Rashad “Snacks” Johnson and Aaron “Y.A.” Rogers form the production duo known as The Breed, and they’ve created music with some of the best artists of the last decade.
“The dopest person I’ve ever seen in the studio was Ne-Yo. He wrote like eight songs back to back, and they were all good. They were all bangers,” Rogers told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the multi-platinum production duo discusses adapting in an emotional recording session with Joe Budden, their creative chemistry together, and unreleased tracks from G-Eazy and Chris Brown.
Who was the first major artist you worked in the studio with?
Snacks: Joe Budden. This was over 10 years ago. This is like the first “Love & Hip-Hop.”
What was that session like?
Snacks: It was awkward. He came in, and he was Joe — how everybody saw him, that’s what he was like. He had a carton of cigarettes, and we probably played a hundred beats.
Y.A.: He was hard to please.
Snacks: So, we started cooking up from scratch, and it caught his attention. It ended up being a breakup song or something to that degree.
Y.A.: The beat was dark. I think it was dark, and it really translated to how he was feeling about his emotions at the moment with [his ex at the time].
Snacks: He was in a very dark place. We gravitated to where he was at, so that’s why I kind of caught his attention.
Y.A.: We ain’t know what headspace he was in. He was smoking a lot of cigarettes, so we noticed he was in his feelings. He was really in his feelings at the moment, and we tapped into that. Then, we got that record out of it.
How long did it take you to make that new beat?
Y.A.: 10 to 15 minutes. It wasn’t long.
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What was the first studio session that made you feel like you finally made it in the music industry?
Y.A.: To me, personally, it was probably the Rotimi session. That was a dope moment because the whole room fell in love with the record. There was literally a girl crying in the session. Everything for that whole session was just organic. It was like a dream. When we played the track that would become ‘I Do,’ they brought it back, and then the writer went in the booth and literally sang the song straight.
Snacks: The way that record came about was divine because we played 10 beats we felt would work for him. The 10 beats we played weren’t the beat that actually became that record. A writer in the room said, ‘I feel like we gotta play one more.’ As soon as they heard it, he went in the booth, and the record was made in 15 minutes.
Everyone knows the Kanye West lyric about making “five beats a day for three summers.” What is your usual output of beats per day?
Snacks: Back then, we were doing like 15-20 beats. It’s about five or six right now, but that trained us to work in any environment and create on the spot in any environment.
What’s the typical process when you two make beats?
Y.A.: It’s funny because lot of people think I play the keys and he do the drums. But, to be honest with you, it’s all over the place. People would be like, ‘Yo Snacks, those drums are hard.’ Me and him would look at each other, and it’d be that I did the drums and he did the keys. Over the years, we’ve grown. I’ve built off of him. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s learned so much from me to the point where we’re like the same person. So, it really doesn’t even matter. It’s just all about getting that energy out that you feel and then leaving enough room for your partner to express himself.
Snacks: We don’t take anything personally. If he feels like we have to change something I did, I trust his ears. There’s really no typical way we make beats. There are so many ways we’ve made beats that became placements. We started from Dropbox. I would start making drums and send it to him when I was in college, and he would just do what he do. When I graduated from college, we used to sit in a studio every day in New York and create from scratch. So, we mastered that aspect.
I love the work you two have done with Duckwrth.
Snacks: He’s amazing, man. He’s energetic, man. You really gotta play when you’re in his sessions. You have to know how to play something. You have to be a musician to be in those types of sessions.
Y.A.: He’ll come in the room and be like, ‘What y’all feel?’ Then, he’ll tell you what he’s feeling. We tell what we’re feeling and he’ll be like, ‘Let’s figure it out.’ Then, we’ll start.
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What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen an artist do in the studio?
Y.A.: The dopest person I’ve ever seen in the studio was Ne-Yo. He wrote like eight songs back to back, and they were all good. They were all bangers.
Snacks: We were just in the studio with Ne-Yo back in February watching him work in his crib like he’s on his first album. It’s the same.
You also produced numerous records for Chris Brown, including the multi-platinum hit “On Me.” How did you work with Chris?
Y.A.: Mostly virtual. Shout out to his engineer [Teezio]. He’d hit us up like, ‘Yo, Chris needs another pack from y’all.’
Snacks: Funny story. We had a couple of records out with Chris around 2013 or 2014. We had a couple out on his mixtape. So, we @’ed him like, ‘Chris, we need you on this’ or something like that. Obviously he already knew our names, so he DM’ed us back and said, ‘Yo, send that over to my engineer.’ He gave us his engineer’s email through DM, and that’s how that happened.
You recently collaborated with Jetsonmade on the EarthGang track “All Eyes On Me.” What was that like?
Snacks: Oh, that session didn’t happen how we thought it was going to happen, but it ended up working in everybody’s favor. Our manager Nigel set up the session. We thought we were going there to work on EarthGang music. Jetson happened to beat us there. He was already there playing beats while we were walking in. So, we’re just chilling and then Johnny [Venus] was like, ‘Yo, I got this idea. I think everybody should collaborate on it.’ Then, we all started playing instruments. Y.A. had the keys, Jetson added the 808 drums, Johnny had a sample and I added some vocal stuff. That’s how that record happened.
How important is it for you to understand the artists you work with as people when you make music for them?
Y.A.: That’s 80% of the battle right there. Our mentors always tell us, ‘When you go into the studio, talk … chill. Shout out to Troy Oliver — he really taught us if you get close to the artist, you’ll get way further in your career rather than going and just playing the beat. So, when we go into the studio, we’re talking like, ‘How’s your day? What’s been bothering you lately?’
Snacks: In some sessions, we don’t even touch the keyboard or computer. We’re just asking, ‘What’s going on in your life?’
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What is your favorite session of all time?
Y.A.: It was the Rotimi session. I’ll tell you why that was the greatest session for me. It was the greatest session because Snacks and I had a bad argument right before the session. We drove two different cars to the session. We weren’t talking to each other.
Snacks: We were ready to fight each other.
Y.A.: We got there at separate times, but we had to put our business faces on when we went in there. We went in and got the job done, but when everything happened with the record, we looked at each other and was like, ‘You know I love you, nigga.’ We may get on each other’s nerves, but can’t nobody fuck with us together. Snacks really my brother before this music.
What’s the one collaboration you did with an artist that you’re hoping comes out one day?
Snacks: It’s this one joint with G-Eazy [and Post Malone]. Chris also got about seven of ’em that he cut in the last five years. It will come out one day because it’s a timeless record. We made that in 2019.