Beat Break is presented by Kali Audio, a manufacturer of affordable, high-quality studio monitors starting at just $149.
Before he was making beats for some of rap's reigning stars, South Carolina native Supah Mario was mopping floors for a living. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but imagine your reaction if you found out your janitor produced Young Thug’s "2 Cups Stuffed." Like another blue-collar dreamer from the Carolinas, however, Supah Mario cared more about winning than looking good losing.
“I really came from nothing—from a state that doesn’t have a musical background or an entertainment industry, from one of the smallest towns in my state that literally looks like it’s still in slavery days,” the 29-year-old producer says over the phone from his current home in Atlanta, where he used to make regular trips to hustle beats. “For me to be able to reach the platform that I’ve reached up until this point is a miracle.”
The platform he's referring to stands tall and slim, built on sonically diverse collaborations with Young Thug (“Wyclef Jean"), Lil Uzi Vert (“Mood”), 2 Chainz (“Diamonds Talkin Back”), and Big K.R.I.T. (“Mixed Messages"). The name that has really elevated his status, however, is Drake, who siphoned Mario's vibrant, vigorous sound on his two most recent record-breaking releases, More Life (“Ice Melts”) and Scorpion (“Blue Tint”).
“I InstaMessaged Drake like, ‘Yo bro, thank you for allowing me to be on this project, blah-blah-blah,’" Mario remembers after More Life dropped. "I didn’t think he was even going to reply, but he got a chance to hear my story about me being a janitor. He was like, ‘Bro, I fuck with your vibe. Let’s do some more work. You can send me beats anytime. Here’s my number.’ I was just blown away.”
Now a full-time producer with a direct line to Drake and a crop of promising collaborations on the way (Lil Uzi Vert, Big K.R.I.T., IDK, and a Bun B/Young Dolph/Maxo Kream record that, by the grace of the Southern rap gods, will see the light of day), Supah Mario is looking good winning.
Here are the stories behind five of Supah Mario’s five biggest songs.
Young Thug — “Thief in the Night” ft. Trouble (2015)
“I was still living in South Carolina at the time. I started by playing the piano, just throwing notes together. I really don’t know how to play the piano so I was just experimenting until something sounded decent. Honestly, bro, that’s how most of these beats get made. [Laughs] It took me about 30 minutes to get a good piano going. Once I had the piano down, I went into Nexus and I found some synth notes and plucks to add behind the piano. Then I just threw some drums together. The beat kinda made itself, to be honest.
“[Thug] got the beat through [producer] C4. I was putting together this beat for Thug and I sent it to C4. I was like, ‘I don’t care what you say, I feel like this is a hit!’ [C4] was like, ‘I do too! I’ma try my best to play it for him.’ So when he got in the studio with Thug, I think that was one of the first beats he played. Thug wasn’t feeling it at first but I guess C4 kinda gave him some direction on the song. C4 is actually closer to Trouble than he is to Thug; I think the song was originally supposed to be for Trouble.
“It was so crazy to me, bro. I knew that Thug had used it, I just didn’t know he was going to put it out. So when he did, it was surreal. That was the second beat that I did for him [after ‘2 Cups Stuffed’]. I knew instantly when I heard it, that was going to be the standout song on that project.
“Yeah, I’ve met Thug. It took a while but after ‘Thief in the Night,’ that’s when I met him. He was pretty quiet. He didn’t know me so he didn’t really have much to say. But regardless, he was a cool dude.”
Jeezy — “Sweet Life” ft. Janelle Monáe (2015)
Co-produced by C4
“I have a friend name Kyle back home. I would get him to play guitar sounds that I could take home and build around. He played this weird ass guitar riff. I really liked it, I took it home and I reversed it. Then I played the bass on it.
“That beat took me a couple days to make ’cause I wasn’t sure what I wanted the drums to sound like. But I knew that I wanted to have more of a pop feel to it. Originally, I was planning on giving it somebody like Demi Lovato, if I was able to get in touch with her. [Laughs] But obviously that was far-fetched. I ended up giving the beat to C4 in the same pack that I gave him ‘Thief in the Night.’ That one just got sat on for a little bit longer.
“So I gave C4 the beat, he rearranged it and added stuff to it. He gave it to another guy who was working on Jeezy’s project, Propane. Propane said that Jeezy immediately was like, ‘Yo, this has to go on Church in These Streets.’ I’m not sure how Janelle Monáe ended up on it but I’m glad she did!
“Honestly, bro, I was a little bit disappointed because I wasn’t happy with the mix. I feel like I could’ve added more to the beat, and for that to be my first album placement, I feel like it should have been more of a standout. But regardless, I was just happy to be on the album.”
Young Thug — “Wyclef Jean” (2016)
“That was the same guitar player who did the guitar for the Jeezy and Janelle Monáe song. I got him to play some Jamaican vibes because I just wanted to try something new. That Caribbean style was popping at the time and I was like, ‘Let’s take it a step further and actually do real reggae.’
“I played the chords on the keyboard for him and then he played them on the guitar. That beat probably took me 30 minutes to make, bro. I figured the guitar, a bass guitar, and some drums was good enough, and then I just happened to run across a sample I had bought from S1 [the producer behind Kanye West's "POWER"] that had the African singing in it. I pitched that down, tweaked it a little bit to make it the right semi-tones, and that became the bridge of the song.
Freddie Gibbs, Saweetie & Earl Sweatshirt: Best of the Week
Freddie Gibbs, Saweetie, and Earl Sweatshirt, among others, had the best new songs on Audiomack this week.
“I dunno, man, Thug is crazy with it. He found a way to harmonize with that [bridge]. I think that’s probably the part of the song that stood out to him the most. Honestly, when I made the beat, I didn’t plan on sending it to anybody but him.
“I was on Instagram when I found out [Thug jumped on the beat]. I saw a promo for JEFFERY and I heard the beat in the background. I think TM88 may have sent me a video of him in the studio and that song playing, but I hadn’t fully heard the song until the actual album dropped. So I didn’t really get a chance to hear it until I was on Instagram.
“Of course I saw the video! [Laughs] The guy who put that together, he’s a genius.”
Drake — “Ice Melts” ft. Young Thug (2017)
Co-produced by S1
“So I was at one of my friend’s house whose parents live in Atlanta. They got a super huge house, horses and all kinds of shit. He invited me to stay there and work on music. S1 called me and sent me a sample, similar to ‘Wyclef Jean.’ He was like, ‘Yo bro, I got another reggae vibe for us.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is "Wyclef" 2.0!’ So I threw some quick drums on there, did a bassline similar to ‘Wyclef.’ I literally did the same pattern as far as the structure of the song.
“Luckily, Geoff [Ogunlesi], who is one of Thug’s A&Rs, called me and was like, ‘Yo, you got any new beats?’ I was like, ‘Bro, I’m literally working on one right now, it sounds like ‘Wyclef.’ He was like, ‘Cool! We need more reggae vibes. Send ‘em.’
“Thug happened to be on tour with Drake at the time. I was already, in my mind, brewing up a scheme to give beats to Drake. That’s my favorite artist, period. I was like, ‘Someway or another, I’ma get in with Drake. And if I gotta do it through Thug, then fine.’ [Laughs]
“So I sent the beat over and I had a feeling they’d like it. This dude called me back like 30 minutes after I sent it and was like, ‘We’re ready to pay for this beat right now.’ That’s the first time anybody, before they even finished recording, knew they were going to buy the beat and use it. Me and S1 agreed on a price, we hit them back and they were like, ‘Cool. We’re gonna send over the paperwork.’
“Prior to that, somebody else called me, they were in London with Thug and Drake and they were like, ‘Bro, I just heard a crazy track that has Drake and Thug on your beat.’ In the background, I could literally hear my beat—the same one I had just sent—and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ It was originally supposed to go on Thug’s next project but it ended up going on More Life.
“When [More Life] came out, Billboard reached out to do an article and I was like, ‘Okay cool!’ When it came out, I sent it to Noel [Cadastre], Drake’s engineer, who was the only connection that I had at OVO. Maybe a few hours later, I posted the article on Instagram and Drake liked it. So I hit Noel back like, ‘Yo, Drake just liked that shit!’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I just sent it to him!’
“I InstaMessaged Drake like, ‘Yo bro, thank you for allowing me to be on this project, blah blah blah.’ I didn’t think he was even going to reply, but he got a chance to hear my story about me being a janitor. He was like, ‘Bro, I fuck with your vibe. Let’s do some more work. You can send me beats anytime. Here’s my number.’ I was just blown away.”
Drake — “Blue Tint” (2018)
“I think it was more of a personal, spiritual thing for me making this beat. When I made it, I was in kind of a bad place: I felt like nothing was going right, like I might have made a bad decision moving to Atlanta, trying to juggle spending time with my child. I think that was a real moment for me, because if you can balance being a father with being a producer, maybe blessings will come. That beat was the physical manifestation of all of those thoughts.
“It was just me and my daughter at the house. She was watching cartoons, just hanging out, and I had been going through all these guitar samples. I found those !llmind guitars, bro, and that was it. I was like, ‘I don’t know what this gon’ sound like, but I gotta use this.’ Ricky Racks [the producer behind Young Thug's "Best Friend"] had sent me a pack of drums, too, so I was just experimenting with all these new sounds.
“The guitar came first, obviously. Drums came second, that didn’t take long at all. I’m a drummer by nature so I’m always ready to go on drums. The pitching of the samples, that was the hardest part. I had to really take a few hours just to focus on making sure everything was set well and it blended well.
“Once I finished the beat, I had no intention of sending that to Drake at first. I was actually getting ready to put in a pack for Big K.R.I.T. Then, all of a sudden, I see Drake working with this BlocBoy [JB] kid. I was already listening to him, soaking up his vibe so I could send him a pack. Those drums that Ricky Racks gave me, they were perfect for his sound.
“The beat came out super dope. I already knew it was a hit. It just needed the right person on it. Drake had hit me on Instagram like, ‘Yo, hit me with some new beats, I’ma go record tonight.’ So I just grabbed that one with a bunch of other stuff and threw it in a pack. [Laughs] And I had no idea that he was going to pick that.
“I think [Future] did have a verse. I think they took it off. I think originally it was a full song with him and Drake. I don’t think it was supposed to go on Scorpion, but I literally was begging Drake. I was like, ‘Bro, I know we got songs but can you please put me on this album. You don’t know much this is gonna change my career.’
“Let me explain this carefully ’cause this means a lot to me: I wanted to go from being the producer who shows up on random projects here and there to being a sought-after producer. And being on this album and having one of the standout songs has allowed me to be where I’m at now. I used to be mad ’cause I wasn’t on these up-and-coming lists and people weren’t checking for me.
"But since then, I’m getting hit up by magazines, getting hit up by you guys, I got more big songs coming out. It’s put me in peoples’ minds a little bit more and I’m so grateful.”