Meet Montell2099, a New Zealand Producer Bridging Brain-Melting Beats & 21 Savage

"It’s been a crazy ride, but I think this collaboration with 21 Savage is definitively my biggest accomplishment so far."
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"It’s been a crazy ride, but I think this collaboration with 21 Savage is definitively my biggest accomplishment so far."

Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Auckland?

Earlier this year, rising electronic beatmaker Montell2099, a native of Katikati, a rural town on New Zealand's North Island, connected with Atlanta rapper 21 Savage in a Los Angeles recording studio.

The distance from Auckland, New Zealand to Atlanta, Georgia is approximately 8,098 miles, but thanks to Red Bull Sound Select, two artists living an entire world apart were able to create a record together without the benefit of an internet connection.

The end result of that studio session is "Hunnid On The Drop," a standalone single from the Red Bull Sound Select series, which was released this past Friday (June 30). 

Over Montell2099's mixture of warped drum programming and a haunting melody, 21 Savage delivers redolent verses that should have fans of his work excited for the forthcoming release of his major label debut, ISSA, on Friday, July 7.

While New Zealand isn't exactly known as a hip-hop hot spot, thanks to co-signs from respected producers like Mr. Carmack, Sango and several members of Soulection, Montell2099 might soon have something to say about that.

To find out exactly how he plans to go about making a name for both himself and his backyard stateside, we spoke with the 21-year-old, born Montell Pinny, about his work with 21 Savage, the biggest moment of his career and Drake's influence on his production.

How did you hook up with 21 Savage for "Hunnid On The Drop"?

It was pretty much a domino effect where one thing led to another. For about a year-and-a-half I’d been playing shows and working with the people at Red Bull Sound Select and then the opportunity came up to work with 21. We heard back from him and his team that they were keen to link up. I got flown out to LA for a session with him at a low-key studio and we made ‘Hunnid on the Drop.’ It came together really quickly and organically.

What was it like working with him?

It was super dope, I come from a bedroom producer background so it was quite a new thing for me linking up with somebody in a studio environment and trying to make a tune together. I was just showing him a couple ideas I had, and the one he liked was something I had made the day before my flight to LA. It was bare, but it had space for him to lay his vocals down which was the main thing. I added some more parts when I got back to New Zealand, and the track was finished. It was cool seeing how he worked, and how fast he got things done.

Based on his music, what was your impression of 21 Savage prior to working with him? 

I didn't know what to expect really, all I knew is that we were gonna link and make some music [laughs]. He was real chill, though. His manager's cool as hell, too.

What about after you finished the record?

After the session finished they invited us out to their show in New York at Playstation Theater and brought us backstage. It was crazy for me. Meek Mill came through and Metro Boomin was there. It was cool being amongst that, and that he invited us to come through.

New Zealand isn't exactly a mecca for burgeoning hip-hop talent—both emcees or producers. What's the scene like in Auckland?

I think because we're so isolated it seems like there’s nothing happening here from the outside. There’s actually a lot of talent coming up at the moment, and I think it will only get better. It’s such a small community here and we're all supportive of each other even if we're in different lanes. There’s always mutual respect.

While growing up in Katikati, New Zealand, whose production work caught your ear?

I was listening to a lot of Drake’s early stuff so the producers he was messing with like 40, Boi-1da and T-Minus were big influences. The real melancholic stuff was what I gravitated towards the most. I used to love the outros that 40 would do when he’d filter everything down and have a lead or vocals take the wheel. It gave me the idea of creating a ‘feeling’ with the music rather than just making a beat.

You've been producing for the past six years now. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

It’s been a crazy ride, but I think this collaboration with 21 Savage is definitively my biggest accomplishment so far. The Lorde "Green Light" remix was a cool opportunity, I always wanted to work with her because she’s from New Zealand. Also, meeting and working with my favorite producer, Mr. Carmack, was dope as well.

Aside from your RBSS collaboration with 21 Savage, what are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my first EP, which I’m planning on getting out before the year finishes. I’ve also done some sessions with people I look up to that I’m hoping can see the light of day very soon.