Now, the young beatsmith is comfortable in his position as one of the most exciting newcomers to collaborate with on a track. Rubbing shoulders with the greats and connecting with the next to blow, Sonny Digital is hoping to shock the world -- and perhaps himself -- with whatever he does next.
The BoomBox had the opportunity to speak with Sonny Digital about his beginnings, his big break, why he's "not a big fan" of befriending rappers and hobnobbing with Kanye West.
How long have you been producing?
I've been behind the boards for either nine or 10 years. Something around there.
What influenced you to start?
My older cousin was a producer who came down from Michigan. He was making beats and I just kinda picked it up from him. On top of that, when I was younger I was rapping and nobody was making beats and I couldn't really find any on the internet so I just started making my own.
Did you pull from the beats your midwestern cousin was making? The hip-hop out there has always had a different sound than anywhere else.
He was the reason I started making beats but he wasn't the inspiration behind it, like, I wasn't tryna make beats like his. There was other music that I listened to too. I listened to a lot of Young Jeezy and Shawty Redd. I basically started to emulate and copy that sound, to be honest. Then that just kinda went over into my own sound and I started adding my own little stuff to it and I really started doing my own thing after that. But really it was Shawty Redd who influenced a lot of my earlier beats.
Do you still see yourself rapping?
I'm rapping right now, actually just finished up a mixtape. Me and my brother Q are working on another one with Drumma Boy right now. I think me and Drumma Boy were talking about Shawty Redd getting on board too. It might be us three, but we're not sure yet. We'll figure it out.
Have you listened to any of the work from your beginnings? What are your thoughts on what you hear?
If I can find anything I will. Like, I'd have to do some real deep searching in my emails to find anything, but the ones that I have run across, I don't know, I'm like, "What the hell was I thinking? This shit was wack. For real." It sounded good at the time but now it's like, "I don't know."
When did you first realize that you have a genuine talent for producing?
It wasn't too long ago -- maybe about five years ago while I was still in high school. I had this little group and to me, it's easy to get your school online. All you have to do is just do a little something and word spreads and gets around the whole county and stuff and you'll be straight. So when I was in school I got into a group and I was the producer.
I used to produce but I would set up everything for the group... getting them kinda hot and getting myself hot at the same time. That was when I realized that I could really do this for a living. While I was in school, I had started doing mixtapes for local people and, you know, it was a little bit of work going in but a lot of people already knew me before I caught my hit. I had put a lot of work in in the streets, I put a lot of music out. So everybody knew it was coming, including myself, I just didn't know when it was coming.
What's been the best thing about your growing career?
So far, I guess proving myself is the best thing. A lot of people like doubting me but when you prove yourself it just feels good and everybody just be all up on you. So I've been continuously proving myself, I guess I gotta do it a couple more times before I get the right mix from everybody. But proving myself to everybody has been the most fun, so I can keep on doing this shit.
What's the next move for you?
Honestly, with all my projects, like when "Racks" [YC featuring Future] came out, and it went up the charts and came back down, as soon as it came down, like as soon as it came down off the Billboard charts, I had another song, that [Future's] "Same Damn Time" hit the charts. As soon as that comes down, I know [2 Chainz'] "Birthday Song" gon' be on there, then it'll be two. So it's like, as soon as I drop something, I don't really know what gonna come next but something always just magically happens just as soon as one song dies.
I couldn't tell you what's coming next, like, what's for sure gonna be a hit but I know I have a couple things in the works. I got some stuff with DJ Khaled, I think it'll be on his album, and I've got some stuff with Wiz Khalifa. I just talked to Roscoe Dash a few days ago. I might be working with Kanye pretty soon. I was just talking to 2 Chainz and he said, "Man, Kanye liking the sound." So I may able to do something with him. I got to meet him when I was in New York a few days ago and we chopped it up for a second.
Wow. You chopped it up with Kanye? What did you guys talk about?
We were shooting the "Birthday Song" video. I was sitting there next to 2 Chainz and he called Kanye over and introduced us. We chopped it up for a second. We didn't have the chance to have a full-blown conversation since we were doing the video but he was asking me about whether or not I liked what he added into the beat, because you know, I did the original beat and Kanye went back and added in the movie-sounding shit in that muhfucker. So he was asking if I liked everything that he'd done but it got cut short because we had to continue shooting since everyone was on a timeline.
Kanye asked if you liked what he did to your beat. That's crazy.
I ain't gon' lie. I was kinda shocked. I wasn't starstruck though. I think we would've had a better conversation. It was just us three talking at first, me, Kanye and 2 Chainz, but it was this little midget from the scene who was just dickriding. Like, he was just all up on everybody. You know how when someone's like that it just sort of pushes people away, you know what I'm saying. Like, he was sitting right next to us and stuff and it was throwing the whole vibe so I was like, "Man, shit. Let's just go on and knock [this video] out. We'll probably talk another time." We're tryna have a conversation and the dude just jumping in like, "Aww 2 Chainz, I love your song, 'Ridin' round and getting' it.'' We like, "Chill out bruh."
So do you producers get together and talk about methods and tips regularly?
It's exactly like that. I was with Young Chop last night and we were over here for a minute. He came to my crib and we just chopped it up all night, made a couple beats together but he was pretty much asking those questions like, "Man, what you use? How you do this? How you do that?" I don't know, I guess that's how it is. When I met Kanye, it wasn't like I was completely starstruck. He didn't come off like a star. He was just like a cool dude who just happens to be a star.
What's the difference between you and other up-and-comers from your city, for instance, a Mike WiLL Made It?
Um, I can't say what I wanna say but I'll just say that we all working. I'm just trying to stay relevant like everybody else, man. We're just working, that's all I'ma say about that.
What would you say has been your favorite experience in the studio so far?
This was a long time ago, around the time I did [2 Chainz'] "10 Summaz." I was in the studio with 2 Chainz and we had a good time, just vibing out, talking, laughing with everybody. He's just a cool dude and I don't get that vibe from everybody else, man. A lot of people be weird as hell. I'm not a big fan of being friends with rappers and shit, I don't know.
Have you thought about expanding and doing things outside of hip-hop?
Yeah, I already started acting on those plans. It's kinda hard to switch over though. I think I'd have to get an artist and bring them up into it, instead of me going to an R&B artist that's already established, 'cause I don't think they would take me seriously on that note. They're used to hearing Sonny Digital with the hard-hitting bass and all that type of shit. When people come to me, they come to me with that type of shit, so for me to try and put out some R&B, they'd be kinda iffy about it or won't hop on it immediately. We're working on it right now though. It's definitely in the works. I'm putting together this thing that should work out for getting into that realm. You'll know when it happens though.
That seems to be the case of lot of the time. Years ago, Lex Luger caught a lot of heat because fans would say that he always made the same type of beat but he'd say it was what artists asked for. It was a specific request that they came to him with.
Right. Right. That's true but for some reason I cannot emulate my own beat. I can't make it twice. I can do something that sounds like it but I'm like, "Man, look, give me an example of a song or an energy from a song." But I can't emulate my beats though. I feel like all my beats sound different like if I played you all my beats and took the tag off them, you wouldn't be able to tell which ones I made.
Would you ever consider producing in-house under a label or do you want to remain independent?
Man, if Cash Money gave me the deal they gave Jazze Pha, hell yeah I'd do it. They gave Jazze Pha a whole lot of money just to be an in-house producer, man. As of right now, you know ain't nobody really cutting no checks like that, so I could probably make more money on my own. We're working on starting a production team now but if I start a production team, it'll really be more to help the other producers and try to get their own, like put their name out there and shit. I'd just be trying to help.
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