LOS ANGELES, CA – It was a warm summer night, somewhere in the Hollywood Hills along the winding roads of Mulholland Drive. You could see all of Los Angeles through a tall, glass window that encompassed a mansion in which Justin Bieber was rumored to have trashed a few days prior. I peered out a lonely window overlooking a pool as Hollywood does what Hollywood does after hours. I wondered: What am I doing here?
Before long, a young guy with wild, curly hair and a red, plaid button-down introduces himself to me. His name is Teddy Walton, a producer out of Memphis, Tennessee and he shares with me that he’s been working with A$AP Rocky. He then introduces me his other friend, an engineer, who’d been working on the same project. Cool, I thought. But Teddy and I connected on some down-south shit.
He was just getting his start in L.A. and so was I, so we kept in touch. I got the opportunity to watch him grind, working on projects with his brother June and it was a song he produced titled “All I Need” that made me go crazy. The production was insane, soulful and something that made me believe this kid was going somewhere. When I heard A$AP Rocky’s “Electric Body” I knew Teddy had something to do with it. His production is unique and fulfilling.
It all came full circle in 2017 though. Now I get a chance to interview my good friend about his journey from sleeping on studio couches and bad contracts to getting placements on one of the biggest projects of the year: Kendrick Lamar’s multi-platinum album DAMN. He’s the reason you love “LOVE.” and why you recite the words to “GOD.” with passion. He’s the reason why you play Goldlink’s “Crew” over and over again.
With the great year that the 24-year-old platinum-selling producer is having so far, he was also kind enough to create a playlist for HipHopDX for our new Spotify Sessions series and gave us some insight into his musical inspiration as well as intel on his forthcoming Mental Health EP. I assure you, he’s just as humble as the day I met him.
Three 6 Mafia — “Slob On My Knob” — I’m from Memphis, so that’s mandatory. I’m just trying to make the South great again. Not Atlanta. Not Texas. Y’all been poppin’ but a lot of stuff that Memphis does gets overlooked until someone else does it and it goes mainstream. I never met Juicy J but when Kendrick’s “LOVE.” song came out he tweeted that it was his favorite song on the project and then I reached out to him, he gave me his number and I FaceTimed him. We talked about how we both know people who have mental issues and connected on that.
Bryson Tiller — “Rain On Me”/”Set It Off” — I DM’ed Bryson on Twitter and sent him some of my vibes and he used it on True To Self. Bryson’s been cool.
Kid Cudi — “Cudi Zone” — As I was saying about mental health, I don’t suffer from [issues] that much because I do music. I literally do music every day and it makes me happy. Earlier in my days of me trying to find something I wanted to do in life, I was always jamming Kid Cudi. I was different low-key. I wasn’t even that soulful at the time, I was just on a psychedelic vibe.
Goldlink f. Brent Faiyaz, Shy Glizzy & Gucci Mane — “Crew (REMIX)” — Crazy thing is I made “Crew” for my friend TYLR … That was his record with kind of the same vibe but when he heard the Goldlink version he said Link could have it.
Young Dolph — “Pacific Ocean” — This actually happened a week before he was shot in L.A. A random 901 number was calling me and I don’t even answer numbers I don’t know but since it was a Memphis number, I answered. He was like, “Ay, you sleep?” I was like nah, who is this? He was like, “It’s Dolph.” Straight up. I forgot I was reaching out to his whole camp. He told me to send some beats and I told him to send me the address. So he was like, you send me some beats and I’ll send you the address. I sent him two beats and he sent me the address.
Frank Ocean — “Nights” — It’s one of the hardest songs in 2017. It’s like three songs in one if you really listen to it. I hate that people slept on it. When I ride at night, this is that vibe.
Kendrick Lamar – “LOVE.” — I got invited into a session and he knew I was coming and everything. I started playing him beats and I played a beat and yelled out, “This what God feel like.” I don’t know if anyone know but I co-wrote “GOD.” He didn’t use the beat but he used the quote. After that, I played him different vibes and “LOVE.” was one of them and he snatched that up real quick. I’m trying to do underground songs and songs that are going to be here forever.
Tame Impala — “Love/Paranoia” — The beginning of this song is crazy. I think Tame Impala has influenced a lot of people without them saying it but I think it’s going to be a trend for people to say they’re working with Tame. I been trying to get people to work with Tame. I had to throw him on the playlist. This is definitely my favorite Tame song.
Lil Uzi Vert — “Early 20s Rager” — I can’t lie, this song is crazy. I don’t know what Uzi was on or what molly he was on but it’s like whatever they was on, I just took it. That song puts me into a zone. I think everyone should experience “Early 20s Rager” all the way up to the max before you go out. If you listen to that song you’ll forget about a lot of things. One time I played it like 30 times.
Teddy Walton’s Journey From Sleeping On Studio Couches To The Billboard Hot 100
HipHopDX: How does it feel to have made it this far?
Teddy Walton: The only thing that’s changed is that I’m comfortable. I don’t really go out as much but I really noticed it when I went to ComplexCon for the first time.
DX: What’s been the toughest part about all the attention you’ve been getting so far?
TW: The toughest part is having to get out and talk to people. I like to be in the crib and be creative to keep it real. I have to, but I know it’s good when people see you in the press.
DX: I know your mom is such a huge part of your life so what’s been her reaction to your recent success?
TW: My mom is crazy because it’s like my mom already knew that one day I literally would be able to live off making beats. She already knew that. But her reaction to it now is that she’s just happy she’s able to spend and do more things and she’s more comfortable. She’s just more about, “what’s next?” and just making sure I’m happy. That’s why my project is called Mental Health. Every job that she gets she’s either working with mental patients or abandoned kids. Her whole life she’s been working in that field.
DX: So overall she’s been super supportive of you?
TW: 100%. I have snippets of my mama talking throughout Mental Health and a Lil Yachty song that’s coming out.
DX: What kind of advice has she given you?
TW: Before all these big records came out, they all came out on my behalf. I put that together. I made that happen before signing any papers. I made that happen in the kitchen. When I told her about the Kendrick Lamar, she was knew that it was huge. She thinking, ‘you about to get the new crib off top.’ She asked if I was going to sign.
One thing that made me sign an admin deal [with Kobalt Music] instead of a publishing company was because she said to make sure that whoever you sign with, you don’t have to change your pattern because whatever you did to get all these placements, if you change that then eventually your whole destiny will change. That’s with her not knowing anything about the industry. It just made me sign an admin deal with Kobalt instead of a pub company. I’m able to still just chill and create.
DX: What’s it like going back to Memphis?
TW: Ever since my Pops passed away in 2015 I haven’t been able to do that for real. It’s a southern energy that I’m trying to bring out. A beautiful southern energy.
DX: What’s it like seeing people vibe to your music?
TW: I don’t go out much but when I went to ComplexCon it made me realize that people are actually listening to my music. Every five minutes someone was coming up to me. At one point I was talking to six people at the same time. I got mad anxiety. I did not know it was going to happen like this. This is crazy that this many people know me.
DX: A$AP Rocky’s “Electric Body” was one of your first major placements. How did that come together?
TW: That happened through [A$AP] Yams finding out about me on the internet. Once he found out about me we actually were DM’ing each other back and forth for like a good two weeks. A year later, I end up meeting him in L.A. and linking up with him one day at this rehearsal that they were having for tour. I got to vibe out and the next thing you know I get invited to the studio by their engineer. I made “Electric Body” there in the studio. The crazy thing about it is that Yams didn’t get a chance to experience that because he passed away a year before that.
DX: It’s always tough talking about Yams because he’s been such a big influence on the industry in such a small amount of time.
TW: 100%. I hate even talking about it. I just be looking at my DMs sometimes because I still got it. He basically was telling me that the beats I was sending him, he was saying like, “Yo, your beats are crazy. Start them earlier. Make them not so hard. This is crazy!”
DX: A$AP Rocky was 2015. Fast forward, two years later and you have two platinum singles. You’re on one of the biggest albums of the year: Kendrick Lamar. You’re on Bryson Tiller’s album and you’re on Young Dolph’s project.
TW: All that sound unrealistic. I would for real never think I would be doing all that. Especially “Crew.”
DX: Did you know Gucci Mane was going to hop on it?
TW: No! I found out when I woke up and I was like, “Hold on. What?” All my cousins from Memphis so I woke up to a lot of my family hitting me up like, “Hey bruh! Wop hopped on yo beat bruh!” They didn’t even care when Kendrick dropped. They just cared that Gucci was on [“Crew”]. It was dope.
DX: I know you’re on Nipsey’s project as well. You have a lot of stuff coming out at one time. I know you said it feels unrealistic but how are you handling all of this stuff and remaining humble?
TW: My schedule and the things I do throughout the day hasn’t changed since all the stuff happened. So I feel like it’s only certain people who change and start to act different and their work starts to sound different. I feel like right now, I’m making the best music. I’m not doing anything but waking up and talking to family. I’m doing the most simplest things. I noticed the more simple your life is, the more content you are, your music will definitely be great. You’ll be satisfied with it and you’ll be giving the fans what they want.
DX: You’ve actually spent quite some time with Nipsey. He’s really insightful, so what has he advised you on in regards to the music industry?
TW: First of all, shout out to Mike and Keys. Those are Nipsey’s producers and every time I see them they always throw me game. But Nipsey looked at me and was like: “Yo, you here. Just stay here. Your sound is soulful and classic at the same time.” He’s one of the realest I’ve ever met. He always texts me in the morning, “Top of the top.” Just like that tweet he be tweeting.
The Decision Behind Choosing An Admin Deal Over A Publishing Deal
DX: As a producer, you chose to sign an admin deal with Kobalt Music as opposed to a publishing deal. Metro Boomin recently complained about those type of deals. What’s been your experience in figuring out what’s best for you?
TW: Every meeting I took, my mom was like don’t switch your pattern. Some of these meetings I took they was like ‘Yo you’re killing it and you got this going on, you could be a DJ!’ I’m like, ‘Bruh. I just want to cook up and eventually write films. Y’all on some “biggest DJ in the world” and I ain’t tryna do all that.’
DX: So some of them were trying to change you and make you do other stuff?
TW: Yeah! Some of the labels I went to were just giving me ideas instead of recognizing everything I did without doing anything they said. I did a lot on my own to make those meetings so it didn’t make sense. I can say I literally have met with everybody.
DX: It seems a lot of producers don’t really understand what came with a publishing deal and now it appears they’re trying to warn others.
TW: I’m low-key the Lil B of producers because I really don’t go through all that. It’s crazy. Someone at Kobalt told me that I’m coming into the game very rare and different. I really understood that. Put it like this, if I never would’ve signed I would’ve had two platinum singles, unsigned, regular dude and a crib waiting to collect the money. It’s an admin. No pub. They just collect your money so if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. They let me do my thing. I don’t really understand the pub side of things. I never been through that and don’t plan on it.
DX: Who has reached out to you that you were surprised about?
TW: You ready? I was surprised about Usher. I was super surprised that I got to kick it in the studio with Usher for like three days. He’s definitely a legend. We made a connection after we both found out we’re from Tennessee. He was like, ‘We both from Tennessee, don’t forget that we cousins.’ He gave me tips and everything. He even had the Dom P at the table and made a gold necklace with my name on it. He told me no matter what stick to the music.
The Process Of Curating The Mental Health EP
DX: How are you constantly creating fire beats? Are you still getting your inspiration from the female physique?
TW: [Laughs] You crazy! Just girls in general and studying girls in general. I haven’t had a real girlfriend in a minute but I have had a lot of girlfriends on a real friend scale to where we understand each other so I have been able to understand what different women like. It’s just a vibe that I know will put them in a certain mood.
DX: Would you say you vibe off female energy? A lot of artists have said that they like having females in the studio for that feminine energy.
TW: 100%. But I’m weird in the studio. I like to be myself, yell out crazy things whatever. I don’t like having females in the studio. Maybe to listen to the music after I’m done, yeah. But when I’m working, I don’t. It’s more of just an inspiration for me. Like, I’m about to take a walk on the beach with my homegirl and just chill. You women run the industry for real. I find out what she bumping and little things. I do regular, human things to find my inspiration for beats.
DX: You mentioned naming your upcoming EP Mental Health because your mom works in mental health. How have you dealt with mental health issues in your own personal life?
TW: The reason I named it Mental Health is because when I go home some people I know have it. I don’t feel like I have it, but I’ve talked to people without knowing that they have a mental illness. My mom works in that field, that’s what she wakes up every day to do. I got mad one day my mom gave away some of my Forces. But one day, I was just chilling and Lil Yachty hit me like, ‘Hey, I got your verse just send me some beats.’ Yachty is a huge influence on the youth. If I get Yachty on my project, I’m definitely naming it something that means something. It’s going to sound crazy but it’s the fact that you’re going to learn something from it. Dom [Kennedy], Lil Yachty, Juicy J. It’s going to be crazy.
DX: That’s really deep.
TW: It’s a real subject that I have to deal with everyday because I talk about it with certain people in my life.
DX: When does it come out?
TW: Mental Health is coming out whenever I feel like putting out. I don’t want to put a due date on it. The thing about Mental Health is I don’t give [artists] beat choices — I give them one beat that I think they should get on. The songs I’m dropping on SoundCloud, who knows If I’m going to put them on Mental Health, just know I got crazy songs that I haven’t dropped yet. But definitely for the fall and the winter? Oh, I got the vibes for the SoundCloud.