Supah Mario Details the Making of Drake’s “What’s Next”

Shirley Ju Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up…
Supah Mario
Photo Credit: Supah Mario

We caught up with producer Supah Mario who talked about producing for Drake, the importance of producer tags, and why he likes working with up-and-coming artists.

If you’re not familiar with the name Supah Mario you haven’t been paying attention. The South Carolina native has a producer credit on Drake’s newest EP, Scary Hours 2. The first record on the three-track EP is the energetic “What’s Next, which Supah Mario produced with additional support from Maneesh from the OVO camp. 

Supah Mario, real DeMario Prieste, was elated to see his song was the first track on Scary Hours 2. The veteran producer has previously collaborated with Drake in the past, on “Ice Melts,” off More Life, and “Blue Tint” off Scorpion (the latter of which got Mario a Grammy nomination). But his biggest accolade to date? His work with Young Thug, who more or less jumpstarted his career in the producer world. (You can find Supah Mario beats on Thug’s 2013 1017 Thug Mixtape.)

We caught up with Supah Mario to discuss how the “What’s Next” beat landed with Drake, their working relationship, Drake not keeping his producer tag on the song, and more.

“What’s Next” leaked the week prior, what happened? 

As far as I know, they went and started pulling it from every streaming platform or every leak platform they could find it on. Shit worked out for the best. A lot of that shit happens and it gives us an opportunity to gauge how people are going to take the track. We get a chance to really get a feel for how this shit’s going to go once it’s on the streaming platform.

[I’m just happy] they made my shit first. Even if people don’t fuck with it, they’re kind of forced to listen to it. [laughs] You at least got to click play on that bitch.

It’s a banger. 

Man, I know. People think I’m annoying because I’m so… I sleep on myself to a degree. Man, I never know. Songs that I really fuck with, shit that I want to get placements, shit that I want artists to rap to or sing to, doesn’t get noticed. The songs they like are songs that I’d never have expected them to fuck with. 

Like “Silly Watch” by [Lil] Uzi [Vert]. “That Way” is one of my favorite beats, certain people said, “Bruh, that’s not it.” It still did great but every now and then, you get the hecklers. You get internet trolls, all that bullshit.

The actual beat for “What’s Next,” was it part of a beat pack you sent Drake? 

Yeah, I sent beats straight to his phone. I used to send them to the email but once I got connected, I started sending shit to his phone. 

How do you pick which beats to send? 

I don’t pick. Every time I send a beat, I send that shit to him first and he’ll pick. He’ll say, “this, this and this,” or he’ll mark the ones he fucks with. He’ll use the exclamation points on the text message, then the rest get sent wherever. That’s a real down-to-earth dude, way more down-to-earth than I would’ve ever expected.

How so?

Literally, at 5 AM, he’ll say “send me the files to this.” I’ll send them then I’ll try to go back to sleep, he’ll start texting me and talking to me. Bro, it’s 5 AM. This man has time to talk to me about music right now, shit blows my mind.

What does he say?

Mostly music production, what he wants shit to sound like. Every now and then, I’ll have my conversation about how fucked up the game is. I’ll try to get my advice from him, on some big brother type shit. Don’t get me twisted, it’s not like we’re super close. I do feel he does go out of his way to tell me some stuff.

What advice does he say?

He tells me to stick to my sound and don’t think too hard. That’s really the main advice that I got from him.

Break down the beat for “What’s Next.” I know the whole beat is yours, with additional drums from Maneesh?

If you listen close, he did those sounds that’s in the background. He did the chants, he added some sprinkles over it. I don’t know what to really call it, so I’ma call it the sprinkles. Maneesh has worked with Drake in the past, I think he’s a Toronto native as well. He’s very close to the OVO camp, he’s actually a really dope producer. He didn’t want to go too crazy because he wanted it to still sound like my beat. He didn’t want to change it up too much, but they took a few sounds out.

What was the original beat?

The original one was structured differently, it had a few more sounds in it. It took a couple of things, reversed them and switched them around, but it still came out to be a dope song. ‘Cause we’ll make beats and we’ll send beats in the way we think they should rap on ‘em, it may have an entirely different plan for the song. It’s really good to be in the room with an artist so you can build it together. It can get done right then and there, you don’t have to keep going back and forth. Obviously, COVID[-19] won’t allow for that type of shit right now. I sent what I’ve made and let them do their thing. Once I did my part, I left it up to them.

What was your initial reaction when you heard the actual record?

So I heard the leak and I’m not a real big fan of listening to music until it’s mastered. I liked it, but I’m listening for different things than other people are. Once I heard the official version, bro, this is way better than the leak. This shit sounds so much better now that it’s mastered. From a producer’s perspective, I’m sure people can understand that.

What was better about it?

It was clearer, his voice stood out a little bit more. Everything gelled together a little bit better. To be honest, there wasn’t much changes to it, aside from the volume and the sound in the clarity. I was happy to see it came out more than anything.

What is it about your beats that Drake keeps fucking with you? 

I’ma be honest, I have no idea. I don’t even know how I keep getting this damn lucky. [laughs] I don’t know how this shit keeps happening. I thank God and continue to keep working, hopefully we’ll get another one.

How does it compare to your previous records?

It’s top three out of five of my favorite records. 

What songs are in the other top five?

[Young Thug and Trouble’s] “Thief in the Night” has always been one of my favorite placements, one of my favorite beats that I ever made. “Blue Tint,” “Thief in the Night,” “Jumped Out The Window” by [Young’] Thug, and this one. And a song that’s not even a real song, it’s a remix I did for Carti. It’s on SoundCloud, I did this remix with “Cake.” Man, I spent three days working on that beat, that’s one of my favorite beats. That beat goes hard as hell, that’s shit hard as fuck. 

I know Thug played an integral part in your career. What is your relationship with him now?

I haven’t seen Thug or anybody from YSL in three or four years. I live right here in Atlanta but I don’t get out much. I was supposed to go to the studio with T-Shyne last night. He’s finishing his album and we gotta do some finishing touches on the song I have with him. Because of this release then I ended up getting drunk, I didn’t go. 

Talk about your relationship with Lil Uzi as well. He shouted you out on his IG Live. 

Oh yeah, he did do that. I forgot about that. Man, I’ve never met Uzi. A lot of people I work with I’ve never met. I stay at home, I don’t be out like that. He gave me his number and we talked a while back, I used to send him a lot of beats. I think he probably blocked me after a while ‘cause I used to send so many beats.

Are you serious? 

I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. But anyway, that’s still the homie. We still working right now, I send beats every time. Him and Drake are people I make specific beats for. I’ll take a few days to only work on beats for them. The relationship is still there, but there’s no connection on a personal level right now. I’m sending beats, and I’m cool with that. As long as I get the work in, that’s cool.

How does it differ from beats you make Uzi compared to Drake?

I use a whole different set of sounds when I’m working with Uzi. 

I might take two or three hours and go listen to a lot of Uzi’s music. I listened to anything in that range. I love getting playlists. I love when people send me new songs for inspiration, that’s kind of what sets the stage for whatever I’m working on that day.

Talk about the stress of not being in the room with artists and how it affects how well the songs come out.

It can be stressful. It can be daunting, especially if you’re a person that cares about the music first. If you not with the hoopla, you not going in there to hang out. It’s very easy to get frustrated when you’re a perfectionist and you really want the songs you work on to be on an album. You know if you were there, your input could significantly increase the chances of that song coming out and make the song better. For me, that’s the most annoying part. In some cases, I don’t want to be there because it’s distracting. More importantly than being in the room is having an artist that you have a real relationship with, who doesn’t mind spending as much time as it takes to craft a really good song. If it doesn’t come out correct right away, people give up. That’s what I don’t like, I don’t like the fact it’s hit or miss when I’m sending beats. That’s the overall consensus of it. I’m sure any producer would feel like that.

Talk about working with up-and-comers versus working with the big names.

Oh man, that goes directly to what I was saying. Up-and-comers care about the music, they have time to work on their music. They’re more open to the advice a producer gives because they want to grow. Working with established artists, they’re already set in their ways. They don’t have time like these up-and-coming artists have. These people are on schedules, they got press meetings, they got shit to do. Studios at two o’clock in the morning. They’re coming in there, some of them got attitudes. They say, “Man, just play me some beats. Let me rap or sing or whatever.” That’s the dynamic right there, it’s so much easier to work with up-and-coming artists because they have time and they want to take time.

How was it working with Trippie Redd on “Buzz?” 

That was a dope song. I recently got in touch with Trippie, that’s somebody that I’ve been wanting to work with for a while. I got to be a fan of your music first to want to work with you. It’s a goal for me when I get in touch with certain people, like “I gotta get to this person.” He followed me one day, I saw him follow me. I went in my Stories and typed, “If anybody can give me in touch with Trippie, yo, I really want to do a song with dawg.” I tagged him, he saw it. He messaged me and gave me his number, I sent him some beats. 

I sent him a 15 pack, he didn’t fuck with none of those at first. I thought I was on a wave, I thought I had exactly what he was looking for. He sent me the “Miss the Rage” beat, the shit that’s coming out. He sent me the snippet from Instagram and said, “yo, I need shit like this.” I turned around and sent him some shit in an entirely different direction. [laughs] He ended up getting on that one. I gave him something totally different than what he was on at the time.

Supah Mario

Photo Credit: Supah Mario

How did the pandemic affect your work?

This pandemic shit is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me personally, ‘cause I don’t got to leave my house. I bought a house when this shit hit so I had time to get my stuff together. Me and my family getting our stuff together. I built my home studio. I really had downtime to work on some personal projects. The song that I did for Trippie is only on YouTube, a song called “Buzz.”

Have you worked with female artists? 

I’ma be honest, female artists are my favorite to work with because they like the same type of beats I like. I like a lot of sounds in my beats, I put a lot of sounds in my beats. A lot of rappers, especially male rappers, they say, “Man there’s too many sounds in this, I can’t fuck with it.” I like working with girls, especially girl rappers. I want to work with Coi [Leray].

Has your stance on producer tags changed at all?

No, I got pissed off when I seen my tag wasn’t on this new song. [laughs] I was mad as hell, bro. I hit Drake, I told him about it too. I said, “Bro, I’m mad as hell ya’lI took my tag off.” He laughed at me, he didn’t care. He’s like, “I don’t give a damn, I’m putting this shit out bro.” 

Wait, which tag did you have on there?

The kid tag, the tag from “Myron.”

I like the “Marioooo” one.

Yeah, that’s everyone too but you know what? It still warranted the type of response I wanted from the song anyway. Honestly, people can sit here and lie to you, tell you “oh when I get songs, I don’t care about fame. I don’t care about people noticing me, I just want to get paid. I want to continue doing what I love.” Nigga shut up, that’s not true. That’s bullshit because that tag ultimately could bring you more work. 

I put thought into stuff like that when I’m sending out beats, and the artists do too. Sometimes artists don’t really want you to be known because they want to keep that sound to themselves. They don’t want you running off and giving people the same sauce you gave them. They rather not keep your tag on there. To avoid it, a lot of artists sign producers. That’s understandable too. I would’ve loved to have been in a situation where I’m known for working with one specific artist. Shit, I take all the glory from that. It didn’t work out that way, so a tag for me is very important.

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Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up in the Bay Area. She lives, breathes, and sleeps hip-hop, and is literally on top of new music the moment it is released. If there’s a show in LA, you can find her there. Follow the latest on her at fomoblog.com and on Instagram and on Twitter.

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