When it comes to the pioneers of the vast sea of producers in the states, many of us can name a lot of them without even thinking twice. However, when it comes to producers making a name for themselves overseas, they may not be as openly recognized as they may like. The hurdles in which they have to overcome, and the barriers that they need to break, happen to be a bit tougher than it can be for those who may be born here in the states. The one thing about hip hop, is that it is accepting to all kinds, no matter what. We will accept anyone regardless of race, sexual orientation, heritage, native language, anything–as long as that musician respects the culture. Hailing all the way from Hamburg, Germany, record-producer Nils has been making a massive impact in the game, and has been working his way up to becoming a household name in the music industry.
The German rap scene, or any foreign rap scene for that matter, is very different than what we may be used to over here in the states. Nils made a name for himself by learning and adapting to music at a very young age, experimenting with different genres throughout his musical career, and finally honing on on what he defines as his own unique sound. By dabbling in a lot of these genres, including the German rap scene, Nils discovered that he could showcase his talents elsewhere, when he then began to breakout into America, and has not slowed down yet. He has landed huge production credits from major artists such as Young Thug on “Bad Bad Bad”, Roddy Ricch on “Peta”, and Don Toliver on “After Party”. Most recently, he is credited on “Conversations”–the song from Juice WRLD’s posthumous album Legends Never Die. Nils lets it be known that he is just now heating up, and the world will soon remember his sound.
Excited to learn more about him, I was fortunate enough to educate myself on his musical journey, and I can confidently say that Nils is a producer that we all should keep our eyes on for the foreseeable future. Read our conversation below!
I’ve heard a lot of the music you produced over the years, and like most producers, we hear about the music before we know the actual producer. Tell me a bit about your journey thus far as a producer?
NILS: I got into music at a really young age. My mother used to play the violin. She used to play a lot of classical music in the house, but also introduced my twin brother and I to Blues, Rock and pop music. She also put us into this music education style of class really early on too. I learned how to play piano there, as well as the recorder. Then around age 10, the school I was at was looking for someone to join the big band. They asked what I wanted to play, and I was thinking the trumpet because it had a much smaller case and I was riding to school on my bike. But my mother insisted that I play the trombone. So I did that for a few years, and then I became interested in a lot of music that had horns in it. I would listen to a lot of Jazz, Reggae, Funk, Soul and R&B. While doing that, I was producing in my own band as well, but it was more like a hobby. I would listen to Hip Hop as well during that time. I started to listen to a lot of German rap, and also was a part of a rap crew rapping and making beats, but I was always more interested in American Hip Hop at that time. That became the inspiration behind a lot of my music early on. I was inspired by the sounds coming out of America and South America as well. I tried getting into the J Pop and K Pop scene later, but that didn’t really lead to much, and that’s when I started to lean towards the Hip Hop scene of producing again.
You mentioned that you started out listening to a lot of German rap, but then started to move towards liking American rap. What was that transition like moving that to the US sound?
NILS: I had gotten into the US scene pretty early on in my career. I had Meek Mill writing to a few of my beats that I sent him. Being a little young and naive, I used to think that if he’s writing to my beats then I’m for sure going to be on his next album. That’s how it worked in Germany a couple years ago . Usually when you’re invited to a session to work on music, you had about a 50/50 chance that it would land on an album. So that discouraged me a bit, and I ended up trying to get back into the German rap scene. The type of rap that was going on at that time in Germany, I wasn’t too fond of, and that’s what made me really want to elevate myself into the US scene even more after the K Pop trial. It definitely was a bit of work though just trying to make those connections in the states and all that though. It took me a while to get a few contacts in America, but once I got in there, or once ppl started to like my music, it was a bit easier.
Being from Germany, who were you inspired by as far as the people who shaped your sound or your style of producing?
NILS: I was always really inspired by American music and American rap music specifically. From my early years, I would listen to a lot of Busta Rhymes, Redman, Method Man, Wu-Tang Clan, you know, that was the kind of artists that I liked. As far as producers that I loved, I gained a lot of inspiration from The Neptunes and Timbaland. I could say those were some of my early idols when it comes to producing. There was a point in time where I did start to step back from producing and get more on the engineering side of things, but I did still follow the scene and watch other European producers like OZ get a lot of attention around that time too. Then I started to learn more about how the producing scene worked, like the business and the analytics part of it and all of that, and that’s when I got back into the scene and started to really get into the groove of things.
Most recently, you produced on the Juice WRLD album on the song “Conversations”. Tell me a bit about how that record came about?
NILS: So Ronny J hit me up one day and asked me to send him a pack of melodies that aligned with this one song he had at the time. I think it was the “Bebe” song with 6ix9ine & Anuel AA. The pack that I sent him wasn’t my usual pack of melodies, like it wasn’t the sound that people would know me for, but I wanted to make something that aligns with what he was looking for. DJ Scheme followed me on Instagram and told me he wanted to work with me and let me know that he worked on some of my shit with Ronny J and he loved it. This was around the end of 2018 I believe. One of the melodies that I sent him, ended up landing a spot on Juice’s album and that’s what it is.
Nils has co-producer credits on “Conversations”.
Your production credits range from Gucci Mane, DaBaby, Trippie Redd, etc. Who was your favorite artist to produce for?
Out of all of them, I would still have to say my favorite song that I was involved in would be “Roll In Peace” by Kodak Black. I think it’s just a really great song and it was something special. It was a really big moment—not just for me, but the culture as well. To be honest, I still feel like I haven’t even topped that song yet in my career. The “Rap Devil” song was a huge moment in the culture too, and controversial at that.
“Conversations” of course was a big moment for me too cause of Juice WRLD and being on that project. I’ve always been the type of person that hasn’t really stayed stuck on a moment for too long. I’m always the type of person who is always on to the next big thing and I don’t get caught up in the present. While I love the fact that “Conversations” came out, it was something that I had done a long time ago, so I hadn’t really thought about it of course it came out on the Juice WRLD album. One more moment for me was working with Tay Keith on “Before I Let Go” with Beyonce.
Nils joined forces with Tay Keith for Beyonce’s “Before I Let Go”.
When people get into the studio, everyone tends to set a vibe before they can go in and create. What does your ideal studio session look like?
NILS: I’m someone who really tends to myself a lot, and I’m really alone for the most part. Whenever I do get into other studio sessions with other artists, I enjoy it and I do say to myself “that was great, I should do that more”. Me being a person that works alone a lot, I like to really get focused on my work and really tap in. I don’t really like working with artists that take a lot of breaks or stop working a lot. One thing I noticed that’s a big difference in Germany and America is the smoke breaks. In America, the artists don’t really take breaks when they smoke, they just smoke in the studio and ash on their laptop or something nearby. A lot of artists in Germany stop what they’re doing and go take a smoke break.
My workspace is always very important to me. I like my own place a lot because I treat it like my spaceship. I keep it pretty clean and ill have maybe a few instruments here and there. I’m reducing my setup as much as I can just because I want my setup to be a bit more portable so I can pick up and go whenever I need to. I have a friend that scores music for different movies and TV shows and stuff like that, and he can operate on the train with a laptop on his knee and a nice pair of headphones. But I can’t really do that. I’m the type of person that has to be immersed in that studio atmosphere and feel that aesthetics and all that. I have lights, wood, orbs and stuff. So it has to be visually appealing to me in order for me to really get into my work.
I want to dive deeper into your opinions on producer unity and what producers can do to come together and make sure that everyone is getting their proper just due. What is it that you feel could be done to assure that producers are being treated fairly and equally in the game?
NILS: I think we need a lot more honesty first and foremost. I think what I see a lot, is that I see some producers talk a lot about unity and preaching about producers getting paid and this and that, but not all of them really practice what they preach. Sometimes, I think people say a lot of things for the look of it, but they may not actually believe what they are saying. I think one thing that has helped it get a lot better now though would be the power of social media. If a producer works on a song or a project, there will be people that tag the producer or the writer or whoever—just so that the world can see exactly who worked on the song and who did what on the song. Producers really need to just pay closer attention to the things they get involved in. You really need to make sure that you get that credit that you deserve. I think it would be nice to be a little more aware of exactly whose production they’re getting on. I think there are a lot of artists that get production from so many people that they may not even know who they are. Just being more in the know and more open to learning about the producers they receive beats from would be a great step in the right direction.
You’re a part of Isla Management, which is a large team of very talented producers and artists. Do you think having more producer groups would be helpful so you guys could all help one another out and make sure you all win?
NILS: I think that would help too. I think just being around other great producers really does help out and it keeps you hungry. I’ve known OZ for a while now and he has always been supportive – I love to see him win . The whole team really motivates me a lot and pushes me to work harder. There are people out there that will smile and tell you congratulations, but they aren’t really happy for you. You know that meme where the guy has an angry face but he’s wearing a smiley face mask on top? There are some people like that in the industry and they may not always show it directly, but there is a lot of envy and jealousy within artists or producers, but there is a lot of real love out there too. Producer groups are great for more than just unity. Just being able to add ideas and add different minds and just collaborating is something that really helps out a lot in the industry.
Nils and fellow label mate OZ collaborate on “Peta”.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want your everlasting impact to be on the music industry or what is it that you want to gain from the music industry?
NILS: In all honesty, I just want to learn what makes me happy. I won’t say that I’m unhappy right now, but I won’t say that I’m at a point where I have achieved full happiness. I realize now that as I make more money and gain more success, it doesn’t really make me that happy. Of course I appreciate all of those things, like the success and the wealth, but it is not what makes me at the end of the day. It doesn’t make me happy, and I want to be happy first and foremost. That is one thing that I will work to achieve in life.