Originally appeared on STATUS Magazine, January 2019
After years of a steady climb to the top, Canadian producer MURDA BEATZ, the man behind Drake’s number one hit “Nice for What”, is ready to take his rightful place on the hip-hop throne.
Back in the mid-2000s, in the town of Fort Erie, Canada, a high school kid who went by the name of Shane Lindstrom was transitioning from Travis Barker’s rock drum patterns to hip-hop and pop’s famed 808 drum machine. He wasn’t bored with the traditional drum outfit; he was merely looking for ways to elevate his skill—a telltale sign of what was about to come for him. “I started [out] playing drums, so [producing] was the exact same thing but better because there was more to do and it was on a computer,” he says. “I could make drum beats and I could add melodies and do a bunch of stuff. It was fun and I find it fascinating.” With an impressively exhausting work ethic and an undying desire to make a name for himself, Shane’s creative mind gave birth to one of today’s most sought-after producers in the rap game: Murda Beatz.
Like most self-taught producers starting from the ground up, Murda kept himself locked in a room, mastering techniques and finding his own sound. Apart from the initial lack of connections, his upbringing in Fort Erie—a town with a population of only 30,000—didn’t exactly give him the musical environment others were blessed to thrive in. “There is [no music scene],” he admits with a laugh. “There were always a couple of people—one of the producers I signed, Smokescreen—he was in a band called Ruins of Eary. They were like a big metal band. They were touring in Ontario and every year at the Friendship Festival, bands would come perform at the festival; Canal Days in Park Oven; at zoos they would have cover bands and AC/DC [music] play. That was it, really nothing crazy.” Instead, it was his family that helped create his relationship with music and he credits genres of complete opposites as the support that shaped his sound as we know it. “I first fell in love with music through my family. I’m from a musically-inclined family on my dad’s side. My dad played guitar and [was] into heavy rock music, and that’s where I got my inspiration to find my career path in music.” When asked about his all-time favorite pieces of musical work, he lists, “50 Cent’s The Massacre, all of Biggie and Pac, and then maybe Rubba Band Business by Juicy J and Lex Luger… Flockaveli, all old Gucci Mane, Migos’ No Label, all of that stuff.”
After countless hours of practicing, creating, and tweeting at the staff of rappers to make connections, Murda packed his bags and left his safe space for Chicago to work with Chief Keef’s rap group GBE. “When Chicago was starting to pop, there was a guy [called] D Ganes that was making all their videos. I was on YouTube and I’d just look around look for like, a permanent artist on his YouTube page.” He adds, “From there, I found two of Chief Keef’s boys from Twitter and then started building relationships with them and sending them beats.” This collaboration sparked the beginning of a long-term musical partnership with a hip-hop trio we know today as Migos. With the release of the group’s No Label 2—a mixtape with four Murda Beatz-produced tracks—the producer tag “Murda on the beat, so it’s not nice,” began to grab the attention of other artists in the game.
Although the work with Chief Keef and Migos gained popularity, it wasn’t enough to sustain him; Murda continued to sell his beats online in order to survive. By the time he welcomed his manager Cory Litwin on board in September 2014, however, the producer decided to take the jump from an internet beatmaker to a professional one, stopping all sales and in turn, stopping the irregular flow of income. “If this is what you want to do, you will make it happen. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and there are no excuses, it’s just you versus you,” he advises. “You’re your own enemy at the end of the day. You have to know what you’re getting yourself into and you have to sacrifice a lot.” And his sacrifices eventually paid off—he became a Grammy-nominated producer in 2017, his track “FEFE” with Nicki Minaj and 6ix9ine went double platinum, and he landed his first number one with Drake’s “Nice for What”.
Nothing much about Murda has changed since his well-deserved rise to the top. Maybe just more bling and designer clothes, but he still spends hours and hours on end perfecting his craft and finding ways to create something new of quality. He stepped out of his studio for a day to chat with us about his creative process, what he’s learnt in the last decade, and keeping himself in shape as a producer.
You’ve worked with a number of creative artists like Travis Scott, Drake, and G-Eazy to name a few. Do you have a tried and tested formula that you use with all your collaborations or does it differ depending on the artist?
Mine differentiates. I always push the boundaries and recreate my sound; I’m always trying to just push the envelope. This year, some of my big records were “FEFE”, “Nice for What”, “Motorsport”, and a couple of other ones, but all my records don’t sound the exact same. I’m always trying to push my sound and change up every time I get in the studio with an artist. With some certain artists that I have chemistry with, there are some ABC formulas that I can just go to, and I know that they will love that.
As a self-taught producer, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your journey so far?
Make sure your Fruity Limiter on FL Studio is off. Use the internet to network, just remember everything is a tool—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud, Tumblr—whatever you want to use, it’s all tools to get to people, to contact, and network. Your network is your net worth.
Despite your work with the crew and Migos, you and your manager Cory Litwin really struggled to get by. During those tough times, how did you keep your head above water?
Just staying positive, really tapping into my spiritual side and keeping God first. Always make sure to go to bed positive so I wake up with a good outcome.
How did you feel when you landed your first number one with Drake’s “Nice For What”? Did you expect the single to be that popular?
Yeah actually, when we made the record we knew it was going to be a big record, like a number one. I feel like I had that expectation going to it, and I’m pretty sure when it dropped it was a five week cycle. I still debuted number one but yeah, I don’t know, I’m never satisfied. When we got the news when it was number one, it was like, what’s next? That’s just how I am.
You’re known for your relentless work ethic even before you were landing chart-toppers. What practices do you personally follow in order to stay on top of your game while remaining innovative?
You just have to stay on yourself, you have to show discipline in your work. Stay down until you come up and keep grinding. I wanted this real bad and I didn’t want anything else, so I had to get it.
As we enter 2019, what does Murda Beatz have in store for us?
Big singles, game-changing music, maybe some acting, more merch, big tours, piping up the gang, all the producers working with me, showcase some artists, debut the label, and drop an album. Just keep God first.
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Raul Singson
Styled by Shaojun Chen
Groomed by Sara Robey
Shot on location in Calabasas, Los Angeles