Recently Mike WiLL Made It, the Atlanta-based hip-hop and pop producer, asked painters to redo the work they’d just completed at his house in Atlanta. “I be on my interior designer shit,” he told BuzzFeed. “I didn’t like the way the paint looked. The guys were like, ‘This is gonna cost a lot of money,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t care. I don’t even wanna walk in my house looking at this.’”
Born Michael Williams, the 25-year-old is as obsessive about his songs as he is his home. He’s created meticulous hits for Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Juicy J, Future, 2 Chainz, Brandy, and Mariah Carey. He signed his own deal with Interscope last year, and on Tuesday, released his second-ever solo single, “Buy the World,” a collaboration with Lil Wayne, Future, and Kendrick Lamar. Here, he talks about why it took half a year to make, and the challenge of making a rap song that appeals to everyone.
I’ve been working on this song for six months. I was just imagining stadiums — something that will come on and everybody can sing the hook. I don’t want it to be the typical hood anthem, I want it to be something anybody could feel or relate to. A person that’s working a 9 to 5, all the way to the person that’s owning a company, people on the corner, or people who are homeless. I wanted it to work for everybody.
“Buy the World” is some hood Phil Collins shit. It sounds like a country western mixed with trap mixed with some stoner rock, mixed with a club banger. At first the track had more sounds in it, but I took a lot of them out. So the song is kinda slowed-up and gloomy, but still bright. It’s almost like the beat is just looping, but you’re not mad at it repeating.
I’m a perfectionist. I’ll work on songs for a year or two. The little sample that’s in there, that little “ooh yeah” that’s going throughout the whole song? That’s Brandy. I was in a session with Brandy and asked her to get on top of the beat. I ended up taking her part out and putting it back in and chopping it up how I wanted it. I had Juicy J chant that little “eyy” you hear. And the whole track samples Lord Huron’s “In the Wind.” Lord Huron said it was crazy that I’d sample that, because it’s one of their least popular songs. But it just felt good.
As a producer, I don’t really look at my singles like, “How do I become the star of this song.” I just always wanna attach my name to dope-ass music. For “Buy the World,” Wayne sent me two different verses. He liked the second better, but I took certain lines from the first verse and blended them in, because I liked them. I just want people to hear Wayne, Kendrick, and Future’s best shit, because I’m a fan.
My vision for “Buy the World,” was like, what means the world for you? Buying the world for one person might be getting a place to live, to the next person it might be buying their mama a crib, for Jimmy Iovine it’s doing the deal with Beats. I was telling Kendrick and Wayne, keep their verses broad like that: What’s doing the impossible?
For me, I never knew I could be able to drop my own singles and have them be a success. I started off doing mixtape records. I wasn’t getting any money for that. I was just driving around the whole city, not charging artists anything but just loving what we were coming up with. Last year, my first single [under my name], “23,” went double platinum, “We Can’t Stop” for Miley Cyrus went triple platinum. For me, that’s doing the impossible.
I’m past the point of trying to see how many songs I can get on one mixtape, or seeing how many songs I can get on the radio. Now it’s about pushing myself. I want to set the tone of what’s going on the radio and give people something new. When people aren’t ready for a song, that’s how you know you’re setting a trend. [Miley Cyrus and Future’s] “Real and True” went over people’s heads. Anybody who heard it was like, “This shit deserves a Grammy,” but it wasn’t the right time for that record. “Real and True” wasn’t a song that DJs were just gonna be dropping at Magic City and the street clubs.
I’ve had songs like [Rihanna’s] “Pour It Up” and [Ace Hood’s] “Bugatti” turn up arenas just on some hype shit. But then people are like, all Mike WiLL makes is turn-up music. People have already heard enough turn-up beats. They’re getting tired of turning up. The game is ready to make a change.