Major thanks to Makai Keyes, a talented rapper/producer out of Red Bluff, CA, who connected with us for an exclusive interview to discuss his self produced, new banger “FREAK SHIT”. We also asked Makai about his most recently released project, “NO CAUTION”, how he got started as a producer, what hardware/software he uses to create beats, and his musical goals for 2020.
After reading our Q&A with Makai, be sure to connect with him on his website and social media, and listen to the “NO CAUTION” project!
Congratulations on the release of your new single "FREAK SHIT". What initially inspired you to write it and how did you choose the instrumental for it?
Preciate it - I actually woke up one day and ended up making a solid portion of the instrumental and had a hook for it right away. I knew I wanted to make a summer joint that could be played at parties/clubs right before I released the deluxe edition of “NO CAUTION”. The release date was already set and scheduled for it (July 31) but I wanted to fit one more song in before it dropped, so the entire track from its initial conception to mixing + mastering and release was a little over three weeks. Definitely the quickest roll out I've ever done.
If you could select any artist to appear on a remix to "FREAK SHIT", who would you pick?
Shit, that's a good question... If I had to choose it would probably be Tyga. The beat just fits his flow and delivery so well, I think he'd kill that shit. Somebody get his people to call my people (me).
Speaking of instrumentals, you've mentioned that you began making beats when you were 13. What software and hardware do you use to make your beats and how did you get started?
Back when I was 13 I grabbed a demo version of FL Studio and started making electronic music on my old laptop at the time - definitely a far cry from what I'm doing now. Over time I shifted numerous genres and names over the years, but I always had a deep love for Hip-Hop/Rap.
I shifted into becoming a producer/beatmaker in early 2017 and ended up rapping over a beat I made on a whim (while I had a terrible cold, ironically), which became my first song "Demons" that I released under my name.
I still use FL Studio to this day and create everything in my bedroom studio. Hardware-wise I use a RØDE NT1-A to record my vocals - I have a few MIDI keyboards and a pair of JBL 305Ps for producing with, but I'd kill to get some vintage analog synths one day.
Tell us about your album "NO CAUTION". Did you self produce the whole project?
I'd almost consider “NO CAUTION” to be a collection of well-sequenced trap songs more-so than an album, to be honest. I made this project to prove to myself that I could make a solid body of work, on top of giving people new material since it had been so long since people had heard from me. I produced the whole project from top to bottom and it was made in around three and a half months from start to finish. The whole process was fun as hell and I learned a lot along the way both production-wise and about myself as an artist.
What are some things that inspire your creativity as a rapper and as a producer?
Visuals are everything for me in terms of inspiration, ranging from photo shoots to mock-up covers to actually seeing shit in person that inspires me. I remember back in April my creative and visual director Donny Melrose shot me a throwaway mock album cover he made out of a photo shoot we had done months prior, and I got so inspired by it that I made a whole new track to match it that day, which is going to release later on this year.
The whole process felt so natural to me, after looking at the cover I knew exactly what I wanted the song to sound like and it came out just as I wanted.
I think another thing that really drives me both as a producer and rapper is the feeling of growth - there's always room to improve somewhere. When I send something new I'm working on to the camp I have around me (and based on my own thoughts), I keep getting back "Yo, this is even better than the last shit you made and that wasn't even that long ago". I love that feeling.
With 2019 winding down, what are some of your goals musically for 2020?
2020 is going to be the biggest year musically for me to date. I'm in the middle of working on my next project slated to release next year, and a few other things here and there.
With this project I've really focused on pushing my production skills further and becoming more introspective lyrically. “NO CAUTION” was more of "flex-flex-flex" and just having fun, but I wanted to scale that back with this project and refine my production and songwriting abilities.
This project feels more like me, rather than focusing on making songs and putting them together. My goal is to give listeners and other creators something more tangible that they can relate to while telling my own story and experiences. I don't want to say much else about it yet, but I can't wait until it's finished and everyone gets to hear how much I've progressed since “NO CAUTION” and sink into my headspace. People aren't ready for this one.