From hits with Eminem, Royce Da 5'9", 50 Cent and Sheek Louch, the Miami native talks about paying dues, never dealing with A&Rs, and why video game money may be a misnomer.
For December's Producer's Corner feature, HipHopDX partnered with PMPWorldwide.com to look at a success story from their vast network of producers posting and selling tracks online. HipHopDX opted to profile Red Spyda from their list.
He shares a birthday with Jay Z, his favorite comic book is The Infinity Wars and he considers himself the music industry’s Bruce Wayne. He is also one of Hip Hop’s best-kept secrets.
Miami ex-patriot, Red Spyda made a move in the early thousands to the city so good it was named twice where he absorbed experience and shared conversation. Teaming up with DJ Whoo Kid and Stretch Armstrong upon his arrival in New York City, the producer formerly known as Rush knew his career was about to skyrocket incessantly.
The PMP Worldwide producer's discography is now heaving at the seams with records for the G-Unit roster, both old and new as well as long time nemesis of the camp D-Block. But being Red Spyda you are granted amnesty from the drama that coursed through the streets of New York encouraged by the supplier of his biggest check to date.
He may be recognized for street anthems such as Realest Niggas from 50 Cent and Biggie and the Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” track "Rock City," but there is a lot more to Red Spyda than Hip Hop. Telling his story and explaining his way of making himself heard, this jack of all trades, master of most, has ousted the middle men and done all the work on his lonesome. And he isn’t stopping there.
HipHopDX: So what are you up to at the minute?
Red Spyda: Oh well right now I am working on a couple of things. I’ve been working with The L.O.X. on a new song that is coming out which will be a D-Block anthem, some stuff for [Fabolous] and just finishing off a mixtape with a new artist called CMR out of the Bronx who is part of the Evil Empire.
DX: Great to see you keeping busy, as the recession has to have had some effect on producers as well right?
Red Spyda: Yeah, there’s a huge difference in the music industry but there was even before the recession. Most of the artists I was working with four or five years ago don’t have the same budgets on the majors and some of them aren’t even on a major right now. It hasn’t really affected me because of the projects I worked on and the projects I continue to work on.
DX: How easy was it for you to get your start, as you have been active for a while now?
Red Spyda: It wasn’t easy at all and it’s never easy to get a start. But what I did, I am originally from Florida, there was a window of opportunity and they say success is when opportunity and preparation meet, but I was one of the first guys to leave Miami to go to New York City. I had been working with Trick Daddy and I started making a name for myself in Florida at the time DJ Khaled was down there promoting, so I got down with the guys locally and then when it was right I moved to New York City, which was in the early 2000.
Getting to New York City, the first thing I got was the Eminem and Royce Da 5’9" "Rock City" joint. It wasn’t easy, but I realized if I got to know the artists on a first name basis its always easy to get the records out with them when you have the relationship. I have never submitted a track to an A&R throughout my entire career; never…it’s a dead end.
DX: You really believe that?
Red Spyda: I don’t want to say it like that, but from my perspective. Say Ludacris is in the studio working on a project, I’m not in the studio to know what the project is, so I’m there making beats to give to some other guy who is there, but he isn’t telling me what they are looking for when they want something specific, all they are doing is asking for hits. Now through my journey I have met a lot of producers who send out beats to the A&Rs and it just doesn’t get done. I do think it is harder that way and you should just try and build the relationships.
DX: So basically creating beats with a specific person in mind having figured out what they are looking for through your relationship with them is the way to go?
Red Spyda: Exactly.
DX: Yeah but surely you have to be at a certain point in your career to be able to do that?
Red Spyda: No and I say that because success is information and what a lot of people don’t know is the industry are always looking for the new or the next thing. Again, when I was in Florida I got to know my local scene. I went out to the studios and to the clubs and got to know the deejays and the artists were there. It is not as hard as people think it is, it is just how you look at it. There are some tight camps though that won’t let you in, and I think for R&B it is harder.
DX: Can you give us a couple of names on the tight camps?
Red Spyda: [Laughs] No. But see, everyone knows me for the Hip Hop records, but see the advantage with Hip Hop is the emcee writes his records, well most emcees write their rhymes. They come to the studio, most of the time the rapper just needs to hear the beat or get a concept whereas with R&B and Pop projects none of them really write their own songs so the producer now has to deal with the songwriter. So for me its way harder to get those R&B records.
DX: You have worked right across the board haven’t you?
Red Spyda: Yes I worked with Amerie and Mya, but I think it was because I had already established myself as a Hip Hop producer. I also worked with Monica off the Hip Hop. But the original agenda for me as I am a musician, I play bass and keyboards, when I first came to New York City, I was doing the remixes. I did a remix for Amel Larrieux and Ruff Endz, where it works differently, but it was still hard to get on R&B projects. The writers pretty much control the artists and see a lot of people don’t really think about that.
DX: Obviously a strong connection of yours is DJ Whoo Kid, how did you connect with him?
Red Spyda: Well, I met [DJ] Whoo Kid through Stretch Armstrong, as I was signed to a production company when I first got to New York and Stretch and Whoo Kid were doing the mixtape thing. Now I didn’t really know what they were when I got to New York, except I knew [DJ] Clue was doing them and Whoo Kid was just starting off doing the mixtapes on Pro Tools. So when Stretch bailed on Whoo Kid because he got tired of them, Whoo Kid needed someone who could engineer the sessions. As a producer, I had learned to engineer and record, so I happened to be there when we needed someone. We cut a deal, I would engineer and he would get me better access to the emcees. The thing about the mixtapes was in the early days the emcees would rap over beats that were already out as that’s initially what they were. There was always a shortage of beats. I remember being in the studio with Jim Jones and Cam’ron, it was when [Black Rob's] "Whoa" was out and they were going over the same beat and that was when I came up with an idea. I said to Whoo Kid to put the freestyles over original beats and I would produce the freestyle as a different record. Whoo Kid looked at me like I was crazy. I said if it worked he had to put my name on there and start promoting Red Spyda, if it didn’t work, he would just cut me out. I was working with Mobb Deep and that’s how the [Notorious B.I.G.] and 50 [Cent] record came about.
DX: Proof then that you have to be forward thinking in business then?
Red Spyda: You need to have a sense for the business and I hear people talking about wanting to get on and they want to win and I ask what exactly is it that they want to win, I never understood that. What I understand is the songs on the radio right now if its going well and its just been released. This is me thinking as a producer now; if I don’t have my record to compete with what’s on the radio set to drop in the next six months to a year then I am not going to make it sound like what is on the radio now. I have to think this is what is going to work for the next six months or so, what is going to be next.
DX: Your tracks are definitely bass-heavy, is this down to growing up in Miami?
Red Spyda: Definitely, but I come from a family of musicians and I am also very influenced by the west coast; that’s the funny thing. Back in the early '90s Miami was a smaller version of L.A. Miami has palm trees; Los Angeles has palm trees, so in the era when we had Boyz N' The Hood, all the hoods in Miami were emulating that. I got used to the bass records in the early days but when I moved to New York I learned how to put aggression on the beat. We didn’t know you could dissect samples, we thought it was stealing. I never thought to take a record and chop it up and use the same kick that this guy used or whatever. I learned that in New York when I was hanging out with these guys in Castle Hill in the Bronx. That was where the aggression came from.
DX: It was the Whoo Kid connection that led you to G-Unit then I assume?
Red Spyda: The 50 connection was definitely through Whoo Kid and Stretch, but once I came to New York it was on as I knew I had to make the move as in Miami all we had was Trick Daddy, I worked on Trina’s album but there was limited things I could do and I was already doing the big ballas but it was limited. I thought if I was doing it in Miami then I could do it in New York, so I made the decision.
DX: An easy decision to make?
Red Spyda: Not at all. [Laughs] I got paid $1,500 for a beat which I made in 15 minutes and that was the motivation. I was getting paid for something I loved to do. I had wanted to go to L.A. but it was just too far and everyone used to eventually end up in New York anyway. It was a culture shock for me but it wasn’t too hard as every now and again I would talk to Buckwild and I want to say I was lucky. When I got down with Stretch he had ties with Eminem and my first taste of New York was when I had a Fab placement so I had actually met some of the right people before even getting to New York. Stretch had the radio show and every rapper I had seen on the TV and listened to on the radio was going to his studio, so it was really like a kid walking into a candy store.
DX: All yours for the taking right?
Red Spyda: As a Sagittarius, I am a thinker, you know Jay-Z is an analyzer and won't walk into something until he has it fully worked out and I am that way too. If I know I can’t win a fight then I am not going to show up. The hardest part was figuring out how to come up with the name Red Spyda as previously I was known as "Rush" and when I went to change my name people wouldn’t call me Spyda because they said it sounded stupid, so it was up to Whoo Kid to say he liked the name. Stretch didn’t like it and even when I did the track for 50 he named me on there as Rush.
DX: Yeah I have to admit Rush doesn’t really have the same impact as Red Spyda does.
Red Spyda: Exactly, it was cool when I was hanging out and on the social scene. You know Rush is like the Fonz, you know what I mean, [Laughing] but in the business it just doesn’t grab you. Everybody in the music business is a fucking weirdo to me, maybe not so much weird, more interesting and you get these names. I remember talking to Whoo Kid on the phone while I was in the supermarket and we were talking about artists, Ludacris etc., and the lady at the register was just looking at me because none of these names made any sense. Luda, Fab and this lady is just laughing and wondering who this joker is. So I told her I was Red Spyda and that was it.
DX: Do you feel being so heavily connected with G-Unit helped you?
Red Spyda: Yeah, definitely, because with 50, the record sold. I like to consider myself the Bruce Wayne of the music industry, so much in the background that I have a catalog that no one really knows about. I was working with Eminem before I was working with 50. People don’t know that because I don’t promote myself. Working with G Unit, they were promoting the name and I was making classic records out of the situation.
DX: When you are associated with a certain group or certain group of artists like you were with G-Unit, does it pigeonhole you to a certain degree?
Red Spyda: Well it brought me more work and what I did when the 50 thing took off; I had relationships with a lot of people they didn’t get along with. I had those relationships already though and that was the toughest thing with the G-Unit situation as 50 had a lot of beef. But because I laid the groundwork and had these records anyone who works on a project which sells what Get Rich Or Die Tryin' sold is good. And I was blessed to get on 8 Mile [soundtrack] before Get Rich Or Die Tryin'; I mean I saw a nice check.
DX: When it comes to beef between rappers, do producers tend to take a neutral stance?
Red Spyda: Not really, producers have amnesty. I stay in the background for two reasons. One, I don’t want to be bothered and two, because of the business side you only have to make one mistake and that’s it you will be making headlines because of that mistake. If you did all that work and got in a fight, that’s it, that is the story they run with. Most of the artists I have worked with I have the relationship. I was the lucky kid who barely made it. [Laughs]
DX: You have also been lucky in the video game world too right?
Red Spyda: Definitely and right now I am in talks with people as I am a 3D animator which I am very hands-on with and I say you should never pigeon-hole yourself by just submitting tracks for one thing.
DX: Those checks have got to be pretty serious when you see how those games sell.
Red Spyda: Not really. [Laughs] Let me tell you something about the gaming world, Melanie, people talk crap about the music industry but the gaming world – they don’t need us, and they let us know that. What they do, just so producers reading know, unless you are a brand, they will just license your track on the video game. The Grand Theft Auto I was on, I did a lot of those tracks, but what it was, and it was good marketing for me. To me, it shouldn’t always be about the money, some things like exposure will bring you money from other things. I wanted to comment about something I’ve been seeing on the Internet about producers not getting paid from certain situations. When I started out, working with Trick Daddy and those guys I didn’t have a name so I couldn’t go to people and demand money so what I did was look at this as a way to build the relationships and the as the value went up then I could charge and then I could charge more.
With Grand Theft Auto I got paid, I mean I didn’t get what I get from the music industry but because the video game did so well I probably made 15 more clients within a year, which equals a lot of money.
DX: But still those games do such crazy numbers.
Red Spyda: Right, 250 million [sold] for my first video game. Give me a nickel a game and I would be happy. But they license the track as you have to be a really big boy to get a percentage off the game, but they know it.
DX: Was it your usual blueprint of getting to know people that got you involved with the games?
Red Spyda: That worked with the music, but it was different with the gaming, as when I got on Grand Theft Auto I didn’t have that big a name yet and it wasn’t easy at all. That was something where I showed interest in video games and put it out there that I was looking to do something in that field; not easy at all.
DX: What are the plans then for you to expand your brand?
Red Spyda: Well the future is, I have my new company Spy Vision, which will provide a lot more visibility for me but not just the Hip Hop. I am working on a few things right now and I have my sights set on doing something with the Sy Fy channel. I have a comic book coming out, but the main thing is the 3D animation as I am incorporating my entire music catalog and going virtual with it. You have shows like The Boondocks, it has a cult following which is mainly comedy based but this will be more Hip Hop based where certain characters will be artists and take it to that world.
DX: Have you always been involved in animation?
Red Spyda: I was doing this before I was doing the music, I was a graphic artist.
DX: Is this happening in New York, you know, you setting up the animation company?
Red Spyda: No the first studio will be in Miami as New York City prices are too high for me. I am still based out of New York City, but this will start in Florida. There’s a lot going on so the recession isn’t really affecting me. You just have to come up with good ideas and keep yourself busy.
DX: The secret to you success?
Red Spyda: My legacy has been that I have never worked with the artist that is already established, which is one of the secrets to my success. Every artist I have ever worked with was on his or her way up from the underground. It is easier working with artists on their way up, as they want to work. A lot of up and coming producers want to work with big names. Me? I work with anyone.