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Beat Construction: “Loyal” Producer Nic Nac Talks Chris Brown, DJ Mustard, and the West Coast’s Hottest Summer

A conversation with Nic Nac, the Bay Area producer behind Chris Brown’s mammoth come back smash “Loyal.”

September 03, 2014

The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. Every now and again we aim to illuminate these under-heralded artists with Beat Construction. We recently spoke to Los Angeles producer Nic Nac, the lowkey beatsmith behind one of the biggest songs of the summer, "Loyal." He dished about his come up and signature sound, between working on projects with Chris Brown, Future and Nicki Minaj's much anticipated The Pinkprint. 

When did you get started producing? In high school, when I was probably like 14, I used Fruity Loop 3. Just basic drum beats. I didn’t really know how to play piano or anything. I was making shitty drum loops with weird little stock sounds. I started DJing when I was like in fifth grade. My parents got me this shit called “DJ in a Box.” That came with two turn tables and a mixer, and two shitty speakers. I got started DJing cause I lived up the street from a Guitar Center, so I would go there afterschool and fuck with all of the older people that worked there. I was there every day and they showed me how to DJ, so by the time I got to high school, I met this kid in my class that was making beats and he gave me the program.

So you were playing parties around then? Yeah, I DJ’d all of my friends' parties. By the time I was in 8th grade, me and my cousin had started a DJ group, so we were DJing all of the parties: our school parties for my class, I was doing parties for other schools, father and daughter dances... I was playing Ying Yang Twins. It was around 2003. Ying Yang Twins was popping. Lil Jon a bunch of songs out. Too $hort and E-40, cause I’m from the Bay. Around 2003, the hyphy movement was getting started, so I was playing a lot of hyphy songs. 

What was your break-through in producing? My first break through producing was probably “One Four Three” by Bobby Brackins. That one got a lot of spins out here on the West Coast. I don’t really know what it did on the east coast. It got my name known out here. 

The first time I noticed your name was you on a Sean Kingston song. “Beat It?” Yeah, that might be my more nationally known song, maybe “One Four Three” was West Coast known, and “Beat It” was more national. 

You’ve been doing this for a decade. How has your style changed over time? I always had to make these little video gamey melodies, and put more R&B chords underneath that melody. Even if it is dark chords, a happy melody, a video game melody, is always in my beats. I’ve always done that since high school, so that is kind of my thing. 

This summer you had one of the biggest beats in rap with “Loyal.” How’d it come together? That happened in a really funny way. I had been working with Chris after Sean Kingston’s “Beat It.” you know Chris killed “Beat It.” He was such a big part of that so I had been wanting to get in the studio with him. Me, Ty Dolla $ign and B.o.B had made the hook and the first verse, and I was just playing it for my manager, and he hella liked it, and gave it to Chris the same night. He cut it that night and got Lil Wayne on it the same week. Got French on it and Too $hort that same week and then Tyga and that was it. It kind of happened really fast. 

Being out on the East Coast, whenever I turn on the radio, DJ Mustard is playing constantly, and HBK Gang, plus your stuff too. How does it feel for the whole California sound to make its way across the nation? Yeah, I’m really happy for it. Mustard really opened the door for the whole sound to be on a way bigger scale, cause there had been a similar type of sound for a while over here. 

Why do you think Mustard specifically broke through? I think he was really good at branding himself. I think his tag is really dope and people really like who he is, as an image. He’s the perfect spokesman for the sound. He reminds me of back when I would DJ, like a new school Lil Jon, where he is putting out albums now. Lil Jon used to do that. He has a bunch of artists he works with and Lil Jon used to have that too, so it just reminds me of that. 

Who’s been hitting your line since "Loyal" blew up? I’ve kind of been working with the same people like Ty and Bobby Brackins, and Chris. I got another song on Chris’ album. And I hope I get a couple more things in the works, but they aren’t 100% sure things. I’ve just been trying to work with my team and like just been trying to take shit to the next level and keep going up, instead of just staying in the same level. 

So, what sort of projects are you currently working on? I’m working with this artist Niyya, she an artist signed to Interscope, she like my little sister, she’s really dope. I’m working on shit on Chris’ album. And hopefully I have a song with Ty$ and Bobby Brackins on Nicki Minaj’s album. I’m just trying to work with anybody. I’ve been in the lab with Future a couple times and getting shit on his new album. So shit is going to be crazy. 

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Beat Construction
Beat Construction: “Loyal” Producer Nic Nac Talks Chris Brown, DJ Mustard, and the West Coast’s Hottest Summer