DJ Mustard Talks Hits, Haters and Signing to Roc Nation [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
DJ Mustard is the hottest producer in the world right now. He’s got hits with YG, T-Pain and Ty Dolla $ign, he’s working with Rihanna and he hopes to be the Timbaland to Justin Bieber’s Timberlake. You can recognize his pulsing, club-ready production from 10 cars away, and his beats are the surest way to get people dancing at any function. He is, in all honesty, the new Lil Jon.
His ability to make any song a hit is what motivated Roc Nation to sign him as a solo artist, and now he’s prepping his debut album, '10 Summers,' for a release in the next couple of months. We got on the phone with the California king to talk upcoming collaborations, whether he’s worked with Jay Z yet, and what we can expect from his future sounds.
The Boombox: What’s your mind state when you approach making a beat? Do you start with an instrument or sound and then build on it, or do you have an idea of what you want to make before you start?
DJ Mustard: It’s really not a mind state, it’s just a feeling of what you get, you know what I’m saying? One day you might start with an 808, one day you might start with a snare, one day you might want to start with chords. [I only have an idea of what I want to make before I start] when I’m working with YG.
What did you listen to around the house when you were growing up?
Everything. Michael Jackson. Snoop [Dogg] and [Dr.] Dre. Eazy-E. Everything you could possibly think about. Lil Wayne.
Listen to DJ Mustard's 'Vato' Feat. YG, Jeezy & Que
What’s changed for you since the early days of DJing and jerk music, now that you’re getting widespread attention?
Just more, um… popular activities and more people hating and more money.
Who have you been working with recently?
Everybody. Everybody you can think I’d possibly be working with. I’m trying to work with as many people as possible.
Since signing with Roc Nation, have you gotten in the studio with Jay Z?
Not yet, but I’ve been in the studio with Rihanna. We cut two songs for her album.
You must have a ridiculous stash of unreleased music. What’s the craziest song you’re sitting on?
Uh… probably some of the stuff off my album. It’s gonna be like way crazy, just unreleased music. It’s gonna be kinda different but still the same.
Who are some artists you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to get in the studio with?
Not really nobody, to be honest with you.
So you’re gonna drop the ‘Ketchup 2’ mixtape before the album?
No, I don’t know when I’m dropping 'Ketchup 2,' but the album is coming this summer. It’s called ‘10 Summers.’
Who are some of the artists featured on the album?
My first single [just dropped] featuring 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s called ‘Down On Me.’ You never know who’s gonna be on the album, you know what I’m saying?
Listen to DJ Mustard's 'Down On Me' Feat. 2 Chainz & Ty Dolla $ign
Are you looking to diversify your sound a bit on the new album?
Yeah, I’m always trying to do that. All types of different stuff that you wouldn’t expect me to do.
Do you think there are any songs on the new album that will blow up like ‘My N----’ did?
Uh, it’s possible. You never know, but that’s the goal. Of course I’m gonna have a lot of those.
Is there anybody you’ve tried to reach out to for the album that you haven’t been able to work with yet?
Nah, not really.
How do you feel about people that say DJ Mustard just makes the same beat every time?
I don’t say anything. I just let them say what they want to say. People are gonna hate, but if they were me they’d probably want to be in the same position. You can’t really let them get to you like that or make you feel a certain way because of how they feel.
What are some key albums that have influenced your sound as a producer?
‘Crunk Juice’ by Lil Jon, ‘The Chronic.’ Just a lot of everything. Biggie’s ‘Ready to Die.’ I listen to everything.
You’ve said that you’re heavily influenced by Lil Jon and Dr. Dre. Have you gotten into the studio with either of them yet?
No, but I talk to Lil Jon a lot. We just say what up. We talk about music and how to stay focused and not let anybody get in your way.
What other producers have influenced your sound besides those two?
Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze and Kanye.
Have you gotten in the studio with Justin Bieber yet?
Nah, I heard the song but I haven’t been in the studio with him yet.
What have you been listening to recently?
A lot of Drake and the new Future album.
You’ve said DJ Quik is a legend and some critics have noticed your attention to detail is much like his. Do you ever speak with him?
Nah, I spoke with him before I worked with him [in 2012] but I don’t speak to him on the daily.
What’s your favorite DJ Quik album?
I don’t think I have a favorite DJ Quik album because I was so young when he came out, but I remember a lot of the songs he did, like ‘[Sweet] Black P----.’ He had a lot of songs that I like a lot.
Lil Jon was extremely popular for a period of time and then he disappeared, although he’s now back at the top of the charts. Are you afraid your popularity and sound will fade?
I’m not afraid of anything. I know that everything comes to an end. Everything is a phase. Time repeats itself, so it’s up to you to keep up with the curves of the music and keep reinventing yourself so you can be better than what you are.
Have you thought about trying to reinvent yourself or is that not a concern?
Yeah, I reinvented myself when I did ‘My Hitta.’ That sounds nothing like [what I was doing before].
Who are some new West Coast rappers you’re a fan of?
RJ, Tee Cee, Reem [Riches], Charley Hood, 100s, Royce [The Choice]. A lot of people, underground people.
What’s been the biggest advantage to being signed to Roc Nation?
It’s like a family thing over there, not too much of a business thing. It’s a business of course, but everyone is hands-on. If I email Jay Z, he’s gonna email me back. There’s not too many labels out there like that.
I saw the video of you playing the original ‘Sanctified’ beat before Kanye got his hands on it. Have you gotten into the studio with Kanye since then?
Nah, but I left him beats, so I’m not even worried about it. I know we’re gonna do some more stuff. I left 100 beats with him.
Listen to Kid Ink's 'Show Me' Feat. Chris Brown, Produced by DJ Mustard