Sonny Digital had already been tearing the club up for years before he celebrated his 21st birthday earlier this month. But the prolific Atlanta beat maker didn’t sneak past the door with a fake ID, he got by on his trademark sound. One of the game’s hottest young producers, Sonny is leading a renaissance of young beat makers that includes Hit Boy ("N**** in Paris"), Jahlil Beats ("I''m a Boss") and others. As they build hip hop’s future soundscape, he and his peers are working with some of the biggest names in the rap world. From young bucks like Future and Wiz Khalifa to vets Juicy J and Young Jeezy, Sonny has been so busy it’s hard for him to keep track of his upcoming projects. “I just don’t remember a lot of this stuff,” he explains when asked to plug his future work. “It be so fast-paced that it’s hard to actually keep up with everything.” BET.com was able to catch up with the producer behind last year’s break-out club bangers “Racks” to talk about perfecting his sound, dealing with success and working with the game’s biggest stars before turning 21.
BET.com: You’re one of many young producers currently on the come-up. What are the perks and drawbacks of being so young and successful in the game?
Sonny Digital: When you’re a young dude you gotta compete with the older dudes. So you gotta work more and start improving yourself. That’s the only bad thing about it. You have to work extra hard because you don’t have as many years in the game compared to them.... I like being young in the game, though. It just makes you stand out. A lot of people got hits, but when you’re a young guy, you stick out. They hear “dude produces” and [say] whatever. [Then] you say, “He’s 20 years old,” and they say, “I wanna meet this dude! He’s 20-years-old, he’s got a long time to come.” It ain’t no major, crazy perks to it, though. It depends on where I am. Out here in Atlanta, I can get in any clubs and stuff, but anywhere else, no.
When an artist with established sounds reach out, how do you make your sound fit with theirs?
At first, I was trying to fit around them. But when I started making beat tapes, I had people calling me asking [for] my sound. I saw they want what I got. So when they really understood what I had, then I didn’t wanna make something that’s not me. Then that will blow up and everybody’s gon’ put that label on me.
What is it about your sound that has everyone calling?
To be honest, I don’t really even know. I gotta give a whole lot of credit to Future, man. He leading a lot of people and showin’ ‘em what to do with my beats. He really put the hype behind a lot of my beats — I mean, they good, too — but he’s just showin’ them what to do with ‘em.… We could go to the studio and make a hit every day. If we were in the studio, I know we could. I don’t even know [what it] is, it just all fits together so perfectly. Anything we do just be a smash. Like, on his last mixtape [Astronaut Status], I only had one track (“Jordan Diddy” featuring Gucci Mane) on there. But from what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing, it was the best track on there.
When can we expect to hear more of those?
With Future, I find out about songs when they drop just like everybody else. I’ll probably hear about it, but I won’t hear it until it actually drops.
You and Future’s specialty is obviously club tracks. Do you go into beats with a certain direction in mind?
When I go and make a beat, I don’t really go in with an idea of what I’m gonna make. I just kinda bounce around and have fun and whatever comes out, comes out. Sometimes — not all the time — I’ll basically listen to a whole bunch of music before I actually go in to make beats. And then it will inspire me to make that type of sound. I do that when I’m trying to do different types of beats [for certain artists], so I can get the feel of how the beat goes and their sound.
You’re a part of a deep class of young producers killing it right now. From Hit Boy to Jahlil Beats to Lex Luger, how does it feel to be part of a beat-maker renaissance?
It feels good to be amongst ‘em. I’m just hoping everybody’s doing the right things…trying to inspire these little kids, these young people that’s the next generation after us. If you inspire the next generation, they’re going to f*** with you when they get on. They’ll keep you going, know what I’m saying?
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