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[INTERVIEW]: How Boston Producer AyyDot Ended Up on Wale’s ‘The Album About Nothing’

For me, this all started about three years ago. I launched the site in 2011, but it began to make sense in the summer of 2012. By that point, I was doing original interviews, connecting with just about every artist and producer I knew of in Boston, and hosting events in hopes of sparking a level of energy I had yet to see within the city’s hip-hop scene.

One event I hosted was the #12For12 Producer Showcase. The idea was to set up a “performance” with six producers and six emcees at the now-historic Green Street Jungle pop-up shop on Newbury Street. Each producer would have a three song set, two of which would be strictly instrumentals for the audience to vibe out to, and the third of which would be rapped over live by one of the emcees. Long story short, the event was an incredible success to the point where there were at least 50 people that couldn’t get in because it was so crowded.

One of the six producers that night was AyyDot. I had heard of him prior to putting the event together, but we hadn’t met. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the bill to begin with. When James Rogers had to back out at the last minute, he linked me with AyyDot because he wanted another producer from his crew—GoodKarma—to be able to take his place. It made sense to me, so even though AyyDot was the only one I didn’t know, we rocked with it.

I’m glad that’s how it played out. The then-22-year-old beatmaker had one of (if not the most) impressive sets of the night, and from there had the attention of essentially all the key up-and-coming artists in Boston. It wasn’t exactly a monumental launching pad, but all greatness starts somewhere, and in AyyDot’s case, it was special being so close to the beginning of the rise.

Fast-forward just about three years to this week—March 31st to be specific—and AyyDot has a placement on one of the biggest rap albums of 2015 to date, Wale‘s The Album About Nothing. Go ahead and check the tracklist on Wikipedia: Amongst legends like DJ Dahi, Jake One and DJ Khalil reads AyyDot’s name, right next to track 11, “The Glass Egg.”

It’s a special accomplishment, one that the city of Boston should be nearly as proud of as AyyDot himself, and one that others—like myself—would probably like to know how it came to be. Naturally, I wanted to help tell the story. Here’s what I knew before talking to AyyDot: the relationship between he and Wale—which now includes being signed to his Every Blue Moon label—started somewhere around HERE, when Wale sent out a Twitter request for beats and AyyDot obliged. He was far from the only one that did that, though, so how exactly did he separate himself from the pack and end up with a placement on The Album About Nothing?

Read the story, told in his own words in full detail, below (and purchase the album HERE):

Where are you from originally, and how long have you been making beats?

I’m from Boston originally. I traveled around when I was younger and ended up back in Boston in 2004. I started making beats my senior year of high school, so 2008. I was actually a dancer at the time and made Krump beats that I would dance to. It wasn’t until early 2009 when my laptop crashed and I lost everything that I actually started making hip-hop beats. Officially, almost 7 years producing.

How did the collaboration with Wale come about? I remember seeing that first tweet from him in September 2013. How did that exchange even happen, and then how did things progress from there?

Before that tweet, he had tweeted “Any dope engineer/producers in Boston wanna record me on the studiobus???” and I responded to him with no expectation of a response just saying, “Let’s work.” I took a screenshot of his tweet, posted it on Instagram and told people to tweet him to work with me. I had no idea this would be effective but it was—the power in numbers. After about 30 tweets, he responds asking for my link. He listened to the beats then sent me a DM saying the beats are dope, but do I have an engineer or do I engineer. I said I did; I used to mix my own music and for rappers in Brockton so I was confident enough. He put me in contact with his cousin, but after their show they ended up going straight to Philly and we never got to link up.

A couple months later, his cousin DM’d me back saying Wale was in album mode and needed beats. So I sent some beats to his cousin a few times, different batches, and if he and the rest of their team liked them, they would play them for Wale.

When or what was the turning point where it went from, “Damn, Wale might hear some of my shit” to knowing there was a really good chance of an album placement?

I got a call at 1 AM Boston time asking for the stems for the beat Wale used for “The Glass Egg.” It was probably around early March 2014 when they asked for them meaning he had already wrote something to the mp3 version from one of the emails and was ready to record. After sending the stems, it was really just a waiting game on my part again, not knowing what was next. All I kept thinking was he likes that beat, he’s recording on it, maybe it will make the album. I got another call for stems for a second beat, which ended up being “Juggin” on the Festivus mixtape. I had no idea I made that placement either, I just knew they requested the stems so when the mixtape dropped I was shocked.

A few weeks later, [Wale’s cousin] Vicc asked me if I wanted to come out to NY to Wale’s home studio to record Magazeen, MMG’s reggae artist. I was like “Of course.” I called out of work and they bought my train ticket, and next thing I know I was in Wale’s house. We were in the studio and Wale walks in the room. Vicc introduces me as the producer of “Walk On By,” which is what the beat was named at the time. Wale then asked me if they played me what he did on the song—he plugged in his phone and played the rough draft of the record, explained what he wanted changed on the beat, and I got to it. This was really when I saw his excitement about the song and realized the song might really make the album.

Did you work together in-studio at all?

About three weeks before the album release date, Wale flew me out to LA with them and we worked in Larrabee Studios on finalizing the album and getting the mixes done. We didn’t create anything new there, but it was more offering my opinion on certain songs and how they were mixed. He played me the final version of “The Glass Egg” and we agreed to have the second verse re-recorded then we sent it to the mixer.

Describe how you felt: (a) when you heard you had an album placement, and (b) the night the album released. How did you celebrate?

Man, it was probably one of the greatest feelings knowing for sure I made the album. Knowing all those nights in my dorm, or my porch in Holbrook making beats, getting yelled at by my mom, is finally all paying off. Once I got the call from Wale’s management asking me for my attorney’s information, I knew it was real. It was at that moment that I finally knew I officially made the album. Wale had told me personally the song was going to make it, but then we ran into complications with sample clearance. Amel Larrieux wasn’t too happy with the song having swears so we had to take out certain words and after doing that, the record lost its feeling. Wale was ready to take it off the album so the excitement went completely downhill and I didn’t know what to feel. But he didn’t give up, he went from talking to Amel’s managers to her directly and after a long conversation, she agreed to allow swears except the “N” word which we could work with.

The night of the album release was a great moment for me. I got out of work, met up with my girl and we went home. When we were almost home she said she wanted to go to Target to buy the album and take the picture she has been waiting so long to take—a picture of her holding a stack of the albums. So we went, cleared the shelves of what they had and went home. We walk into our apartment and Caliph is in the living room and says surprise but it didn’t make sense, no one was there. All of sudden a swarm of my friends and family came from around the corner and attacked me in celebration. It was amazing to see that many people come and support me. We listened to the album, we drank, had pizza and just vibed out. It was one of the dopest moments of my life!

Was the beat for “The Glass Egg” an existing beat of yours that you had been holding onto, or did you make it specifically for the album? And how do you feel about the song?

“The Glass Egg” was a beat I made probably about 6-7 months before they reached back out to me. I had just bought some new drum kits and heard the sample in a store on Newbury Street. I downloaded it, started chopping the sample and used mainly the new drum sounds I bought experimenting. Took me about an hour to make that beat, and I just mixed down a preview for my beat folder and closed that project. I didn’t really reopen that project again until it was requested from Wale so when I opened it, I added some drums and transitions to finalize it then sent the stems off.

I really liked the song ever since I heard the rough draft at his studio. It just hit home when I heard it because I had just went through a change in the people I was surrounded by and the lyrics just related to me so well at the time. After hearing the second verse and Chrisette Michele at the end while in the studio in LA, it sealed the deal and made me love the song even more. Now that the album is out, it really relates as I’m curious to who is really supporting me and who is trying to attach themselves now to come up. “I’m telling you balance a bitch, cause who’s on your back and who got your back, sometimes that line don’t exist.”

How about the deal with EBM? How and when did that come about, and how is it helping you as a producer?

Getting signed as Every Blue Moon’s first producer really came about unexpectedly. I truly believe it was my consistency sending beats that the whole EBM team liked and also how I wasn’t bothering them and wanting to be around—in other words, I wasn’t ‘doing too much,’ basically. I kept to myself, when they hit me up I sent beats and waited. When I linked up with them in NY I was honest when giving my opinion about the music, the way it was recorded and all of that so it just translated further. Wale spoke to me about it and he said the team likes my beats and he also needs someone that is genuine and not in this just for the opportunity. You can imagine when they work with other producers, people handle things differently—that excitement can lead someone to become annoying or aggy and I was nothing like that. I didn’t bother them, I didn’t ask for anything and I just did me at the same time as supporting everything they did as if I was already part of the team. After Wale concluded what he wanted to do with EBM, they asked me if I was signed to anyone; I said no and they asked if I wanted to be official with EBM, and I said, “Of course.”

Through being down with EBM, I met some crucial people just from being in the studio. I met the A&R’s for Wale’s project which opened the door to sending beats to other artists they manage and A&R for. This is all happening just within the camp, it’s like I’m working for EBM but Wale is holding me down to get my beats out to other people as well so that I get recognized. It’s dope because I get to learn a lot about the music industry and meet people I normally would have never met. I got to witness SZA record a song and I became a fan just off of that.

What are you working on right now? Any goals for remainder of 2015 or specific artists you really want to work with?

Right now I’m working close with Magazeen and Dew Baby—both EBM artists—on their new projects. My goals for the remainder of the year are more placements and building with new artists. I definitely want to work with Meek, Rick Ross and the whole MMG camp, really. I want to get my name out there and just be one of those producers taking over, balancing this 9-5 lifestyle with my production lifestyle and just making it all work. I’m planning on moving to New York in August and that on its own will open doors to new opportunities.

AyyDot at the #12For12 Producer Showcase, July 2012.

AyyDot at the #12For12 Producer Showcase, July 2012.

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