The music industry is all about opportunity, and for producers, sometimes the right break is all you need. For Cardo—the young beatmaker who came up with production all over Wiz Khalifa’s classic Kush & Orange Juice mixtape—he took his shot and is making the most of it. The list of artists he’s already worked with would be enough to retire on, from Big Sean, Mac Miller, and Meek Mill to Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar.
Slowing down isn’t in Cardo’s sights, either, as he’s only looking toward the future, and in a major way. With the year not even half over, Cardo has already made his mark, notably with his work on Kendrick’s untitled unmastered. project, which he contributed two beats to. As Cardo’s fame continues to rise, he’s not settling for great, but looking to continue to work toward his ultimate goal to be one of the best in the game. We spoke with the producer about his work with Kendrick, cooking up with J. Cole, and the possibility that Rihanna has another ANTI album on deck.
When did you Kendrick was doing untitled unmastered.?
I didn’t know anything about it really. The only thing I was aware of was that we had these records that we recorded during the To Pimp a Butterfly era when we were just making the music. We had records that were going to come out sooner or later, but as far as the album I didn’t know nothing. I had no knowledge of that album being made. Then they told me, “We’re going to drop this untitled unmastered. project,” and I was like, “What?”
Before that, did you think that there was a chance it will never come out?
With Kendrick, I just feel like something will happen. Kendrick’s not the type of guy who just sits on records. He wants people to hear it. He presents it the right way with this project. untitled unmastered. came out like a lost project almost.
On “Untitled 2” and “Untitled 7,” he’s rapping so hard, and people want that from Kendrick.
We want the good kid, m.A.A.d city Kendrick, the Section 80 Kendrick. I gave him the idea of the chaos theory. I told him, “Bro, you’ve just got to do something that’s going to fuck the world up. Show the aggression.” I think that’s what happened on “2” and “7.” If you listen to “2” and “7” compared to the other records, they have a major different sound. But when you hear them, they make the project sound very weird in a dope way.
You were in the studio with Kendrick when he recorded those?
No, I was with Kendrick for a brief second. He was working on something else. I played it and was like, “Bro, you’re not going to put out another album without me being on it.” We both just started laughing, and he’s like, “I got you, I got you.” I was like, “Come on, bro, I need to be on the next project.” That eventually happened, and I thought that was really, really crazy.
That’s a crazy life moment.
Yeah, that was the craziest moment of my life. It was unexpected. That shit reminded me that anything that I dream of pursuing I can make it happen. I just work hard no matter what. I’ve had my ups and downs throughout this whole shit of being a producer, but everything always comes together as it’s supposed to, whether it’s now or later. But there’s so many records we’ve been working on that’s about to come out. I can’t say anything beyond that, but we got a record with Rihanna. That’s all I can say. I can’t say anything more, but there’s a Rihanna and Cardo record.
No, no, it’s her song.
there’s another ANTI. I don’t know if it’s official, but I know [Rihanna and I] have a record.
Was it for ANTI?
It was for ANTI, but there’s another ANTI. I don’t know if it’s official, but I know we have a record. I’ve been working with J. Cole. We’ve got some shit in the chamber. PARTYNEXTDOOR too.
I think people are really excited for PND’s next project.
Man, it’s been about two years because he’s been doing this songwriting thing, becoming more of a songwriter and artist, which I applaud him for. He’s got no new record so I don’t think he’s got any pressure going on it. We’ve been working for the past year and a half, so we got so much shit.
How did you connect with PARTY?
Party ended up following me on Twitter. I was like, “I’m going to hit him up–this is a big opportunity for me. I’m going to tell him I’m a big fan of his music.” He was like, “Likewise. Send me some beats right now.” So I sent him some beats and we ended up making like 10 songs that day.
You guys made 10 songs?
Yeah, he ended up sending me 10 records back. PARTY fastest rapper I’ve ever worked with. He already has the ideas in his head. I was DJing for him last year, and I wasn’t even a real DJ. I just started DJing and he was like, “Yo, I need you to DJ for me.” I said that I just started, and he was like, “I know you can do it.” I ended up pursuing DJing because of him.
What have you been able to do with Cole?
I connected with Cole when I was working with my guy Matt. He was like, “Yo, J. Cole needs some beats.” He ended up taking like two or three beats. And then he was like, “J. Cole wants to talk to you. Here’s his number.” I ended up talking to J. Cole and had like a 30-minute conversation just talking about music and everything. I thought that was the dopest shit as well because I’m a fan of J. Cole’s music. He said he’s got this record and just needs the files, so I ended up sending him files and this and that.
How do you feel about the whole ghostwriting thing in rap?
There are a lot of artists who have ghostwriters. Favorite artists. Dr. Dre had ghostwriters. I don’t know if Jay had ghostwriters, but if he did, he did. As far as this being in the rap game, I don’t know, man, it’s a different time and age of music now. Shit’s changing drastically, and anything’s kind of tolerated now. There’s this stigma of ghostwriters in the rap business. People in R&B have ghostwriters.
Artists gotta try and get a hit.
Right, people do need ideas to start brewing. People have a lot of shit going on and sometimes that blocks their ability to do what they do, so sometimes people do look for other ideas. That’s how this shit works. I have nothing against songwriting. I’m not anti-ghostwriting shit because [it’s] how people get their money.
Producers have this happen, as well.
That happened with Young Chop and Kanye. He added some things to “I Don’t Like.” The beat was fine how it was, but ask me for my permission before you touch my painting. It’s art and you’ve got to have some respect for the art. Kanye’s a legend, so it’s like, how can you say no. I get it for Young Chop because you’re not supposed to let anybody touch your shit without asking. It’s never happened to me at all really. It always comes out how I want to hear.
Hudson Mohawke recently was vocal about it too.
Yeah, you can’t broadcast that shit on Twitter. And Hudson is a homie. When people do their own shit, man, you just got to let it be. I can’t say anything to it. People do shit out of anger and all that.
The industry is so crazy. You accidently sent Jeezy the “Seen It All” beat, right?
I had two different beats named the same. I don’t know what the hell happened, but I sent that beat to Jeezy by accident. I thought it was another beat. He sent me an email and went crazy on the phone about that shit, and I was like, “What the fuck is he talking about.” I go back to my email and go, “Oh shit, damn it.”
It ended up working out though.
Sometimes your mistakes become greatness or whatever. I got to give props to God like, thank you, I appreciate that.
Do you wonder what the Big Sean and Travi$ Scott version would sound like?
Yeah, I always do. Me and Travi$ Scott have some crazy shit. We’ve been working.
I’ve seen him teasing a new album.
Yeah, man. We’ve been working on that. We got this crazy, crazy fucking record. I can’t wait till the world hears it. It’s just a different sound, it shows growth. Coming from the Wiz era to now.
I think a lot of people took what you were trying to say about Swizz Beatz’s son Egypt the wrong way.
Yeah, I’m not trying to downplay what Egypt did at all because for a five-year-old to make that beat is incredible. It was just like that whole shit overshadowed me and us getting the recognition that we deserve, too. I was just trying to tell people that we did this record, too. We did the first half and Egypt and Swizz did the second half. People took it the wrong way. People think you’re hating when you’re just telling the truth. Some people just speculate and come up with all the theories of what you’re doing or who you are. I’m going to act like a man and put a smile on. That’s how I look at this shit. If it’s supposed to make me mad, I’m going to be happy about it.