In October 2017, music industry veterans Andre Harrell, Sean "Diddy" Combs and more convened at the Soho Beach House Miami to welcome the speakers and panelists for the four-day, grandiose educational networking event, Revolt Music Conference.
After making my way through the low-lit venue, I found a seat near the bar and generously helped myself to crab cake horderves. Minutes later, a familiar-looking 20-something with an assortment of gold chains dangling from his neck had the same idea.
“Are you Murda Beatz?” I asked. A simple head nod followed. After introducing myself to him and his manager, Cory Litwin, I propose an interview in the near future. Though willing, both suggest holding off until their plans were in full swing. Six months later, Murda Beatz earned his first No. 1 record as the producer of Drake’s “Nice For What,” locked in multiple placements on the Migos' Culture II album and released his Bless Yo Trap collaboration album with Florida rapper Smokepurpp. The time for the interview had arrived.
“Remember what I said last year?” Murda said, over the phone. “Everything comes around full circle.”
Most adults his age are settling into their second year out of college, but Murda Beatz, 24, never enrolled in higher education or held down a full-time job. Instead, he pours hours into producing for hip-hop heavyweights.
His success wasn’t just happenstance. Rather than upload beats online and leave his fate to chance eight years ago, the then-16 year-old left his hometown in Ontario, Canada to work with Chief Keef in Chicago. A year later, much to his mother’s chagrin, he traveled to Atlanta to connect with an up-and-coming group who called themselves the Migos.
“I didn't want to be one of the 10,000 kids on the internet making beats,” he said. “I went out there and got recognized as the white boy in trap music and made a name for myself.”
But the face-to-face strategy came at a price. Despite landing placements with Migos for what became “Emmitt Smith” and “Pipe It Up,” Murda was far from the wealthy celebrity everyone in his hometown believed him to be. To get by, he resorted to selling his beats online for $500-$2,000 per. Payments were coming in so sporadically that his Western Union account was flagged for suspicious activity.
The financial burden was shared with his manager, too. By the time the two began working together in September 2014, Murda decided to stop selling beats online to the highest bidder to establish his brand as a professional producer. Though the decision was wise in theory, it effectively cut off his main source of income.
Litwin, who was once a concert promoter and jewelry maker with celebrity clients, went from making six-figures to shouldering the expenses to get Murda’s beats in the right hands, often resulting in debt.
“There was a full year with us paying for the travel to LA, not selling any beats,” he admitted. “We were getting a little money here, a little money there, but [I was] definitely spending more than I was making. I know if you wanna make money, you gotta take risks.”
Now, the two mull over $50,000 offers with poise, turning down more offers than they accept in order to keep the integrity of Murda’s brand.
With his beat business in full swing, his new vision board is filling up with more ambitions. His interests include owning a label, signing artists, releasing his own albums, selling merch, touring, scoring movies, becoming a race car driver (“I want to race in the Daytona 500,” he professes) and owning his own hot sauce and barbecue sauce. Most of his goals, aside from racing in the Daytona 500, are either in the works or in the marketplace.
As his producer tags “Murda on the beat, so it’s not nice,” “M-m-m-Murda,” and “Murda bless yo trap,” find their way onto mainstream radio, one might wonder if a such a moniker could limit his crossover potential. He’s not worried. “I’m definitely bringing a positive message to a negative word,” he said.
His positive outlook and entrepreneurial spirit have granted him and his manager access to the affluent, such as Warner Music owner, Len Blavatnik. Litwin met the Russian billionaire weeks prior and asked what he believes are the necessary traits for prosperity. Blavatnik’s answer: “The most successful people are the best people-persons.”
“Your network is your net worth,” Litwin added.
It’s a mantra that was fully employed when I met both in Miami months ago. Although Murda’s people skills and affable nature have been instrumental to his success, he prefers not to relish too long in his achievements.
“I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I [can] wake up with the first number one in my life and I just feel like it’s almost like nothing. I just feel like I need to do better and better and better.”