Photo: Getty
  /  11.03.2022

Multiplatinum-selling producer Helluva is one of the architects of the modern Detroit hip hop sound. But, his sonic fingerprint can be found on songs from artists outside of the Motor City, including Megan Thee Stallion on her song “B.*.*.C.H.” 

“She’s the one who asked for that beat. She told Selim, ‘Have your boy do this Tupac beat [for the song “Ratha Be Ya N**ga”]. I think he’ll kill this.’ When he told me that, I knocked that out within an hour and sent it back,” Helluva revealed to REVOLT.

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the renowned producer explains how he taught 42 Dugg to put a song together and his prolific chemistry with Tee Grizzley. He also discusses an unreleased Boosie track dedicated to the rapper’s daughter.

Who would you say is the first major artist you worked with in the studio?

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I just played them some beats in the studio, and it went from there. We made a song right there on the spot. It probably took about an hour. I was starstruck because back then, Detroit didn’t have major artists coming to studios like that. So, it was a dream for me. Another time, Rocko came through and brought Future to the studio. At that point, Future was the first person I saw go straight into the booth and cut a record as soon as he heard a beat. He wasn’t going in and out. He would go in there, do his thing and then say, “Put the next song on.” It probably took 10 minutes.

Since then, you’ve worked with a plethora of other hitmakers such as Jeezy. How did that collaborative partnership begin?

My homie Onion had a personal relationship with [Jeezy’s label], CTE [World]. So, he was able to get around Jeezy and play a beat for him. Jeezy rapped on it, and this was before I used to put my tag on every beat. I had this mega superstar rapping on my beat, and nobody knew it was mine. After that, I started putting the tag on every single beat I did.

Your latest production for him was on the song “I Ain’t Gon Hold Ya” from his SNOFALL album with DJ Drama. When did you both record that?

I think he sat on it for a while. It may have been about six months to a year.

Who’s an artist you’ve worked with on a track from scratch? 

Tee Grizzley. About 90 percent of the songs we’ve done together have come from him having an idea, rapping a little bit of it, and then I’m working on the beat. Then he’ll say, “Okay, I need a breakdown right here,” and I’ll make the breakdown. He’ll say, “Can you make this part sound like this and make this part sound more uptempo?” So I’ll do all that,  and we’ll build it together.

What studio rules have you created based on incidents you’ve experienced? 

I’ve had baby mamas come in here and just beat the artist’s **s (laughs). I tell the artists they have to leave the drama outside the studio. I also don’t smoke weed, and n**gas will ash on anything. So I have to be on their **s and tell them, “Look, clean up behind yourself.” If I’m working with an artist, I’ll tell them, “You’re safe with me. You don’t have to bring 30 n**gas.” 

Have issues in the street spilled over into the studio?

Yeah. I’ve had shootouts in the parking lot. I’ve had to sneak an artist out the back. I’m from the streets, so I’m used to it. I’m also respected to the point where people keep that away from me out of respect. 

You’re an instrumental producer in the growing popularity of Detroit’s hip hop sound. One of my favorite Detroit artists you’ve worked with is Sada Baby. 

He’s an artist that likes to get his vibe right. He has his drug of choice, whatever it might be. Then, he’ll tell you to put on a beat. If he likes it, that song will be done as quickly as you can snap your finger. I’ve done sessions with Sada that we’ve done 15 songs in. He’s not stuck in a box. He’ll try anything.

What’s a truly memorable session you’ve had in your career?

One of my favorite sessions was when Yachty and I made “From the D to the A.” A few producers were in the studio with us, and they were playing heat. They had me a little nervous. As soon as I put one beat on, Yachty lost his mind.

Any other one?

When Meek and Tee Grizzley did a remix to “First Day Out.” That was a dope session. It was cool being around Meek. He drinks Titos just like a regular dude (laughs). 

I also saw you recorded in Jeezy’s home studio. Have you ever been in there and you all chilled in the house and then went to work or vice versa?

Nah, Jeezy is straight business, man. He has a home studio with big studio quality. When Jeezy comes through, he comes with f**king secret agents (laughs). He comes into the studio, and then he’s out.

You’ve also produced one of my top 3 favorite Megan Thee Stallion records, “B.*.*.C.H.” 

This is my first time saying this: I feel that song could have been bigger — even though it’s a big song. But the song dropped, and then Kobe died the same day. I was crying for Kobe, man. I actually kind of played a little part in Megan’s career because when I heard her early big song “Freak Nasty,” it sounded like Reject Da Illest’s “No Effort.” Someone remade that beat. So, she was already feeling my style of beats.

My boy Selim [Bouab] from 300 [Entertainment] — Megan’s A&R — hit me saying, “Yo, I got this girl. She likes your beats and wants some.” I sent her a dummy pack of just alright beats because I didn’t know who she was. He called me the next day saying, “She asked if you could send her your good beats?” (laughs). Since then, I was like, “I like this girl.” She’s the one who asked for that beat. She told Selim, “Have your boy do this Tupac beat [for the song ‘Ratha Be Ya N**ga’]. I think he’ll kill this.” When he told me that, I knocked that out within an hour and sent it back.

 

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What’s the most impressive feat you’ve seen accomplished in the studio? 

My boy 42 Dugg came to the studio with a beat he made in his head in jail, and we made one of our hardest songs like that. And he hadn’t been rapping that long. It was impressive for him to come up with different song formats. When he got home from jail, he came straight to me. I’m the first person who ever recorded Dugg. He looked like he was fresh out. He came back a week later driving Hellcats.

I remember one of Lil Baby’s first engineers, J. Rich, told me in a “Studio Sessions” interview that when Baby got out of prison, he didn’t know how to make a song, so he helped piece together his first track, “Options.” 

It was the same thing with Dugg; he didn’t know how to format a song. I would have to stop him and say, “Look, we’re about to stop here. We’re about to make a hook.” I helped him in that sense. He was already a star in the streets outside of rap. Yo Gotti hit me up and asked, “Who’s hot? Who would you pick if you had to put the house on one?” I told him Dugg. 

What do you need in the studio to make your best beats?

Preferably some tequila (laughs). I like video games. I use the Steam Deck. Sada and I have gone head-to-head on some fighting games like Mortal Kombat. I’m not too good at NBA 2K. 42 Dugg has run circles around me.  He’s made me not want to play the game anymore  (laughs). 

What’s an unreleased song you’ve produced that you hope comes out one day? 

Future and I got a song called “Helluva N**ga” he named after [me]. Man, that needs to come out. Boosie and I also got one called “Dear Daughter” that needs to come out. It’s like a letter to his daughter. So, Boosie, what are you waiting on? 

What do you have coming for the rest of the year and in 2023?

I’m dropping singles featuring different artists. I dropped one called “Money Flow” with BabyTron and Dave Flo. I’m probably going to keep dropping singles. I’m signed as an artist on Atlantic. I’m going to be on some Detroit DJ Khaled-type sh**t. 

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