Muzik’s My Life Interview: Pop Wansel (Talks Producing Big Sean’s Kanye West & Roscoe Dash Collab “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay”)
Yesterday afternoon, the tracklist for Big Sean’s debut album, Finally Famous surfaced onto the Internet, revealing the G.O.O.D. Music rapper’s collaboration with his mentor, Kanye West and Roscoe Dash, “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay”. Last night, the Detroit representer held a listening session in NYC for his June 28 release, and the general consensus among those in attendance was that this song was the highlight of the album. As you can see, I wasted little time in getting on the phone with the much-anticipated track’s producer, Andrew “Pop” Wansel for an interview centered around the record and how it ultimately came to fruition…
First off, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on such short notice.
Pop: Awe man, absolutely. Thank you for being young and ambitious and doing something for the hip-hop community—I think that’s great.
Now, before we get started on this Big Sean record, I want to give you the opportunity to explain who you are to the readers.
Pop: Man, I’m just a young dude from uptown Philadelphia. I come from a musical family. My father, Dexter Wansel is just a primary songwriter, producer, composer, and one of the most influencial creators of the sound of Philadelphia. He’s produced for so many notable people: from Patti Labelle, to The Jacksons, to Teddy Pendergrass, to Jermaine Jackson; so may people—so, so many people. When I was younger, all I did was sit in my basement and listen to records all day. My older brother was into [producing], and he showed me how to loop up a sample on the Ensoniq ASR-10. I’ve been making beats since I was six; I was looping samples at six. [Laughs.] I probably wasn’t that good at it at the time, but everyone was telling me I was. By the time I was nine, people started to take me seriously and I was actually producing for local artists. By the time I was 14 or 15, I was in the hood in Philly just selling beats to local artists for like $500—just making money. At 14, 15, that means you’re up. If you sell two beats a week and make $1,000 a week, that’s good living at a young age. All cash—a lot of it was dope money because a lot of the local rappers are funded by dope dealers. One way or another, the right people took notice of my talent and got me into it for real.
What are some of your most notable production credits?
Pop: I did three songs on Pink Friday for Nicki Minaj: “Money”; “Save Me”; and the first single, “Your Love”. Nicki is such an inspiration and such a great person. Honestly, I give her a lot of credit. Her, my father, and my manager, I give a lot of the credit to for me even being here doing what I’m doing. I met Nicki on Myspace in about 2006, 2007—about right at the time her very first Come Up DVD was out. We just clicked and she loved my stuff. This was before she was even signed to Young Money or anything. I’ve been working with her ever since then. The first record of hers that kind of blossomed onto the internet in a major way and picked up radio spins was a record called “Beam Me Up, Scotty” from her last mixtape—which was such a critical acclaim and such a success for her. After that song, she ended up naming the mixtape Beam Me Up, Scotty as well. But that was one of the very first times I heard my shit on the radio. Even though it wasn’t an official release—it was a mixtape record—hearing that shit in the radio, especially in my hood and in my city, and motherfuckers just loving it, it was just such a great feeling. Me and Nicki just continue to work; we continue to work to this day. I love her to death. She’s done so much for me. I’m so appreciative and thankful for her. I’m just really happy God put her into my life. [The Pink Friday songs], I did those with my mentor, and my partner, and my big bro from another planet, Oak—Warren “Oak” Felder.
Also right now, I’ve got out Trey Songz featuring Drake, “Unusual”, which is one of my favorite beats to date that I’ve done. You try to be humble and maintain a humble attitude about things you do and let people tell you how good you are—but that beat, that one’s one of those beats where I was like, “Yo”—I fuckin’ impressed myself with that beat. So that one, I’m really proud of. Fantasia’s “Collard Greens & Cornbread” is also out. Oak and myself just produced the first official Diggy Simmons single, “Copy, Paste”. That just came out and it’s doing really well. Also, I was on Wiz Khalifa’s debut album, Rolling Papers; I produced “Top Floor”. Just so much shit—Young Money’s album. There’s a lot going on. I’m doing really well. I’m blessed right now. I can’t believe it. It’s pretty overwhelming. I’m just gearing up for it to get crazier.
You’re definately blossoming all over the place, man.
Pop: Thank you. Thank you.
It’s just a matter of time before everybody starts to take notice and you’re one of those names where, people say your name and instantly think of the songs you’ve produced.
Pop: Right. And it’s so amazing because when you’re in your own shoes, you don’t perceive yourself any other way and you hardly look at yourself from the outside looking in. You don’t take the time to do that too often—you just don’t. So it freaks me out when people know who I am, or know what I’ve done, or want to work with me. We’re doing soooo much right now—a lot of things I can’t talk about, but just above and beyond anything that I had ever imagined and people that I would’ve never thought in a million years that I’d be working with, I’m working with.
What type of record is “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” and how would you describe the feeling people will likely have when they hear it for the first time?
Pop: Wooh! [Takes a deep breath and dramatically slows his speech.] It just feels so fuckin’ good. It’s something you can ride to; It’s something you can party to; It’s something you can dance to; It’s something you can smoke to; It’s something you can drink to; It’s somthing you can fuck to. It is such…a universal feel. It feels like anything you want it to feel like. It just feels good. When you hear the record, and when everyone hears the record, it’s pretty black and white—it just is what it is. I’m so happy to have been a part of that record.
I suppose you can take this as a feather in your cap: Big Sean held the album listening session last night in NYC and the general consensus of those who attended seems to be that the highlight of the album is “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay”.
Pop: That makes me feel so good; it makes me feel so great. When somebody just takes fuckin’ notice and just acknowledges that something I [was a part of] is good. This is what we work for—it’s what we work so hard for. We do it for the money; We do it because we love it; We do it because we love music. But there’s nothing like the acknowledgement, and the kudos is so fulfilling.
It’s essentially an idea of yours and they’re grasping onto it.
Pop: Exactly! You don’t know. When I do things in the studio, I don’t know. I do it because I feel like I need to do it. I don’t do it because this person needs this record. When I made that beat, I didn’t do it thinking—”Big Sean needs this,” or “Big Sean is going to want this,” or “I’m doing a record for Big Sean”. I did that track because I felt it and I felt like I needed to do it. And I knew that somebody somewhere was going to feel the same way and they were going to take it and love it just as much as I did.
How did that beat end up in Big Sean’s possesion? Did you send it to any other artists or labels before it ultimately reached him?
Pop: Some way or another—I’ll never know why, I’ll never know how, and I’ll never ask any questions because I’m so greatful that it happend—the beat ended up in Roscoe Dash’s hands. Some way or another. Then, it got to G.O.O.D. Music; it got to Kanye, Don C, and Big Sean. Before I knew it, I was on my way to New York to hand deliver these files to Kanye. [Laughs.] That’s just how it happened. I made that beat in my momma’s basement, in North Philadelphia, in the hood and it went somewhere.
Can you describe the structure of the song from a production standpoint?
Pop: It is built on…[laughs] it is just built on some fly shit. I don’t know how to explain it. The beat has a couple different sequences and they’re so different, but at the same time, they match each other so well that it’s a perfect marriage—opposites attract on that beat. It’s so difficult to explain because you can feel some shit and know it when you hear it or when you feel it, but can’t really put it into words. When I was making that track, I couldn’t put into words what I wanted or how I wanted it to sound, but I knew it. Once it was done, I knew it—I felt it.
The more I talk to you, the more excited I am to hear this record!
Pop: You’ve got to hear this shit, man! I think everybody is going to love it. Everybody is going to just love this shit because it’s Kanye—and who doesn’t love Kanye? Big Sean, obviously, is just such a—he’s up and coming and people are accepting that and embracing him so well. He’s super talented and people love him. And Roscoe Dash is just such a fun, musical person. And then with the track, it ended up making sense with all of them on the same record.
Judging by the way you describe the record, it’s a fitting time for the song, considering it’s Summer now.
Pop: Yes, it’s definitely a Summer song. It came at the right time; I’m happy that the timing was so perfect for it, because I feel like it is the perfect Summer song. It’s going to wear the Summer out.
The song is co-produced by Mike Dean, who has mixed and co-produced for Kanye West on numerous occasions. What exactly were his involvements with the track?
Pop: Mike Dean is such a fuckin’ genius and I’m such a fan of his. Honestly, at this moment in time, I don’t know what he’s done to the record. I’m going to hear that when you hear that, but I’m super excited to hear it. I got so excited when the tracklist leaked and I saw his name. It was just such an honor, like—”Wow, he just jumped on this record.”
So you haven’t heard the song in its completed form?
Pop: No, I have not. Nope—absolutely not.
So you’re kind of at the edge of your seat as well.
Pop: Absolutely. I’m excited, because what you have to understand is that I’m a fan of all of these artists on the record. I’m a fan of Big Sean; I’m a fan of Kanye West; I’m a fan of Roscoe Dash. To know that there’s a record that I produced, that I haven’t heard [in its completed form]—all I know is what I see on the internet and what people are saying about it is that it’s this great thing and it’s the next single. And like you said, critics who were at the listening session are saying it’s the highlight of the album. I’m on the edge of my seat just like everybody else.
It’s my understanding that you also produced some tracks for Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV album. Is there anything you can tell me about those records?
Pop: Well, as we all know—and we’re all disappointed because we’ve all been waiting so long and we’re so fuckin’ excited because Lil Wayne is so great—Tha Carter IV has been pushed back again. And Wayne is just such a fuckin’ genius, man, so he’s coming up with newer stuff and better stuff every day. So, sometimes tracks get bumped or tracks don’t make it. Right now, I’m not sure—all I can tell you is that he did some pretty amazing shit to my stuff and if it makes the album, that would be so incredible. If it doesn’t make the album, I could still say, “Hey, I have some pretty fuckin’ cool Lil Wayne songs.”
So you’re kind of in limbo at the moment?
Pop: We’re in limbo—and it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the creative process. Like I said, the man has been recording for this album for so long—for years and years and years. He has so many songs; I’m pretty sure he has hundreds of songs. So to narrow it down to a 15, 16—whatever the case may be—tracklist is typical, so we’ll see. I’m excited as a fan, though. Whether I’m on that fuckin’ album or not, I’m so excited because just like everybody else, I’ve been waiting for it for so long.
Lastly, is there anybody you’d like to shout out?
Pop: Shout out to Big Sean and Kanye for letting me be part of such a great record; I just love being part of great music. Shout out to everyone that supports me and everyone that paved the way for me—all of the producers. My inspirations: Quincy Jones, Polow Da Don, No I.D., Boi-1da, Kanye, Just Blaze, Pete Rock, Illmind, Timbaland—when I was eight years old, I just felt like he was the most amazing person that lived on the planet. Shout out to everyone that paved the way and everybody that serves as an inspiration. Shout out to my artist, Robbie Casablanca. His debut mixtape, “No Turbulance” July 22 is going to be incredible!
Sidenote: Special thanks to Andrew “Pop” Wansel for this opportunity! Follow him on Twitter: @PopWansel!