The year of 2016 has been incredibly good to Mike WiLL Made-It and his Ear Drummers imprint. In fact, to say that the 27-year-old producer has had an awesome 12 months would be a gross understatement. They've ultimately been career-defining for the man born Michael Williams, kicking off with Beyonce’s “Formation” performance at the Super Bowl and ending with Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” topping Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for six weeks. There’s no pressure about what’s to come next year though. Not yet at least. Mike's been busy making wishes matter.
On Wednesday evening (December 21), he entered a private room at Maggiano’s Buckhead in Atlanta and greeted the 30-plus single mothers who’d been invited out for a special holiday dinner in appreciation of the sacrifices made on behalf of their kids year round. He sat at a table with his mother, Miss Shirley, and one of his big sisters, turning away from his plate to watch as each woman stood to introduce herself on the mic. His other sister sat at an adjacent table with a number of other family members.
“This is just a blessed situation,” he said, after his mother called him to speak to their room of special guests. “I knew my dad, but I had a mom that raised me and multiple kids by herself.” He paused, almost too shy to continue. Then, with a glance at Miss Shirley, “I hope I did good.” That night, the almighty Mike W-LL Made-It, 2016’s King of the Charts, was simply Michael, no shades or flashy jewelry — little brother to Monique and Chonte, and baby boy to Miss Shirley (who, incidentally, calls herself "Mama Made It" on occasion).
And it seemed that, for a moment, 2017 was the furthest thing from his mind. His Making Wishes Matter Foundation would be hosting an entire week of events, aside from the dinner, including stopping in at a homeless shelter to a day of fun with less-fortunate youth to bingo with seniors on the last day. Revolt TV caught up with the young mogul after dinner to talk about the importance of granting wishes, reaching his personal dreams, and smashing expectations in hip-hop.
Explain the importance of Wish Week.
MWMI: Wish Week was an idea I came up with in summertime. I wanted to make it about doing something that people wouldn’t be expecting. Something to come out of left field. Just different and rare. I wanted to cover all demographics. Single mothers hardly get the acknowledgment, praise, or even just something nice done for them. At the top of the week, we went to a homeless shelter and we were just giving out toys there. I didn’t realize that those families lived upstairs and the school for the kids was just downstairs. Their whole community is in that one building. They were telling me, for each single mom in there, if they have five kids, they all have to shower together. It was just an honor to see those kids happy to get those toys. I would’ve never thought that they were living like that.
On Tuesday, I rented out Andretti’s — which is like a Dave & Buster’s on steroids. We had Santa Claus and food in one of the two rooms we rented out. Rae Sremmurd performed. There were like 700 kids there and they all had toys individually. Even parents that couldn’t bring their kids were able to come by and leave with gifts to put under the tree. I gave a donation to a kids’ football team for their jerseys and so on because, when I was coming up, I remember some kids would really be good at football but couldn’t play some years because they didn’t have the money. One day I wanna have a youth football team. Those are different goals that I have set in my mind but I’m just tryna do ‘em as I go.
Thursday, I’m kicking it with the elders, the OGs and we’ll play bingo. Sometimes elders just like conversation, they spend so much time chilling on their own, in their own space. But having a social setting for them in the holidays that’ll be cool. Next Friday, we’ll be taking some teenage boys to the Hawks game. They’ll be able to walk on the court, get acknowledged, and watch the game from the booth.
Five years ago, at age 22, you said that you hoped to crossover from trap to pop and R&B and then to movie scores. You’ve managed to do everything but the scoring to date. Is that still part of the plan?
MWMI: Every time we cross a genre, it’s like we tear down a wall, like a “no genre” sort of thing. So now, we feel like we have our own genre that we call “EDM" — "Ear Drummer Music.” People just like the sound, so I wanna definitely keep it consistent with that as far as the music goes. As far as like my next ventures, I was told not to say everything I wanna do, but really I wanna start getting into movies — short and full-length films. With that, I’m tryna get my education up on it. I got into music by putting in my hours, my time, and my work. I ain’t get into the music business without getting my knowledge up. I ain’t get into the industry without stepping up my grind or asking somebody to do something for me. Same thing with the movies. I wanna start as a small fish and grow big. I’m in no rush.
It’s crazy because you felt like that was the move way back then. And Pharrell is sort of opening that door for hip-hop to really get into that side.
MWMI: Yeah. “They” wasn’t looking back then so I wasn’t able to get those looks like my big bro Pharrell. But now they’re looking, so hopefully those looks will come my way. My artists are doing movies now so I’m definitely scoring those. I’m trying to think back to [when I was] 22, like, I know I would say that but now I’m thinking about doing our own movies and doing the music different. Putting our artists on the platform and shooting our own movies because it’s like our whole team is full of stars. We’re all very creative and we have our own character.
Can you name some artists outside of Ear Drummers that you have music with in 2017?
MWMI: I don’t wanna call it because I feel like I may have talked too much in the past. People are always on me like, “Why you never drop nothing?” I think I’ve just been overly excited because I’m young and I know how good it is but sometimes it takes time to finish records and it might not drop next year, it might drop at the end of next year. It might not be a rush. But if you just wait and the element of surprise is added to it... It’ll just happen and people are gonna be like, “Man, I didn’t even see this coming.” It’s definitely some names that people aren’t expecting. I’ve worked with a lot of people I hadn’t worked with yet.
You wanted to connect with Beyoncé for years. Now you’ve already worked with her. Exactly how big are you trying to go?
MWMI: I never looked like it like, “Who’s bigger? Who’s better?” Or who had OG status? Who’s hotter? I just wanted to work with whoever was an original. Beyoncé happens to be a giant. Rae Sremmurd are two brothers from Tupelo. Future was somebody I came up with and Gucci is someone who gave me a chance. At the end of the day is that I’m just trying to work with the originators on the list: Miley, Rihanna, Juicy J.
You’ve said that “Black Beatles” is the best song you ever produced. Did you know that it would become this juggernaut while you were making it?
MWMI: I didn’t know it when I was making it. I made that beat in 10, 11 minutes. I didn’t even think it was done so I let Swae [Lee] hear it and he was like, “Man, this sh-t hard.” So I bounced it down to him and he sent it back with the hook. I was with Gucci and I was like, “Man, this is gonna be a hit. What you think?” He heard it and he loved it. He was like, “I’m gonna be on the album, this the one you want me to be on?” So he got on it. We got Jxmmi on it and put the song together. We worked so hard on that song, man. It was a couple bumps in the road between me and Swae Lee just putting the song together, but we just wanted to put the best song together. He had his views and I had my own but it ended up working out. But I do feel like that’s my best work to this day.
How are you going to outdo it? Is that something that crosses your mind?
MWMI: I used to be like that but now I got a lot of different songs out so even if I don’t outdo it, as long as I have some success, I’m good. This is a rare moment to be at number one on the Hot 100 charts for six weeks, so I don’t even wanna outdo that. I don’t even want to think about it like, “Aw man, the next album has to be number one for 10 weeks...” Being number one for six weeks doesn’t happen too often, not even with the biggest and the best artists. The Mannequin Challenge has just taken everything by storm, everything that’s going on... Nobody can make this up. So I don’t know if we gon’ see it again, if we do see it again, that’ll be a blessing.
Talk a little about the Mannequin Challenge.
MWMI: The Mannequin Challenge was just Sremm being Sremm. Sremm being geniuses. They watched some high school do it on Twitter, then they did it at their show, then it just spread everywhere on the internet. Everyone saw it and it went viral. I remember my first time watching it, I woke up and saw it on Instagram. I thought it was an effect like something the camera guy was doing. So I’m like, “Dang, that’s fresh.” I had to watch it a couple times and I was like, “Oh... Everybody being still!”
To see Paul McCartney do it, that’s just... I had brought Rae Sremmurd with me to Coachella that first year and Paul McCartney was backstage just showing us love like he knew us — he didn’t but that was just that organic love. So I reached out to a couple of people to see if he could even just give a nod to the song. When he did the Mannequin Challenge... I don’t know how it happened but a legend was doing the Mannequin Challenge, cosigning the Black Beatles, making it real now. Just like The Beatles, we got the OG stamping it.