The rise of Brooklyn rapper Desiigner is the kind of nothing to something story that most musicians dream of. His ubiquitous single “Panda”—his first song of note—reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Previously Kanye West repurposed the cut for The Life Of Pablo’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2” and signed Desiigner to his GOOD Music label. But behind “Panda” is another artist also enjoying this unlikely jackpot.
The beat for “Panda” was made by Menace, a 22-year-old producer from Manchester in the United Kingdom. He made the beat and put it up for sale on his website, advertising it on YouTube as an “Ace Hood/Meek Mill/Wale Type Beat.” Desiigner bought it for $200, but Menace has most likely cashed out quite a bit more off the track, given West’s usage. And now the young producer has signed a publishing deal with Stargate’s Stellar Songs imprint.
Here Menace speaks about Manchester, his future (but not Future), and Scott Storch.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been producing for nearly 10 years now. I was 12 years old when I first started.
What did you start out making?
I used to make R&B, hip-hop, pop, dance music… Over the years my style [became] more focused on R&B and hip-hop. I grew out of pop. I do make pop now and then, but it’s more hip-hop and R&B oriented.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
It’s always been Scott Storch. He’s been my main idol since I started producing.
That’s a surprising choice. Why Storch?
He basically brought the bling to hip-hop, if you know what I mean. He infused Middle Eastern music with commercial hip-hop. He’s my inspiration to create something different.
What’s your favorite Scott Storch beat?
The very first one was “Lean Back.” That was the first track that ever got me researching about a producer. I didn’t know anything about Scott Storch before “Lean Back.” I think it was in a video game, I think Need for Speed Underground 2. Then I started doing my research about this producer and I was amazed at how much he’d done. That’s the main person I look up to. Obviously you see a lot of talk right now about his rise to fame and what happened, but he changed music forever! It wasn’t the same anymore once he came into the limelight.
“Panda” is a long way from that shiny, blinged out Scott Storch sound.
Yeah, well I’ve moved away from that!
What was life like before “Panda”?
I graduated from college and became a cell phone repairman—that was my 9 to 5 job—but music is my life, it was like my second job. Every day I was constantly pushing beats. I got a catalog of around one thousand beats.
And Desiigner just found your beat on YouTube?
He was just one of the customers buying beats off of me. When I first saw the song on Desiigner’s YouTube page, it was around 30,000 views. Then in a matter of days it skyrocketed to 300,000 views. I knew it had potential. I knew that this was something special.
When did you hear the final version?
It was like March, to be honest. Desiigner said he wrote the lyrics to “Panda” in 2014, but he just recorded it last year. He bought the beat in November, he released it around Christmas, and it was just onward from then. Kanye West heard it, [Desiigner] got signed to GOOD Music, the song got featured on The Life Of Pablo, then obviously the song itself had more publicity behind it. Now it’s charting at number one.
Are you and Desiigner still working together?
We’re both very busy right now, but we are planning another project together. We’re gonna change hip-hop.
You’re gonna change hip-hop?
I’m gonna change how the game is right now.
Where are you gonna take it?
Obviously I’m into more old school. When I grew up, I was listening to a lot of old school hip-hop—Nas, Big L, a lot of east coast rappers—and R&B, like Usher, Donnell Jones, Destiny’s Child… So I been growing up with the old school and I want it back to how it was, when music was a movement, a cultural thing that changed everybody’s lives.
And you don’t feel it’s like that anymore?
That’s right. I feel like that’s what the music is lacking right now. It doesn’t have the essence that it did once. Hopefully I can change it and make a big impact.
Is “Panda” as ubiquitous in the UK as it is in the US?
Yeah, here I hear it in the clubs, I hear it everywhere. I think it’s at like number 20 on the charts and it’s rising fast as well.
At what point did it hit you that you had this gigantic record?
Once Kanye West got on board, it was just bizarre. Especially coming from where I live right now, it’s totally unheard of. You probably heard of the Bee Gees and Manchester’s whole history in the music scene, but that was a long time ago. So what this has done is open doors for Manchester. Brooklyn’s scene’s been down for a while, but Desiigner’s “Panda” has put it back up on the scene. So it’s like he’s brought Brooklyn back again and I’ve conquered Manchester.
You conquered it?
I mean, before there’s been groups and music and talent happening, but nothing this big happening in Manchester in a very long time.
Are there local artists you are trying to bring up with you?
There’s a lot of people that want to work with me, but to be honest, a lot of people can make a good track, it’s about how they take it to the next stage. That’s what Desiigner’s done, he’s taken it from one stage to another stage. That song “Panda,” it’s not only targeted to teenagers. You see kids dancing to it, anything that kids love is gonna be an instant hit.
Reaching the youth is important to you?
Yeah, but I’m trying to market to all ages, not just to one particular group. That’s special to me, to be honest. Everyone’s vibing to my music, not just one type of person! I want everyone to vibe to my music, no matter what age, what color. I want it to be evergreen.
What’s popular in Manchester right now?
Grime is really the UK scene at the moment. You got BBK working with OVO…
You mentioned you prefer older hip-hop, how do you feel about grime?
It’s a very energetic type of genre, it’s like an explosion. “Panda” was influenced by that grime energy. With “Panda,” when you hear the beat, it explodes in your face. And that’s what the music industry is lacking—the music right now is not hard knocking, it’s not energetic.
Have you been to the United States?
I’ve been to Canada, one of my cousins lives in Canada, but I’m going to be going to the United States very soon. It’ll be my first time. I wanna see the American dream! I’m not just coming on holiday, I’m coming to work and link with some artists. I don’t want to be one of them type of producers who just works with certain type of people, because the thing is, anyone can blow up if you’re at the right place at the right time.
You’re worried about longevity?
How has your life changed since “Panda”?
It’s changed quite a bit. People look at me in a different way now, they knew me as that kid that grew up making beats, now they see me as someone who’s made a trademark now, who’s going to change things. People look up to me.
Do you feel like people are looking to you to make a name for Manchester?
Definitely. I was born here! The city’s got a lot of hidden talent, but the hidden talent never gets broadcasted out, it stays hidden. Hopefully being the number one producer with the number one hit, they can follow the same footsteps and become number one as well. I opened the door for everyone where I live.
Who are some local Manchester artists you hope might follow you through that door?
One person is Bipolar Sunshine. You might have seen him with DJ Snake. That’s one person from Manchester. I’m in contact with him right now.