As far as hip-hop producers go, Mike Dean is a legend. He's a Grammy Award-winning producer who helped pioneer the Dirty South sound in the 90s. Mike's had a hand in mixing, producing, and mastering multi-platinum records for everyone from the Geto Boys and Pimp C to Tupac and Jay-Z. Mike's also been one of Kanye West's go-to guys from the very beginning. He's worked on the majority of Kanye's albums, from mixing College Dropout and Late Registration to co-producing tracks on Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. For the past six months, Mike Dean, Ye, and the legendary Rick Rubin have been putting the final touches on Kanye's new record. The way Yeezus has been blaring out of every pair of headphones around the VICE office, we can't wait to catch Kanye and Mike performing the new tracks on tour.
We sent Archie Green, an MC and producer who's made beats for VICE's Noisey Raps and has been featured in the Creators Project's Layers series, to catch up with Mike Dean before Yeezus dropped. Archie picked Mike's brain about Kanye's new album, Mike's past projects, and what the future of hip-hop holds.
VICE: What's your main setup when you're in the lab with Kanye?
Mike Dean: My go-to is Ableton right now. I use Logic and Pro Tools to mix.
How do you feel about playing digital versus playing live?
Playing live is dope, but you have to mix them both together. You can't do too much of one or another. That's the secret.
How many instruments do you know how to play?
I don't know. Seven or eight? I play the sax, piano, guitar, bass… I started as a kid with piano lessons.
How did you come to be with Rap-A-Lot?
I was producing some local rappers around Houston, this group called the Deathsquad and another group called the Power Lords. This was in 1998 or 1999.
How many years have you been in the game?
I started with Selena in 1983. So, it's been almost 30 years.
What was it like working with Scarface and the Geto Boys? I know there was some crazy shit that went down.
It's good making music. Mostly it's all just making music and smoking.
Yeezus sounds fucking crazy. It's on some futuristic shit. Kanye's repetoire is always grandiose, but this seems more of a minimalist approach. What was the motivation behind that?
It was Kanye. He wanted to strip everything down and make it more like a rock-band album.
How much was Rick Rubin's hand involved with the final pieces of the album? I know he came in at the last minute.
A lot. He helped put everything together. And he took some stuff away.
What's your favorite song off the project?
I would have to say "Hold My Liquor," because I produced it. Well, Kanye and I produced it. It has a nice guitar solo.
What direction do you see the sound of hip-hop going? Obviously with Yeezus, you're doing something completely different.
We'll change it again next album. We raise the bar every time.
How did your association with Travis Scott come about? Is that mainly due to your ties with Houston?
I met him through Anthony. He was hitting me up on Twitter like six months prior, but I really didn't answer him. Since he got with Anthony, I started helping him out. He's dope.
Follow Mike Dean on Twitter.
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