The FADER's longstanding Beat Construction interview series highlights today's most crucial producers and their craft.
Tahj Morgan had to take a chance on himself. The 22-year-old producer, better known as Jetsonmade, got his first placement back in 2015 on 21 Savage’s Slaughter King but it took him much longer to see a clear way forward. He enrolled in college but didn’t like having to work within strict deadlines. He tried working a full-time job but that didn’t make him happy either. The Columbia, South Carolina native told his mom that if he didn’t get anywhere with producing in 2018, he was going to take his money, get his commercial driver’s license and drive trucks. A year later, he has a platinum plaque mounted on his wall, a deal with Sony, and collaborations with DaBaby, Lil Keed, and Young Nudy.
Now four years into his career, Jetson’s made a name for himself not by working with the biggest rappers he can, but instead by developing with the ones that catch his ear. He prefers to work with people he thinks says are “underdogs,” like South Carolina’s PG Ra. He tries to mix-and-match his beats with artists. Even on his most spaced out and simple productions, there’s a bounce made out of arcade game-like bleeps and whimsical flutes that makes them stand out on any album. He’s now getting the chance to shape the sound rap sound of his region. To him, one of the best feelings is that he can point to a song and say, “That’s that Carolina sound.”
Despite living in Atlanta now, he keeps things close to home. When I caught up with Jetson over the phone, he had just got on the highway, heading back to Columbia to wrap up DaBaby’s next album and PG Ra’s debut project. If he stopped at Bojangles, the Carolinas’ most beloved fast food chain, on the way back home, this is what he’d order: A 4-piece chicken supreme with pink lemonade and honey mustard.
Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood and growing up in Columbia?
Columbia was normal, honestly. It was just a really great experience to me. It taught [me] a lot. I wouldn't say I was exposed to not a lot, but I wasn't exposed to a lot. You feel me? It gave me enough, but enough to want to experience more stuff. That's how my childhood was. I got enough, but it made me want more.
What kind of stuff were you into as a kid?
I was doing everything. I played every sport. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer. I tried out all the sports. I just wasn't into 'em. I was always involved in music, somehow, someway. Just going to church like that and playing the drums. Growing up I was just into everything, like a normal kid. Once I hit middle school was when I was like, You know, I don't really like sports. I'm straight music.
How'd you get into producing?
I just saw the whole process and it made me want to make beats. I knew I wanted to do something in music but I just didn't know what until I actually went to the studio and saw the whole process and then I was like, 'yeah, I want to make beats.'
Can you tell me about your relationship with [video director] Savani? You’ve talked about your relationship in the past and said that’s how you connected with a lot of rappers in the Carolinas when you were starting out.
I'll take it back to like, 2013. In 2013, was when I first got my tag, 'Jetson made another one.' I was still in high school at the time, so in the city, my tag just started floating around, just from high school. That's when Instagram first started popping so everybody followed me. Savani had went to another high school in the same district. We linked up through my boy Munchy, we was always working together. We brought Savani through, and then we just got close.
I was on my side of town and I was like, “OK, everybody knows me on my side,” but when Savani came around he was like, “Bruh, everybody at my school fucking with you da-da-da-da-da.”We was getting serious around the same time. We just always been in the music, always bouncing off ideas: Bro you need to do this, bro you need to do that.
So fast forward to like 2016, he had moved to Atlanta and he was just around a lot of rappers. Doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work, taking pictures, getting his name out. When I went to Atlanta, the only way we could get in them rooms was, in my eyes, on some dick-riding shit, and I ain't with that. We just sat back one day and Savani stayed there. He was doing all this work with all these rappers and stuff, his shit was going up. Then it just stopped. They kept going.
I said, “Bruh, we chasing these niggas, they don't give a fuck about it. Honestly, they don't care about us.” Instead of us chasing behind people who got something going on, let's just build up people who don't got anything going on so that when they do go up, we still tied in. That way everybody can grow together, instead of somebody just utilizing what we can do at that moment and then running off.
In [Columbia], people was looking at it like, Savani done blew up. He mainstream. We took that and all the people who was trying to come to him to get videos, he was telling them, “If you want a video, it got to be on a Jetsonmade beat.” That's just how we started it up. I already knew I had the sound, it was at the time when, you know, people ain't really believe in it too much. We just started working with all kinds of little artists who ain't really have nothing on. And the artists in the city who were kinda juiced up, they still weren't tryna rock with it. So we were like, you know, we gotta find the people who don't got nothing going on at all and work with them. So we did that and, shit, it got me here.
At this point, you still work with everyone from the Carolinas, not just the big stars but everybody.
I'm just around them. Anybody who got something going on, or who hard, I'm in the mix with what's going on. If anybody doing anything, I'm gonna run across them. If I run across somebody and I like their music, we gonna cook up. Me and [producer] 20, I just pulled out the AudioBox and we were in there and made the beat. It just so happened that same night I made the beat, he had hit me up to send him some beats and that's how we ended up doing "Pull Up" [by Lil Keed.]
What do you do to stay tapped in and find out about new people?
Just like everybody else, I just be on the internet. I still gotta stay up to date on who current, see who everybody rocking with. It's just out of the batch of who everybody rocking with, I go find the underdog in that situation or the person that I think I could make the best music with. That's who I'm tapping in with.
You talked about Savani moving to Atlanta and how you didn't like that energy. I know you live in Atlanta now, why'd you decide to move down there?
Once Savani had came back, I was working so much. I was staying with my girlfriend, and I ended up moving back in with my mama. Then me and my girlfriend broke up, whatever, whatever. So I moved back with my mama, and my sister was in there crying every morning and shit like that. I was like, Man, I can't deal with this. So I was like, I'm just gonna run up my money. Ran up my money, and then I was like there's no point in me [staying in Columbia]. I just had saw the bigger picture. I was like, Bruh, if I'm turnt up like this, I know I can do this somewhere else. I still wanted to be able to look from the outside in. I always like to be ahead so I can analyze the situation. Me staying in Columbia just would've trapped me.
You and Young Nudy have the same manager, TP. How’d you end up linking with him?
I linked up with TP because I did a lot of earlier stuff for Nudy, and TP had ended up managing him. I guess Nudy was rocking with my stuff. At first, I had started working with Nudy just by sending him beats and then one day TP hit me up like, “Bruh, I'm tryna manage you.” He been had told me he was trying to manage me, but I was like, “Ehh, I don't need no manager.” I had just got to Atlanta for about two months. But then I was like, Alright, I'm ready to take it to the next level. I knew what I had going on, but I didn't have no credentials. So the only person who would come at me like this is somebody who really believe in me.
How do you change up your style for different artists?
I don't. I go into every situation with Jetsonmade type beats. I don't switch it up because that'll burn me out, you know? I mean my brain. Of course I'm playing different styles, but I'm not gonna go and play some off the wall shit. I like to stand out with the music I make with people. I don't go into any situation trying to make what’s cool. The way for me to get around [that] is to go in with Jetsonmade type beats. That's how we come.
What sounds do you like to draw from when you make beats?
I make a lot of different types. My success come from the simple beat, but when you think about it, when you listen to "Suge," but then turn around and listen to an "Oh My God," they totally different beats, totally different sounds. I just use whatever sounds good. Whatever goes good in that beat is what I'm gonna use. I just try to keep my same bounce.
You were talking on Twitter about how you made the "Oh My God" beat for Keed way before you even started working with him. What inspired that beat?
Me and my dawg, we was listening to this snippet on Instagram — I think it was called "Drown" by Keed. We just kept playing it back to back. I was like, “Bruh, this nigga hard. I'm gon work with him.” I was just trying to find someone new I wanted to work with. So I was just playing it back to back and one day I was just making beats and I made the "Oh My God" beat and I was like 'Bruh I'm giving this to Keed whenever I link up with him.' Like a month later I linked up with him.
That was like the second song me and Keed did, because I did "It's Up Freestyle" with him, that was on the spot. Then like a week later, he hit me up to send him some beats. And "Oh My God" was one of them.
You were at the Dreamville sessions, what was that experience like for you?
Dreamville sessions was a crazy experience. It just tapped me back in just into my creative side. Just some motivation. You need that inspiration sometimes. You just love music so it'll make you think about things you don't even think about. As an artist, your creativity is the most important thing. It's kinda hard [not to] lose that nowadays because of the internet and everything else going on.
Any advice to new producers or anyone thinking about music?
Everybody situation different, so I can't necessarily tell you to do this or do that. I just know that what you want to do — figure out how you gonna do it and stick to that. Do it times ten and it's gonna work. It might not bring you a million dollars. It might bring you a hundred million dollars. Whatever you want for yourself, you can do it if you put a realistic plan together. Real shit will make it happen.