MBW’s World’s Greatest Producers series sees us interview – and celebrate – some of the greatest talents working in studios across the decades. The latest instalment features Murda Beatz (aka Shane Lindstrom), a Canadian producer who’s who’s produced hit singles for the likes of Travis Scott, Migos, and Drake. World’s Greatest Producers is sponsored by Hipgnosis Songs Fund.
Where does a person go when they’ve seemingly achieved it all?
Success is subjective, but in the music industry at least, it’s generally agreed upon that success is measured by very visible lines in the sand.
A slew of No.1 hits, awards and nominations, radio domination, money and famous friends all appear on the checklist.
Murda Beatz hits most of these success markers.
He has the No.1s. He’s Grammy-nominated. His music fills the airwaves. Famous friends and cash comes naturally after achieving all of the above.
But for Murda, what does he do now?
It all began for Murda Beatz – real name Shane Lee Lindstrom – in Ontario, Canada. He’s managed to keep a little of his home country accent, which slips in every so often when MBW manages to catch an hour with him between his hectic LA schedule.
Murda was a teenager when he decided to leave Canada. He didn’t want to make the “boom bap and hip-hop” of his Canadian peers, he says.
Instead, he looked to America to see what was popping off. And in the early-2000s, it was drill.
He’d travel back and forth to Chicago and found inspiration in the likes of Chief Keef and Lil Durk, two names who were key in taking the genre beyond its borders.
Drill naturally splintered off into its many sub-genres (and crossed the Atlantic in the form of UK drill). But as the genre diversified, so did Murda.
He moved in with Migos and became their literal in-house producer. 2016 saw him co-produce Gucci Mane’s Back on Road (feat Drake) and the RIAA-Certified Platinum No Shopping from French Montana (also feat. Drake).
Murda’s mark on the industry became unavoidable in the years that followed, as he went on to produce/co-produce hit tracks for everyone from Drake (including 2018’s Nice For What) to Travis Scott (including 2017’s Butterfly Effect), as well as Cardi B, Ariana Grande, 21 Savage, and Nicki Minaj.
Murda turned 28 a week before we spoke in late February, but, in his own words, once upon a time he never wastes energy on the silly notion of ‘getting older’.
“You always think you’re going to be young, that you’re lit and you’re just doing your thing,” he says. “I never used to think of the future.”
Age has changed Murda somewhat. Yes, he’s still rap’s go-to producer. He’s not humble about the millions he’s made, and is honest about his desire to make more. He’s still the Murda who hangs out in private booths at the SuperBowl and is named as one of XXL’s Best Hip-Hop Producers of 2021. But he’s more than that now.
He wants to help those once like him – bedroom producers struggling to be heard through the noise – emulate his success. He’s thinking of his future as one of the World’s Greatest Producers.
How has Murda kept his name at the forefront of modern pop and hip-hop?
We find out during a conversation where the Canadian looks back on when his life began to change, his hopes for the future and why his name holds him back, at least when it comes to basketball…
What were your early years in music like?
Back then, I feel like what I was doing, nobody else was doing.
Especially being from Canada. There were no producers in the industry who were trying to be in the Chicago drill scene, or in the trap music scene at all when it first started. All the Canadian producers were doing boom bap or hip-hop. So when I first went to Chicago, that was where the real first drill scene was; it wasn’t Brooklyn drill, or even like the grime scene in the UK. It was people like Chief Keef.
I went out there and I just started working with people, travelling, and everything that I was doing at a young age was getting me somewhere. I didn’t see how rewarding it was at the time, because it wasn’t really rewarding at the beginning. But I just knew that I was heading in the right direction.
WHY DIDN’T YOU SEE THE REWARD AT THE TIME?
You’re not getting paid, people are always second guessing and doubting what you’re doing, because you’re doing all this work and you’re not getting compensated for your work.
People ask: can you really make this happen? Or is it just a hobby?
WHEN DID YOU REALIzE THAT YOU AND YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC WAS POPPING OFF? WAS IT WHEN YOU STARTED GETTING PAID?
Right off the bat, when I started making beats, I never waited to get better to put my stuff on the internet or send my beats [to artists]. My beats were fucking horrible in the beginning, but I was putting them on YouTube and trying to sell them for $50 at least.
“My beats were fucking horrible in the beginning, but I was putting them on YouTube and trying to sell them for $50 at least.”
This guy called Rocky Diamonds did a song on my beat and he got Soulja Boy on it. That was three months into producing. I was building my name from day one.
ANY GENRE THAT’S POPPING EVENTUALLY DIES DOWN. SOME ARTISTS MAKE IT HUGE, OTHERS GO A DIFFERENT PATH. FOR YOU, AFTER YOUR INITIAL SUCCESS, HOW DID YOU KEEP YOUR NAME AT THE FOREFRONT?
The whole time I was making music and dropping records, I was always working on my brand. Even from the mixtape scene when I wasn’t getting paid a lot, I needed to make sure that my tag was on the beats and that all the songs in the title said ‘produced by Murda Beatz’ in the title.
“I was always just trying to build my social media presence, my brand.”
When I started to get real big success with the biggest artists in the game, people already knew who I was from back in the day. Everything adds to the brand, and the brand value.
Even my name, which I didn’t think about in the beginning. ‘Murda’, in rap music, comes hand in hand. It’s easy for people to rhyme my name and say it in a song. It’s also a respect thing, too.
WAS THAT INTENTIONAL?
Not at all.
I didn’t have a producer name [planned] at all, but I kept it very simple. I just thought, I want to make beats, and I’m going to murder the beat.
There’s been numerous times in my career when people have said that I should change my name. I’ve been told my name would hold me back, and I definitely feel like it has in a lot of ways. I feel like I’m bringing a positive meaning to a negative word, but certain news outlets can’t talk about my name.
“the bigger you get, there’s always going to be people coming in trying to tweak or change the way you’re doing things.”
I can be court-side at a basketball game and they can’t put my name on the Jumbotron. There are certain things that hurt; a lot of times, people wanted me to go by my government name, to change my name to Shane Lindstrom. But I built [the Murda Beatz] name from the ground up.
When I started doing this, even for the first five years of my career, I had no help. I had no management, it was all me. I built this reputation and respect for the brand that I pretty much built by myself, so I would never want to change my name for anything.
Everything is a gift and a curse, and that’s a big life lesson for people in music, and outside: Never change what you’re doing, for anybody.
The more success you have and the bigger you get, there’s always going to be people coming in trying to tweak or change the way you’re doing things. But if you just stay true to yourself and trust your gut, everything will work out.
IS IT EASY FOR A PRODUCER OR MUSICIAN TO BOW DOWN TO INDUSTRY PRESSURE, IN YOUR EXPERIENCE?
Whether you’re finally starting to make some life-changing money, or you’re having bigger people with influence and experience in the industry around you telling you how to do something, it can definitely influence people to change the ways they’re doing and handling their business.
ON THE IDEA OF SELF PROMOTION, establishing a brand, HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT FOR A PRODUCER?
It’s even more important now than it was back then. Now, the game is more oversaturated.
Back when I was trying to make beats, there were probably around 500 to 1,000 kids on YouTube trying to come up. Now, there’s like, 50 million kids trying to make the same beats to send to the same artists.
It’s so oversaturated, so you have to be able to learn how to market yourself, and, on top of that, you need to learn how to market yourself differently than the other 50 million people.
How are you going to get everyone’s attention? How are you even going to get one artist’s attention when there’s 50 million kids hitting them up?
“Radio is the real way producers make money. All my big records made money on the radio.”
You have to learn how to differentiate yourself, have more creative ways to brand yourself, to advertise yourself, and to make beats too.
When I came in the game, I wasn’t making money, it wasn’t cool to be a producer… now, kids are coming in, saying, ‘I want to be a producer because it’s a career you can make money from.’ People are already expecting to sign a deal and make large figures off the bat, but it’s not that easy.
There’s a big internet producer community where a lot of kids are getting paid from sites like SoundClick and BeatStars. They’re making a lot of money selling the same beats over and over again on the internet, but that’s a whole different game.
There’s only a handful of artists that actually make [real] money in music. Radio is the real way producers make money. All my big records made money on the radio.
But now the question is: how do songwriters and producers get paid moving forward when the labels aren’t really using radio as much anymore?
It’s crazy that a song could stream 100 million times in America, and a producer could only get paid around $40,000.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD WANT TO RELEASE YOUR MUSIC DIFFERENTLY? OR WOULD YOU EVEN WANT TO?
I was definitely thinking about something to do with blockchain, the metaverse and NFTs.
There’s a big opportunity there for artists to make the money that they deserve. But we all have to figure it out together.
“99% of the NFT craze right now is just people making money off of the hype.”
The whole smart contract part of it just feels right, and I think that is where everything is going to be heading. It feels like the future.
99% of the NFT craze right now is just people making money off of the hype. But NFTs, blockchain and smart contracts are definitely here to stay.
A LOT OF ARTISTS HAVE BEEN SELLING THEIR CATALOGS to major companies or investment houses. What are your thoughts on that?
I did a partial sale a couple months ago [to Kilometre Music Group, for an undisclosed fee] .
The way I look at it, obviously anyone can do what they want, but at the end of the day, I’m a kid from Canada. I never, ever thought that I’d be making music, and be able to make millions of dollars.
“At the end of the day, I’m a kid from Canada. I never, ever thought that I’d be making music, and be able to make millions of dollars.”
I just wanted to do this because I wanted to make music. So, everything after making music is a bonus.
Being able to make records that generate lots of money, be able to do deals that make millions of dollars, it’s all a blessing, and I’m very grateful. But at the same time, you always have to think with a business mindset.
People like Steve Jobs build up companies, sell their companies at the peak, and then make new companies.
HOW HAS YOUR BUSINESS BRAIN CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? YOU MENTIONED THE WORD ‘BRAND’ EARLIER, DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF AS A BRAND NOW, AND NOT JUST SOME KID FROM CANADA MAKING BEATS?
Yeah, for sure.
My mentality started to change around 24 or 25. Before, I’d always just think of that night in the studio. You don’t really think about when you’re going to be 28, or 30, but then I just started growing up more and thinking of the future.
I got really passionate about investing money and getting into other things off of music, like real estate, startup VC stuff and crypto.
I invested in [short-form video platform] Triller, and I invested in a company called Strike. I’m a co-founder of Psychedelic Water, which is a company we started a few years ago and is now getting into big stores and selling out in America.
ARE THERE ANY PRODUCERS OR ARTISTS YOU LOOK UP TO IN BUSINESS?
Jay Z. Dre. 50. Diddy. That’s what I see myself doing.
Once you scale a business and your brand starts to grow, it’s not all about just making 30 beats a day, or being a studio rat 24/7.
“Once you scale a business and your brand starts to grow, it’s not all about just making 30 beats a day, or being a studio rat 24/7.”
You have to go to meetings, you got to do interviews, you have to meet people, build relationships, connect with people, reach out to artists. It’s a lot more than what I used to do, which was to just sit in my basement making beats.
WOULD YOU WANT TO BECOME MORE OF A MENTOR IN THE FUTURE? SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP PEOPLE NAVIGATE THE INDUSTRY?
For sure. One thing I’ve always said to myself, or one thing I’ve learned, is that you always have to put your pride to the side and never be scared to ask questions.
The more people you ask, especially if they’re further along in music than you, every answer they give you is going to give you a shortcut. Even if it’s a time when I fucked up, I’m going to tell you how to not go through that.
HAVE YOU EVER FUCKED UP?
I don’t really think I’ve fucked up, but there’s always room for improvement.
There’s always things that you could do better, but just trust your gut. You never know how close you are to finding real success. It could be one email away.
MBW’s World’s Greatest Producers series is supported by Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Traded on the London Stock Exchange, Hipgnosis was established to maximise the value of music, while also proving that value to institutional investors. Music Business Worldwide