work on the new Goodie Mob album. You worked on the lead single, which features Janelle Monae. That’s an interesting collision of artists.
I don’t know if everybody’s aware but Janelle Monae is apart of the Dungeon Family. The actual song came about not even through an actual session. It was through a good friend of mine named MJ at Blackground and I was just playing him beats and he’s really good friends with Cee-Lo and I was just playing beats and he said yo, “This would be really good for Cee-Lo” and at the time I was like, “What? Cee-Lo? This doesn’t sound like a Cee-Lo beat at all!” And he was like just trust me with this so I gave him the beat and 9 months later, he sends me a rough draft of the song and I was like “Yo this shit is crazy” and I had no idea they were even having a comeback thing at all. As the album developed, they just decided that that was going to be the single and we just moved forward from there. And I think that that’s pretty much the only way you can get Janelle Monae on your resume, which is through a feature, because she ain’t messing with nobody that’s not in her team. So I’m happy I got to add her to my resume via this song.
She does a lot of production herself, doesn’t she?
Yeah, she does a lot of stuff herself and with her own team, so she’s kind of self-contained. I’m just glad I got to work with her because I’m a huge fan of Janelle Monae, so that was just awesome.
Have you had a chance to listen to the Goodie Mob album? It’s a really different direction for them.
Of course. It’s definitely different and you can tell that it’s Cee-Lo driven; it’s a little more eclectic than their past albums, but that’s cool. I’m also just glad to be apart of anything that has substance. I love the album.
I read an interview in which someone had asked you does it bother you that sometimes production gets overlooked and you said that if somebody cares about beats, then they’ll look into it and see who produced it. I thought it was really interesting that you as a producer said that because a lot of producers seem very aware of being overlooked all the time. How did you get to that state where it’s just about the song being good and the reception not mattering?
I think that’s because a lot of people’s motives for doing music are backwards. I’m not Young Fyre the superstar. I’d rather just have great music out. If people care enough about the song that they want to research and find out who produced it then that’s great, but I’m not trying to be a superstar. I’ll do whatever I have to do to build my brand, but that’s not at the forefront of my agenda. It’s more important for me to just make incredible music. If you look at my resume, there’s no weak records, even if they weren’t necessarily hit records, you won’t hear anyone say, “What the hell was that beat that Fyre just put out?!” I’m very particular about that and I’ve turned down records and done a lot of things because I didn’t want that on my record and I think that sense of integrity is what will keep me around for a long time. All the greats tried their best to not have weak songs come out. They tried to make them all strong. That’s the kind of integrity that I’m trying to keep with my brand.
A lot of people who listen to hip-hop tend to pay more attention to words than to beats. As a producer, what are your listening habits when you listen to songs?
It’s always beat first. Even before I was producer, as a kid, I’ve always had this weird thing where, when I listen to a song, my brain is almost like a Pro Tools session; I will break down an entire beat in my head. I don’t even try, but it’s like I can hear every single subtle nuance without even trying, which also helps me be a better producer because I notice things that a lot of other people don’t. But that’s just me personally.
And you’ve always listened to music that way?
Yeah, always. Even before I even knew I was going to do anything with music… I never thought as a kid that I was going to be a producer. I was fascinated by it, but it wasn’t a passion or anything. I just kind of stumbled into it.
Yeah, I read that you originally started making beats because you were a songwriter and you couldn’t find what you wanted so you just decided to do it yourself.
Yeah, I was born and raised in Iowa and there’s just no one out there doing music professionally. So it was like you either go out and steal professional beats, which was really stupid to me, or you just make your own music. I’m really just a doer. I’m not the kind of person that talks and has these conversations about things. I’d just rather do things. Instead of waiting around for somebody to make beats – because there were a couple – I was just like I’m going to figure this out and I figured out that I loved making beats way more than being a [vocal] artist. And I also didn’t want to be famous. And now that I’ve been around so many famous people, I know that that was the perfect decision. [laughs] Because their lives are not something that I want. That whole “I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it” thing, I can’t get with that. So I’m glad that I’m a producer and I’m going to stay there.
So you think as a producer you get to live a relatively normal life?
Yeah, absolutely. There are some producers of course like the Pharells and the Timbalands that still have that celebrity type thing, but for the most part, there are so many millionaire producers that you would have no clue who they were and they can live an extremely great life without even having to sacrifice the whole “I can’t do anything in public” thing. And that for me is true happiness. Sometimes I want to be antisocial and sometimes not. I don’t want to have that burden of always being on the job. So this is perfect for me.
That seems like what MF DOOM was going for by having the mask on.
I totally get that. Even from his perspective I get it. As a creator you want your art to be out there, you want to express your story, but it’s tough because the backlash is that you’ve got to deal with the celebrity of it, so I totally understand his perspective. And if I had to do some [vocal] artist thing, if it killed me so bad that I had to put this music out, it would be something like [DOOM] or the Gorillaz where nobody knows who I am.
The whole system of selling artists beats can sometimes get a little muddled because of the politics and all that. I read that you use an “exclusive lease” system and I’m wondering what exactly are the details and why that works for you?
That’s just something that I kind of created. I never was into the whole leasing of beats. I felt like it was almost like whoring yourself out as a producer. Going away and giving the same beat for fifty bucks or ten bucks or whatever never appealed to me. So I thought, well why don’t we come up with a thing where one person has the beat and they understand that if a major artist comes along, they will lose the rights to this beat. It just offered me a way to be in between where independent artists could afford me, but I didn’t have to give up a beat that was crazy and then Jay-Z comes along and I’m like “Damn, I sold that to Joe Blow.” So with my lawyer, I came up with this contract that was beneficial and it gave [independents] a certain number of units that they could sell and the amount of rights that they could have with the record, but allowed me to retain the rights in case something comes along that’s bigger than for my career.
That’s really farsighted. You never know where your work is going to go.
And at the time when I created that I had just started picking up some momentum with Tech [N9ne] and I’m like yo I can’t sell these dudes these beats and I’ll be super pissed if there’s a weak ass song out. I just had to find a solution, so that was my solution.
Do you name your beats before you give them away?
Yes. The most random names ever. Sometimes there will be something on my desk, like a red vase and there will be a beat called “Red Vase.” I have beats that are just random as hell.
Have you ever seen an artist kind of form their song around the name that you gave it?
Oh yeah, tons of times. Pain (T-Pain), especially. He’s done that a bunch of times. And a lot of songwriters will do that because it’s not always random. Sometimes the titles are coming from a special place, so the title is intriguing and they’ll take that and make it into the concept for the song.
You were saying earlier than you are pretty DIY. Do you mix and engineer?
I do everything myself. Right now I have this artist that I just signed out of Sweden and I’m working on – I wrote and produced this entire thing and it’s so eclectic. It’s something that no one will see coming from me. My marketing strategy and everything that’s around this is very, very detailed and I’m doing everything from mixing to producing to writing to vocal producing. And I’m even getting in touch with the creative side of the videos. But that’s just me. I care about my music to the point that I have to be involved with every step of the process.
There’s an interview – it’s actually in multiple interviews – where you say that you want to work with people who you wouldn’t be expected to work with and you just said that earlier. Why is that important to you?
I think it’s important because most producers get content with a certain sound. It’s like a box and I’ve never really liked boxes. I can’t be just one thing and I’ve always felt like if I can do it, then why not? So I have always pushed myself to do things that people wouldn’t expect of me and that has given me a lot of respect in the industry because I’ve always been that guy who will do something that you never see coming.
You’ve previously said that you’ve made country and rock songs before?
I’ve done country songs. None of them have been released. The closest I’ve done to a rock song is this song by Kutt Calhoun called “Bunk Rock Bitch” and it’s a rock beat with hip-hop elements to it. But when I spoke about it in another interview, it was just about me doing production. None of it has actually been placed as of yet, but I’ve written and produced country songs but they just haven’t been out in the public yet.
Do you work with live musicians?
Yeah, every now and then I do. I have a team. The name of my company is Kasai LLC and I have a couple of producers that also play instruments, so I keep it inside of the team. Every now and then I’ll go out and hire a musician if I need a particular thing that I need to sit over a musician with and make sure that they do it right. Also, I play enough to get a lot of things out of my head, so it’s cool.
What do you play?
Just piano, nothing else. [laughs]. I’m working on trying to get this guitar thing, but that is a tough instrument that I think people need to have more respect for. It’s a really hard instrument to pick up, especially coming from piano, which is totally different. I want to do everything, but time is time and you have to manage your time knowing what’s important; learning an instrument right now is not my priority.
How long did it take you to learn keys? A lot of people just start off with software, but they don’t know anything else. Was that your case?
No. I played the keys when I was a kid and I’ve always dibbled and dabbled in it since I was a kid. My process for when I’m doing something that’s musical is chord by chord. I’m not the guy that’s going to sit there and play you a Mozart piece, but I have an incredible ear as far as progressions are concerned and what should be there, so I may play a chord, then add another chord, then add another chord, then go back and change or add stuff in between. So I will make it sound like I’m the greatest musician ever to live, but it’s just because my ear for music is good.
How long does it typically take you to make a song?
It just depends. Now that I’m getting more back into the writing side of things, it’s more organic. Before this year, it would never take me more than four or five hours. I’m a serial completion person. I have to finish things: I cannot leave things unfinished. So it will never be more than four or five hours. Through songwriting, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily about completion, it’s about the end product. So now I’m in a different process where as soon as feel that I’m about to force something, I stop. As soon as I feel like I’m pushing something that doesn’t need to be there or just filling a sound in, it’s time to stop. I’ll come back later and have completely new ideas. I think that’s very important and that people should get on that path of realizing that it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and just stepping back and letting it breathe. It’s always about the energy that you’re trying to put into a song.
You said earlier that just to preserve the integrity of your brand, if you send someone a beat and you didn’t like what they did, you would take it back?
Absolutely [laughs]. That’s happened.
Under what circumstances would you do that?
Usually what’ll happen is that it’s more of a conversation. You’ll say, “Hey look, I like the song, but can we do a better verse?” And nine times out of ten, they’re going to rewrite it or move some things around. I haven’t had to pull too many records as in saying this is trash, but most of the time it’s just a conversation, saying, “Yo I just want the most out of the song and I know you probably have a lot of yes-men around around you, so I’m gonna tell you how I feel about this. And that’s actually how I’ve gotten respect from a lot of artists. Because a lot of them are around people that are going to say it’s hot no matter what, but they’re just in fear of losing whatever position they have around the artist. Me, I’m just like “No, that’s wack!” [laughs]. And a lot of producers don’t do that. And that’s why there’s a lot of wack music out because they’re like, “I got a check, I got this guy on my beat and that’s cool.” I’m just not that guy. I care too much about it.
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