Upon hearing "HUMBLE.," Kendrick Lamar fans were stunned to hear a rare type of energy from the usually thoughtful, reserved MC. But producer Mike WiLL Made-It said that he originally made the beat for someone else: Gucci Mane.
"With "HUMBLE.," I knew that beat was going to capture a moment. It just felt real urgent. I made that beat [last year] when Gucci Mane was getting out of jail; I made it with him in mind," Mike WiLL told NPR. "I was just thinking, damn, Gucci's about to come home; it's got to be something urgent that's just going to take over the radio. And I felt like that beat was that."
He decided to let Kendrick Lamar - whom he had been with in the studio for years - hear the beat instead. The beat reminded him of some of Kendrick's Aftermath/Interscope predecessors and thought he could get K. Dot to rap over a sound that he and his fans weren't accustomed to hearing from him. The song ended up as the first taste that fans got of DAMN., Kendrick Lamar's new album.
"I was thinking, if Dot gets on this it'll be his first time being heard on some[thing] like this. At the same time, it kind of has an NWA/Dr. Dre feel, an Eminem kind of feel. So I thought, let me see if Dot f** with it," he said. The song was almost placed on Mike WiLL's Ransom 2, but Kendrick's team encouraged him to keep it for his album; Mike WiLL agreed, and pushed him to use it as the single.
Mike WiLL also spoke about "XXX," the song that features U2. He said that he had previously met the band's frontman Bono, but had trouble imagining Bono on the beat he made. As he and fans found out later, the song takes on a different beat before Bono appears.
"Really, that came out of left field when he told me that he added him on there. I kept trying to imagine U2 on the first half of that beat, cause at first that was the only part to the song," he said. "And I was like, 'Dang, he put U2 on that?' I couldn't figure out what that would sound like. But when he let me hear the whole thing with the different sections, it came out dope."
With Mike WiLL Made-It's contributions and Kendrick Lamar's genius, Lamar's entire album DAMN. is on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "HUMBLE." is at the no. 1 spot, Kendrick's highest-charting album to date. The album sold 603,000 album equivalent units in its first week, the highest opening sales of any album of 2017.
Read the rest of Mike WiLL Made-It's conversation with NPR here.