Words By: Miki Hellerbach
The Producer’s Voice is a new series for GUAP where we highlight the stories of instrumental crafters. We hope to bring their stories to the forefront instead of kept behind the artist they are producing for.
Dreamville producer Christo doesn’t forget his Pittsburgh roots.
East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bred producer Christo has been into music as long as he can remember. As a child, his parents were choir directors so he’d be at church learning the basics of musicality 3 to 4 days out of the week. High school is when Christo first started to envision a career in music. He was part of a Christian rap group because the deal he had with his parents was that for as long as he was living with them he could make music whenever he wanted as long as it was clean.
After a short run at college, Christo dropped out and started pursuing beat making alongside his high school best friend Devin Miles. He knew how to play from his early church music education but learned to record through Miles’ help. Christo started with a software called Cubase and eventually moved to FL Studio. Once Christo got his own laptop and Studio One by Presonus software though, that’s when he really got obsessive about producing.
Once Christo and Miles got truly confident in what they were doing, they would go to esteemed Pittsburgh studio ID Labs and make connections with big producers Big Jerm and E. Dan. Due to relentless passion and persistence, through those connections, Christo would end up doing production for the biggest names in Pittsburgh rap, Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Funny enough his first actual placement though was for the track “She A Trip” by Ludacris which featured Mac Miller solely on the extended hook.
Christo would eventually really make an even bigger name for himself through his work with prolific Atlanta rapper JID and the rest of the Dreamville camp. He produced half of the songs on JID’s 2018 breakout project Dicaprio 2, three songs on the platinum compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III in 2019, and 5 songs on the 2020 lockdown Spillage Village project Spilligion. Christo continues to work in that sphere and even just got a placement on the Madden 2022 soundtrack for his production on the track “Ambassel” by JID.
I asked Christo to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.
“Under The Sun” Dreamville ft. J. Cole, DaBaby, & Lute
“That was definitely in the middle of the Revenge sessions. That was the first time I met Pluss who did the drums on that. Matt, a mutual peer of ours, made the play and brought me in the room. I had some samples I wanted to show him because in certain sessions you gotta know what role you finna play. I knew working with Pluss for that next 30 minutes he was gonna do these drums. So I had that one great sample from Nice Rec and he had it chopped already how it’s like on the song. Once I played it for Pluss he loaded it up immediately and I [just] wanted to marry his drums with the sample in a good way.
What I did that was hands on was put that drum break in between so at the end of the sample chop you can hear how that break goes directly into the drums. I know that would be a good fill and turnaround. Once Pluss finished the drums, Cole walked in and was like, “Let me hop on that.” That was one where it was as much hands on work as not, you know, putting the pieces together and matching different producers. Using more of my ears instead of my hands.”
“151 Rum” by JID
“That was another Nice Rec sample. When we partner up it’s crazy cuz he brings these worldly ethnic samples that I love that make me wanna try some new drums.
The way that sample was arranged is exactly how you hear it on the song when the low section jumps to the high section. For that one, I didn’t waste no time. We were in LA and had a nice set up. As soon as he played it I loaded that up and I probably made those drums in 6 minutes bro. The 808 Sub, one rim, two hats, and a kick. I already knew what sounds in particular I wanted to use because I had just started messing with this particular rim sound. When I get new sounds I play em out for the next 50 beats until I get tired of it. This was probably like beat 4 so I was running it to the grave.
I knew I was gonna start with an 808 pattern cuz I needed a counter bass melody in my head to feel good enough to move on to drums. Once I had that, the drums were the easy part. They just reinforced it and made sure it knocked. As soon as JID heard it, it was over.”
“Off Da Zoinkys” by JID
“We sat on that for like a good couple years I’m pretty sure before we dropped it.
That was one of my favorite beats because it was one where I really took time and made precise cuts, chops, and rolls. I really dove in bar by bar and phrase by phrase and did surgery. I really felt like JID’s performance matched that with his cadences. The intensity from the beginning to end matched the intensity of how the beat kept gradually going up. There was no comedown til the drums and the raps ended.
I loved that sample so much after hearing “3 Kings” on the Rick Ross album. I knew I wanted to reflip it and when I had the chance to, I went all the way in. That beat took so long because I was really trying to make something good. I wanted to make sure the beat wasn’t too loopy, but there was enough variance going on to keep you interested. I started cutting the sample from the song 2 to 3 minutes in when there’s a break before the vocals come back because I don’t like to use the same chop exactly like other producers.
Then once I got the form and arrangement down I purposefully wanted to make the drums gradually get bigger. So I started with that kick, and the kick turned into the kick and the hat, and then turned into an 808 progression. It was kind of like a house beat where one layer comes in after another. So it went from the snare to the kick to the 808 to the hat to the ride to the open hat. I wanted to make it feel like I sat there and did it like a real performance.”