“No 9 to 5, No Plan B”: Smitti Boi Explains How He Risked It All For A Career In Music
Before he engineered and produced records for a living, Atlanta-based Smitti Boi was an enlisted military man making music as a part-time hustle. Stationed in North Carolina during the week, he would hop in his car every weekend and drive through multiple states to work on his dream job. “I used to travel from North Carolina all the way to Atlanta every weekend and nobody knew that I was in the military,” he tells me.
Though his ridiculous weekend commutes were grueling, they soon paid major dividends. Repeated studio sessions eventually led to an encounter with established producer M-16 at the legendary Hot Beats studio. After hearing his work, M-16 challenged Smitti to raise the stakes and pursue music as a full-time vocation. “He came to my session and was like, ‘Man, this is crazy, what do you do you do for a living,’” Smitti remembers. “I said, ‘Man, I’m in the military.’ He was like, ‘Why?’”
That vote of confidence from an industry insider was all Smitti needed to take the leap. “From that point on I was like ‘You know what? I’m done. I’m getting out of the military, I’m gonna risk it all. I’m just gonna do music,” he says.
Smitti’s lay it all on the line strategy might make a more risk adverse producer cringe, but it all seems to be working out well so far. “This is it. No 9 to 5, no Plan B,” he says. “I actually started making music full time about three years ago. This is how I make my living, ain’t nothing else.”
“Usually I’m making beats at least 10 hours a day.”
It might be tempting to label Smitti Boi an overnight success, but it’s important to note that he’s been making beats for fifteen years. Long before he composed “Drug Lord Culture” for Nick Grant and “Incredible” for Scotty ATL, Smitti first decided to try his hand at production after hearing the ominous tones of earlier Three 6 Mafia albums. “I was really inspired back in the day — still am — by Three Six Mafia. That’s kind of really what made me want to start making beats,” he says.
Eager to put his own sounds out into the world, Smitti saved up and bought a BOSS DR-202 drum machine in 2002. By pairing the modest piece of gear with a Casio keyboard that his mom gifted him, the young producer was soon emulating one of his favorite groups. “I used to just try to manipulate Three Six Mafia,” he says.
From there, Smitti spent a brief stint piloting MTV Music Generator for Playstation 2. But it wasn’t until a friend introduced him to FL Studio the same year that he found the perfect fit. “That’s where everything changed, from that point on,” he says. “The DR-202 didn’t last that long once I found out about FL Studio.”
Using FL Studio to build a massive catalog of tracks, Smitti recalls encountering the same anti-software snobbery many fans of the program have experienced. When one particular artist found out he used the software during a studio session they didn’t even try to hid their disdain. “They laughed in my face,” he says.
“I’m getting out of the military, I’m gonna risk it all. I’m just gonna do music.”
Unfazed, Smitti continued using FL Studio as his sole music making tool for over a decade. Though he is still quick to sing the praises of FL Studio, Smitti made a recent change to Ableton and their Push 2 controller. “That is the game changer,” he says. “Everything is right there, I don’t even have to look at my computer at all. I can mix on the Push, I can bring up plug-ins on the Push, and it’s easy to chop drum loops. If you don’t know how to play keys, you can play keys on the Push and you’re never out of key.”
After locking himself in the studio with the controller for three 13 hour days two years ago, there’s been no looking back. “Right now I wouldn’t use nothin’ else,” he says.
The discipline and focus required to master a new tool in such short order can be attributed to the producer’s intense daily routine. After a trip to the gym and mediation, “I’m making beats from about 8 o’clock in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon,” he says. “Then I take a break and spend some family time.”
After his family goes to bed, it’s back to work for a second shift of music. “If I don’t have a session, I usually get back on it around 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock that night,” he says. “Then I go in until around 3, 4 in the morning. Then get back up and do the same thing. Every day.” After years of many years of following this strict regiment, Smitti Boi now has a stash over 7,000 unreleased beats to choose from.
“This is how I make my living, ain’t nothing else.”
With a new beat tape and subsequent drum kit in the works, Smitti is also challenging himself to create his own samples with studio musicians. This willingness to explore new sample sources is all part of his constant need for musical evolution. “You always want to evolve man, you always want to be a student,” he explains. “I feel like right now I’m making my best music because I got out out of my comfort zone with FL Studio.”
Even though this may be the best work of Smitti’s career thus far, in his eyes their is no ceiling. After landing his first official album placement on Nick Grant’s Return of The Cool earlier this year, he plans on continued work with studio musicians and mastering other gear and programs to further improve his soul-infused production. “Soulful music, when you hear it, you just feel something,” he says. “That’s what I want to continue to bring to the game.”