Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bangladesh Tells All: The Stories Behind His Biggest Hits

Bang 625Armed with an infectious sample and trunk slapping bass, Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” is not only one of Weezy’s biggest songs, but also one of the definitive songs of its era. The man credited with producing the beat is none other than Shondrae “Bangladesh” Crawford. An Iowa native who moved to Atlanta during his teenage years, Bangladesh’s beats come loaded with futuristic sounds and undeniable crunk. Besides “A Milli,” his production credits include hits like Ludacris’ “What’s Your Fantasy,” Beyonce’s “Diva,” and Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade.” He also happens to be working with Pusha T on his upcoming G.O.O.D. Music debut. That’s why we just had to get Bang to tell the stories behind some of his biggest hits. He was kind enough to explain why Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” was a double-edged sword for him, how Sean Garrett can make your song tighter, and how one rude comment inspired one of his first beats. *Spaced-out voice screams “BANGLADESH!”*

Ludacris f/ Shawnna "What's Your Fantasy" (2000)
Bangladesh: "I met Ludacris around '95 or '96. I met him through a mutual friend, Lil Fate. My best friend was Lil Fate's cousin [and] Lil Fate used to rap with Chris, [who] was his best friend. I met Luda around the time he was really trying to rap for real. I used to cut hair in this barber shop [in Atlanta] that me and my aunt owned, and Chris used to come up there and get line-ups. He didn't know I wanted to do music, he just knew me as 'The Barber.'

"The only person that knew I was into music was Lil Fate. So, I saved my money up and I bought my MPC 2000 in '98 when I graduated high school. When I told [Luda] I had bought an MPC 2000, he looked at me crazy like, 'Why you do that?' I told him I wanted to make music. So the next time he came into the shop, I had beats. I just took him to my car and said, 'Yo man come listen to something right quick.' He came to the car and I turned it on and I played about three or four beats and he didn't say nothing, he was just bobbing, bobbing, bobbing. So when I turned the music off he was like, 'Man, what you doing with these beats?!' I know what he meant by that, so I said, 'Man, it's whatever.'

"A couple of days later, I'm at the studio and I had just made another beat. I call over to his house. I was calling for 4-IZE—Chris' friend from Chicago that raps—because I wanted him to hear this beat I just made. [Ludacris] answered the phone and he already knew I had something. So he's like, 'Man, what you got? What you got?' I think I asked him if 4-IZE there and he was like, 'Come over now, bring your beats.' So I went over. And probably about three or four songs on the first album was on my first beat tape. Like 'Ho' and '1st and 10,' all of them was on there.

"[That's when] 'What’s Your Fantasy' came about, [after] they knew that I’m good at making beats and I’m no longer [known as] 'The Barber.' So I take another beat tape over there. Back then, I used to put like three or four beats on one track cause I didn’t know no better. I'll make an intro beat that was totally different from the main beat and 'What's Your Fantasy' was an intro. It didn't have that high hat. So I put the high hat in and extended it a bit and I gave it to him. His album had enough songs but I gave him that beat and next thing I know, he was mixing.

"He had an Organized Noise beat and a Jermaine [Dupri] beat that they just gave him. But that's what [the beats] sounded like, like they just gave him beats. It wasn't really the passion that equals art to me. To make a long story short, he was gonna put out those tracks first ’cause they had a name and he's working independently so it would help him. Next thing I know, he put out 'What's Your Fantasy' first. I'm in the shop cutting hair and my song is like the Top 1 at 1 every day in Atlanta. After we seen it was a hit, after we heard it [on the radio] for a long time, I called him up like, 'Man you just keep playing it, huh?' [Editor's note: At the time, Ludacris worked at an Atlanta radio station then-known as Hot 97.5] And he said, 'Man that ain't me, that's the people! This a hit—I can't keep playing my shit if it ain't a hit, man.' Probably six months after the song has been big [in Atlanta], Luda got an offer from Def Jam. So, the song was going for six months before we shot a video and then the video brought the song all over the world." 

Ludacris "Ho" (2000)
Bangladesh: "'Ho' was motivated by a dude I used to make beats with named Barry Walker. When I was cutting in the shop, I started making beats with this dude. His mom and dad had money, so they bought him some equipment. When he got his equipment he started being selfish and he kinda cut me out the loop. He stop calling, stop coming around, cut me outta doing a lot of things that we were doing together at first. So that drove me to get my own things.

"At this time I was cutting hair in the neighborhood shop and all his friends, I would be cutting their hair. Once I got my beat machine, I started making beats and I would play them in the shop. So his friends would go back and tell him that my beats sounded good. So [Barry] came up to the shop one day. I'm thinking he's coming to the shop to get a haircut or something. He goes, 'Nah, I'm just here to chill. But yo, I heard you had some beats.' I’m like, 'Yeah.' He's like, 'Lemme hear them.' So I played them. I was playing them and they was alright beats. And I notice he was pacing the floor. He was mad because he liked my music. So he's pacing back and forth. And after I played him my third beat he said, 'Yeah keep doing it man, you'll get better.'

"That just chewed me. What he said to me, just changed me. It put a drive into me and I made 'Ho' after he said that. And that [was on] the first beat tape I gave to Ludacris. I played it for him and he made that right away. I was thinking it would be a hard song for the streets or something. So when Luda sang the hook to me, it kinda threw me off. He was like, 'Yeah man, I got a hook for it: 'You's a hoooo!' I was like, 'Nah man, you fitting to ruin it.' But it was a hit though!" 

8Ball & MJG "Don't Make" (2004)

Bangladesh: "After Ludacris’ shit, I was gonna do my own thing independently. I wasn’t gonna be dependent on them so I had to be dependent on myself. I started getting out there shaking hands, meeting people, and politicking. So I met 8Ball and I got his number, but we never really got up because he never answered his phone. I was in New York meeting with the A&R at Bad Boy at the time. [While in NY] I called 8Ball and he happened to pick up his phone and he just happened to be in NY, too.

"I was playing them beats and 'Don't Make' was the first joint. That was off the first beat CD that I made and he picked that beat. That was on a Monday, on a Friday I'm going to the Bad Boy meeting. So, I hadn't heard anything from Ball. When I get to Bad Boy, they talking about this song. So, they was like, 'You're the one that did 'Don’t Make?' I ain't even know that it was this major, that this song got them open.

"So Puff comes and he wants me to produce half their album. That was actually the third time I met Puff. The first two times he showed an interest in my music and in my production ability. He mentioned some stuff along the lines of giving me more music. But after that time when he heard the 8Ball track, [there were] more opportunities and more openings." 

8Ball & MJG "You Don't Want Drama" (2004)
Bangladesh: "[After Puff walked in] we was in a cipher with 8Ball & MJG and Puff wanted to hear the verses that they wrote. So MJG went first, 8Ball went second. So, he's telling the A&R, 'Why you got this man just sitting around here, man? Set him up in the other room and let's get him working!' But I gotta make a flight in a couple of hours and he’s setting up plans for me and I don't have those same plans.

"So I go back to Atlanta. When I went back to the crib, I wanted to do something else for them, so I made 'You Don't Want Drama.' I came up with that beat and knew this was the beat. I called Ball and I was like, 'Yo I got this beat for y'all.' He was like, 'Send it, send it.' Puff heard it and they recorded it. They went crazy for it and it became the first single off the album. I wasn't in the studio when they did that, though. I went back to Atlanta because I don't like to work in other people's surroundings. I wasn't trying to work in Bad Boy studios. [I like] my own surroundings—there's nobody over your shoulder trying to tell you how to do something." 

8Ball & MJG f/ Lloyd "Forever" (2004)
Bangladesh: "'Forever' was probably the last one I did [for 8Ball & MJG]. I just was really trying to make them something else. I knew Lloyd for a long time, he stayed around the corner from me. And I knew that he had just signed to Murder Inc. at the time. I thought he was perfect to get on it and he was just a phone call away, so I just called him to come get on the hook. When he put the hook on it, they loved it but they didn't even know what he was saying. They was like, 'What is he saying right there?' [Laughs.]

"I think Lloyd was 16 or 17 when I first met him. I met him through the industry. An A&R brought him to my house, so I didn’t really like that. I like organic shit. I don't really like industry meetings and shit like that. But when I found out he stayed around the corner from me, we was working, and working. He was my ideal artist that I wanted to work with cause my beats and his voice woulda killed. I would always wanna hear Lloyd's voice on aggressive beats or hard beats, just other stuff than what he would usually do. I know Lloyd—not from being in the street—but from being in the hood, not the clean-cut singer that he presents himself as. So I just wanted to hear him on a beat that was more for the street. But when he came out, the music he was making wasn't what I expected it to be. It was a more Irv Gotti sound." 

Kelis f/ Too $hort "Bossy" (2006)
Bangladesh: "When I made [the beat], Lloyd and Ciara was in the studio [with me]. They were beefing over this beat. And they started sing-battling against each other. [Laughs.] So, I gave the beat to Ciara but after that day she never did anything with it. You know, some people sound good on a beat while jamming, but when it comes to writing something and making it clever it's a different story. So, nothing probably came to her quick enough so she didn't do anything with it.

"So from there Luda wanted the beat. I gave the beat to Luda, but he didn't really do anything with it. Around this time I met Mark Pitts, who is the president of Jive right now. Mark loved this beat, from there he navigated it to Kelis, and from there it did what it did. So really, it was him taking an interest. In the industry people didn't really take an interest in Bangladesh productions, especially back then because it was so different from industry standards. But Mark really knew what it was and he made sure the right song got on it and it did what it did for Kelis.

"I wasn't in the studio [for 'Bossy'] but I should have been. You should always be. You can make arrangements but if the communication ain't there and the respect level ain't there...That song in particular, I was cool with not being there cause the writers were there. Like Sean Garrett was there when she recorded 'Bossy' and it came out right cause someone was there that could give some direction." 

M.I.A. "Hit That" (2007)

Bangladesh: "M.I.A. hit me up because she heard 'Bossy.' She reached out to me and I went out to New York to work with her. M.I.A.'s a dope artist but I think I forced that song out of her. What I mean by that is, she was looking for me to do something with the sounds that she provided for me because she's an artist and she had their own vision for her shit. When artists reach out to producers for a particular thing that they like, the producers usually do what they do. [But] I'm not gonna take particular sounds that you give me. I took one particular sound that she gave me and did my own thing with it. She gave me her vocals and a piece of 'Paper Planes.' But I was making her come up with new verses and she really didn't wanna write new stuff. She wrote new shit but she ain't really participate.

"So she ain't like it. I thought it was hot but she kept saying it sounds like some other producer or something. But then she put 'Paper Planes' out and it was the same shit! I just took it as she was searching for someone to give her the right beat to a song she wanted. Just tell me that though, you coulda sent me the vocals and I coulda done that from the crib. If I gotta get myself to New York and if I gotta pay for my own hotel room, it's cool. But call me and let me know that you don't wanna use the song. Don't put out something else. I did [the song] but it wasn't like a major release so I leaked that shit to the Internet cause she didn't want it." 

Lil Wayne "A Milli" (2008)
Bangladesh: "I'ma give you the exclusive. Basically, where it all began. When I was working on Kelis' material, I met this producer dude that would send me beats. He was a fan, like he was always asking me questions and always wanting me to hear his music. I’m not naming nobody. We’re not giving people too much shine right here. [Editor's note: Although Bangladesh refused to mention dude's name, we’re pretty sure he was referring to Cha-Lo.] So 'A Milli' was his beat, but the actual production, the drums, and the music was wack. So I bought the sound from him and he was cool with it. Once I made my beat—my version of the production with that sound—I gave it to Shanell [who took it to Wayne]. He started going about it the wrong way, acting like I did him dirty or something.

"He got paid for the sound and he got 15% of the publishing. That's unheard of. I looked at it like this: He gonna keep giving me shit and we're gonna do more work. Producers that have a lot of work or are doing a lot of things, they get sounds from people. They might hire a guy to get him sounds. And I was looking at it like that sound 'A Milli' like it was the chorus. So I claimed 65% of the track, gave him 15%, and was claiming 50% [for myself]. 15% is generous, but he gave me that sound and that sound was important in the track. I just looked at it like it was a good look for him.

"But somewhere along the line he got with the wrong publicist or attorney. The song was a hit so it gave him an opportunity to say that he produced the record. He was in interviews saying he produced the record, but that’s just trying to create more work but that's not how you do it. Word is I'm doing him bad. Moving on from there we cleared the issue up. We just had to break bread with the people that own the word that we tapped out, and he was cut out the situation, so I still have the percentage of the record.

"I know there was something said about the sample being incorporated music and that’s why we ain’t get paid, but that’s not why I ain't been paid because I still own a percentage the record. And the other producers on the album who got original material, they ain't been paid. I just ain't been paid for it man. So 'A Milli' was a double-edged sword for me. It was a stepping stone as far as delivering other hits for artists because Lil Wayne is so big and I have a major hit that changed the game. Then they look at it like, 'Let me work with him.' So it was the importance of where I wanted to be but it's also a headache. I haven't physically gotten paid, but I got promising words from the people that got control of it.

"[The beat] changed the game in the same way I seen Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and Neptunes change the game. I'm just going off the facts. There was probably about 70-100 'A Milli' beats after 'A Milli' that I didn’t do. And that’s from major producers to no-name producers. I ain't really fitting to point nobody out. But as a producer I know where the influence comes from. I'll point one out for you: Willow Smith's 'Whip My Hair.' I'm not pointing her out, but the track that was made for her is 'A Milli.' Listen to it. That's 'A Milli' and she has the hottest track out right now and I can honestly say that I influenced that." 

Beyonce "Diva" (2008)
Bangladesh: "I actually made [that beat] after the 'A Milli' hype and all that was going on. Basically, I was in LA Fitness just thinking about working on my mixtape. I have a female artist and I still have a rap artist and I was just trying to figure out a way to put those dudes on an 'A Milli' type record. This is just mixtape shit, this ain't no 'I'm just trying to sell the beat' or anything like that. So, for the female part I got the idea of saying 'Diva' over the female part and for the male part I was gonna have him say something like 'Gorilla' or something like that.

"When I made 'Diva' and listened to it, everyone that was in the room said it sounded like an original piece that I was gonna sell. When I was talking to Sean Garrett, he kept talking about 'A Milli.' So I gave him 'Diva' and he went crazy over it because he knew that if I was gonna sell it as an original piece then it would have to be Beyonce. Ain't no other divas out there so it ended up working out as planned. But normally, it doesn't work that way." 

Beyonce f/ Lady Gaga "Videophone" (2009)
Bangladesh: "I did the actual track for 'Videophone' before I did 'Diva.' The 'Videophone' beat was actually a beat that I had, but I can't remember giving it to Sean Garrett. When I was working with him I didn’t even know he had that beat. We were working on 'Diva' at the time and when he played 'Videophone' he was just telling me she loves this beat. It wasn't a beat that was really on my radar. Like, as a producer you have your favorite beat and you only let certain people hear that. And 'Videophone' wasn’t one of those beats. So when he played it and he said, 'She loves this beat' I was surprised.

"I didn't go to the studio with her, [Sean Garrett] went to the studio with her. I've known Sean since probably 2002 when he was driving a little Corolla. Back then he was writing for somebody and the dude was on Universal, so they came through trying to work on something for the artist dude. I forget his name. That's when I first met him. That day he said something that I look back on, he said, 'Yeah man, I'ma be like Missy Elliot.' Within a few years he wrote [Usher's] 'Yeah,' [Ciara's] 'Goodies,' and he was doing what Missy Elliot was doing. Then he became the biggest writer in the game. So we just started working. The best work with the best like the real recognize the real, so you wanna work with people that's on your level. You don’t wanna send nothing to be Beyonce that don't sound right so you call up the best to write the track." 

Mario f/ Sean Garrett & Gucci Mane "Breakup" (2009)
Bangladesh: "Well, again. Domino effect. From the Bey music, J. Records wanted music for Mario that sounded like Bey music. So, I sent him a couple beats and they asked who could write it. So I said, 'The same person who wrote the Bey music, Sean Garrett.' When Sean got it, he wanted to keep it for himself. [Laughs.] So when he recorded it, we knew it was a smash but he kept trying to get me to let him have it, but I didn't really want him to have it. So I guess he maneuvered the situation where he gave it to Mario but he stayed on the song. It all worked out for the best: He got a look, we got it to Mario, and it was a major placement for myself.

"How I created the beat is another story. Keyshia Cole had recorded over 'Diva,' but I gave it to Bey. So her people wanted me to create another beat for her. So I made it but they never got back to me. A lot of people wanted that beat [like] Julez Santana, I even gave the Clipse manager that beat. R. Kelly wanted that beat. R. Kelly actually recorded a song to the beat but I never knew about it. I just heard the story about it. I guess he has parties in his house on the weekends, so instead of going to the club he brings the club to himself. And I guess he plays his songs and new material at these parties. And he was playing that song and some girl came up to him and asked him if it was the remix to the Mario song. That kinda killed his mood." 

Gucci Mane "Lemonade" (2009)
Bangladesh: "[I was] in Vegas [and] I get this phone call that they trying to fly me to Vegas to work with Gucci. I was like, 'I’m already in Vegas.' We was working in one of the casino studios and with 'Lemonade' I didn’t really know what to do. It was last minute, all I had was my laptop and I had a couple of sounds in there. I had a sample [of Flo & Eddie's 'Keep It Warm'] that I had for about a year and didn't really do nothing to it. So I started messing with that. Gucci had already started writing, which is why a lot of producers like working with him because he's not gonna ask too many questions, he's just gonna go in.

After that, there was a part in the sample that said something about some money, so I wanted to incorporate it into the beat. But Gucci didn't like that part so he wrote his own hook to the part. I ain't really like the hook. I wanted to incorporate this sample melody into the track so I changed the words of the sample to be about 'Lemonade' and kept the melody.

"I didn't change the hook when we recorded it. I took it home and I had the whole song, but it wasn't moving me so I had Tomfoolery—who is my rap artist—rewrite the hooks of the sample. And, I had my daughter and my nieces sing it over. So it sounded like a sample record but there was no sample in it, but it changed the whole sound. I played it for Gucci and he was like, 'I like it Bang, but where my hook go? My hook was banging right?' So I had to tell him, 'Nah.' But it wasn't hard to tell him. He just wants to make the best music so it's easy to be honest with dude." 

Gucci Mane f/ Lil' Wayne & Cam'ron "Stupid Wild" (2009)

Bangladesh: "That was the same night, I did 'Lemonade' first then we did 'Stupid Wild.' He said he wanted something real hard and dark, so I turned the beat on and he just started rapping. I changed the hook on that actually too. He wrote something, but I just took a piece of what he said in the verses and looped it."

"Gucci go hard. It was like five or six in the morning [when] he left the studio to gamble. He went to the crap table at five in the morning. I probably sat there and watched him shoot dice for about 45 minutes before I went to my room. Got up the next day, left out my room about three in the afternoon and I'm walking through the casino and Gucci still out gambling! He changed out his clothes though but he ain’t been to sleep though. So I saw him and he was like, 'C'mon Bang! C'mon Bang!' Gucci go hard. It was a pretty dope experience working in Vegas."

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