The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. In some songs, the producer is both the band leader and the band, yet his or her name is often unknown. Every other week, with Beat Construction, an extension of our column in the magazine, we aim to illuminate the role producers are playing in creating some of our favorite music. This week, we talk with Lil Lody, the Memphis producer whose sound has been closely linked with Lex Luger. The two of them are credited together on Jeezy's best track in some time, "Ballin," and he also produced the monster "Rollin" for Gunplay, along with a gang of other digital drum fill bangers. Read an interview with him below and click to the next page to hear some of his best productions.
How was rap in Memphis important to you growing up? It really started like this: they were some of the major people I worked with. I produced a lot of stuff for them, you know, and it went from there. Once I started producing tracks for them, more people started hearing it and more people started reaching out to me and they wanted the same kind of sound or feel that I was giving them.
When you were a kid, do you remember hearing their music for the first time? Yeah, I was like 13 or 14 when I first started bumping Three 6 Mafia. They had a big influence on the city. Really, they ran the whole city. Everybody looked up to them, everybody listened to Three 6. Therefore, it had a big influence on me to do my thing and made me sound like them because so many people wanted their style and so many people wanted to be like them.
What made you want to start making music yourself? It was because basically, honestly, I was more of a rapper at first. I used to record in the studio when I was like 13 or 14. One day, I was recording in the studio, I'm rapping, and the dude who was engineering me, he was also a producer, so he was playing his beats. The beat was tight, and I asked him how much he'd charge me for it, but he tried to overcharge me for it so I was like, "Nah, I'm gonna find my way around this". So I started making my own beats. I've been doing it since I was 14 and now I'm 22. I got the world in my hands.
What was your next step after that producer tried to overcharge? That exact date, after I left the studio, I went home and I got on the internet and searched for beat-making programs. It just so happens that I ran across Fruityloops. I was like 14 or 15 or something like that. I was going to school and as soon as I got out of school, I'd come home and put in work on that. I'm talking about every day, non-stop, I was doing something. The first day I downloaded it, I made a hit song.
At what point did you start playing tracks for other people? Other people started hearing my beats because I was real popular in school, so the whole school knew that I'd done it. Besides them, I was doing for free tracks for artists that were buzzing in the city. They were buzzed in Memphis, not worldwide, but buzzed in Memphis. Everybody used to be like, "Damn, this is tight! I want the same producer, whoever he is. Let me meet him, let me come get some. Where he at?"
When did curtail your own rapping career? When I started seeing the fast money. That's when I started getting money for it and knew that it was fast money. I would charge $300, $400, $500. I was rapping, I would try to maintain both of them, but I really started doing the beats because the beats could make quicker money than the rapping could. Everybody think they the tightest when they're rapping, but there’s too many people. Everybody think they the tightest when they doing beats too, but everybody ain't producing. There's a difference between a beatmaker and a producer. I'm a producer. The rest of these cats, you can call them beatmakers. There are only a few real producers. A producer produces hits, and he makes records and he gets on Billboard. A beatmaker just does it I guess to do something with his time, to tell people, "Yo, this is what it sounds like. Yeah, I make beats".
What was the point when you felt like you were a producer and not a beatmaker? Back then, when I used to just do stuff in my house, I was just a beatmaker. When I used to do stuff in the city, I was a beatmaker. Once I took a trip to California with Three 6 Mafia and I told them to play their beats first, I was like "Ah, okay". When I played mine, and when they went crazy, I knew I was a producer then.
Did that propel your career? After I left California with Three 6 Mafia, I was doing my thing. It shot my buzz up, and now everybody was like, "Yo, he's with Three 6 Mafia.” So I came back, I had met Waka, you know, Waka Flocka, I had met him in my city. Somebody had wanted a beat from me, know what I'm saying? I'm the hottest in the city after I came back with Three 6 Mafia, so everybody wants a beat. So somebody from Memphis was getting a verse from Waka. They told me to come up and do the beat and Waka met me. Waka was like, "Yo, I need some beats" after I played for him. So I came right back and did the beat for him. The name of the beat is "Still Standing". We shot the video. After he got shot, he came right back and shot the video on the tour bus with his teddy bear chain. So yeah, I did that beat. These pussies got me mad/ So I called Lo, I need a beat, I'm in the lab, he's talking about me on the song. So once he did that, everyone was like, Yo, he did the beat for Waka. Then after that Rick Ross reached out to me. I sent him some beats. He did his thing. He did, "Summer's Mine." Turned back around, they liked it so they did the "Bugatti Boyz." After the "Bugatti Boyz," his whole team was like, Hook us up, we're going to do something." I shot them some beats. Gunplay, he did "Rollin". Torch did "Reala State." Their whole team started messing with it. But "Rolling,” that's what really did it for me. Once everybody heard "Rollin,” everybody reached out to me, know what I'm saying?
I was looking on YouTube, and there are people who say, "This is a Lex Luger and Lil Lody type of beat.” How would you describe the sound? He got that real trap sound. I got the trap sound plus a versatile sound but it's still trap. It keeps you crunk. I keep you crunk throughout the whole thing. Lex got that dopeboy trap swing that everybody wants. We both got our own lanes. We're sort of similar, but we both have our own ways.
What beat that you’ve made best exemplifies your style? I ain't gonna lie, I like "Ballin" and "Rollin" and "Bugatti Boyz," but "Ballin" is my one.
How come? Because the breakdown is crazy. It's exotic. It keeps you crunk! Not being racist, but I've seen white people dance to this song. They just go crazy when this song comes on.