Interview: Coming Up Under Tutelage of Static Major & Polow Da Don, Producer Willy Will Proving “Good Enough to be with the Elites”
Willy Will had a great 2011 as he had some placements on Lil’ Wayne’s latest album “Tha Carter IV”, but that isn’t all he’s done. You may have previously heard some other songs that he’s done for the likes of Rihanna and R. Kelly. Along with that also been doing some ghost production for Polow Da Don throughout the years. We had a chance to talk to him about the history behind some of his work including collaborations with Static as well as Polow. Lastly, he talked about the creation of Rihanna’s “Fading” which appeared on her 2010 album “Loud”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You originally started out working with Static Major, how did you get a chance to meet him?
Willy Will: It’s crazy because we’re all from Louisville, Kentucky of course. I think I was just doing some beats around the city and at the time we finally bumped paths. Everybody who did music in the city was coming to my house. I met Static through my homeboy and he was really cool with Playa. He played some of the music that we had done for them, and they wanted to meet me. Basically, it kind of happened from us just putting in work in the city and word of mouth kind of just led us to each other.
YKIGS: Tell me what it was like working with Static.
WW: I really owe Static everything I know honestly. We didn’t get to do a lot of songs together, but what I learned from him was priceless. I really learned about work ethic and how to put a complete song together. Static kind of pulled his directly from the basement, so some of the stuff he exposed me to was brand new. I had a chance to be a sponge and soak it all up. I learned how to put in those grueling hours, never being tired and always wanting to do one more song. Just basically putting more and more work. That’s what he was all about. That’s what I took from him the most which was the work ethic. From him, I really just learned more about work ethic and doing this music thing seriously. He was the first professional I ever worked with so it was a big eye opener for me.
YKIGS: With the general public, they only know Static with “Lollipop” and the Aaliyah stuff, what do you needs to be done to keep his legacy alive?
WW: Static left a lot of good records. He had so many songs. If we can just find a way to get them out and I don’t know if it’s going to be an album or if we’re going to just place them on people. To keep his name out, we just need to keep the music coming because he left a lot of music, kind of like a Tupac. When Tupac went away, he had hard drivers full of music. I mean I know I heard at least 100 Static songs and I know that’s not even the tip of the iceberg of how many he actually has. I think he left enough music to keep his name hot, it’s just a matter of getting the music to the right people and doing the right things with it.
YKIGS: I know you’re currently working with Polow Da Don, how did you originally hook up with him?
WW: Well I’m not currently working with him. I guess you can say we’re really cool and we do some work together. I lived in Atlanta from 2003 up until this year and in a way, I kind of paid my dues through the whole Atlanta circuit. I was working with all these people who were tied together some kind of way. When I was first moved to Atlanta, I was in South West Atlanta every day and of course that’s where all these guys are from. I was kind of the little kid who had beats and they liked them and a good friend of mine, Diplo, who went to Morehouse College with Polow actually did some work with me. We did a bunch of songs together. That’s how Polow first heard my music. We had a studio session one day and Polow came through and listened to some stuff with us. He told me he wanted to manage me which kind of led to a co-producer/ghost-producing kind of situation. I kind of met him the old fashion way, just paying my dues and grinding. After a while, everybody in Atlanta just saw me as one of the boys. After being down there for so long, I kind of just came off as I was pretty much an Atlanta guy. Everybody knew I was from Kentucky, I rep that every day, but they saw me around so much and I kind of started from the bottom, they accepted me and they took a little bit of a liking to me. Plus I had some good shit. Polow kind of jumped down like “Hey I want to work with you,” and the rest is history. I owe just as much to Polow as I owe to Static. I learned just as much from both of them. Polow taught me sonically how to get my music sounding big and get the quality of it done, and Static taught me how to do the songs and the hard drive and work ethic. Those two kind of made me. I can’t even lie.
YKIGS: I was looking through your discovery. Give me the background for Playa’s “The World Is Mine”.
WW: Man, I don’t know if you heard of a female artist that Static had called Yaushameen Michaels. She was like my big sister. They were fresh from finishing the Southernaire All-Star album. We were back in Louisville and they were coming through. Yaushameen and I did a record. It was actually her song at first. She took it and let Static hear it and he was like “Oh shit!”. We flew out to LA to do it for Playa. It’s crazy because there’s so many good memories that come along with that song. It reminds me of Yaush. I haven’t seen her in years. Yaushameen was like Missy Elliott. I don’t want to sound like I’m on crack *Laughs* because I don’t want to downplay the Missy thing because Missy is my friend too. Yaushameen was like Missy’s alter ego. She was crazy, something totally left of Missy but kind of like the same reign. She was super creative and we did a bunch of songs, but that one in particular, I think I had a guitar player come through and played a little lick. I looped it up and Yaushameen killed it. She took it to Static and next thing I know, we’re in LA. Smokey comes in and kills it with the adlibs. That’s what he does. Smokey will come through in the clutch and warm your shit up like nobody else. I think it was more of a Static record, he was featured on it the most. I love that record. It’s one of my favorites ever.
YKIGS: What about Rihanna’s “Fading”?
WW: “Fading” was a record I did in 2008-2009. We actually did it a while ago. A friend of mine named Q.Amey wrote it. My brother had brought me this sample because he’s a good digger. He knows how to find those great samples. We get this sample and we looped it up. I was trying to shoot the record to Jay-Z because I was hearing it on some anthem, stadium music on rap song, kind of like “Run This Town”. Once Q. Amey came in, wrote it and we played the keys and did the bridge, I was like “Oh man this sounds like a Rihanna joint!” We always had Rihanna on our mind from when we first cut it. I took it to Polow, Polow heard it, he did his thing to it and then Ester Dean did some vocal arrangements on it. It ended up on Rihanna’s album. It was kind of setting the bar for myself and letting me know that I was capable of doing these kind of records and putting them on artists like Rihanna. It was like me proving to myself that I could do it and that I was good enough to be with the elites.
YKIGS: What’s the transition like from producing rap songs like the work you do with Lil’ Wayne to doing R&B songs like the Rihanna song?
WW: I started off as a rap producer and then Static being the R&B producer and vocalist, he taught me how to make songs in the R&B format. I kind of came up under an R&B cat as a rap producer, so that’s where some of the versatility came in. I try to be different. When I first started, I tried different things. I didn’t want to be a one trick guy. I wanted to be able to do a bunch of things. One of the first things Static told me when I first met him is that I was an R&B producer. It kind of stuck on me and it kind of pissed me off, but at the end of the day, he made me better. He sent me back to the drawing board. I had to learn how to do it authentically. I think the versatility came from him and working with Polow. Polow pretty much did everything. He would do a Young Buck song and then would do a Fergie song. Working under that guy, I learned how to differentiate. I learned there’s not too much of a difference between all of these genres. I think that’s where the versatility comes in. That’s where I kind of got it. I learned it from working under those two guys and just being creative. There’s no rules or limitations. Static used to rap songs all the time. There is no one thing that keeps you in a lane if you know what you’re doing. That’s where the wide range for me comes from.
YKIGS: Who are you currently working with right now?
WW: I’m working with Sean Garrett right now. He’s writing for everybody all the time. I’m working with Ty Dollar Sign. That’s my dude. We have a stupid chemistry. I’m always working on E-40. He’s drinking from a fountain of youth. Every year we’re doing something. We put out like 100 songs. I’m always working on the Lil’ Wayne stuff. I’m on Lil Twist’s album as well.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
WW: Check out http://www.onewill-productions.com/ Be checking for Wop. He’s my protégé. He’s 100 times better than me at producing and writing. He’s a machine. Be on the lookout for him because that’s what I’m working on before everything else. I’m trying to get One Will-Productions off the ground. I’m always looking for writers and producers and that next thing.