StreetRunner has been sprinkling speaker-knocking sample chops into street rap for the last decade-and-a-half. The Miami native, who scored his first Billboard Hot 100 hit in 2004 with Terror Squad’s “Take Me Home,” calls Fat Joe the most important introduction of his career, yet it’s Lil Wayne’s legendary run during the mid to late ’00s that he’s most synonymous with.
In addition to Tha Carter III cuts (if you copped the deluxe edition or an original pressing) like “Gossip” and “Playing With Fire,” StreetRunner was behind some of Weezy’s best leaks from this period—a number of which have since been mixed, mastered and re-released by the man himself. “There was just undeniable chemistry,” he says. “He always understood my beats.”
Between Rick Ross’ “Lamborghini Doors,” Fat Joe’s “So Excited” and Meek Mill’s Wins & Losses LP, on which he produced three records, StreetRunner is still doing laps in 2017. “Times are changing, the artists are changing, the style of music is changing, so I just try to ride that new wave,” he says.
For the latest installment of Beat Break, we chopped it up with StreetRunner about meeting Fat Joe in the club, turning a 1830s symphony into a 2 Chainz song, and witnessing Lil Wayne’s GRAMMY-winning peak first person.
Terror Squad — “Take Me Home” ft. Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Dre & Armageddon (2004)
“This particular track, I remember finding the actual vinyl of the record I sampled in this old record store called Blue Note North Miami Beach back around ’03, ’04. They actually let me into their warehouse that was jam-packed with records—from good records to shit records [laughs]. Me and my man was upstairs digging and I found that particular record in a random ass crate. I think it was dumb cheap, like a dollar, and I just snatched it.
“The next day I was going through the records that I caught from that dig on the turntable. All of a sudden, that part came on and I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ At that point, I was heavy on Dipset, Cam, Juelz. I think Cam already dropped Come Home With Me and I was like, ‘Yo, this shit is a vibe right here. This is right up their alley.’ So I kinda made it with them in mind, I’m not even going to lie.
“I did the whole beat on an MPC 2000, a real OG set up. I had a turntable and a DJ mixer plugged into an MPC 2000XL. I chopped up all the parts with the verse, which is the chick riffing. The ‘Let me take you home’ part, I caught that piece that I liked and then I think I might have slightly switched the sample, a very light switch. I did some 808s, some drums—everything was done on the MPC 2000XL. My beats were real simple back then.
“I was putting together beats that I would shop to people and I put that track on a beat CD. My manager at the time, he knew Cool from Cool and Dre so he was able to introduce me to Cool. He was like, ‘Yo, come back Saturday, we’ll listen to your tracks.’ We made that move and ‘Take Me Home’ happened to be on that particular CD. He was really fucking with it, he was feeling it.
“I wanna say within two weeks to a month, [Cool] was like, ‘Yo, something big’s going to happen with this song. Make sure StreetRunner does not get rid of this beat.’ In December or January, my mans Mike [Beck] hit me up and was like, ‘Yo, you want to meet Fat Joe? He’s fucking with your track. Come to the club right now and I’ll introduce you.’ That was probably the most important introduction of my career.
“Basically, Mike introduced me to Fat Joe on the spot and he was like, ‘This is the man who produced "Take Me Home" for you.' And Joe really didn’t know; Cool and Dre handed him the track and I don’t think he really cared, he just wanted a hot beat [laughs]. After the introduction with Joe, I met [DJ] Khaled that same night and he invited me to his studio the next day. The rest is history, man.
“It was super dope to have a single [that cracked the Billboard charts] but I was kinda in the shadows when it came to the credits. People really didn’t know that I produced it. StreetRunner was buzzing in the streets ’cause I was doing mixtape stuff with different guys in New York, but I wasn’t buzzing in the mainstream. All the magazines were crediting Cool and Dre. It got to a point where I was like, ‘Yo, what the hell? Nobody’s showing me love on this.’
"Luckily, I didn’t get too frustrated by it and just kept grinding.”
Lil Wayne — “Gossip” (2007)
“First of all, probably one of the most incredible samples ever: Margie Joseph’s ‘Stop In the Name of Love.’ I’ve sampled it a good three to four times myself. I basically took small pieces that nobody’s really messed with before. If you have the vinyl of that song, the interlude before the actual ‘Stop In the Name of Love’ is where I got all the talking skits from. There was a little sample issue there because I only cleared Margie Joseph’s ‘Stop In the Name of Love’ and didn’t realize [the interlude and the song] are two separate pieces of work. They sound like one song on the album.
“I basically chopped that up on the MPC 2000XL. I remember real hectic, small, two-second chops that I fired up. I think I split it up between four to eight pads and then I would blaze that sound through the track, through the verse. You can’t really hear it as good on the mixed version ’cause, I’ll be honest with you, that song wasn’t really mixed the way the original two-track was. If you listen to the BET Awards version, Wayne used my two-track. It’s just got a very high-energy sound to it. The mix kinda lost that.
“I used some brass keys that I actually sampled into the 2000XL. Heart monitor, kicks, drums, snares, tom rolls, 808s; my typical MPC beat during that era [laughs].
“Back then, when I would work with Wayne, he would hear the beat and work his lyrics into what the sample is telling him to do. For example, ‘Let’s Talk It Over,’ ‘1 Night Only,’ ‘Trouble,’ ‘Do It Again’—all of these beats had samples and he knew, ‘Alright, StreetRunner came with the beat and the topic.’ Exactly how the [‘Gossip’] beat is, is exactly how I gave it to him. He was able to twist up the concept I had with the sample and make it into a song about what he means to hip-hop. That’s why that record was so crazy.
I was like, ‘Yo, thank God "Gossip" hasn’t leaked yet. That song is fire.’ And they were like, ‘"Gossip"? What are you talking about?’
“The songs that I talked about—‘Trouble,’ ‘1 Night Only’—those all leaked. Those were Carter III contenders. Like, they were on Tha Carter III tracklisting at one point. But the ‘Gossip’ record never leaked and I couldn’t understand why. I think it was September or November of ’07, I was in the studio with Mack Maine, Tez [Bryant] and Gee Roberson. I was like, ‘Yo, thank God "Gossip" hasn’t leaked yet. That song is fire.’ And they were like, ‘"Gossip"? What are you talking about?’
“Luckily, the engineer was there and he had Wayne’s hard drive. When he was going through it, we realized that ‘Gossip’ was never bounced. You know how the artist would take a bounce of the copy? That song was recorded in December ’06 and forgotten about. Literally, the engineer even said, ‘No wonder it hasn’t leaked; the session hasn’t been opened since December 2006.’ He literally had to open the original session up for Tez, Gee and Mack Maine to hear it.
“That right there sparked the whole flame for like, ‘Yo, this is going to be huge. We’re going to mix this, master this and Wayne’s going to perform it at the BET Awards.’ He did it, and that December it dropped on The Leak EP, and it was later attached to the deluxe edition of Tha Carter III. Someone got to make some moves, man, without getting leaked! [Laughs] I was losing so much music to those damn leaks. It was hot music, too!
“I think at one point, [‘Gossip’] was considered the lead-off street single for [Tha Carter III]. The thing is, between Cash Money, Tez and Universal, they all knew they had a monster in Wayne and they knew that this whole project was a monster. They never knew exactly the right way to approach it, though. It ended up going off fine, but they would constantly change their mind. Like, the tracklisting for the album would change every week. Eventually, they were like, ‘Yo, let’s just throw a bunch more songs with this and call it an EP.’ It didn’t bother me; I wanted something actually out there that was real content, as opposed to just being on a mixtape.
“The [BET Awards performance] was amazing because people look back and probably don’t even realize this, but everybody who’s standing there watching it live in the audience, that’s the first time they’re hearing that song. It wasn’t like Wayne leaked it the week before; it was an exclusive. You’ll see people standing up in the audience like, ‘What the fuck is happening right now?!’ Not for nothing, Wayne ripped that shit down. I’m at the crib watching it on BET and I’m like, ‘Yo, this shit is fucking epic!’ Just watching certain peoples’ faces and shit [laughs].
“As a producer, that was probably the best time to work with Wayne. He was really in his bag with his rhymes and was into very dope beats. There wasn’t a lot of people in the studio with him at that time either. You’d go check Wayne and it’d be him and the engineer, and maybe like one of his homies like Mack Maine. Tha Carter I and Tha Carter II Wayne was dope as fuck, but the ultra fame and success wasn’t there yet. Going into Tha Carter III, he was still trying to craft his sound and kill shit. It was very dope to be able to witness that.”
Lil Wayne — “Playing With Fire” ft. Betty Wright (2008)
“For this one, I had a piano idea. There was a vocal that I used but I found out that the sample wasn’t clearable, so we took a writer and we had him that come up with lyrics that could work. And then Betty Wright re-sang the lyrics and gave it that soulful, haunting feel that makes the record. My mans Infamous, he played the piano on there. There were live guitars, too. I did the drums, the tom rolls, all the arrangements. That was all MPC 2000XL. It was little more of a production for me back then, as opposed to just being on the drum machine and sampling something.
“I think this was after ‘Gossip’ and I was just trying to compete with that. I gave it to Wayne and he didn’t hesitate to record to it. He actually did a song to the original sample version. The original had a sample, but I had to get rid of it—that’s when I had to do the extra stuff with Betty and Infamous.
“[‘Playing With Fire’] made [Tha Carter III] the day of mastering. It was that song plus two others that made it. It was Wayne’s call. If you actually bought a physical copy, the credits for those three songs are behind the CD, like when you lift it up. They couldn’t make it into the booklet because it was already pressed. I don’t even think those three songs are listed on the back credits until a couple presses later. After the first million sold, they repressed it so it actually said the titles of the three songs on the back of the album.
“And just like that, it got removed [laughs]. It was a gift and a curse. It didn’t get removed until 2.3 million copies were sold. 2.3 million lucky CDs out there have it. If you go buy that album today, it’s gone. Eventually, that shit’s going to be something very rare because it’s not even allowed digitally on iTunes. They’re trying to erase that from the history book [laughs]. Whatever format that exists in, it might be good to keep it around.
“[The GRAMMY win] was super dope. I was actually at the GRAMMY awards with Mack Maine when Wayne won that. I honestly thought that he was going to win Album of the Year, but when he took home the Rap Album of the Year, it was all good. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right there, to be able to witness all that and then to see the growth from there—where Wayne has gone since then, and even Mack Maine and all these guys. I think Drake was up in the cut and now he’s a mega superstar.
“There was just undeniable chemistry [between me and Wayne]. He always understood my beats. Lyrically, I always knew he was super dope and he was always trying to prove that he was super dope. I always did—and still do—the same thing with my beats, and it just worked.
2 Chainz — “Yuck!” ft. Lil Wayne (2012)
Co-produced by Matthew Burnett
“This is one of those super dope samples. It’s from an orchestra written, like, 170 years ago. If anybody knows about copyrights, after 100 years, I guess the copyrights can no longer be held by one person. It was pretty much free game. I was like, ‘Yo, I can sample this, flip it and not have to worry about clearance or publishing?!’
“This is actually some ill shit: I took the sample and I made these intricate-ass chops on the MPC 2000XL. At that time, I linked up with this guy Matthew Burnett, he’s from Canada, very successful producer. Once I laid down the idea of the drums with the crazy sample flip that I did, I basically sent it to [Matthew] and was like, ‘I need the most real-sounding orchestra you can do on top of this.’ Yo, he nailed it. He had the exact sounds that I needed. Whenever you hear the strings come in that are real epic-sounding, that’s him playing those keys. All the drums, the 808s, the drum switch ups, the crazy chopped sample, that’s the stuff I did. The ‘Yuck, daddy!’ part is actually 2 Chainz’ daughter.
“They added the extra build for the intro once he recorded on it; that’s how he wanted the intro to go. Basically, they moved the keys up into the front. But what’s super dope is, pretty much how I had it mixed is how they rocked with the mixdown. That’s one track right there that, to this day, I still have no complaints with the mixdown.
“2 Chainz started getting super hot around that time, he had a mixtape out in November  or something. I’ve known 2 Chainz for a long-ass time so I was like, ‘Oh shit, he’s getting it cracking! Let me send him some shit.’ I didn’t know that he was in full-on album mode for Based on a T.R.U. Story. Next thing I know, it’s on the album and I’m like, ‘Cool.’ I didn’t know the album was going to be—was it GRAMMY-nominated? It was Gold, then it went Platinum. [‘Yuck!’] by itself, I think it sold 275,000 copies—and that’s a fucking intro. The video to that song is probably one of the dopest videos ever shot for one of my productions, too.”
Eminem — “Bad Guy” (2013)
“By this point, I was working on Pro Tools. That’s probably one of my most simple productions ever, like the way it came together, the way the mix came out—it’s raw but simple.
“I caught a sample, I got the vocals from the sample riffing the way I wanted it to. My boy Vinny Venditto played maybe four sets of strings and sounds that I needed on top of the sample. Then I put a drum break to it—the Lou Donaldson drum break—and looped it kinda weird. I definitely didn’t put it on-time and on-beat, I wanted it to be loose. But when I looped up the drum break, it just worked. It’s very rare that you find one drum break instead of going through hundreds to find the perfect drum break. I think I backed it up with the kick. When it was all said and done, I think the beat had about 12 sounds total.
“Everybody kept asking me, ‘Yo, how do you have the strings sounding like that? They sound so real.’ It’s all Pro Tools, man. Of course, I EQ shit and stereo shit and use all these plug-ins. I come from samples; I know what a sample should sound like, and I know how to make keys sound as authentic to a sample as possible. I even know how certain things are panned to make a track sound even more like a sample. Between the drum break and the vocal riff in the background, those things help add texture and give it that authentic feel.
“I finished the track relatively quickly. I put it in the order that I wanted it to be in—intro, verse, hook, another verse and an outro, which I don’t think even made it onto the song—but yo, as soon as I finished the track, I sent it to Eminem’s people right away. I was like, ‘Yo, this is the one.’ It was the only beat in the email. I was like, ‘If I’m going to get on an Eminem album, this is the fucking beat right here.’
“Maybe two weeks later I got the call: ‘Yo, hold this down.’ I started handling the details with the sample info and all that good stuff. Then I come to find out S1 produced the first half and that’s my homie. Then when Eminem did the world tour for that album, my portion of ‘Bad Guy’ was the opening song to the set, so he would rip that shit down in front of 90,000, 100,000 people in the arena, so that shit was hard. I actually saw a couple videos of it, it was super dope.
“Between [The Marshall Mathers LP 2], Tha Carter III and Tha Carter IV, those are three albums that I’ve been on that have sold a million in a week [Ed. Note: MMLP2 and Tha Carter IV sold 792,000 and 964,000 copies first week. Still, not bad.] Two of those three won GRAMMYs, though all three were GRAMMY-nominated. It’s always dope to be a part of such a legacy, especially with Eminem. He’s not only the top-selling rapper of all time, but he’s up there as one of the top-selling ARTISTS of all time. In probably another 10, 20 years, Eminem and Wayne are going to be the equivalent of our Guns N' Roses and Metallica [laughs]. So to be able to say I worked with both of those artists is super fucking dope.”