Mexikodro talks working with Drake, Playboi Carti beef

Throughout the 2000’s, pop music was defined by artists like Katy Perry, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and more who created radio-friendly hits. These hit songs can almost seem algorithmically made, with these computable means translating to seemingly uninterrupted success.

That is until hip-hop music started taking over the Billboard charts, putting the definition of “pop music” into question. The most sought-after genre for listeners is what pop music inherently is, as Taylor Swift has helped forge the dynamic genre as much as Travis Scott has.

But what ultimately defines the sound: the artist or the producer? 

For me, the stylistic sounds of producers navigate my musical palate as much as the artists themselves, specifically within this genre of hip-hop that has become the new “pop music.” Don’t believe me? Just go look at the Billboard Hot 100, the Spotify Top 50, or the iTunes chart. Rappers like Roddy Ricch, Travis Scott and Lil Baby dominate other genres. Of course, there can be some seismic peaks when prominent artists drop an album. 

Such is the case with Drake, the coveted R&B/hip-hop head honcho who is so popular that an album drop from him shifts the release schedules for almost all other popular artists, similar to the ways that film studios strategically release their films with consideration of Marvel’s profitable superhero film lineup. The Drake effect in music feels like the Marvel effect in cinema, which would not be possible without the creative minds behind the scenes in both media sectors.

One of these creative minds is someone that I initially could only identify by their viral producer tag (a congested voice yelling “plug!”), giving us a hint at the kind of melodic and distorted sounds that are about to bust our subwoofers. The producer tag began as the signature way for beatmakers to identify themselves and has since blossomed into a means of characterization as much as identification. 

Mexikodro is the perplexing producer who proudly uses the tag like a medal of honor. It’s emblematic of the waves of psychedelic hip-hop and trap that defines his sound as much as his sound defines the genres.

This “plug!” tag not only represents Mexikodro, but a subculture of hip-hop at large. The tag appears  13 times on the producer’s most recent placement.

For Mexikodro, being one of the most respected and alluring beatmakers to break out of the Soundcloud shell is a testament on its own. But it’s his persistence and dedication to modernizing his signature sound that makes his name as relevant now as it was back in 2015, with his most recent placement being on Drake’s newest project “Dark Lane Demo Tapes.”

I got the chance to chat with Mexikodro over Zoom, and our conversation shifted from how he linked up with Drake to the collaboration and love that makes it all possible, and more. The producer and I were truly just eager to talk to new people during these isolated times.

“I got Dro right here, you ready?” exclaimed Lil Woah, Mexikodro’s manager.

Mexikodro (Dro) then slid into frame with a smile on his face, clearly riding the high of his Drake placement. This placement was not out of the blue, as viral videos surfaced on social media platforms about a year ago of Drake turning up in his Rolls Royce to the song “Different Colors” by artists Yung Bans and Lil Yachty, produced by Mexikodro. Who knew that just a year later, Drake’s song “From Florida With Love”  would have Dro listed as the song’s main producer?

From being a high-profile fan to eventually working with him, Dro’s relationship with Drake is an indication of the producer’s collaborative mindset, from his producer collective “Beat Pluggz” to the interdependence within his own family. 

“Drake is my man,” Dro said. “I told Drake after the whole situation with ‘From Florida With Love’ that my mom was screaming and was very happy. I won’t say too much, but he had said some real positive words. Drake is real. He’s a real cool dude.”

A mother is only as happy as their child is, and Dro is as keenly aware of this as he is immensely grateful for having his mom by his side. He was telling me about his current living situation in Atlanta when an unexpected guest decided to stop by.

“Right now I’m located….gimme that!” Dro said as he playfully argued with his mom. “That’s my momma, she’s acting crazy right now! Is it alright if I get my momma on the camera? She’s the reason why I’m at where I’m at to this day. She handled all of my business when I was locked up.”

The connection between mother and son was evident as his mother spoke on the alliance between her son and the current top rapper in the world.

“I’m really excited,” Dro’s mother said. “They didn’t tell me anything about it until the night [of the album’s release]. I told him and Woah that I’m gonna get them both because I didn’t expect this when I heard it, I was really impressed. It brought tears to my eyes because I didn’t know how good he really was.”

Anyone who is familiar with the roots of Soundcloud’s trap music sphere knows about Playboi Carti’s historic rise on the platform – a rise that Mexikodro had a significant impact on. Dro produced many of Carti’s early songs, including “Broke Boi,” “ Money Counter” and at least a dozen more. This is, of course, before the two had a controversial falling-out, which was heavily documented on social media. Regardless, Dro doesn’t let this hold him down.

“Everybody who wants to know how I feel about the Carti situation…we outgrown that,” Dro said positively. “Whatever he’s doing with his music, how he’s going up, getting his money. Hey man, I salute that. I don’t want to see people not make it. If I had a part to do with his success, that means I’m blessed in my own way. Nah, I’m proud of that boy.”

The beef between the two is not baseless, as Playboi Carti has been accused by several other producers of stealing their beats and purposefully not giving credit. The specifics of the beef appear to lie between Carti and Dro, and both have moved on in their own respective paths. 

It is difficult to deny the influence that Dro’s production had on Carti’s career trajectory. Just look at the muddy drums and psychedelic melodies that producer Pi’erre Bourne (sporting the “Yo Pi’erre, Wanna Come Out Here?” tag) implemented into much of Carti’s newer discography. The rapper’s first two albums in 2017 and 2018 are littered with Dro’s innovative musical footsteps at the hands of Bourne’s production. These steps are certainly retraced with finesse by Bourne, but can never be wholly recreated. 

Dro’s impact was recognizable by the stylized production, the punchy drums and the discernable producer tag. In the past, Dro has had to step away from producing in spurts due to some legal issues. Dro knows that he is his own worst critic, but this self-deprecation has led to success, in his eyes.

“I listen to my own beats, my own music,” Dro said. “That’s my sauce. I compete with myself, you know? That’s how I come up with better things. Gotta’ have that 2020 sound.”

Thankfully, he has frequent collaborators who also give critiques. Having been a part of the collective “Beat Pluggz” for years with fellow producers like PoloBoyShawty and StupidXool gave Dro plenty of partners during his journey. More recently though, Dro has been pictured in the studio with Sonny Digital, the producer who has worked alongside Drake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Travis Scott, and so many more. This is a connection that most producers would die to have, and Sonny Digital is more than just another high-profile connection for Dro.

“Sonny is like my big brother,” Dro says. “Sonny had a lot to do with me producing. I wanted to fall back and do my other things, but Sonny was like ‘hell nah bro, keep doing your thing.’ He even gave me the word.”

The word that anyone in the industry wants to hear.

“Sonny said ‘look man, I talked to Drake and Drake [is] f*cking with you bro. He goin’ crazy, you gotta keep doin’ your thing.’ My manager Woah would tell me to make 30 beats a day, checking up on me every fifteen minutes.” 

Being part of the entertainment industry in any regard brings anxiety during the current COVID-19 crisis. When I asked Dro if being stuck inside the house more encouraged him to make more beats, he had something else to say.

“Well first, I want to shout out to all of the nurses and everybody in health care that has something to do with helping,” Dro said. “As the virus hit, I think that it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I’m in the house and I’m working. It’s a curse because of all the bad things going on, with the virus stopping people from making money and taking care of their families. I’m definitely more focused now that we’re under lockdown. It made me see things differently.”

Even after appearing on the hottest album in the world, Mexikodro still recognizes the sacrifices that others make for him to be safe and successful. For now, Dro is still cooking up beats, celebrating his Drake collaboration, and ultimately thanking God for giving him the drive he needed to be where he is now..

“Through all my trials and tribulations, how I came out strong, working crazy,” Dro said. “God gave me the ability to do that…God works in mysterious ways!”

Drake’s album “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” is out now, featuring the track  “From Florida With Love,” produced by Mexikodro and 40 (a producer of all of Drake’s albums).