Sometimes you make a beat in an Airbnb and over a year later it’s on a No. 1 album by one of rap’s forthcoming kings. Or, sometimes you make a beat for another hip-hop and R&B icon, and it also ends up on that very same No. 1 album. This is the story of 27-year-old producer Sevn Thomas, who produced both “WAKE UP” and “HOUSTONFORNICATION” on Travis Scott’s massive and hazy opus ASTROWORLD.
The story of Sevn Thomas is one of hard work and serendipity. “Originally, ‘WAKE UP’ was intended to be on My Dear Melancholy,,” he reveals. “I had sent that to The Weeknd probably the same week I sent ‘HOUSTONFORNICATION’ to Travis. He sent a text back: ‘Yo, recording to this right away.’ He was very excited about it. That was also sitting there for over a year.”
Though “WAKE UP” never made it on The Weeknd’s EP, and though this was an initial letdown, Thomas now sees the situation as a blessing in disguise. While Sevn patiently waited to find out if he was on the final cut of ASTROWORLD, he was also hard at work with fellow producer and damn near brother Rex Kudo. The duo produced “Run & Hide” off Nicki Minaj’s fourth studio LP, Queen.
“Rex is like my family,” Sevn explains. “We’ve been friends for four, five years now. He was one of the first people I stayed with when I started going back to LA… Rex was one of the first people I linked up with. Rex allowed me to stay in his studio. I used to sleep in Rex’s booth on an air mattress. That’s how far back we go.”
Their chemistry led to one of the more memorable beats on Queen and the continual rise of Sevn Thomas’ name in the music industry. “Now, people been calling it Sevn Season, so I’m just takin’ it and running with it,” he says.
And as for advice to upcoming producers? Simple: “Consistency is key and always know that someone’s listening.”
DJBooth’s full interview with Sevn Thomas, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: First of all, congratulations on all of these major placements. How does it feel to be you right now?
Sevn Thomas: Man, it’s a blessing. Things like this, it takes a while for it to set in you and for you to realize what’s fully going on and what it’s becoming. I’m definitely feeling excited and blessed, and I just wanna keep the momentum going.
Having worked with Travis Scott before, how did the ASTROWORLD sessions differ?
It’s funny because I’ve never actually worked with Travis in person before. With the power of technology, you can send stuff and it’s like you guys can tap into the same wavelength musically. The stuff that I sent obviously resonated with him and it made perfect sense within the body of the album. Everyone, so far, has been telling me that my contributions have been their favorite on the album. It’s crazy that you don’t actually need to be in the room.
When did you find out you were on the album?
To be honest, I sent “HOUSTONFORNICATION” like over a year ago. Literally, the day after I sent it, I knew that the intent was for it to be on the album. I’ve been waiting to see what happened and it made the final cut, because usually when you get in on an album that early, it’s very… Chances are you might get cut from the album.
Was it difficult to wait?
That’s a part of the game: the waiting game in this industry. As a producer, nothing’s really promised until you’re signing that paperwork.
Do you ever wish there was a better way for producers to get some security?
Yeah, of course, but I understand the process. It’s the process of elimination: sometimes you have a bulk of stuff and you just want to make the most concise project possible. You want everything to be cohesive and make sense, but I do wish I could get… I wish there was some sort of form you could sign to let you know that you’re guaranteed on the album. But I respect the process.
So starting with “WAKE UP,” how did the work shake down between you, Frank Dukes, and Wallis Lane?
Originally, “WAKE UP” was intended to be on My Dear Melancholy,. I had sent that to The Weeknd probably the same week I sent “HOUSTONFORNICATION” to Travis. He sent a text back: “Yo, recording to this right away.” He was very excited about it. That was also sitting there for over a year. What happened was, for Melancholy, they wanted some reproduction. Originally, Wallis sent me a sample and I did my thing to it and chopped it up and then I got it to a tempo and a pace and did my thing to it. What happened was Frank repurposed the melodies and added a bridge to it, and that’s how it got on ASTROWORLD.
Did Weeknd just end up passing?
No, he didn’t. Basically, it was supposed to be on My Dear Melancholy,, but like I said before: it’s the process of elimination. I understand how projects work and it just didn’t fit with the body of Melancholy, so I completely understood it. Thankfully Frank came into the picture and repurposed it, and it made perfect sense for Travis to have it. That was a blessing in disguise because originally I was disappointed because I’m a huge Abel fan.
What about “HOUSTONFORNICATION"? How did that shake down?
Same thing: sending a text message and hearing something back. A lot of time, people don’t hear anything back. Luckily for us, people really fuck with the sound. You hear that there’s a record cut, and all you can do is wait. Whenever I make my best stuff, I feel like I make it by myself. I literally made that in an Airbnb in a living room while my friends were passed out on the floor.
Is that the weirdest place you’ve made a beat?
Nah, that’s normal [laughs]. I’ve made beats on a plane before. I’ve made beats in car rides. Wherever you can cook up, you just cook up. It could go down anywhere, any time.
Have you always been like that or did you have to train yourself?
You don’t really have to force it because if you have to force it… I would never recommend anybody force anything musically. It’s really all about the vibe and it’s about the feeling. Music and making beats is a form of expression and you wanna convey your expression in the most genuine way possible. If I hear something in my head or there’s a beat playing in my mind, I can always pull out my laptop and start drawing it in. It’s never a thing where I have to overthink. I have a rule: within the first 20 minutes, if it’s not coming together I just move on.
How did you link up with Nicki Minaj for Queen?
Same thing [laughs] just sending stuff through text. That’s a privilege, though, to be able to be in direct contact with people. It’s not gonna work for everyone, but it works for me.
On “Run & Hide,” you’re working with Rex Kudo. What’s the relationship there?
Rex is like my family. We’ve been friends for four, five years now. He was one of the first people I stayed with when I started going back to LA. I used to go to LA when I was a kid; I used to sing, growing up. As a producer, I started going back out to LA when I was 22. I’m 27 now. Rex was one of the first people I linked up with. Rex allowed me to stay in his studio. I used to sleep in Rex’s booth on an air mattress. That’s how far back we go. He always showed me love and I always appreciated him. Me and Rex, we have the same sleep pattern. We’d be up making beats all night. We got a brother-type dynamic.
In terms of all-time, where do these placements rank for you?
Travis is one of my favorite artists ever. It probably sounds crazy to say, but I’ll be able to look 10 years from now and say the same thing. I feel like his catalog has been one of my favorites to unravel and just listen to. I’ve always been a fan of the sonics, so working with Travis is always top-ranked for me.
Nicki is a blessing as well, because she’s an icon. I always tell people that, along my career, I’ve been blessed and highly favored because I’ve been able to work with Drake, Kanye, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Abel, Travis, and the list continues.
Any new, life-changing phone calls yet?
You know what, not necessarily, but I’ve been pushing to be the face of my work a bit more. People are familiar with the name, especially within the industry. I haven’t necessarily been the face of my work, so the more I put my face out there, the more people will reach out. I’ve been such a laid-back type figure. I’ve never really been the type to be up too much and force the issue. Now, people been calling it Sevn Season, so I’m just takin’ it and running with it.
Best advice for an aspiring producer who can’t imagine themselves reaching this level, but has the hunger?
I gotta big up my bro Boi-1da. He also helped me with the accessibility because he’s such a prominent figure. He’s on his 10th year of being on a consistent run. I will say, just keep working hard and the right person will hear you and want to help you out. There’s a lot of stories in this industry where, by the slightest chance, someone has gotten their breakthrough. Consistency is key and always know that someone’s listening.