Beat Construction: Brandon Thomas’ Unhinged Sound Inspires Atlanta’s New Guard

The producer behind OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” breaks down his explosive, minimalist style.

October 02, 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’ve been rocking to OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” pretty hard, since premiering the spastic video and 2 Chainz's nutty remix. So we reached out to the song’s 19-year-old producer, Brandon Thomas, and talked his deep musical past, coming up with OG Maco, and the excitement around Atlanta’s current moment.

How did you get started doing music? I was really making music as an artist, producing and engineering my own music. Once I started playing it for people, they wanted to know who was doing the production and engineering, and I told them I was. So a lot of people in the studio started approaching me to work and help them build projects. My dad was in the industry, so he taught me everything I know. He used to do production, engineering, voiceovers, jingles and stuff like that. He worked with Keith Sweat, Monica, Coca-Cola. 

What were some of your early influences that got you into doing music? I used to watch a lot of old MTV Raps music videos. I was really inspired by A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, Nirvana and Amy Winehouse.

How did your solo career turn into producing for others full time? I started overseeing projects, because I composed my music from scratch. I started producing from scratch in front of [OG] Maco. We started organically and built this buzz in the city. People wanted to see shows from us and hear more music. This got the attention of other artists that wanted to work, Key! started working with him. We spent three days getting to know each other, making music, having fun and everything. 

Was Maco the first collaborative project you took on fully? I’ve always ran a studio working with other artists in the city, up-and-coming artists. But the stuff with Maco was what got the attention of the city. It was the Live Life project, and after that project we started with Key! and stuff and then Give Em Hell came out. 

Have more artists reached out since “U Guessed It” popped? Yeah man, it’s pretty dope how everybody from high school and everybody I told did music want to do work, along with the industry contacts I was nurturing. This whole New Atlanta scene is really dope, the weirdoes are coming out and create whatever they want. Like how it was in the '90s with Atlanta. Goodie Mob, Outkast, everybody was super relevant. TLC was making whatever they wanted and it was different but it was all under that same umbrella. That’s how I feel it is now: Maco, Key!, Makonnen, Father, Manmansavage, my homie Grimm, my homie Deko, Parker, Jay Izaak and a bunch of producers I work with it’s all organic music. We make whatever we want to make. 

Key!"Give 'Em Hell"

Maco has said the same thing about young Atlanta artists collaborating. No one is too off into their own world. See, the thing about these records is, Maco was working on this rock project. We were listening to alternative music, house, and rock, so we had that kind of stuff we wanted to drop. We made Give Em Hell tape, and we just made the simplest, put-together cool stuff you could vibe. People that like the alternative stuff would still like it, and the people that like the heavy trap music would like it too. We tried to bridge the gap so that everybody in Atlanta appreciates it. And now that it’s hit the radar, it seems like it got pretty good feedback. It’s funny this record was the one that really popped off like that. Cause it was a record really made in like fifteen minutes. Maco came back in town and he freestyled that record and just knocked it out and I just made the beat in fifteen minutes, legit from scratch. 

What's the idea behind your minimalist style? I wanted there to be no excuses for people to not get and hear exactly what the rapper is saying. All they have to do is fit in the pocket and flow, and just elaborate what we talk about when we smoke blunts, and like Boom! That’s why all of those verses were freestyles and all of those beats were just free flowing. 

Give Em Hell seems different from the production you were doing for Zues Trappin’s tape, Trap Rock. The Trap Rock feel was like a minimalistic, eerie feel. All of my music is a bit experimental. That Trap Rock feel was grunge, trap fused together. An acoustic aesthetic, fused together like it’s a trap record. But I’ll play for a Pink Floyd fan and they’ll be like “I don’t really like rap, but I really like this.” That was the whole key, to cross over and bridge. 

What's your next move with this newfound spotlight? That was one of the goals, trying to get everybody on the same page. I’m from the Southside, Maco’s from the Southside, and Makonnen is from the Southside. Atlanta’s got to represent. Next I’ma dive back into my project, and of course I’m going to be producing heavy as that’s what’s generating everything right now. I’m gonna dive into more experimental sounds--pop, house--since people have heard my trap stuff. I want to show people my versatile and eclectic side of my production. I play by ear when I play piano, so I think if I can sing it, I can find it on a keyboard. 

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Beat Construction: Brandon Thomas’ Unhinged Sound Inspires Atlanta’s New Guard