The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
“Hot Girl Summer” might be one of the biggest songs to hit summer 2019. Period! With all the hype from Megan Thee Stallion and the City Girls, it was only right to drop the hot track. The hit single by Megan Thee Stallion features Ty Dolla $ign on the hook and a fire verse from Nicki Minaj, and is currently climbing up the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Real hot girl shit!
But, the song couldn’t have been done without the help of Derrick Milano. Born in Delaware, but raised in Pennsylvania, the 25-year-old describes himself as a creative above all else. His strong pen game is unlike any other, with the ability and skillsets to write hits for some of the greatest artists in the industry. Whether it’s a hook for Kevin Gates on “Me Too,” “Throw Fits” by G-Eazy, Juvenile, or City Girls, or the hook to “Hot Girl Summer,” it’s almost cake for Derrick to put himself in the artist’s shoes and whip up lyrics.
But, he didn’t just help write “Hot Girl Summer,” he A&R'd the record. In fact, both Juicy J (who co-produced the record) and Nicki Minaj shouted him out on Queen Radio. He states, “At this point, I do everything that I need to be creative. I tried the A&R stuff, I song-write, I’m an artist. At the same time, I try to be an executive, as well, because at the end of the day, I don’t want to work underneath anybody. I want to be my own boss.”
Having done music since the young age of 14 years old, Milano has taken the necessary steps and learned the fundamentals of the industry. With each record -- his own or someone else’s -- he puts himself at a peak and separates himself from the rest.
REVOLT caught up with the creative to chat about how “Hot Girl Summer” came about, his relationship with Juicy J and Nicki Minaj, and what to expect next from his own artistry.
Where are you from originally?
I’m initially from Pennsylvania. I was raised in Delaware on the east coast. A lot of my family is based in Philly, so I went back and forth to Philly all the time. That’s where my parents worked, a lot of my closest friends are there. Shout out to my boy Matt [Cologe Denim]. He’s based out of Philadelphia. That’s where I spend a lot of my time building myself, but my music really started taking off when I went to Orlando for school.
Was the artistry first or the songwriting?
The artistry’s always been first. A lot of people don’t even know I song-write. A lot of people really don’t dig deep into it to know what I do. I get DMs every day like, 'Oh are you a manager? Are you an artist or producer?' That’s why I don’t really do too many interviews because once you put it out what you are, people are going to stamp you as that. When you say songwriter, damn near everybody’s going to be like, 'Oh you’re a songwriter.' I always try to make my music and make my posts correspond to each other. I try to attach myself to projects where people pay more attention to who’s on it than who’s behind it.
It takes the focus off of you. You know in the industry what your name holds, but on the outside people don’t really think that deep. With the last song I worked on, 'Hot Girl Summer,' people care about Megan and Nicki. So, that’s the main part.
How did you get to work on the record?
So, me and Juicy J are super tight. We’ve done a lot of records together. When we were working, he’s always telling me, 'Yo, I’m getting in with Megan. I’m working with Megan, let’s get in. Let’s work on stuff for Megan.' The first record we worked on was a hook idea on Megan‘s last project Fever, which was 'Simon Says.' That was an idea me and Meg came up with collectively. Then, we build that relationship.
You did that verse for him?
Just the hook. He’d always be like, 'Man you’re dope. Anything I’m working on, I want to bring you on.' He was on some, 'Look bro, I want to lock in and do some more stuff. There’s a song that Drake wants to do with Megan, it just needs to be the right song.' So, I was at the studio one night, I guess it got back to Megan because Megan and Drake were talking about it. She relayed the message back to Juicy like, 'Hey we need a beat because Drake wants to do a song.' I was in the studio and I seen one of the girls I used to talk to post a video on Instagram. The caption said, 'Hot girl summer.' She was just doing stuff she doesn’t usually do, so I just used that to my advantage. Instead of having everyone say, 'Real ass bitch, give a fuck about a ngga.' I was like, 'Real ass ngga give a fuck about a bitch.' That was the mindset that I had, the male version. So, I laid it down.
With Megan and Nicki in mind?
Nobody was there, it was just me and Bone Collector. He’s one of the producers, that was my first time working with him. I met him before. He’s one of those producers who’s dope and super talented, but he’s one of those producers that gives you the foundation. I wouldn’t say he’s a finisher. It’s nothing against it. Certain producers are good at certain things. A lot of people who work with Metro, London, Murda; some people are good at certain stuff.
I work with London on da Track’s camp a lot, one of his people named Boobie is amazing with melodies. Roark is amazing with chops, London is amazing with both. Collectively it gets done, so everybody plays a part. With the Bone Collector, he had the foundation of the record. But, it wasn’t complete. It didn’t sound like a hit, it just sounded like a song. So, I FaceTime Juicy J like, 'Yo can you add to this? I think this could be the one for Drake and her.' He added to it, sent it back.
He worked on the beat?
Yup, him and Crazy Mike produced it. After he did that part, we basically were waiting to see what the next move was. I guess Drake’s schedule was busy, he wasn’t able to do the hook. So, we had to go to the next person. Luckily, it was our friend Ty [Dolla $ign].
It wasn’t a falling out with him and Megan?
Nah, I don’t think so. It was more of just timing. What Megan was trying to get done at the time didn’t match the same time Drake was getting his stuff done because he’s working on his project, as well. So, I hit Ty like, 'Yo, can you do it?' Ty’s like, 'Yeah yeah yeah.' He did it, sent it back, sent it to Megan.
Ty killed it.
Yeah Ty killed it. Megan said she loved it. She went to 300, played it for them, everybody in the building was super excited. After that, everyone’s like, 'Damn, what’s the next step? Who else could we put on it, is it just gonna be Megan and Ty?' I’m like, 'You know what would be dope? If we got Nicki on it.'
That was your idea?
Yup, Nicki ended up bringing me in doing background vocals on a lot of the recent songs she’s been working on. Background singing stuff.
So, I had pulled up on her and brought up the idea. She said she was going to sleep on it, see how she felt in the morning because she said her voice was messed up. Then, the next day, her and Megan got on [Instagram] Live. Megan basically asked her, 'Yo, can you get on the song?' Nicki called me like, 'Hey, is this same song you were talking about?' I was like, 'Yeah.' She’s like, 'Oh can you come by the house and play it?' So, I played it.
What’s your relationship with Nicki?
That’s just my friend, that’s big sis.
How did you link in with her?
Through Murda Beatz. He brought me over there like, 'Yo, this is an amazing artist,' so she fucks with me as an artist. It’s dope because it’s a different light when you work with an artist as an artist. She’s like, 'Let me hear your stuff.' I played a lot of my R&B stuff, a lot of my melodic stuff. She loved my tone and my pocket. So, any time she was working on a melodic record, she’d have me add backs to it. We built our relationship based off of doing that. She jumped on the song and called me the next day like, 'I want you to hear it' because she hates when people are around when she records. She records early, like 7 or 8 in the morning.
When she wakes up or she goes to bed?
When she wakes up, she doesn’t record late. She called me like, 'Yeah, I finished the record. Do you want to hear it?' I’m like, 'Hell yeah.' I pulled up, I heard it. I said, 'Damn, this shit is fire.' She said she wanted to change a few lines, so she changed a few lines, sent it back. The rest was history, everybody cleared it.
So, you wrote the hook?
I wrote the hook. I really just A&R'd the record and wrote Ty’s part. That’s what made it cool because Ty’s an R&B artist. When people say, 'Oh songwriter,' nah them girls wrote their own stuff. I just did Ty’s part. At the end of the day, when it comes down to R&B and singing, I even take help when it comes down to ideas because everybody hears different stuff and has different ideas. My whole thing was to show all the executives and all the CEOs that I could put shit together. That was my first record that’s out because I have other records I put together that aren’t out yet, that are big records. That’s the first official record on some DJ Khaled shit that I put together. So, that’s mine.
Is that in the credits?
Nicki did an interview on Queen Radio with Juicy J on how the song got done, she shouted me out. Juicy shouted me out. Now a lot of labels are talking about A&R work, but I’m not an A&R. I just wanted to show y’all I could do it, too. Don’t try to box people out because people get stuff done, too, especially since I’m young. I’ve learned down here in L.A., a lot of people like taking credit for stuff they didn’t do just so they could look good for people. If it ain’t my immediate team, Mike Caren or Edgar; people who I know, who are working with me. It just be a lot of outsiders who try to claim stuff. I wanted to make sure people knew he did this record without having to blast it and do all this talking. It’s right there. If I sit in the car with someone, I say, 'Yeah, I put together ‘Hot Girl Summer’ and someone thinks I’m lying, I could just play the clip of Queen Radio of her saying it.
Nicki doesn’t really fuck with a lot of people. So, when she came on the station, they shut down the whole station.
With her, she just likes her exclusiveness. What’s keeping her so high and afloat in the industry is that not everybody has access to her. Artists who allow access to them tend to not play themselves out, but tend to not have an excitement when they do certain things. I’m learning that just with myself going out to events. You always invite me to stuff and I be wanting to go, but…
You don’t need to go (chuckles).
It’s not that I don’t need to go, I wanna go. But, I wanna go when everything is at a peak. When you step out, the whole room is focused on you. There’s so many people and so many playmakers that you don’t want to be that extra person. When Drake steps out, 'Oh Drake’s coming!' Or when Future steps out, 'Future’s coming!' I want that same effect. That’s how Nicki moves, she really likes that exclusiveness of not saying everyone’s around her... For example, Cardi’s fire. Not everybody can get features with her. That’s helping her career the same way that it helped Nicki‘s career, in the same way it helps Megan’s career right now. Saweetie too. A lot of the female artists, their people are telling them to pull back because when you come in and you’re on everyone’s shit, when you put out a record, it’s like, 'Oh, I heard two or three songs with you last week.' That exclusiveness, when you pop out and you have that impact where people don’t see you, it just brings the focus to you. When she goes to interviews, when she steps out in certain places, a lot of people want to know what she has going on. Conversation is intriguing, people want to ask questions because it’s their moment to ask whatever they want to ask. That’s why every time she does stuff, it goes viral because they don’t get to talk to her like that. Drake doesn’t do interviews, but I’m pretty sure if he sat down and did an interview, everyone would watch because everyone wants to know what he’s got going on. They wanna ask what artists he’s checking for, what he’s listening to, what fashion he’s on. Rihanna’s the same way.
What was your reaction when 'Hot Girl Summer' finally dropped?
I was like, 'Damn, I did it! Let me focus on my artist stuff now.'
You didn’t celebrate?
Nah. The only reason I didn’t is because I look at it as more of a personal accomplishment. When I first came into the writing stuff, I didn’t have any placements. A lot of publishers passed on me because I didn’t have anything down the pipeline. I don’t blame them. When you deal with new songwriters, it’s an investment. You either gonna make the money back or you’re not. When they put the money in your hand, you gotta deliver because a lot of people get large lump sums from publishing companies and never come out with a song again. The publisher’s not going to ask you for it. It’s a bank.
I took advantage like, 'You know what? I want to accomplish everything.' Came in, I was on everybody’s album. I worked with everybody I wanted to work with. I got in with all of the producers I wanted to work with. I did songs with some of the biggest A-list artists this year. That was my goal, especially since I’m the underdog. I didn’t get invited to writing camps, I didn’t have none of that. I had to put shit together myself, get in with my friends and figure it out. I didn’t really get it handed to me, I didn’t have any hype behind my name when I came into the songwriting. I had to get it myself. To me, it meant a lot because everybody knows Megan is hot, but she didn’t have that record.
Even 'Big Ole Freak'?
Well, 'Big Ole Freak' is her big record. But, I’m talking about a record that’s universal, that’s international, that everybody knows. Like today, she just charted in [the] UK. This is her first time charting in [the] UK. For me, it’s good to say I broke that.
It’s not saying, 'Oh, he broke that because he wrote it.' It’s really because of the vision I had for this song and her as an artist because when you’re a rapper, your crossover has to be a crossover enough that will be accepted. Megan writes her own stuff, but when it comes down to a hook, you could see Lil Wayne worked with Calvin Harris, Nicki worked with Ariana; Cardi worked with Bruno, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin. When it comes to the rapping side of it, it’s what song is going to cross you over that’s going to make everyone be like, 'Oh shoot.' Now, that’s my purpose I feel. Dealing with any new artist, somebody I do want to work with is YG. He’s so dope. For me, he’s there but he’s missing that one record. People tend to think that one record has to be pop. It doesn’t have to be pop. It could be him doing a song with somebody like Summer Walker or Kehlani, that’ll put it right there and take him to the next level.
Explain your recording process.
I just freestyle everything. I don’t write.
Three things you need in the studio?
I need a positive vibe from everyone, a good engineer, and I need good beats. As for snacks, I need an Arizona Green Tea, the plain Fritos, and Dibs Crunch (laughs).
What are some goals for yourself at this point?
Right now, get my deal situation together. I really want to put my project out soon, so everybody can have a breath of fresh air. Right now is the perfect time because everyone’s waiting for stuff. The relationships I’ve built with all the artists I’m friends with has an affect [on] where I’m going to put it out...
My main thing is giving the awareness, putting the music out, then being the hook guy. When T-Pain came out, when The Dream came out, I don’t really feel a lot of people wrote hooks. About the exclusive thing, if I’ma be on the hook, it has to be not only a single, but it has to be a record that matters. I’m not going to jump on songs with people just because. I gotta make sure it’s that one. Every song we know T-Pain was on like 'Shawty' and 'Get Money' with Lil Wayne, those were big records. They were moments in music, T-Pain was a part of that. That’s my goal, I want to make sure I’m a part of records that matter and it does what it does. People look at me like, 'This dude is on fire with the hooks.'
Are you going to put out a single?
Yes, I think so. I don’t know exactly which one I want to put out. I don’t know what route because I can do the R&B thing, then I could rap, too.
Talk about the songwriting bag.
It’s just different because your stuff is so recoupable, you could renegotiate your deals. You get advances for certain stuff you do. If you get a top 10 record from a label, you could get $20,000 or something.
What advice do you have for songwriters who are trying to do the artistry because I feel like sometimes, a lot of people don’t take them seriously?
If you’re going to do it, make sure you stand out. Not only stand out, but make sure people know you for your brand. I know everybody I know personally knows me as an artist. Whenever I post shit on Instagram, people always ask, 'When are you posting your own shit?' When I signed with APG, they thought it was for my artist deal.
You have to know your purpose. A lot of songwriters might have low followings and then, they all of a sudden want be an artist. You have to build It. Before this shit, I had songs everybody knew. 'Play Wit It,' big shit. The flute, started the flute wave. That’s the hardest part as a songwriter, they’re known to be songwriters. They don’t have no brand, no image, no people skills. Everybody knows me as Derrick Milano. It doesn’t matter what their experience is, it might be like Derrick Milano is a dope person. Derrick Milano is so cool, Derrick Milano’s like my brother, Derrick Milano is a crazy writer, Derrick Milano got the hooks. Derrick Milano’s beats are crazy, Derrick Milano got an ear. You gotta make sure your brand is your name and people are tying it together.
Megan Thee Stallion just got confirmed for REVOLT Summit in Atlanta! So, you'll definitely want to join us and AT&T in the ATL on Sept. 12- Sept. 14 for our three-day event, which was created to help rising moguls reach the next level. Head to REVOLTSummit.com for more info and to get your passes now!
More by Shirley Ju: