Lil Wayne’s “Mahogany” was a sleeper hit on his 13th studio album, Funeral, released this past January. As I scrolled through the thread celebrating its release on the HipHopHeads subreddit earlier this year, a comment from user stuck out to me: “I produced Mahogany with Mannie Fresh. The two-hour wait from the Youtube leak to it dropping officially was excruciating.”
Following my journalistic instincts, I immediately reached out to the user via Reddit DM. After a few days of waiting with no response, I gave up on the story. Fast forward to July; I randomly opened Reddit and noticed I had a new DM. It was from the user. He was still interested in an interview.
“I’m also like a pretty successful solo artist who just signed a deal with Columbia Records,” the user wrote.
I was intrigued all over again; who is this kid? The answer is Sarcastic Sounds, the 20-year-old Toronto-based producer born Jeremy Fedryk. As he explains to me on the phone, his stage name came from a short-lived career as a type beat producer.
“I used to put out type beats on the internet when I was 14, 15, and my name was Sarcastic Asshole on YouTube,” Fedryk says. “Once I started to sell beats, I knew I couldn’t use that as my name, so I changed it to ‘Sounds’ on the fly.”
The type beat chapter of Fedryk’s career preceded both his work on “Mahogany,” and the solo sound Sarcastic Sounds has become known for today. After becoming interested in lo-fi beats after discovering them on Instagram in 2017, Fedryk quickly developed a knack for flipping samples, which birthed early songs like “Jealousy” and “I Can’t Help.” Before he knew it, Fedryk had racked up millions of plays across YouTube and Spotify.
All the disparate parts of Sarcastic Sounds’ career feed into each other. His lo-fi flips gained traction separately from his work on “Mahogany,” which came about when he entered a beat battle in 2018 and played his original work for Mannie Fresh and his entourage. Landing a placement on a Lil Wayne album was an unexpected confidence booster, pushing him to take things seriously.
“I treat music more like a job [now] than I did before,” Sarcastic Sounds confesses. “I understand more about what goes into being a career producer now than I did a few years ago. I’m just trying to set more goals for myself, so I can make it a career.”
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What was your first experience with music growing up?
Sarcastic Sounds: My dad is an amateur piano player, so music has always been in my life. He got me and my brother started on music lessons early, so I started taking guitar lessons when I was six. I did that for a year or two and started up again, but it never clicked with me. I played drums throughout middle school and high school in a jazz band and things like that.
What was the first rap song you remember hearing?
It was “Got Money” by Lil Wayne, ironically. My brother showed me [the video for] it and some Eminem videos. I thought it was cool that Wayne had a shirt that said “He Raps,” and T-Pain had a shirt that said “He Sangs.” I must’ve been about eight years old.
Talk to me about being approached to produce Lil Wayne’s “Mahogany.”
That was the career moment for me. I’d always seen myself as a hip-hop producer first and foremost, and making beats for rappers I loved was the end goal. The funny thing is this happened completely separate from my whole lo-fi thing. I could’ve had no records out, and “Mahogany” still would’ve happened.
I used to do beat battles when I was younger. There’s a big one in Toronto called Battle of The Beat Makers I had been doing for a few years at this point. The last one I did was when I was 18, and one of the judges was Mannie Fresh. I played the “Mahogany” beat onstage during the battle, and [afterward], someone he was with approached me and said Mannie wanted to meet up. We met up the next day in Toronto and chopped it up for a little bit. A couple of months later, he flew me out to his place in Houston, and [we] made music there for a week. It was a few other producers and me. It was crazy to be with one of the most legendary hip-hop producers ever just eating breakfast [laughs].
After I left, I didn’t hear from him for about eight months. Right before [Lil Wayne’s Funeral] dropped, one of Mannie’s representatives hit me up and said Wayne selected the beat. I tend not to believe stuff until I’ve heard the music. I didn’t hear anything until the album dropped, and I assumed I didn’t make the cut. Then, an hour before it dropped, I got a call and was told my beat made the album.
What was your first reaction when you heard the finished song?
I first heard the song an hour before the album came out because it leaked on YouTube, and I couldn’t believe it. I heard the lighter flick at the beginning, and it was the most insane shit ever. I was jumping up and down and talking to myself and saying it out loud.
I heard the record at the same time as everybody else. It was a completely surreal feeling, and it was the most amazing thing ever.
Your solo sound exists at the intersection of rap, emo, and pop. What inspired this direction—and how did you land there?
About three years ago, I had come across an Instagram video of somebody who had put together a bunch of SpongeBob clips and put a lo-fi song on top of it to make a sad edit of it. I thought it was the coolest shit ever. The song was “Wake Up” by an artist called Moow. I fell in love with that and started digging into that sound. It wasn’t too technically demanding, and it was amazing. A year or two later, I was digging for samples, and I put out my first lo-fi song. The song got more of a response than anything else I’d done, so I knew that was the direction I should head in.
What drew you to lo-fi music? Its definition is hotly contested among different rap circles, so it means different things to different people.
When people think of lo-fi, they usually think of the jazzy beats to study to. I always found that to be a bit boring and felt that anyone could do that. That’s just how I felt as a listener. I thought it was more interesting to add the vocals and give it a more melancholy kind of vibe. Most people I talk to in my circles embrace the term, but it absolutely means a lot of different things, depending on who you talk to. Even in that article you included my song in; those songs are entirely different, even spanning across genres. [Lo-fi is] not one uniform thing.
You cultivated a sizable following through your remixes and flips. You now have over two million monthly listeners on Spotify.
It was a gradual process. I never woke up one day thinking, ‘Wow, I cultivated this fanbase.’ It’s not a crazy feeling to me outside of being super grateful to be in this position. It’s cool to see people connect with my music, but it doesn’t register as a thing that’s happened if that makes sense. Once you get past a certain number, your brain just can’t comprehend that many streams or that many people. My first 10,000 streams felt way more surreal than my first million streams. You just hit a point where the novelty wears off, and it’s important to check yourself.
Talk to me about your deal with Columbia Records. When did they approach you?
I got linked up with Columbia through collaborating with Powfu. Rob Ronaldson, who runs an imprint through Sony UK, hit me up after hearing [our] song. He had shown my music to Imran Majid—who is co-head of A&R at Columbia. I was gonna put my songs out on my own, and Imran told me we could work out a deal. It all happened through Powfu, to be honest.
I started getting introduced to people in the industry a month or two after “Mahogany” happened, but it was all completely unrelated to that. These two separate things happened at the same time within my career, and it was super weird. But the way it happened was perfect.
What would you say is the difference between Sarcastic Sounds in 2018 and Sarcastic Sounds in 2020?
First and foremost, the way I make music is completely different. All the songs I make with vocals feature me singing, and my vocals are pitch-shifted. I was completely sample-based before, which comes with its own challenges and is an uphill battle, especially independent. I’m doing everything from scratch now. As far as my day-to-day goes, I treat music more like a job [now] than I did before. In 2018, I was in high school and then university, so now I do it full-time. I’m just trying to set more goals for myself, so I can make it a career.