Mike Dean is one of rap’s most prolific producers with some 20 years in the game, helming tracks for the likes of 2Pac, Scarface, Jay-Z and Kanye West as well as an exhaustive list of Down Southern notables. Hive met the unassuming Dean in his downtown New York City loft and studio space yesterday and amid the accoutrements of any good producer (MacBooks splayed about, a box of Cheerios and weed in countless mason jars), we talked about what it’s like to work on the two biggest rap albums of the year: Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail.
I saw a leaked tracklist online for Magna Carta Holy Grail and you produced the album opener “Picasso Baby” with Kanye. What’s that about?
Yeah? I didn’t see that tracklisting. That [song]’s not mine. [Looks at tracklist online and starts laughing.] These people are just wishing. That’s hilarious. Some of these song titles are right like “Nickels & Dimes.” I produced on that. “Tom Ford” would be a great title for a song.
Clearly, the Internet has failed us. What can you say about working on Magna Carta Holy Grail?
I’ve got three songs on it. I produced two and did additional production on one.
Between this and Yeezus, you seem to work on every top-secret rap album. Do you ever wish you could just blurt out details about the cool stuff you’re doing?
There’s non-disclosures and things. Nah. I do something cool every day. Cool is normal.
Speaking of sharing stuff, how are you not verified on Twitter?
I don’t know! I do talk a lot of shit about Twitter because they don’t verify me.
From the vignettes Jay-Z has released teasing the album, it seems like he had a lot of Oprah-esque sessions with Rick Rubin in the studio. What was your recording process with Jay?
I haven’t seen those. He was here and I went over to Jungle [Sounds recording studio] too. He’s lives three minutes walking from me. It’s convenient.
Do you guys ever go to brunch together at Bubby’s? That place is tasty.
No. That’d be good. Jay-Z at Bubby’s.[Laughs.]
It could happen. I saw Justin Timberlake there buying pies.
Really? I just met Justin the other night. He’s a cool guy.
You’re an O.G. of Southern rap. What do you think about its current state? I’ll be honest. I heard the new Miley Cyrus “We Can’t Stop” and wanted to throw up.
Oh God! I haven’t heard it. People are just bastardizing it [Southern rap] at this point. It’s not cool.
Seriously. What would DJ Screw (R.I.P.) say?
Right. “Punch Miley Cyrus in the balls.” She acts like she has a set of balls. I can’t believe she’s being validated in hip-hop. It looks that way. It’s really sad. It’s a sad state of fucking rap music. I actually like Mike WiLL Made It. I was there the day he met Justin Bieber.
Justin Bieber is going to do a rap album. You know it’s coming.
He’s cool. I produced the song with him and Raekwon “Runaway Love” with Kanye. Justin was asking me for stuff. I didn’t really have what he wanted.
So who are you working with next?
My taste for rappers is very high. I’ve only worked with like Pac and Jay-Z and Scarface. Angel Haze I’m working on. Freddie Gibbs, I’ll probably executive produce his album. Swizz Beatz and a song for Khaled’s album. Temper Trap. You heard of them? Australian rock band. Also, Depeche Mode remix coming out this week.