When you watch Issa Rae’s HBO Max comedy “Rap Sh!t,” you’ll hear songs throughout the episodes, but you won’t see the writing camp that produced those records. Aaron “Y.A.” Rogers and Rashad “Snacks” Johnson of the production duo The Breed helped give the season two mixtape its sonic identity.
“I felt like Snacks and I were pivotal to that camp because we understood the tempo, style, and everything. The writers understood our direction,” Y.A. told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the prolific production duo explained how involved Rae was in the making of the “Rap Sh!t” mixtape, which artist stood out in the writing camp, and what they have coming in 2024. Read the exclusive chat below.
How early did you get involved in the making of the “Rap Sh!t” season two soundtrack?
Snacks: We got hit up in mid-March, and then our manager hit us up. We didn’t know what we were walking ourselves into.
You were part of the writing camp for that soundtrack. For those who have never been in one, what went on, on a day-to-day basis?
Snacks: It was at a studio in LA with about eight to 10 rooms. So, there were a lot of writers, a lot of producers, a lot of hustling, and a lot of going from room to room. It’s a competition, but it’s a friendly competition.
You both produced “We Live.” What was it like working with Rico Nasty?
Snacks: We were there for four days. The first day, they put us in the E Room. That was one of the smaller rooms. We were in that room, and we killed it that day. The next day, we were in the B and A rooms for the rest of the camp. Rico Nasty is an interesting character. She was vibrant, and the writers we were with — shout out to Suni [Solomon], Rickie [Carley], Talibah [Safiya], and all the others we worked with. All these writers were gravitating towards us because we had the banging beats around that time. And then it just happened. Rico Nasty walked in, and it was like a club. She got it right on the record.
In real life, is Rico the same as the loud personality we hear on records?
Snacks: Yes and no. I would say yes because she came in at 10. But, the record we gave her — “We Live” — was a different energy from her. As producers, we guided her towards that energy where we tried to get her essence but still get her left field, so it’s not typical Rico Nasty.
In the writing camp, who were the most prolific artists? Who was bouncing back and forth between rooms cutting records?
Y.A.: Snacks [was] there longer than [me] was because I had an emergency. But I can say Suni is one of the coolest people in the game. Her energy drove the camp. She was a good soul, and she was collaborative.
Snacks: Songwriter-wise, it was definitely O.G. Kurb. He’s from Florida. He gave us the cheat code on the first day when he told us, “Don’t stay in one room. Go room to room.” And that’s literally how we got five placements on this soundtrack. Artist-wise, I have to tell a quick story about Maiya The Don. She came to the studio on her New York s**t and had her pit bull in the studio. Her demeanor and her pit bull’s demeanor were on the same energy. She was going from room to room. Her voice is distinctive. She was the one artist that stuck out to us in the camp.
How involved was Issa Rae in the project?
Snacks: On the last day of camp, we already knew it would be something like a playback of all the songs. I think it was about 60 to 70 songs for this. Issa came in and they said, “We’re going to play the songs for Issa.” She was going from room to room. I was actually in the end room sitting down at the main console when she came in. I was literally sitting by my laptop. The first song we played her was “No Panties.” They played our song 12 times back to back to back to back to back. That’s when I knew we had one with that. Issa was twerking, dancing, and drinking; we were all having a good time. It was a vibe. There were about 50 people in that one big A room. That was a moment with Issa that we shared.
Y.A., you had an emergency that took you out of the writing camp for a bit. How long were you in there working?
Y.A.: I was there half the time, and then I had to go. But I experienced the writers. I didn’t get to experience everything with Issa. Snacks and I were really tapped in with what they wanted. [When] somebody tells us what they want, we’re really good at giving that to them. I felt like Snacks and I were pivotal to that camp because we understood the tempo, style, and everything. The writers understood our direction.
How many songs did you two do?
Snacks: We left the camp with 13 songs. We probably had about 10 or 11 percent of the songs made in the camp. So, we knew we were getting at least three or four on the mixtape.
Did you guys make any connections there that turned into sessions later?
Snacks: Absolutely. Here’s a little secret: We went to a “P-Valley” camp a month after the “Rap Sh!t” camp, and we saw seven other people from the “Rap Sh!t” camp.
You two are about to be the go-to guys for these TV shows. That TV money is different.
Y.A.: That’s what they say (laughs).
Paint readers a picture of the accommodations in Issa Rae’s writing camp.
Snacks: If you’ve never been to an Issa Rae camp, just know you’ll probably get the best food there. We got smothered chicken, collard greens, banana pudding, and the best liquor. It was wild. The food was the best part.
Cleotrapa and Rico Nasty were in the same session. What was their vibe together?
Snacks: That was a reality show inside the session. Only three guys were in the room — me, the engineer, and Y.A. Cleotrapa was in there bashing men. It was one of those sessions where I had to put my headphones on. We look at each other, acting like we hear nothing.
What does The Breed have coming for 2024?
Snacks: Musically, we have a whole lot coming. On the other side, we have our nonprofit music school that we’re looking to open up this year. We’re working on a music culture hub where we’re from. We’re building an ecosystem. We make music, but we’re businessmen too.