WLPWR doesn’t think he’s quite there yet.
His vanity label SupaHotBeats and its eponymous production has laid the backdrop for a staple of Southern emcees partial to the old school, including Big K.R.I.T., Yelawolf and Rittz. He’s been behind the boards for artists as big as Eminem and Wiz Khalifa. And as his imprint continues to pick up steam, WLPWR remains on his grind and in the studio, ardently working on two of the genre’s most anticipated projects of the year. But ask WLPWR what the goal for 2014 is, and he’ll give you an answer expected from a struggling rookie.
“I want to break into the game as a respected producer,” he tells KN. “The hardest part of coming up is staying away from what everyone else is doing. I really want to add that crazy hi hat that everyone’s been putting in records, but you don’t want to do the same patterns and transitions that are already popular. The goal is to keep trying to find something that nobody else is doing.”
That ambition is what drives the producer behind Yelawolf’s upcoming Love Story and K.R.I.T.’s Cadillactica. WLPWR’s been in the game for 15 years now, and he’s far from satisfied with his already-respectable standing.
WLPWR’s been on a steady ascent since producing Yelawolf’s debut Trunk Muzik and “2.0 Boys,” the comeback effort from Eminem and the recharged Shady Records lineup. Now, the focus is to keep building that momentum, as well as spurring something new with SupaHotBeats singer-songwriter Ryatt Fienix. We caught up with WLPWR to discuss upcoming releases, the expectations for his label and his plan of attack going forward.
KN: What’s good Will? What have you been on recently?
WLPWR: Not much man, been in the studio with Big K.R.I.T. for Cadillactica, and finishing up Yelawolf’s album.
KN: Tell me about Love Story.
WLPWR: We went down to Nashville and did the whole album at Blackbird Studio, which is obviously a pretty famous studio. We worked with a lot of really great live musicians. We worked on creating a really unique sound that still kind of goes back to the basics. We added some crazy drums for a lot of good energy.
KN: What can people expect from the album? How does it differ from the work you did on Trunk Muzik?
WLPWR: I think it shows a lot of growth, a lot of maturity. He’s definitely coming into his own since the last album. He came into it wanting to make an album that he wanted and that he would be happy with. The last project was heavily influenced by A&Rs, but this time we didn’t have any label people’s input. We locked in for six months and just made records, and what resulted was a lot of truth, a lot of Hip Hop. He made some “real feelings” music.
KN: What’s your relationship with Yela like?
WLPWR: Man, we go back. I’ve been working with him since 2002. We were in New Jersey, trying to get in the game. I had come up there from South Carolina to get a career started, and he was there from Alabama. We met at Sylvia Robinson’s studio for Sugarhill Records, in the lobby one day. It just kind of clicked, and we’ve been kicking it ever since. Our relationship is a good 10-15 years old. When we get in the studio, it’s not really about a producer-artist type of vibe. We both just happen to be really good at what we do. He’s in a good place right now, and so am I. We’re making some real eclectic music from that.
KN: Do you trip thinking about how big he’s become?
WLPWR: It’s surreal, man. Thinking about the position we ended up in from being some hungry kids. Crazy. If there’s ever a time when your dreams can come true, this is it. The perfect storm.
KN: He really put you on with that Shady 2.0 reunion.
WLPWR: That might be my biggest highlight in my career so far. Eminem wanted to reset the tone for Shady Records, and it was on me to make that beat. “2.0” is crazy. I think about that song every day, and I’m just trying to keep the momentum going. Just keep making music on that level.
KN: I remember getting pretty hyped about that track. Some of the Slaughterhouse verses were crazy.
WLPWR: Hell yeah, man. It was dope. The crazy thing about it was how it came together organically. I was just in the lab playing that beat, and [Shady Records A&R] Riggs Morales was just like, “yo, that’s the beat! That’s the one!” After that, we flew out to Detroit.
KN: Did you have a favorite verse?
WLPWR: My favorite verse was from 5’9”. Royce is super dope. All of them are dope. Joell Ortiz would be my next, then Crooked I.
KN: You also worked with Rittz, who our EIC named the top emcee of 2013.
WLPWR: Rittz is incredible. I was with him last night. He and I are getting ready to start making some more new music next week. I was fortunate enough to be a part of his come-up. His first joint was “Box Chevy” from the original Trunk Muzik. And that verse is what got people interested. It’s great to see an underground emcee get that recognition. Nobody’s better than him, and he’s so deserving of this. He won emcee of the year?
WLPWR: That’s crazy, and a perfect accolade for him. It’s exciting to watch him go out and do shows now, because I remember when he would do a show with two people on the floor watching. He gave the same show then that he gives now to 10 thousand people. Well, maybe not 10 thousand but two thousand. We’re going to work on some more stuff soon, and his sophomore Strange Music album is going to be crazy.
KN: What can we expect from that? He’s poised to definitely blow up.
WLPWR: I think it can go mainstream. If anyone on Strange Music can reach that level of exposure right now, it’s definitely Rittz. He had some stuff with like Mike Posner on his last album. But I think he’s so underground that even if he went mainstream, we wouldn’t really see a change in him. You know what I mean? Some of these guys, you can tell that they’re going to be different when they go mainstream. Rittz isn’t like that.
KN: You’ve done production for dudes like Rittz, but also for mainstream acts like Wiz Khalifa and Chris Webby. How do you vary your production for different subgenres and audiences?
WLPWR: I cater to my artist. Whoever I’m working with, I try to keep it that way. You’ll never really hear a Yelawolf beat on Rittz’s shit, and you won’t hear a Rittz beat with Tech N9ne. I really like to take time with the artist. I could easily have sent Rittz a folder full of beats and have more of my beats on his album, but I chose to have a meeting with him and see what he’s going through. When I do cut a record with him, it’ll have character. In terms of genres, I’ve been all over the place with Hip Hop. I have my new artist, Ryatt Fienix, who’s a different genre entirely. I try to approach it old-school and vibe with the artist.
KN: Physical collaborations aren’t nearly as common anymore.
WLPWR: Right. Honestly, my goal on any project I get on is to have the one song that stands out. Whether that’s the single or not, I want my record to be memorable. I want people to go back to my record once the hype machine dies. I’m not in such a hurry; a lot of these younger cats are rushing. I’ve been out here 15 years, and I’m a little more patient.
KN: Yeah, you’ve been in the game for a while. Moved to Atlanta in 2002, what was the impetus behind that?
WLPWR: I lived in Columbia, South Carolina, man. It’s a small town with a good spirit, but there’s really no music industry there. I tried to sell music out of my trunk, because this was before the Internet age. You try to get in the streets and hype your product, but it’s hard. It made more sense for me to go three hours down the road and go to Atlanta, where it was already popping. So much music has come from Atlanta, in every genre. Shortly after I moved here, Yelawolf moved here.
KN: Any other Atlanta artist you want to work with?
WLPWR: Right now, I’m focusing on my own label. I’ve been branding SupaHotBeats real hard for the past two years, and now I’ve started a vanity label under the same name. I have my heart in that. Then I’m trying to break into the game with Ryatt Fienix. She’s a singer-songwriter, so I’m going away from Hip Hop with that particular project. I have really high standards for that.
KN: For people who aren’t familiar with her, what should they be up on?
WLPWR: She has so much energy, man. I’m not trying to cosign, though. Rittz just did a record with her called “Suicide,” which is dope. People can just expect quality music. Purists can expect great lyrics and dope production. She plays the piano, she’s gorgeous, and she doesn’t want to go out and just be another pop artist. My brand stands for quality music, and we’ll come with some dope visuals too. But a startup like this has to be taken day-by-day.
KN: You work with such a wide variety of artists. What are the biggest influences on your production?
WLPWR: My main influences… I’m still an old head, so I listen to people like Stevie Wonder. The way they produced records and approached music was really organic. Hit records aren’t made on the spot. They organically come. I don’t have a hit record right now. I’ve never had one. What has to happen for me is I have to keep cultivating my sound. I’m blessed to be in the game, now I have to continue doing what I’m doing and eventually it’ll be a household product.
KN: What’s blocking you from becoming that right now?
WLPWR: I don’t know. The hardest part of coming up is staying away from what everyone else is doing. I really want to add that crazy hi hat that everyone’s been putting in records, but you don’t want to do the same patterns and transitions that are already popular. The goal is to keep trying to find something that nobody else is doing. I’ve had moments with artists where they don’t creatively turn on unless they hear a beat that sounds like what everyone else is doing. But I can’t fall back to that. Then, there are people like Big K.R.I.T. who understand what it means to be creative. And that’s what keeps me motivated.
KN: We wish you luck. What’s the final verdict on WLPWR this year?
WLPWR: I’m trying to break in this year. WLPWR the producer; SupaHotBeats the company. I want to break into the game as a respected producer. I’ve got big projects under my belt with Big K.R.I.T. and Yelawolf. Those are two highly-anticipated albums in the Hip Hop community. I hope to gain that respect from people, and in turn that will lead to more work with more people. I think that pretty much sums it up.