Murda Beatz is more than just a producer; the 24-year-old Canadian beat-maker is an institution. Like death and taxes, his lush, filtered trap soundscapes have become basically unavoidable. The only certainty in a splintering rap landscape littered with “-type beat” producers (of whom Murda once counted himself among their number) each doing their best to carve out a tiny slice of SoundCloud real estate, Murda has slowly, but surely, guaranteed that nearly every time you turn on rap radio or playlists you will eventually hear one of his masterful, signature sounds. Of course, he didn’t get here by luck, accident, or drive alone. His tale involves a conflux of all three, dressed with a condiment he likes to call the “Murda Sauce,” his fanciful term for the daily series of practices he uses to keep himself in alignment with his goals and take-no-prisoners, fearless attitude. Once upon a time, some might call it swag.
That swag, sauce, or whatever other term for “X factor” you choose has led him to working with some of the biggest names in music, from Migos (“Pipe It Up,” “MotorSport“), Travis Scott (“Butterfly Effect”), Drake (“Portland,” “Nice For What“), and Nicki Minaj (“No Frauds,” “FeFe”) to one of his own hit-making precursors, T-Pain. He just recently joined the “rappa ternt sanga” at his Atlanta home studio for a live broadcast of Pain’s Red Bull-sponsored beat remix show, Red Bull Remix Lab, where Murda flipped his host’s latest track with Gucci Mane, “Might Be,” for a live audience of entranced Twitch subscribers. Over the course of the show, Murda chopped it up with T-Pain about their mutual acquaintances in the music production game, their respective processes, and what it takes to remain successful in a trend-based genre like hip-hop, where the newest wave is already swelling by the time the current one breaks.
The broadcast, which cut between shots of the duo working in the studio and screen captures from Murda’s laptop, displayed a huge part of that process, FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops), which Murda mastered as a teen growing up in Fort Erie, Ontario. That was when he was just Shane Lee Lindstrom, a kid with a drum set and a dream of being “the only white boy making trap music.”
“When I started making trap music, there was no white producers in trap music and people told me I couldn’t make trap music because I was white,” he explains after the broadcast by phone on his way to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That’s the reason why in 2015, as just a 21-year-old, he hopped on a plane to Atlanta for the first time, courtesy of Migos, who had heard some of his beats online and loved that “Murda Sauce.” The result was “Pipe It Up,” one of the Atlanta trio’s first big singles.
“I feel like it’s just being a student of a game and learning about the culture, and then putting it into the music,” he says of his appeal and what drew artists like Migos to his unique sound. “I think it’s like a mixture of what my beats sound like and the relationship I build with these artists to perform their maximum potential on my beats.” He’s certainly drawn hit-making performances out of the rappers he’s worked with in the three years since that first success, including 2 Chainz on “It’s A Vibe” and “4 AM,” Gucci Mane on “Back On Road” (also Murda’s first appearance alongside Drake), and even R&aB singers like Zayn and PartyNextDoor on “Still Got Time.” The thing he looks for, he says, is “confidence.”
It was the confidence of burgeoning Miami rapper Smokepurpp that led Murda to collaborate with ‘Purpp on their joint mixtape, Bless Yo Trap, released earlier this year through Alamo, Interscope, and Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack imprint. “[Smokepurpp] was actually working in a studio room beside me at a studio in New York and I just came across some of his music and I thought it was dope so I went over,” Murda elaborates. “I think someone had a label and introduced us or whatever and then I gave him a couple of beats and went back the next night and he played me like three songs. Then, we just kept in touch and then we started working in LA and that’s when I was like, ‘Yo, we gotta do an album.'” The tape peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard 200 and featured two singles: “123” and “Do Not Disturb” featuring Lil Yachty and Offset.
However, Murda isn’t one to rest on his laurels. He’s already hard at work on his next project, Keep God First 2, named after his own personal mantra and life practice of beginning each day in prayer. “I would always be tweeting and reminding myself and reminding people to keep God first and just have faith in God, you know?” he says. “I just thought, ‘I might as well call it Keep God First instead of thinking of a name.’ I can just call it Keep God First, right? It’s to remind everybody.” He says that is step one in his formula, but the rest is driving forward and doing anything it takes to achieve the next opportunity. In the early days, he says he had to resort to selling beats online for $200 just to keep the bills paid, but as streaming began to take off, revenue took care of itself — the important thing to Murda now is to keep perspective and stay true to himself.
“A lot of people told me to just make the music I wanna make,” he recalls. “When you get hot, there’s a bunch of opportunities, if you want, you can make all this crazy music and get these bags, but really you just gotta stay you and do what you wanna do. Everyone’s gonna be in your ear to do this, do that, get a little money on the side but you don’t want to burn out your brain. You gotta remember, at the end of the day you’re the CEO of this stuff. You did this. It all came from you.”
Doing so has turned out to be lucrative for him, as even the controversial “FeFe,” which has drawn negative attention for the high-profile collaboration between Nicki Minaj and the outlandishly pernicious Tekashi 69, has gone gold, even before Nicki tacked it onto her new album Queen as an 11th-hour Hail Mary to stoke flagging sales.
Murda tries to stay clear of the controversy, though. His focus remains, as it should, on making more music, even as he’s begun planning to start a label of his own. He’s cagey when asked about those plans but much more forthcoming on other prospects, such as a possible live album and his desire to do commercials. For now, he’s taking the advice of those who came before him: You just gotta make the music that you wanna make.
“If you’re a fan of an upcoming rapper or something that you f*ck with, just send some beats to him,” he suggested. “I work with everyone I would listen to. If I listen to Drake, Travis Scott, Migos, I’m gonna try and get on their albums.” He doesn’t just talk it, he lives it, pursues it, and then sprinkles a little Murda Sauce on it.