The FADER's longstanding Beat Construction interview series highlights today's most crucial producers and their craft.
Well known for his versatility, 22-year-old Charlie Shuffler can craft a beat around a late-’90s Brit-pop sample just as easily as lush soundscapes ripe with melodic drum patterns. Despite growing up as an avid fan of virtually all types of music, the Long Beach native never anticipated a career as a musician; instead, he set his sights on gridiron, playing cornerback at a Division II school in Nebraska. After getting injured and moving back to California, he spent the majority of his free time teaching himself how to make beats.
With an ear for talent, in a few years Charlie Shuffler was accumulating production credits for some of the biggest names in rap, including Lil Peep, Lil Tracy, and Lil Yachty; he's also been working with a newer wave of exciting talent that includes artists like Shinigami, smrtdeath, and drippin so pretty. He's taken on the role as a manager for L.A. rapper Eyekeem, and has immersed himself in the world of fashion and creative direction. (He also, recently, caught some bizarre ire from Deadmau5, which has since been apologized for.)
We met at an apartment directly under the Williamsburg Bridge, where Charlie’s signature orange beanie was as vibrant as ever. After a breakfast of rapidly consumed French toast and the regrettable decision to pair our first meal of the day with multiple shots of whiskey, he and I spoke about how he went from making beats in a Nebraskan dorm room to having songs on the charts.
What was your relationship with music like during your childhood?
My older brother was in a band and he used to cover Jimi Hendrix. He used to make me watch all these Jimi Hendrix documentaries and read books on him. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, for real. My brother played a lot of concerts, and I used to want to play the drums, so he let me play live with him. My brother was into hip-hop too — he put me onto Nas, OutKast, and Biggie. He used to be on all these music blogs, and I used to want to be him, so I would go on the same websites, too.
You used to play cornerback for the Midland University Warriors in Nebraska, but then you got hurt. What was it like dealing with the loss of football in your life, and how did you replace that void with music?
I've always been into finding artists before they pop off. I had the programs to make beats because I’ve always been good with computers. I used to crack DAWs [digital audio workstations] and put them on my computer. When I got hurt playing ball, I was just bored and in my dorm all day, so I’d mess around trying to make beats. I never took it seriously — I made a lot of shitty beats. When I got back home from Nebraska, I told myself I needed to find something to do. I already had the programs, so I decided to get good at producing, and taught myself from there.
One of your first notable credits was with Coldhart, one of the founding members of GothBoiClique. What is your relationship with him like?
That's my bestie. We just be on some funny shit. He'll call me out of nowhere, and I'll call him out of nowhere. We’re friends before anything. We used to focus a lot on just music, but that's my brother. He's one of my favorite people to make music with. He's helped me out a lot. A really good dude.
You're known for producing beats with emo and alternative stylings for GBC, but you also have more "traditional" trap productions for artists like Pollàri and Lil Yachty. How do you cover such a wide range of sounds?
Since I've always listened to a range of genres, I was like, “Why not make both?” One day I might listen to Future, the next day the Smiths. My personal taste is so all over the place, so what I make is as well. I listen to everything — why not make everything?
You produced Lil Yachty's “Self Made.” Do you feel like you’re self made?
One hundred percent. Coming up, I never had a major artist or producer co-sign me. Everything was organic. I'm a firm believer of just letting things happen. The stuff with Yachty, Lil Peep, Pollàri, it all just happened. It’s very genuine, and that’s the feeling people get when they hear or see [my music].
A lot of people don't know this, but I was kicked out of the house by my mom. She and I are OK now, but I was homeless for a cool year or so. It's not unusual, I know a lot of people go through what I went through. But I was living with my brother, and I was living with homie Young Plug until I was finally able to get my own crib. I’d say I’m self made, but I had the support from from people who really cared about me along the way.
Speaking of Lil Peep, I noticed you have both Crybaby and Hellboy tattooed on your arms. What can you tell me about your contributions to those albums?
Crybaby made me realize that that sound and genre is real, and there's a huge demographic for it. It opened my eyes, and Hellboy opened the lane — not just for me, but for everyone. Those projects are both so special to me. Us working together was more than a blessing. It's bigger than him, it's bigger than me, you know? The music we put out is literally going to be played for decades. You know how kids are listening to the Smiths now? Kids in the future are going to be finding Peep and listening to him.
You also have a tattoo of a castle, and worked on Peep and Lil Tracy's CÅSTLES II. What was that like?
It's funny, I got this tat before the tape dropped, for Jimi Hendrix's “Castles Made of Sand.” CÅSTLES II was dope. I remember when I found out I was on that project. I would just e-mail them beats, so I didn't even find out until I was at a concert where Peep and Tracy were performing. They came up to me before they went on stage and said, “Yo, we used your beats.” They went crazy that night [Laughs].
What do your parents think of your career now?
My mom recently followed me on Instagram. My mom don't really know what I do, but my dad doesn't know what I do at all. My dad thinks I'm a fuckup, but my mom is super proud.
Proper attribution for producers has been a topic of debate lately. How do you feel about the treatment of producers in the rap community?
A producer not getting paid is the producer's fault — to an extent. If you get a lawyer, you can handle that shit at any level. If you produced a song that has 1,000 plays on Spotify, which isn't that many, you can get a lawyer and they’ll get you paid for it. As far as credits go in song titles, I'll never understand rappers not crediting producers, especially if they got the beat for free. If someone buys the exclusive rights to a beat of mine, I don't care if they put my name in the title. But if you got a beat from me for free, the least you could do is put my name in the title. It just doesn't make sense to me. You're getting a free beat, just shout the producer out!
A lot of rappers don't realize how much shouting a producer out means to them. It goes a long way. Yet, as funny as it sounds, I think there's been a lot of awareness to the producer community now. There are producers standing up for each other, and standing up against rappers. It's a good time to be a producer.
What is something you wished more people noticed about yourself and your music?
I really wish people noticed my other artistic abilities. I really want to direct videos and make short films. I really like styling and creatively directing people. It's hard, because people don't see me as anything else other than a producer. I hope people will see me as something more in the future. I have my own clothing line in the works. Fashion has always been so important to me. I love getting fly. I've been into fashion before I was into music. I watch old runway videos when I make beats to find inspiration. I really don't think producing is even my best attribute. I'm a creative. But it's not even about me. I used to think everything was about me, but I was wrong — it's about the art.
Tell me about managing Eyekeem.
We've been friends before anything. My homie Chich, who takes all our photos, connected us. Eyekeem and me started kicking it for months, then we made music and that shit was crazy. Everything was so organic. One of the reasons I really like working with him is because we both have crazy work ethics. I'm only going to go hard for someone as hard as they go for themselves. I match people's energy, and Eyekeem puts out one thousand percent. From a business perspective, I'm his manager, but I'm more like a friend giving him advice. At the end of the day, we're best friends, we're brothers.
What can you tell me about projects you're working on now?
I'm always working with artists. I always love working with Póllari, and of course Coldhart. Me and Eyekeem are always plotting. Me and drippin so pretty are working on a second tape. Shinigami and I are working on an EP. I'm working on my own producer tape. Music, fashion. There’s hella shit on the way. I just like staying busy.