Dru Brett (of The Runners) Interview

The Runners
Artist:The Runners
Label:The Runners Music Group
Next Project:Ace Hood, Mario, Ludacris, Wyclef, Young Jeezy
Twitter:The Runners on Twitter
Website:The Runners's Website

The quest to find one’s true calling is generally one that takes many long years of soul-searching, and most of us take quite a few wrong turns along the way—of course, most of us aren’t lucky enough to connect with those who will become our lifelong friends and colleagues till we’re well past preschool age.  Though they didn’t know it at the time, Dru Brett and Mayne Zayne‘s meeting as toddlers marked the beginning of a journey through which they would become two of the foremost beatsmiths on the Dirty South hip-hop scene.  Now known as The Runners , the duo have crafted hits for many of the game’s hottest artists, but it’s clear that their biggest achievements lie ahead.

Since scoring their breakout hit with Rick Ross’ ‘06 debut single, “Hustlin’,” the hard-working twosome went on to lend their boardwork to countless big-name releases.  In the process they racked up over 40 Booth features, from Young Jeezy‘s Kells-featuring “Go Getta” to, more recently, Ace Hood‘s “Overtime,” Jeremih‘s “It’s My Time,” and Wyclef Jean‘s “We Made It.”  In ‘09 and beyond, listeners can look forward to new, Runners-produced jams from Ludacris, Mario, Ace Hood, Wyclef, Jeezy, and many more.

In an exclusive interview with our own DJZ,” Dru Brett steps into the Booth to discuss how he proved to his father, a physician, that hip-hop production was a viable career path, the mountains of red tape that keep beatsmiths from receiving those advance checks in a timely manner, and whether or not a Runners album is in the cards.

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The Runners Interview Transcription

DJ Booth:  What’s goin’ on, everybody?  It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one-half of a production duo out of Orlando, Florida who have laced over 40 DJBooth features with their behind-the-boards magic, pun intended.  Please welcome Dru Brett, otherwise known as one-half of The Runners—how you doin’, my man?

Dru Brett:  Thanks for talkin’ to me, Z!  We appreciate the love.

DJ Booth:  Absolutely.  I appreciate your creativity in the studio.

Dru Brett:  Nah, we’re workin’, we’re doin’ this for y’all.  We work hard every day to stay creative and innovative and bring you guys the best music we can bring to the table at all times.

DJ Booth:  Let’s go back for a second, do a little history lesson.  According to your bio, your families, [yours and Mayne’s], have been friends for a a long time.  Your fathers are physicians.  So, when you were kids, who was the more musically-inclined preschooler, you or Mayne?

Dru Brett:  Definitely Mayne.  Mayne came up in the church; his mother was a preacher.  He played drums, keys, a little bit of bass, so he was the first one to catch on musically, and he kind of brought me into that world.  He would bring me with him to church actually, all the time.

DJ Booth:  Okay, how about when you guys were playing in one another’s basements—are we talkin’ like, hammering bricks and playing with xylophones? [laughs]

Dru Brett:  Yeah, something like that.  We used to bang on the kindergarten tables together, and the teacher would get us in trouble.

DJ Booth:  I wonder what she thinks now of what you guys have done. Maybe it was a good thing.

Dru Brett:  You wouldn’t believe it, I actually ran into her! 

DJ Booth:  Really?  What did she say?

Dru Brett:  Our third grade teacher, though, we were actually in third grade.  She couldn’t believe it, she was blown away.

DJ Booth:  She said, “My oh my, might you even have been further along in your careers had I let you bang on your desks?

Dru Brett:  Exactly.  She felt bad for punishing us, I’ll tell you that much.

DJ Booth:  To the benefit of her future students—maybe they’ll go on to become successful producers as well!

Dru Brett:  Absolutely.  I’m gonna have a talk with her class, actually, in the next month or so; we’re tryin’ to schedule something.

DJ Booth:  Both of your fathers are doctors, obviously they went the medicine route; has there ever been any resistance from your folks based on your career choice?

Dru Brett:  Speakin’ on me, yeah, definitely.  At first, my father definitely wanted me to lean towards medicine.  I was actually in Pre-Medicine at the University of Central Florida.  I finished all my classes, I had like a year left, and we were workin’ at the same time doin’ music.  He just really wanted the best for his son, at the end of the day.  But I proved we’d hit with “Hustlin’,” that was our first hit, and that was enough proof for him, and he believed in what I could do, and he gave me his love and support ever since then.  As far as Mayne goes, his family was always very supportive of the music.  They already knew what was about to happen.

DJ Booth:  How long was it in between when you told him, “This is the career choice I need to make for myself,” and when “Hustlin’” became the successful hit that it was, before he was like, “All right, maybe this is what they should go into?”

Dru Brett:  I would say a good two years—well, really I’ve been doin’ music since I was 16, so he was supportive enough to keep me busy, and he bought me equipment to make music as a hobby.  I’d say from the point I was really getting’ into it, it was three years, that we were makin’ music and I was in school at the same time, I was just juggling.  I actually negotiated [‘Hustlin’s publishing] from the school library.  No joke!

DJ Booth: [laughs] That leads me into the next question: how did the giant-exhale sound become The Runners’ signature production tag?

Dru Brett:  We pretty much discovered the sound [when] we were goin’ through some sounds.  And we always felt like, bein’ a producer, you needed to have an innovative sound, you needed to come fresh.  We always said our music was like a fresh breath of air, and we call ourselves “The Runners,” so it’s like a double-meaning.

DJ Booth:  Well, you mentioned it a second ago: arguably your biggest hit to date, of course your first, “Hustlin’” from Rick Ross.  So, Dru, detail the daily hustle of arguably the hottest production duo in the game.

Dru Brett:  The daily hustle pretty much is wake up in the morning, go to the gym, every day of the week we try to hit the gym up to stay healthy, and we hit the studio.  We’ve been in Miami workin’ the last six months.  Khaled’s got We The Best Studios, incredible studio, beautiful room—we’ve been in there every day, [after] the gym all the way till six o’ clock in the morning, then go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again.  [We’ve] worked with every artist from Wyclef—who we just got out of the studio with, we contributed a lot to his album—to Mario, to Usher, the list goes on.  This year’s been a great year for us.

DJ Booth:  Every interview I do, I seemingly try to pitch some sort of idea to whoever I’m on the phone with, and you just gave me the greatest idea.  You said every day you guys go to the gym, and your production name is “The Runners.”  Have you considered saving up and opening up a gym?  That makes sense, does it not?

Dru Brett:  Yeah, it does.  We’re The Runners, so we have to run every day; maybe we’ll have a “Runners Gym.”  We have a bunch of old cars, we said we were gonna have a Runners, Track-N-Field—that’s the name of our publishing [company]—car garage, a couple antique cars.

DJ Booth:  I’m telling you, the ways that you can spin your name are endless.

Dru Brett:  Yeah, I know—everybody’s runnin’ in all kinds of different ways.

DJ Booth: You’ve placed pop and R&B records, but the most successful work you’ve done has been in the hip-hop game.  Do you guys feel your production stylings appeal more to one genre over another?

Dru Brett:  No, we actually started off with a lot of R&B music; what happened was, our gateway into the music business was through urban music.  You know, after you make a big rap record, your demand in that specific genre goes up.  Then we delivered with “Go Getta,” we just hit ‘em consistently with records.  Almost two years ago, [Mayne and I decided], “We wanna get into R&B music.  We’ve always done it; we should be doing it right now. We’re so bogged down with urban music we [haven’t] had a chance to really work with anybody yet.”  We started flyin’ songwriters down out of our own pockets, we flew down Lateef, and then the first song we recorded with a songwriter was “Damage,” which ended up being a huge ballad [for Chris Brown].  This year, we’ve worked with tons of R&B [artists], I wanna say just as much R&B/pop music as we have urban.

DJ Booth:  Well, you’ve certainly dominated the urban landscape, but another landscape that you’re striving to dominate quite possibly is the rock landscape.  You’re gonna be working with Metro Station who’s famous for their single, “Shake.”  What is it like completely changing your ways in the studio?  So, whatever’s worked for you in the urban landscape, do you throw it out and just go rock?

Dru Brett:  Yeah, I don’t wanna take them too far away from what they’ve done—I want them to keep their core base.  Their music always had a little bit of synthesized drums to it, so it’s gonna be a good mesh for us.  I think really what I wanna do is give them a little bit of the Runners feel, and not take away from what we do so you can tell that it’s us, but still keep it authentic to what they do.

DJ Booth:  How difficult would you say it is to keep your style of music intact, but work a completely different genre?

Dru Brett:  I don’t think it’s gonna be difficult—the reason why I say that is, the entire time that we’ve been doin’ this music, we’ve been also practicing and working on our rock music, and working on different genres.  Even though nothing’s been released, we’ve got beats in our stacks that are total rock: live drums, live guitar, live bass, live everything.  We’ve been smart enough to always be sharpening up our skills in different genres, even though they haven’t been released yet.

DJ Booth:  Absolutely, one step closer to dominating the entire music industry.

Dru Brett:  And that is the goal, at the end of the day.

DJ Booth:  A wealth of talent has obviously benefited from the beats that you guys have created, but not every collaboration is helmed in a studio session with everybody present.  Name a few artists that you have supplied material to, whose work perfectly matched the vision that you had for your production.

Dru Brett:  Like, we sent it to them, basically?

DJ Booth:  Yeah, it was one of those Email/ProTools collaborations.

Dru Brett:  Even though we had worked with Jeezy [we didn’t work with him on] “Go Getta” with R. Kelly.  We had worked with him on other records before that, like the “Dreamin’” record we did with Keyshia.  “Go Getta,” we Emailed it over with the chorus on it.  And shout-out to Kevin Cossom—we sent it over with his vocals on it, and Jeezy just got it right away.

DJ Booth:  It’s interesting that you said that, because I spoke with Kevin a few months ago.  I asked him, “Was there ever a record where you laid your vocals down, and you thought to yourself, ‘Wow, I wish that I’d just got a placement on it?’” and he said that was the record where he felt like, although Kells did a great job with the hook-

Dru Brett:  K.C.‘s an amazing artist; he’s gonna be huge.  I can see where he would say that.  He’s incredible.  I believe he’s the new Usher.

DJ Booth:  Dru, the trendy move these days is for producers to become featured artists themselves, so should we expect to hear any records that are both produced by and featuring The Runners?

Dru Brett:  Yeah, absolutely.  Mayne and I are in discussions right now, we’re kinda just letting it creatively evolve naturally, but definitely we wanna do a Runners album.  It’s gonna be definitely different, it’s not gonna be Timbo’s route, it’s not gonna be the Neptunes’, it’s gonna be The Runners’ route.  Actually, a year ago, LA Reid, when we went to his office, he wanted to immediately do an album with us.  We met him at Puff’s party, he called a meeting with us and he said he had a vision for us, “Let’s do an album together.”  He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do, but that he would support it fully, which was over a year ago.  We weren’t quite ready yet, and we want to make sure we’re ready for that type of move and it makes sense for us, so it’s in the process of evolving.  But it’s definitely going to happen, one hundred percent.

DJ Booth:  Dru, the sentiment amongst a lot of members who comment at DJBooth.net for producers who also like to work as featured artists is that, although it’s great to work outside the proverbial box, there’s some sort of compromise where, if you don’t succeed as a featured artist, it might [tarnish] what you’ve done and what you could do in the future as a producer.  Is there that worry in the back of your mind?

Dru Brett:  You know, I’m not even gonna worry about it ahead of time, I’m just gonna go for it.  We only live one time, and it’s something that we definitely wanna do.  And if we do it, we’re gonna really try to make sure we do it right—I definitely don’t wanna live with [not trying], know what I mean?

DJ Booth:  I talked to fellow production duo Play N Skillz a few months ago, and, interestingly enough, last week they admitted that the work they did with Lil Wayne on his Carter III album, they’ve yet to be paid for, and that album dropped last June.  So, as a fellow producer, how does something like that happen?

Dru Brett:  I really can’t comment on their situation.  I don’t know what’s going on.  But sometimes, when it comes to getting paid in the music business, it takes a long time to get paid.  As far as producers getting’ their advances, I don’t know what the world thinks, [but] it’s not a quick thing; a bunch of people have to agree on a bunch of terms, a bunch of signatures have to be put on one piece of paper, and then a bunch of CEOs have to sign that piece of paper as well.  It takes six months to a year sometimes to get paid—[it’s taken] us two years to get paid for projects.  I never blame it on the artist, ever; there are all types of other things that fall into that.

DJ Booth:  While you’re waiting for these checks to arrive, though, is there any hesitation to continue to give out your beats, knowing that the compensation is still a long ways away?

Dru Brett:  Originally, its like “Hey, I want my money, man—what’s goin’ on?”  But, when you understand the game… and there’s [been] a big change in the music business: it used to be, you could be on these big albums and make enough money to survive, if you were just on the albums, but now there’s a gap.  You’re either making hits, and you’re making your money off your publishing and your charted records, or you’re not making hits, and you’re living in a small apartment.

DJ Booth:  So, what would you say is the disparity in the time that it takes to receive your hard-earned money for songs that simply get placed as album tracks, as opposed to songs that are selected as singles and pushed as [such]?

Dru Brett:  Definitely if it’s a single they want to push to get your checks faster, because they want the rights to use the record.  Because, until you sign that piece of paper, they don’t have the rights to use the record.  You could sue them.  So there’s three ways to do it: there’s producer declarations, [basically] a quick form, it’s not the full agreement, and you’re saying, “Hey, you have the right to use it now, we’re in the process of negotiating the long form agreement,” and you get half your money for a producer dec.  But the bad part about a producer dec is that you might sign and give them the rights to use your record, and then you get half your money up front, and then you have to sign the full agreement to get the rest of your money.  But once they have the rights, they’re not in a rush to get the full agreement done.  If you’re not doing producer dec, I’d say it takes six months, on average, to get your money.  My opinion.

DJ Booth:  Up to this point, have any of [your] business dealings at all soured the process [of making music]?

Dru Brett:  No, I don’t think so.  I think it’s moving smooth.

DJ Booth:  What do you have coming up in 2009 and beyond that everybody should look out for?

Dru Brett:  There’s definitely a lot coming.  First, I wanna give a shout-out to Wyclef; like I said, we heavily contributed to his album, we’ve got a huge record on there featuring Lil Wayne.  Fabulous single that just got released about two weeks ago, they just shot the video last week, it’s gettin’ crazy ads, it’s called “It’s My Time” [by] Jeremih.  Then we have, “Champion” was just released released like two days ago, which is the future Jazmine Sullivan, Rick Ross, and Ace Hood single; it sounds like it’s gonna be Ace’s biggest record, I believe, to date.  “Overtime” is out right now, with Ace on it.  We’ve got a huge Mario single—hard drums, big melody chords—comin’ out that we just finished mixing, we’re just about to release.  We worked with Jeezy, gave him some incredible records, worked with Ludacris, gave him some incredible records…

DJ Booth:  Well, you guys are obviously movin’ and shakin’.  Jeremih’s been on top of our charts, so everybody’s very familiar with him.  The Wyclef collaboration hit our front page several weeks ago, and everybody was extremely impressed with that record.

Dru Brett:  Appreciate it.

DJ Booth:  No problem.  Give everybody a website, a MySpace page, so they can find out more about what you guys have goin’ on.

Dru Brett:  You can always go to MySpace, it’s myspace.com/therunners.  If you want to hit us up directly, hit us up on our Twitter, @therunners.

DJ Booth:  Gotcha.  Well, listen.  Dru, on behalf of yourself and Mayne, who could not join us, I thank you guys so much for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth and I wish you nothing but the continued best of luck.

Dru Brett:  I appreciate the love, Z.  We appreciate you; you’re keepin’ the game going and keepin’ it busy and keepin’ the music hot, so we love y’all over there.

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