“Spittin over some super hot beats with a super hot freak,” Yelawolf raps on his cult classic, “Pop The Trunk”. While many just took the lyric to mean that Yelawolf had his hands on some great production, those in the know, know that it is really a reference to WillPower aka Supahotbeats, the man who produced “Pop The Trunk” as well as a majority of Yelawolf’s breakthrough mixtape, Trunk Muzik, as well as Yelawolf’s debut album, Radioactive. WillPower is originally from Columbia, South Carolina, and met Yelawolf for the first time in 2000 via Sylvia Robinson’s SugarHill Records. They made a pact at that time to struggle together as starving artists, as well as eat together once things took off. Over a decade later, Yelawolf is at the top of Hip Hop’s current music makers, and WillPower is the owner and operator of his own studio (Studio 21) and an in-demand producer through is Supahotbeats production company.
We caught up with WillPower as part of our Record Producer interview series. Here he talks about running his Atlanta-based Studio 21, going back in the lab with Yelawolf, and where how he got his ear for music.
RubyHornet: I see your instagram pics, and it seems like you are 24/7 in the studio. What is a day like for Supahotbeats right about now? Do you ever get to see sunlight haha?
WillPower: God is good, I’m finally surrounded by the greatest team of creative and business minded young people. I use Instagram to tell the story. We do work around the clock. I have two engineers, Matthew “Million Dollar Mateo” Hayes and Blake “Blizzy” Harden. These two guys are the world to my operation. They allow me to work as much as I need to. I workout at 8am, then our day starts 10am and I meet my assistant, Mekayla Roy, at my office/studio. We first clean up and re-organize from the night sessions before, then we discuss the days agenda, the emails, the workload, the mixes etcc.. At 12pm my head engineer, Matt, comes in and prepares the studio for work. He sets up by testing speakers and making sure all the equipment is a go for the day. Around 1pm my musician friends, guitarists, bassist and writers arrive, we discuss the workload then get to it. 2pm is normally my first production client. 8pm my second client falls through, and we work till 4:30 am. I shut down after that. Then repeat the next 10am. My studio is well lit, I have to balconies one on each end, so I keep sunlight on my face.
RubyHornet: Sometimes you go by WillPower, sometimes SupahotBeats. Is there a difference in your approach or anything like that, or you just have two names?
WillPower: WillPower is my producer name, SupahotBeats is my company. I own it with my 10 year partner, Tasha Brown. I respond to both, but the branding of the Supahotbeats is a little stronger so that’s mainly why I’ve accepted the title. However, I do believe in names, and both are powerful and define me.
RubyHornet: What was your relationship like with music growing up? Were you always fascinated with how music was made, the inner-workings of a song?
WillPower: I owe my interest to my father for his record collection. My uncle Trevino for his interest in keyboards and drum machines during the mid to late the 80’s, as a kid I used to play on his Roland TR 626. That’s when I first started sequencing. I owe my mom, grandmother, and grandfather for making me sing in church. They were the first to believe in my musical talent. I have always loved it. I was a born producer because all I ever paied attention to in a record was the music, the progressions, and the rhythm.
RubyHornet: How long have you been making music? At what point in that journey did you feel like you could call yourself a producer, or feel like, ‘yeah, I’m on to something?’
WillPower: I’ve been working professionally as a producer since ’98. I knew I was a producer from day one. My first project was a full length album called Diversity. It had like 12 songs on it from all the popular talent of all the high schools in my community of Columbia, SC. R&B, Country, Rock, Hip Hop and Gospel. This was my first successful attempt to producing an album. It sucks to me now, but at the time we were really proud of it and we sold every copy we had. 1000 copies, 10 bucks a piece, the math was there. I was officially hooked on the business. Lol.
RubyHornet: Do you remember the first beat you made with an artist that you thought was dope?
WillPower: I produced a song called “So Long, So Long”, for this artist named Nikkiya back in 2002. Straight jammin’, our chemistry, has fueled my musical journey all the way to retirement.