Although Kings Cross first got its name from a statue of George the IV that was erected in the area in the1800s, its not a place that immediately evokes the feeling of being connected to, or in close proximity to royalty. In fact in more recent years the area has had much seedier associations, and at one point in time was more closely linked to the oldest profession in the world, than anything that resembled regal or palatial. The statue was demolished not long after it was built, but the etymology of Kings Cross remains accurate, as its still home to a tribute to a king. Sadly its not quite as visible as its 19th century counterpart, but adorning the walls of the 0207 Def Jam offices, is a mural of the late, great Jamal Edwards. Jamal wouldn’t be the only king that I crossed paths with that evening, I’d be sharing the room with M1OnTheBeat, one of Drill’s most innovative producers.
The jury may still be out on who the best Drill rapper is, but there can be no mistake when it comes to the production. M1OnTheBeat has undoubtedly lead the charge for a genre that would soon engulf not just the UK, but the entire globe with its dark, foreboding sonics. M1OnTheBeat joins a growing list of successful creatives that graced the halls of Gladesmore Community School, with the likes of Chip, Professor Green & the Chicken Connoisseur all being alumni. Despite singing its praises, M1OnTheBeat would not fully realise his potential in conventional educational settings, and it wasn’t until he began attending Sound School, that the musician that was always inside him slowly began to come to the fore. MkThePlug, another student at the time (who helped coin his moniker), was an early collaborator that M1OnTheBeat was able to bounce ideas off as they figured out the intricacies of production together. A lot of M1OnTheBeat’s early successes were produced alongside Mk, with tracks like “Take That Risk” by CB, which was the moment that making beats become something more than just a passion project for the Tottenham native.
M1OnTheBeat’s journey like many of our own has been characterised by peaks and troughs. From early piano lessons with his father, to leaving home at 16 and ending up in temporary accommodation, to having production credits on multiple albums that reached the top five. M1OnTheBeat can safely say that he’s embodied the adage that was scrawled alongside Jamal’s mural, he’s created something that will live on forever. To get there he has walked through the fire, especially over the last three years to finally bring us his debut mixtape M1OnTheBeat: The Mixtape, which features pretty much everybody who’s worth their salt in UK Drill and the genres that border it. We took over the plush 0207 Def Jam screening room, as we unpacked the rigours, the creative processes and everything it took to make this debut a reality.
I know your father was a musician, but was become one yourself always on the cards?
“Nah that wasn’t the plan, I’m just good at beats. Because my dad is a musician, he told me that I have to learn to play an instrument. I didn’t see the point of it at the time, but now I’m bigger I get it. I didn’t do lessons or nothing like that, I used to copy what people were doing on piano on Youtube. Thats how I learnt to play the piano. I just love music bro, I like to hear music, and when I found out I could make music I just loved it.”
You left home at 16 which is mad young, what was that time like and how did those experiences shape the man you’ve become today?
“Obviously when you’re 16 most people don’t have to leave the yard, especially when they’re the youngest child of the family. I’m one of six, and I’m the youngest, so when the pressure is on, the pressure is really on init. Especially for the last child, the parents just wanna relax, the older siblings just wanna relax. But I’m doing things that showing I’m not serious about life, like smoking weed, partying, and just wasting time not doing well in college, or school.
“I ended up in YMCA Hornsey, mad ting. I was the youngest there, it was nice cah people there weren’t trying to like do funny business, I wasn’t a gang yout init, so I was approached well by everyone in there init, I was a music yout, when they found out I loved music everyone wanted to come to my door smoke weed, share my chip etc. YMCA is a really ghetto place, its the most ghetto place I’ve ever been in my life, it looks like jail as well, the way the doors are set up. I think a jail cell is bigger than the YMCA room, facts. I had fun there, but that shit humbled me bro, that shit made me realise there are man in there that are 30/40 and they still trying to do this life, this big man lifestyle, but they’re in there though. It made me realise that I don’t wanna do that, when you’re from Tottenham thats all you’re seeing bro bare man that think they’re hard. That whole moving out process helped me to become more Independent, and it helped with the boredom.”
What were some of the earliest genres or sounds that you were attracted to and why?
“Drill. When you grow up in the hood and you go through so much shit, and you hear that it just connects with you bro. Not even just like the drill sound, just like the mandem going mad on them beats, and talking about it, theres just something about it. See like the ghetto, and the expression of it, there’s nothing like it. The fact that we can make something that seems so bad, look so good as well, and the fact that people love it, all ethnicities. There is no other genre like it, its just exciting bro.”
I know you obviously list Chicago Drill as an influence, but were there genres that have influenced or informed your production style at all?
“I used to listen to a lot of Skrillex, I liked Dubstep, I liked the bass init, I always wanted to put dubstep on Drill as well, but thats another story. My brother listened to a lot of Guns N Roses, Bullet For My Valentine and Abba. My brother is a guitarist init, So I know about that side of the music from very early because of my brother. A lot of my inspirations come from a lot of those people, Chief Keef as well back in the day.”
What specifically was it about Skrillex and DJ Mashmello?
“The bass, its so loud. That’s what made me wanna turn it up init. I just turn up the bass on my drill beats cause of all the other stuff I used to hear, especially the Chief Keef stuff, their bass was phenomenal. At that time no ones bass was really turned up in Drill like that.”
I know you only started taking production seriously after “Take That Risk”. So what was that process of production becoming a career like?
“I started going college and obviously I was hanging around with other producers, and mans doing my research and I’m not taking in the college work and I’m thinking to myself, could I take this seriously? At the time I had bare songs with Samurai from Manchester, back in the day me and MkThePlug were doing all this shit. My Soundcloud was going mad, and I don’t know, it was just the money, and being there in front of people and seeing their reactions and realising I could help people. I’ve changed real life people’s lives, and knowing that I’m doing that is what made me want to take it seriously. I’ve always took it seriously musically though, I challenge myself to make new music.”
Do you have any preconceived ideas for what stories you wanna hear on your beats? Or Do you just let the artists decide?
“Nah, I wanna get into that more though, being there and directing artists telling them you need to talk about this, cause thats what the beat sounds like. But yeah 99% of the time the artists just do what they want I cant lie, apart from this tape though. With the tape they’ve allowed me to have more freedom with how they should come in, and what they should talk about.”
You’re a big reason for the genre reaching new heights, and consequently you’ve become one of the most sought after UK Drill producers. Why Do you think this is?
“If its me being totally honest, I think I started making beats when M1llionz, Headie One, Digga D, OFB, Bandokay and Fredo were starting out; and I’ve come in at similar a time and I’ve put in mad work when they’re all coming up. I made Loski’s first big song, I made Unknown T’s first song, I made Bandokay and the youngers, I made their first song. I made a few mans first songs right, but not just that, as everyone is blowing up right, I’m making a lot of their main hits, like their biggest hits, like K Trap “Warm”, Digga D “Woi”. I’m making a lot of mans main songs, I’m making pillar songs, songs that actually shape the sound init, and because they’re all blowing up now, they just remember me.”
“And because I made the Drake x Headie ting, it was one of the first proper UK and US tings to proper come together. I think I just came in at a good time where all ten artists are blowing up at the same time with me, so the streets just remember init, and they take it in.”
What does the next evolution of the genre look like?
“Len, I think that. Cause thats what you call half Jersey half UK beat. And I’ve made my own version of these Len beats as well with a mix of Lancey Foux’s melodies with a bit of Yeat sprinkled and then tough Drill. I wanted to get more white people attracted to Drill, I’m talking about the Emos you feel me? I want the Emos, them man are a big community still. Thats what I’m working on right now though, I think thats gonna be the new thing , the beats are like 150bpm and shit.”
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced putting your own mixtape together?
“It took long for several different reasons init, one of them being my own self, just being overwhelmed all the time. I had a kid, I got a boy he’s like one and a half now, it stressed me out a bit, and I didn’t wanna talk to no one sometimes. I think money as well, cause we’re doing it independently and we’re only spending our distro on actual promotion, we’re putting our own money in studio sessions, looking the part all the time, cabs etc. Its independent living init, I’ve saved my money for the past five years so I could do this, I’m waiting for PRS cheques so I can pattern the camera man, or pattern the mandem. I weren’t doing this on some happy ting, this tape wasn’t a happy process. It was happy in terms of the end results, and how happy we are for each other, and how we treat each other, but in terms of the frustrations that me and my team went through it was horrible man.
“Its not because of me and my team most of the time, its just the people we’re working with. I’ve never had such an intense time with artists, it was very intense. I’m having reasonings with artists that I’ve never had reasonings with before.
“Mans putting in my own money, juggling fatherhood, all while going through the stresses of putting out a project independently. I’m happy that I’m able to overcome everything, thats what I’m very happy about. I wouldn’t even know I would be happy about this if I didn’t go through it in the first place, its like a different strength that mans billing up for myself.”
It’s been three years in the making, what are some of the things you’ve learned along the way?
“The most horrible thing in a good way, is we put in so much work, we ended up making like 40 records, I was gonna put like 30 records on the tape but then I had to learn the ways of being an artist, which is not giving out so much you know. So long story short, my second tape is done, so I’m straight onto the second tape after this. So its a blessing, and we’ve done that all subconsciously, I genuinely thought I wanted to put out 30 tracks, thats why we made so many. I’m happy now with all the money we spent, I think we spent way less money than we should of for two mixtapes. Now I think we’re at a point where we just gotta record about six more songs and edit the beats and pattern up and shoot like two/three videos. We’ve got videos coming with Meekz, Headie and Abra next”.
Your production credits are obviously vast and far reaching, but is there anyone out there that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to and why?
“Dave. I haven’t worked with Dave surprisingly, we’re all locked and in contact so hopefully we can get something out there. And the why is he’s just cold and mainly cause I ain’t worked with him and he’s a pillar. Remember I see this whole music ting as a big house, but there’s only nine/ten pillars, and pillars are the Central Cees, Digga ds, Headies etc, the people that are always being waited for.”
What does the next evolution of M1OnTheBeat Look Like?
“I’m gonna make my version of House beats. I’m still trying to work that sound out, like House with bare Drill bass on it. I’m gonna focus on it and make it as best as possible.”