“I just told Richie we rich” —Gunna, “Rich Bitch” (2017)
Atlanta, Georgia producer Richie Souf admits he was nervous the first time he met distinguished Atlanta superstar Future. Their initial encounter wasn’t accidental. The Freebandz label head rang his phone after Patrick Fagan, Future’s former videographer, gave him Richie’s number.
“That night, Future told me how he wanted a new sound, and we locked in,” the 24-year-old beatsmith tells me in the studio.
Souf's introductory session with Future occurred after the release of What A Time To Be Alive, the artist's Earth-stopping 2015 collaborative mixtape with Canadian golden child Drake. Souf was riding high off the success of rapper MadeinTYO’s infectious single “I Want (Skr Skr),” and while placements with fellow Atlanta go-getters iLoveMakonnen, Two-9, and K-Camp quickly followed, none could reach the same level of acclaim as a record by a certain East Atlanta astronaut.
Richie Souf is sitting across from me in 5 Star Productions, a private Atlanta studio. Directly behind him is a computer monitor displaying the Apple Music page for SAVE ME, Future’s newly released seven-track EP. Fan-favorite “Please Tell Me,” their latest collaboration, is irresistible, a three-minute melodic boast with a captivating bounce. Although Souf doesn’t remember exactly when he made the beat (“It was one of 10 beats I made that day.”), he recalls the singer-rapper playing the record for him two months ago:
Yoh: Did you think “Please Tell Me” was the one?
Richie Souf: Future did. He said it. He fought for it to be on the project. I always feel like everything we have is the one.
Souf and Future's impressive catalog spans several projects. There's the Young Thug-featuring “All da Smoke” from 2017's Super Slimey; the 21 Savage-assisted “What’s Up With That,” the second track from 2018's SUPERFLY soundtrack; the Lil Wayne-aided “Oxy,” which appears on 2018's Future & Juice WRLD Present… WRLD ON DRUGS; back-to-back bangers “Faceshot” and “Ain’t Coming Back” on 2019's Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD.
All five records showcase the personality of Souf's melodic-trap style and the potency of his production. By searching for a new sound, Future found his secret weapon.
For Richie Souf, being signed to Future as a producer means being able to work with any artist he wants—without Future's approval. “That’s been my family forever,” Souf says. “Me personally, I’m going to give him my best stuff, but not because I’m obligated to.”
When the Atlanta producer began his career, creating a high volume of beats wasn't a part of his work ethic. Since joining forces with Future, though, Souf has found a creative groove. Needless to say, things have changed.
“I used to tell myself to make at least one beat a day, just to sharpen the knife. I was chill. When things started going fast, I had to go faster. I had to. People needed beats, and I didn’t have beats. Future would text me, ‘I need a pack,’ and I wouldn’t have enough beats. I can’t tell him I don’t have [enough beats]. So I had to make [more].” —Richie Souf
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A beat pack provides options. If rappers like Gunna, Young Thug, and Playboi Carti have the resources and the fast, hard-working nature to make five-to-10 songs in one overnight session, being able to present a variety of canvases is more convenient than starting from scratch time after time. Trap music ushers in the age of speed and surplus.
When asked about working with 300 Entertainment's Gunna, a frequent collaborator, Souf replies, “He works fast. It’s like working with Future. You just pull up, put on a beat, and he’ll just go. I had the sound he was looking for. That’s how we made 'Top Off' and 'King Kong.'”
Making a bounty of music without knowing which beats will make what albums, or worse, relegated to loosie status, is discouraging for most producers—but not Richie Souf. “It’s fun not knowing. You just take a shot in the dark,” he admits without a gripe. “I can always just keep making more. There's more opportunities; another chance for something to be something.”
A Zen-like calm surrounds Richie Souf. During our time together, he repeatedly mentions creating and producing with humbleness. The desire for platinum plaques and GRAMMYs isn’t what is driving him—it’s the process. Since making his first beat in middle school over 10 years ago, Souf has yet to experience a severe creative block. When asked how to avoid such a common creative trap, he replies with a mantra Nike would endorse.
“I just don’t think too hard about it. I just do. Stop thinking about what you’re making and just make it is what I tell people a lot. I feel like you get a block because you’re thinking too much about it. If I don’t like a beat, the next day I will. It’s just time, bro. You have to love what you do and be patient with what you’re doing.” —Richie Souf
Rarely does a producer’s journey begin with a high profile placement. There is the occasional wunderkind who catches lightning in a bottle early, but that wasn’t the case for Richie Souf, whose interest in becoming a producer began with Craig Brewer's 2005 film Hustle & Flow.
A family friend provided Souf with the opportunity to foster that seed, randomly providing the aspiring beatmaker with a cracked version of Fruity Loops. “My beats sounded slow and scary at first,” he confesses. “Not slow like R&B, slow like the overall tempo. Real dark and ominous stuff. That was before I realized you could recreate some shit. It wasn’t very good.”
Souf uploaded his earliest beats to Soundclick underneath a different pseudonym. Then, in 2013, he decided it was time for a rebrand:
“I was pretty big on Soundclick, but I was comparing myself to a Southside, or a Metro, or a Mike Will. I would look at what they were doing, and they obviously weren’t selling beats on Soundclick. So I changed my name, took down [my profile] and started making more beats. But instead of being at home and emailing the beats, I would reach out to rappers, and pull up to sessions. It started with smaller sessions, like at house studios in the hood. It just progressed as I networked and grew into real studios.” —Richie Souf
Part of Richie Souf's full-on rebrand includes meticulously sharing photos of his face hidden behind his long, blonde hair. Before receiving a link to his Instagram account, my little brother dubbed Souf as “the man with no face.”
“It just makes people more curious,” he says, regarding his appearance, laughing. “It’s a fun new aspect to being a producer that nobody knows.”
Although people aren't familiar with his face, Souf is confident they'll remember his sound, especially with new music on the way from Playboi Carti, Gunna, Young Thug, and of course, Future.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Souf, aka @Yoh31