Jahlil Beats has one of the most recognizable producer tags in the game, but you don’t need to hear his niece’s voice to know it’s a Jahlil beat. With an unmistakable sound that revs up your heart rate and leaves bruises on your body, the Roc Nation representative has spent the better part of the decade cooking up scorching street anthems for the likes of Meek Mill, Jeezy, Rick Ross, French Montana, Juelz Santana and Boogie.
Jahlil’s biggest record, however, was completely unexpected. The face-melting beat from Bobby Shmurda’s breakout hit "Hot N*gga" was made for Meek Mill and later given to Lloyd Banks, who released a version called “Jackpot” in 2012. Already a fan of Jahlil’s work, the young Brooklyn rapper jacked the beat two years later and subsequently jump-started his astonishing—albeit short-lived—success. The song not only changed Bobby’s life but Jahlil’s too.
Speaking over the phone from his native Chester, PA, where he recently opened a $2 million sneaker store in an effort to revitalize his hometown, Jahlil Beats discusses his history and chemistry with Meek Mill, unreleased records with Bobby Shmurda, J. Cole and Nas, and upcoming collaborations with Anderson .Paak and The Roots.
Here are the stories behind five of Jahlil Beats’ biggest songs.
Meek Mill — “I’ma Boss” ft. Rick Ross (2011)
“The record was initially for Jeezy. I was doing it for Jeezy’s TM:103 album. I just wanted to make an anthem. I drew inspiration from dudes like Bangladesh, like how he did ‘A Milli.’ Then I was watching Rocky IV and that had me pumped. That’s how the brass horns and the little synth came about, kinda like an ‘80s-type wave. I just wanted it to sound big, to make something memorable and classic.
“I was actually in my apartment [when I made the beat]. My wife—she was my girlfriend at the time—she was in the other room. I had just broke my laptop and she let me use her Toshiba laptop, I made it on there. The next day I played it for Meek Mill, and the rest is history. Funny story: my little brother is The Beat Bully, who did the [‘Dreams and Nightmares’] intro for Meek. I went to his session and he was just supposed to play records. I had that one beat on my hard drive and I didn’t want to play it for him. But then when I played it, [Meek] was like, ‘Yo, I’m doing this right now.’
“Before Meek signed with him, [Rick Ross] was on Meek’s Mr. Philadelphia mixtape, he hopped on the remix to a record called ‘Rozay Red,’ and we just built a rapport ever since then. When we did [‘I’ma Boss’], me and Meek were talking and were like, ‘Yo, we should get Ross on this joint. This is the perfect joint for Ross.’ He sent it to Ross and Ross sent it right back, like a couple days later. That’s when Meek knew who he needed to sign with.
“It was JAY-Z’s favorite record. After it dropped, I was in a bidding war with like five labels. Meek had just signed with Maybach Music and I was just seeing how it would all unfold. The record was killing the clubs and killing the streets. Jay ended up reaching out and that song got me a deal at Roc Nation. [When I met him], he was like, ‘Don’t let this be the last toast.’ I’m actually trying to get him on my album; I got a record with French Montana, Dave East, Nas and I’m trying to get Jay on it.
“[I met Meek] through MySpace. Meek was actually working with my cousin, he’s a producer. Meek had done a mixtape called Flamers 1 and he was the hottest thing in the streets in Philly. I reached out to him on MySpace and was like, ‘Yo, the tape is crazy.’ He messaged me back like, ‘Yo, send me some beats.’ So I sent him three beats: one was called ‘Hottest In the City,’ and that ended up being the name of his next mixtape, Flamers 2: Hottest In the City. The other was this record called ‘So Fly,’ that was my first song ever on the radio, around 2008, 2009. Then it was a record called ‘Way Back.’ They all made the tape.
“[Meek] went to jail for about six to eight months. He would call me and be like, ‘Yo, when I get out, we gon’ get in the studio and work heavy.’ When he got out, he kept his promise. We just worked every day, from 12 to 12. It was crazy. That’s how we built it up."
Meek Mill — "Burn" ft. Big Sean (2012)
“It was actually Big Sean’s record first ’cause at the time, I was working with Big Sean, No I.D. and J. Cole, we was all in the same room. Meek was down the street working at the Boom Boom Room in Burbank. So initially it was Big Sean’s record, but then Meek ended up snatching it—I mean, it was too hot in the streets. It was all love, though.
“That session was crazy, man. I actually brought Cole to meet Meek that night. We were finishing up the record ‘Amen’ with Drake, and Cole came through and chilled it with us. I had a deal on the table with No I.D., it was a song deal. But at that time, around 2012, I was working with so many people that I didn’t really have the time to do [the deal]. But I did a record with Cole that I’m trying to put it out for my album on Warner—I did a joint venture deal with Warner for my label. It’s a record with Meek Mill, Big Sean and J. Cole. It’s nuts.
“That record was the same type of feel [as ‘I’ma Boss’]. I wanted that same energy but slowed down. There’s brass horns on there. I drew inspiration off that and this record I did with Meek Mill and Jim Jones called ‘Gasoline.’ I sampled the old NFL Films with the bell. I kinda recreated it but tried to get away with it so people would think it’s the exact same thing. That beat was so hard I felt like I needed to put it on a bigger stage.
“A lot of people don’t know that Kanye co-produced that record. He did some things on there. I don’t think he got credit for it, though. Big Sean wanted it to sound a little bigger I guess. The brass wasn’t full enough so he was like, ‘I’ma have Ye do some co-production on there.’ And that’s how it came about. I don’t even think [Kanye] was in the States at the time. I think he was working on his album in Hawaii or some shit. I was happy because Kanye is one of my favorite producers ever. It was an honor for him to even touch my beat.
“With me and Meek, it just clicks. He already knows what I’m coming to deliver, he already knows what he wants, and I already knows what he wants. It’s like DMX and Swizz [Beatz]; once you build that sound up, a lot of time that shit happens organically and then we just run with it. I mean, we went through several stages of sounds. When we first started, we were making East Coast bounce music, like party music. Then it transitioned to ‘I’ma Boss’ and ‘Amen’ and ‘Burn.’ We’ve got a lot of different sounds.”
Bobby Shmurda — “Hot N*gga” (2014)
“That beat was actually for Meek Mill as well. At the time, he had so much of that type of music, so I sent it to Lloyd Banks. He put the record out and never really did nothing with it. Nowadays, it’s like rappers put your record out and if it pops off, then they do the business side. So he put it out and I was like, ‘Aight, cool.’ I really fucked with the record.
“I put the instrumental out on one of my Crack Music instrumental tapes. Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel, they were big fans of me and Meek and they would do a lot of my beats. He ended up doing the record and…it just blew up, man. The crazy thing about it is, I found out last. I didn’t know who he was at all. I saw people tagging me in it, in the video where he’s throwing the hat up and all that. And then my cousin sent me a tweet from Kevin Durant where he’s talking about it. That was when I knew it was big.
“I found [Bobby] on Instagram and I reached out to him. He was like, ‘Listen man, I’m just trying to get out of the streets. Can you give me your blessing?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Rock out with it.’ Sha Money XL reached out to me as well and was like, ‘I’m about to sign this kid, let me know what’s up.’ Sha Money cut me a nice check for that record and the ‘Shmoney Dance’ record.
“We got about five records that we had worked on before [Bobby] got locked up. His success was very short. He got locked up like a month after that record really blew up, so we didn’t get enough time to work together. Me and Rowdy Rebel did a lot of music together, though. We was working heavy. He’s on my album, too.
“[‘Time Ticking’] was actually supposed to be for Puff's MMM album. We did that at Puff’s studio. I was working on it and had Bobby and Rowdy come through and they did the hook. We didn’t meet the deadline for the album, so I kept the record for myself and sent it to Dave East and Juelz. This is like a year before the song actually dropped. Juelz sat on it, but when he heard Dave’s verse on it, he was like, ‘Yo, I want to use that record.’ They dropped the song together I guess. I know it was tearing up the radio out in New York.
“I wrote Bobby and I talked to Rowdy in the last three or four months. They in good spirits, man. They did a lot of time served so they should be out very soon. They’re not in there getting in trouble and all that so they good. I’ma try to talk them into doing an album, like a Bobby Shmurda-Jahlil Beats album and a Rowdy Rebel-Jahlil Beats album.
“I think ['Hot N*gga'] turned me into a household name, honestly. I had several records on Billboard and stuff like that, but I never looked at myself as a radio or a commercial producer; I always try to keep my stuff underground. But when I saw Drake come out to [‘Hot N*gga’] at the ESPYs and Beyoncé come out and do the Shmoney Dance at a concert, that’s when I knew it was crazy. It changed my life, man. It bought me a house, bought me some cars [laughs]."
Boogie — “Oh My” (2015)
“Congrats to Boogie, he just got a deal with Shady Records. [‘Oh My’] was kinda like his breakthrough record. I’m just blessed to be a part of that. You know what’s crazy, though? That record was for Jeezy. If you listen to it, you’ll understand. That was a trap record I was trying to do for Jeezy the whole time. The drop on there is so crazy, I wanted to make it like a movie.
“What happened was, me and Skrillex got the same booking agency—AM Only—and we deal with the same people. We connected in the studio through one of my homies—he’s at Atlantic Records right now—and I played him the record. He went back out to Cali and gave the record to Boogie. [Ed. Note: Boogie is managed by Clayton Blaha, co-founder of Skrillex’s OWSLA label.]
“I wasn’t familiar with Boogie before but when I met him, I was like, ‘Yo, this dude could be the next Kendrick Lamar.’ His lyrics are dope, he’s really from the hood and he’s got a great ear for beats. He came to the studio, vibed out to some joints and then went back out to Cali and did the record. The rest is history."
Vic Mensa & Skrillex — “No Chill” (2015)
Co-produced by Skrillex
“I was at Coachella a couple years ago and, like I said, me and Skrillex got the same booking agency so they had me come out to watch Skrillex’s show. I ended up missing the show but I ran into him and we chopped it up. He let me know how he was a fan of ‘Hot N*gga’ and all that. I was still out there in Palm Springs and he hit me up like, ‘Yo, I’m here in LA working on Justin Bieber’s album. You wanna come out and work?’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ I got a rental car and drove three hours to LA to get in the studio with this guy.
“We worked on like five joints. ['No Chill'] was actually the last record that we did. He loved it so much he was like, ‘Yo, I got Vic Mensa coming through, would it be cool to get him on the joint?’ I’m like, ‘Hell yeah it’d be cool to get Vic Mensa on this.’ That’s how it came about, man. He just wanted something epic. He wanted me to do me, with the trap drums and all that, and he threw some crazy arpeggiators in there. I did some brass hits on there, too. I love that joint. It’s always a crazy reaction on my DJ sets when I play that record.
“I’m slowly going into the EDM direction without trying to compromise my sound. I’m definitely working with Skrillex and Steve Aoki. We’re actually doing business together, my first artist has a joint venture with Steve Aoki. Right now I’m just trying to make my brand bigger, watching what these guys like Metro Boomin are doing. I’m very inspired by these dudes.
“That world don’t give me a limit. Sometimes when you do hip-hop music and street music, you have limits. Some artists are like, ‘Alright, you’re going too far.’ Certain type of drops and buildups in EDM are crazy, man. I was really excited about ‘No Chill’ and also [Meek Mill’s] ‘Tony Story 3’ and [Rick Ross’] ‘Crocodile Python’ because I just wanted to show everybody my versatility, that I can do a lot of different things and that I got a crazy range.”
On upcoming collaborations: “I just did Anderson .Paak’s new single. It’s a different vibe, too. It’s a hard record. He’s going to shock y’all. I got about three or four on his album.
“Look out for me on The Roots' album. It’s like that ‘Crocodile Python’-type vibe. Look out for more shit from me and Meek. Me and Meek ain’t really been in the studio together ’cause I got a deal with Warner so I’ve been trying to break my artists. He’s on my album, though. He got like three joints on there.
“I’m working with this new kid who’s crazy called Casanova. He’s from Brooklyn. We really on a sense about doing a project together. I got his next single, too.”