Harry Fraud: ‘Shot Caller’ Producer Crafting Action Bronson & Smoke DZA Albums
Producer Harry Fraud laid the instrumental for French Montana‘s “Shot Caller” more than a year ago. When the Bronx rapper added the song to his Mister 16 mixtape at the top of 2011, he and Fraud knew it would become a hit. Once the club banger grew legs, it sent up-and-coming rhymers clamoring to create their own watered-down versions. Fraud, a native Brooklynite, has been working with French for years, but on the strength of one street single, 2012 has undoubtedly become his busiest year-to-date. Now the former DJ is focused on keeping his style diverse — he’s already worked with Action Bronson, Smoke DZA, Jadakiss and countless others.
Since “Shot Caller” found mainstream success, Fraud has also been fielding phone calls from some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Rick Ross. His appeal is in his multifaceted approach to making music — never making the same beat twice. Fraud is also known for tweaking sonic details until he’s satisfied, which is rare. Most times, he’s hardest on himself, seeking greatness with a tenacity unseen in many of his competitors. At this point, he’s one of the freshest young producers now calling the shots.
Recently The BoomBox had a moment to speak with Fraud about his work with French, experiences as a DJ and search for perfection.
How long ago did you and French Montana meet? I heard you guys were introduced as you were mixing a feature for another artist.
Yeah. It was probably in, like, ’07, ’08 when we met. French keeps a pretty tight circle, so it’s never like somebody just comes and jumps in with the team like, everyday. I think he definitely took a liking to my sound immediately, but slowly but surely, we worked on a couple records here and there. You know when you work with somebody and the s— comes out really good a couple times? Like, “Alright, we did three records and they’re all really good.” You’re more inclined to work with that artist or that producer more consistently.
Do you believe in the theory that certain artists need certain producers to make their music pop?
I think obviously French is a talented guy who can adapt to a lot of different sounds, but I would definitely say that we make our best music together. He compliments my beats really well, and I feel like my beats definitely compliment his style of delivery and his song style, because they’re usually pretty melodic. So I would definitely say that me and French have a definitively solidified sound. Now, would I say that French couldn’t survive musically without me? And I couldn’t survive musically without him? Probably not. Would I ever want that to be the situation? No. I look at French as being someone that I’ll work closely with for as long as my career allows it.
What’s your signature sound?
It’s weird. People will follow different artists that I work with and consider certain sounds to be signature, but then when they go and do their research, across the board … I have records, like, the [“Low”] record that just came out with [Kid] Daytona and Jadakiss, which is more of a sort of b-boy-inspired record like “Shot Caller,” and then I have records that came out like “Bird on the Wire” with Action Bronson, where they’re not b-boy at all. So I don’t think I have a signature sound. I think as time goes on, I’m showing that more and more.
Is it easier for you to do the b-boy-inspired tracks?
It’s easier for me to be all over the map [laughs]. I think it’s harder for me to focus on one thing, to be honest. My brain is running in all different directions, so I think it’s actually easier for me to be all over the map and harder for me to focus on making just one type of track. A lot of people in the last couple months have been trying to push me into making tracks that sound like “Shot Caller,” because that’s what’s out, and it’s the most prominent record. It’s difficult for me to keep using something that’s already been done. I’d rather be breaking new ground.
You’ve mentioned that you’re somewhat of a perfectionist. How often do you go back to your beats when working?
A million times! If there’s no pressure on me for it, then I’ll revisit it a million times. There are certain beats where we don’t have that luxury, like where it’s, “I need this record tomorrow.” The “We Run New York” beat that me and French did with Fat Joe, where we sampled KRS-One — that was that type of beat where he needed it the next day. So I did that beat in one night, mixed and mastered it and sent it out. That’s the beat — [it took] three hours. But if I had my way, it would’ve been three months [chuckles].
So we can assume that you find issues in the work that you’ve already completed also, right?
Oh yeah! I can’t listen to too much s—. I’m so critical of myself that I can do that with any song at anytime. Like, I can listen to any song that I did and find something I want to change.
Do you remember the zone you were in while making the “Shot Caller” beat?
It’s crazy, ’cause I’ve been trying to remember, but all I remember is that I was sitting in the studio late at night, and I had played a version of the beat already for French that he didn’t really like, and I was going back to it, and that’s really the most I can remember about it. I actually made the beat a while ago, and the song has been out for a while, but it’s just that people are doing that research on when it first emerged on his mixtape Mister 16, which is probably a year ago now. So I would say I made the beat well over that, and it’s kind of hard to remember the specifics.
Watch French Montana’s ‘Shot Caller’ Remix Video Feat. Diddy, Rick Ross & Charlie Rock
In your mind, is “Shot Caller” a breakout hit?
I think it’s his breakout hit in the sense that a different kind of audience took notice of him, a more “mainstream” audience, but I think that the volume of fans … French has had a huge following for years, so I don’t really think that that could be considered his breakout record. As far as being considered a hit in the more conventional sense of the music industry? Yeah, I agree with that, you know. Because it was the first song that really charted for him and had major, major video exposure and major nationwide radio exposure, where it’s something that’s really in rotation at radio stations across the country. In that conventional sense, yeah, it’s a breakout hit. But French has had so many breakout records, from “Choppa Down” to “New York Minute.”
Did it surprise you that people are describing it as a major breakthrough for French?
It didn’t surprise me, because I think it’s just a little more digestable, because the hook is playing with the ladies, and time shows that if you get the girls to like a record, the guys are gonna like the record. The dudes are gonna like what the girls like, because they wanna hang around the girls. So I wasn’t surprised. I knew that record was gonna leave it open, like, “Wow, the girls are really gonna like this…” But at the same time, it’s not soft. “Girl” records… Dudes can’t really get with them because they don’t feel comfortable. It’s too soft for them, but “Shot Caller” is still a hard record.
You were a DJ before producing. Would you say it was a natural progression from one to the other?
For me, I think it definitely was. For me, I got tired of deejaying very quick, just because it was a total stepping stone for me. I got to manipulate beats, but at the same time, I wanted to be more creative with stuff than just manipulating it. Yeah, that’s a natural progression. I think you can go down the line, and most talented producers, at one point of their lives, have had some experience with turntables, and not only in New York, you know. Mannie Fresh, one of the greatest southern producers, was a DJ.
Would you ever go back to it?
It’s weird, because whenever I’m around turntables, I’ll f— with it, but now my awareness is starting to rise. I’m getting all type of offers to DJ all kinds of parties and events and stuff like that, and I’ve turned them all down before, but it’s definitely creeping into my mind again. I think right now, I’m more focused on production, but in the next couple of years, when I get a little bit more breathing room, there’s definitely a chance of me deejaying again.
What do you have bubbling in the coming months?
Me and Action [Bronson] have a ton of music recorded — well over an album’s worth — so that’ll come, hopefully in the summertime. Me and Smoke DZA just completed our joint project called Rugby Thompson. That’ll be a retail release out in May, an official packaged retail release with Jet Life, and I think we’re gonna do it through High Times and Nature Sounds and all that. Obviously, we have French’s album coming up, and that’s great, and I have something on Wiz [Khalifa‘s] Taylor Allderdice mixtape [called “Blindfolds”]. That track is unbelievable and I’m really excited about that. Putting some work together with [Rick Ross], definitely, so we’ll see what comes of that. Right now, I’m just trying to move around and work with all of the artists whose sound I like, trying to give them a little bit of my sound.
See Photos of a Mixtape Timeline