An Interview With JB Made It

Nicolas-Tyrell Scott speaks with the in-demand UK Drill producer about the genre's American counterparts and his Croydon upbringing.
By    July 20, 2020

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It was only in the last couple of months that rising drill producer J.B. Made It found his self-confidence.  It’s hard to believe that someone so instrumental to the careers of UK drill legends Skengdo and AM and the 410 collective, once felt that he was out of his depths. But JB Made It acknowledges the difficulty involved in crafting concrete drill records. “I wasn’t born on drill, I didn’t pioneer it. I was lucky that I had people around me like [AV the producer] and the Finesse Forever camp to help me get it right.” 

As J.B. builds his own rep, the Croydon native is admittedly still learning and always striving towards perfection. After all, drill itself has continually evolved in the decade since its genesis in Chicago. In some ways, it parallels grime in how people from all over the glove can relate to gritty and poignant portrayals of youth experiences — especially ones fuelled by systemic oppression. One of drill’s first stars, Chief Keef, embodied the hollow, brutal realities of South Side Chicago and used music as a form of catharsis, expressing his anger over cinematic and menacing productions. The same could be said for the scene’s original pioneers, King Louie and Boss Woo.

In the five boroughs, Rowdy Rebel and Bobby Smurda laid the groundwork for the Brooklyn iteration. Early cuts such as “Hot Nigga” added a bit of hat-tossing levity to the genre, and despite very real threats, Bobby Smurda hit his now iconic two-step. 

As for JB, he first became consumed with music when he joined his church choir at age 8. Mastering the drums and violin, the producer continued to build on his love of the artform throughout his teens. At 15, during a cricket class with his school-friend Josh, he resolved to take it a step further.  “We started missing football, lunchtimes, time with the mandem to play the keys on the piano,” JB tells me. “Music was something different to me, something deeper.” 

His perseverance led to an unlikely opportunity during a trip to New York when a Facetime from Drake found the pop star expressing interest in what would later become “Demons.”  

But life hasn’t changed for JB Made It in the way that his peers might have anticipated. Taking a look at his Instagram and he’s still appreciative of all clients — emerging or established. This doesn’t however, mean that JB is without a list of dream clients. Spanning from Mark Ronson to Normani, his career he says isn’t finished until he reaches every check-point. JB Made It at present remains tight-lipped about his latest ventures. “I want to let the work do the talking.” In the meantime, JB Made It unpacks on that opportunity, as well as the state of drill’s future and producers who help to invigorate the sound. Nicolas-Tyrell Scott

So, how did you get into producing as a whole?

JB Made It: I’ve always been a drummer, so at about 8 years old, I started playing in the church choir. This grew my interest in how things worked in music, but I never really knew about how things were put together. I’m thinking “how do these things happen?” when listening to music. When I was 15, I hooked up with one of my friends called Josh during class and used this time as a way to talk about what we wanted to do. He wanted to make a song, and I hadn’t at the time, but said “Yo, why not? I wanna try something different anyway.” That’s the start of it really. From there, we both thought it was something really cool so I started missing football to go to the music room; my friends would always look at me funny. I began honing in on my craft from there.

How did the gap from school to your main career in the music business happen then?

JB Made It: It became a career when I started a company with my guy TK, I was fifteen at this time also. At first it was cool, I can’t lie, we were the talk of Croydon, people knew who we were, you know. People saw it more as a youth club though, than an actual business. Things became harder when everyone would go to university, people didn’t see the vision; it became tough, so we took a while out. We rebranded a year later and it was during this 104 Forever era at around 18 when I decided that I wanted to take this as a career more seriously.

When you had 104 Forever, did you work or produce for any artists?

JB Made It: Yeah we worked with quite a few. There was someone called J Lovely, then Alesha. We also had Hardy and then we branched out.

When you say Hardy, is that the Hardy we know, Hardy Caprio?

JB Made It: Yeah, Hardy Caprio.

In terms of your household, did your parents always agree with your decision career-wise?

JB Made It: Obviously, my mum died at 8, so she didn’t get to see this side of life. My dad wasn’t always  the most supportive, I mean when I asked, he helped out. He would always ask me why I’m trying to still do this music thing and how it’s a career for me — you know how African parents can be. He didn’t really see the vision, with parents they don’t always see the vision until things pop off. But he did do something that kind of helped push me in the right direction. I was going to go to John Ruskin College and I was gonna play semi-pro football and had to do sports psychology at the time alongside it, and it just didn’t feel right. I was panicking, but my dad reassured me that anything I wanted to do would work out. That was crucial in me deciding to do music and take it seriously.

What’s your background out of curiosity?

JB Made It: I’m Jamaican and Ghanaian.

Okay, so in terms of drill, how would you describe the genre to new listeners in relation to sound?

JB Made It: [pauses] You know, with drill each one has its own sound. You’ve got Chicago drill, which is a bit more aggressive, a bit more grimy. With UK drill, it’s a bit more uptempo, lyrical. And then you’ve got New York drill, which is like a UK drill but more of a party, more of a vibe. [New York drill] isn’t as aggressive. In the UK, you’ve got a faster tempo. There’s kind of a dancehall feel to [UK drill]. We’ve sped up the dancehall snares and used it for our high hats. We use the snare on the two on the first beat and a third on the second beat. It’s kind of unorthodox, but it makes sense to us now.

When you create a new drill production, what is your process, if you have one?

JB Made It: Okay, because I’m a drummer, I like to start with the high hats. As a drummer, you use the high hats to keep yourself steady at first. If you notice in genres like jazz, they rely on the high hats to start things off. Then, I’d add in a snare and build off of that. There’s no set way beyond that, it’s how I’m feeling at that moment in time. Sometimes I might start with a melody first, it depends.

Right and how long on average, if someone asked you to create a drill production for them would it take you?

JB Made It: I would say the average time is an hour to an hour and a half.


JB Made It: Yeah, more times it doesn’t take longer than two hours. I like to add multiple elements in on loop and basslines.

And with the production for drill, is it easier for you to produce a drill record than other genres?

JB Made It: No. I would say R&B is easier for me. I wasn’t really brought up on drill, it’s still relatively new. My go to is actually noughties R&B and soul. I’ve been born and bred for that. I listen to a lot more R&B and pop than drill. With drill, I had to learn drill from people who were younger than me. I had to go back to myself on what you usually know to being a baby and relearning. The way people do drill productions is completely different from a pop song or R&B or afro swing. I was lucky to attend production camps to relearn everything. I only learned how to create drill productions how it is now about a year ago.

Who helped to guide you in terms of learning and mastering drill?

JB Made It: I’d say it was the whole Finesse Forever production camp. I learned for a good chunk of time about how people do it, how things go I really appreciate it.

With Skengdo and AM’s rise, I’ve noticed that you have produced a lot of their songs. How did your relationship with the boys begin and how does it feel to have worked with them?

JB Made It: You know with [Skengdo and AM] they are like my brothers, I love the whole of the 410 lot. I feel like I wouldn’t have had a career without them. One of the biggest rises in my early career was that I had a hand in producing [Pitbulls] with Chief Keef for them. Moments like that are pivotal. The way we started is that we went down to Cowley Estate to meet them and get them signed to [Finesse Forever]. I was thinking “rah,” I didn’t know what was going on. I found out later that they were actually using our studios before and we didn’t realise. The first time they used one of my beats was for a song called “Paris” and from there we built a relationship.

As you know, and have been a part of drill is beginning to rise, not only here, but in Brooklyn too. Why do you think that this is happening now, together?

JB Made It: UK drill has been rising. The reason why it’s rising here, is because for a long time the UK didn’t really have its authentic sound. Grime was cool, but then some people got bored of grime and it never really crossed over and went to America like drill is now. Grime was good but it was hard to hear what people were saying for a lot of people; with Americans they can’t really understand what we’re saying because it’s fast plus the accent. So when drill came about, we had a different kind of vibe, something that the UK could finally stand up and say “we’ve got our own kind of genre made by young people.” Obviously, there have been attempts to shut it down, but we fought. It had the storyline of the police, it had the stories from people from “bad” homes. The genre had the completely original feel. With the crossover to America, I’m not gonna lie, it’s the producers because they love the beats, you had Pop Smoke sounding like 50 Cent on drill. In Brooklyn specifically, they started making it a party vibe, more than thinking about punchlines. With “Welcome to the Party,” you can play that anywhere.

You just spoke about the producers in drill. When did you specifically notice the American artists coming to you guys?

JB Made It: I noticed from “Welcome To The Party.” I started to delve a little deeper and realised that there were people over there using UK drill beats before Pop Smoke even did his thing, they’ve been tapping into it.

Why do you think that Americans didn’t just recreate the sound internally?

JB Made It: Because it’s an authentic UK sound. People think it’s just simple to make, but no you have to really think. It’s hard to describe. [Producers] have created these songs in such a way that it’s just really hard to replicate. It’s like us trying to do trap sounds; it doesn’t always sound authentic because trap didn’t come from over here. I think they came to us because we work hard, fast and authentically. We’ve even had to really teach people out there how to do the basslines.

Before COVID-19 did you repeatedly go out to the States? I saw Fivio Foreign on your Instagram. Which way did it go? Did they come over here or you guys over there?

JB Made It: We went over in January and February times. It’s great because you get to see how they work and they catch how we work, you understand why we do things the way we do and why they act the way they do too.

What did you learn out there?

JB Made It: I learned that Americans are all about how they make you feel, they don’t give a toss. They do whatever they think and whatever they like and they make it so vibey, that you just have to go along with them. Sometimes, you wont even understand what they are talking about, but because of the swag they put on it and their style, it highlights their authenticity. It’s how they jump on the beats, sometimes they aren’t even barring like that. Also, Americans get hyped; all of a sudden it’s four or five guys going “yeah man” about a song they’ve made. All about good vibes and doing their things.

Where were you based while out there?

JB Made It: Platinum Sounds Brooklyn. That’s where all the work happened.

Looking at your career thus far, the biggest thing to date looks like it’s the Drake co-sign and you working with him on “Demons.” How did you feel when you first found out that “Demons” debuted at 34 on Billboard? And how did this happen?

JB Made It: From where I was coming from, it was a very hard time in terms of my trip to New York. A lot of things were going wrong for me at the time even though I had a decent career. I was at rock bottom, they were trying to repossess my car. When I got out there I was out of my depth, the other producers had cuts and knew each other. I think one day they were upstairs working and I ended up going downstairs and working with my first US client Snubbs. A couple of days later I started working with Sosa Geek and he went nuts over one of my beats. I’m sitting there thinking “This is crazy.” I go to the bathroom and come back and everyone’s speechless and I don’t know what’s going on, “Am I gonna die in New York?” I’m getting anxious and then SK says “Drake” and keeps repeating his name. I come out now and everyone’s like “Your life’s about to change.” Then I find out that Drake’s on FaceTime and he loves the beat. I found out a month later that he jumped on my beat and that’s crazy. Then, two weeks before “Demons” and [Dark Lane Demo Tapes] dropped I was told that the songs Drake recorded would be coming out. I’m now even more excited because he’s one of my favourite acts of all time. Even up until now, I’m still overwhelmed about the release and charts.

Did you find out about Billboard on socials? Did someone text you?

JB Made It: When [Dark Lane Demo Tapes] hit number one, I started to watch the UK charts. Then, when Billboard happened, we hit number 34, someone messaged me on Twitter saying “Rah, I think you’re at 34.” I’m still like “Wow, we hit Billboard”

That’s nuts man. Do you see drill gaining even more attention as time goes on?

JB Made It: Absolutely. I kind of see this whole drill movement and compare it to hip-hop, N.W.A., that era. We’ve kinda faced the controversy with it in a similar way in the UK with the police, government, you know. I feel like it’s gone far already, you’ve got Australia doing their own thing, Russia, America, Germany. It’s definitely gonna expand as the genre starts to infuse with other things. Now, a lot of people are doing R&B drill; people are finding all sorts of ways to blend with drill with other genres. It has a lot of potential, and I think it’s going to be here for a lifetime.

Interesting. So what do you think the biggest change will be with drill as it evolves on a production level?

JB Made It: Like I said, I’m seeing loads of experimentation with R&B and even dubstep — all it takes is the right song. I think this will impact probably the chords on drill and I think people will start to evolve song structures, this will definitely happen. People are going to start to understand that you can put different components in different places. You might have a break here and there, different instruments as well. The drums and basslines will still be around the same for me. Melodies widely will be the things that change.

You’ve just mentioned it, but drill sometimes over here and in America gets tainted by the police and the media for inciting violence. Do you think that there’s any truth to that? What are your thoughts on the controversy that people try to shake up with drill?

JB Made It: I mean, I can’t lie, it’s blatant that there’s a lot of lines and negative lyrics. However, at the same time, people can’t discourage that. You can’t expect these guys to talk about things that aren’t their reality, it doesn’t make sense. People give [drill] a negative connotation because they don’t understand it. They use it as a way to brand it as something negative. If we look at the bigger picture, [artists] rapping on drill allow young people to make a career for themselves; you see the Headie One’s of today, who started off in drill and now he’s doing stuff with Fraser T Smith. It’s allowing culture’s to be infused in drill. People need to back off with the claims because you wouldn’t be able to see it connect with so many people outside of the country as well.

I wanted to go back to Croydon where you grew up. There’s been so many success stories from Croydon in different genres and fields. How was it growing up in the area and seeing so many people thriving today?

JB Made It: It’s not easy growing up in Croydon. Don’t get me wrong, I say that Croydon’s the best place in the world. With that, if you look at the stats Croydon was the highest region for knife stabbings for two years in a row, I think it was 2016, 2017 or 2017, 2018. But we’ve created a lot of legends, we have a lot of young people here, it’s very multicultural. It’s been hard, but it’s been lit. If it wasn’t for Croydon I wouldn’t be who I am, and we wouldn’t have the stars of today like Croydon also.

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