Five years ago, Mike WiLL Made-It took over the airwaves, his murky, undulating trap beats powering Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” Rihanna’s “Pour It Up,” Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” Lil Wayne’s “Love Me,” and many more hits. Meanwhile, he orchestrated Miley Cyrus’ emergence as a Top 40 libertine, delighting poptimists and infuriating others in the process. His sound was difficult to escape.
Today, while fellow Atlantan Metro Boomin has taken over as mainstream rap’s omnipresent producer, Mike WiLL Made-It has scaled back. He’s focused on his Ear Drummers’ camp, particularly Rae Sremmurd, the brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi who made surprisingly durable pop-raps like “No Flex Zone,” “No Type,” and last year’s Billboard chart-topper “Black Beatles.” When it seemed impossible to play a mainstream rap hit without hearing his Brandy-supplied audio signature, Mike WiLL Made-It’s beats swung like pendulums—sort of like a trap version of those damned drops that bedevil electronic dance music. Listen to “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and “Love Me” back-to-back for those similar percussive builds.
Mike WiLL Made-It’s latest full-length production showcase, Ransom 2, reveals that his techniques have grown far more complex. For “Razzle Dazzle,” he arranges a frizzy feedback storm over a booming kick drum; on Rae Sremmurd MC Swae Lee’s “Bars Of Soap,” he pairs 808 drums with icy synths reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder aficionado Alchemist; another Ear Drummers protégé, Andrea gets “Burnin” with a flurry of menacing cowbell percussion and dancehall chants.
With cameos by Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and other boldfaced names, Ransom 2 proves that Mike still has plenty of juice. And while no one may have paid attention to his 2015 Miley disasterpiece, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, he can still orchestrate a beautiful pop catastrophe: On the one-off single “It Takes Two,” Carly Rae Jespen and Lil Yachty remake Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s funky hip-hop classic into a thinly veiled advertisement for Target. Hear the latest evolutions of Mike WiLL Made-It’s sound on this playlist.