Arthur McArthur on His Search for Success with Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T, Wale
Published Jan 20, 2015You've probably heard something that Toronto-born, L.A.-based hip-hop producer Arthur McArthur has created, but his name may not ring a bell. McArthur is trying to change that, and working on Wiz Khalifa's Grammy-nominated Blacc Hollywood should help him in that department.
"I was at the airport on the way back to Toronto. It was like, 10 minutes before my flight and I had been frustrated with a lot of things that were going on recently with projects that I had been working on," McArthur tells Exclaim! "And that news just came out of nowhere. I didn't expect it at all and it was an awesome thing to fly back to Toronto with that news on my wings almost."
McArthur — whose breakthrough came when he co-produced "Uptown" from Drake's So Far Gone mixtape back in 2009 — has quietly built an impressive resume, as a producer and instrumentalist for A-list acts. He's produced for Big Boi, Rick Ross and Kelly Rowland, among others, as well as worked on Khalifa's Blacc Hollywood, which is nominated for Rap Album of the Year.
McArthur produced a track for Khalifa's album called "The Sleaze" featuring his gritty, swirling work on the keyboards. It almost seems like the song was named after its sound, but McArthur had actually called the beat something else.
"I think I called it something stupid. Most of my beat names are. I called it 'Big Man on Campus,'" says McArthur. "But the sleazy thing was something that Wiz had been doing for a while. He had been doing this 'woke up with sleaze' thing, and it was just like he was tweeting it and hashtagging it and it kinda became part of his online presence and his brand. And everybody wanted him to do a song around that concept, y'know, from the label to the songwriters that we were working with. Even me, when I walked into the studio that day for the Wiz session, I want to do 'The Sleaze Song,' because he hadn't done it yet.
"And I played him the beat and Wiz was like 'This just sounds as sleazy as hell,' so we wrote the song based around that. It was a really fun session overall."
McArthur has plenty of other studio sessions that could come to light in the near future. Among the projects is work on Wale's imminent album, currently titled The Album About Nothing. McArthur got involved with the project "super early," recording several sessions with the Washington, DC rapper, but is still unsure if his contributions for the still-in-progress album will make the cut.
"I'm working on B.o.B. That was a lot of fun," says McArthur talking about another recipient of his production work. "[Those were] some of the more fun sessions that I've ever had. He's a really chill guy, he's kind of a music nerd who likes to smoke and crack jokes, which is pretty much my exact description."
McArthur is also working closely with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music operation, having already produced a track for Pusha T's 2013 Wrath of Caine mixtape.
"Kanye gave Pusha some of my beats for this go-round. I was actually in Miami with Pusha at the start of last year [when he began recording his follow-up to My Name Is My Name] working out of South Beach, which is an interesting experience, as the Neptunes had been in there right beforehand."
But while McArthur can file rubbing shoulders with Chad Hugo under "cool experiences," he's still short of achieving some of his own personal goals.
"It's always relative," McArthur says. "A billionaire could be frustrated that he didn't make another million dollars. And that's what I've realized. There will always be a lot of frustrating aspects in the business side of the music business. And that's just inherent in any creative business. There's just gonna be those rough patches, or those frustrating parts or the politics that get in the way of your art.
"I still haven't hit my major breakthrough yet, as funny as it sounds. A lot of people look at me and say, 'You know what, you've made it.' I haven't had a No. 1 hit single yet, and that, for a lot of people, is the metric that they use to gauge success, or the standard of success in the music industry. 'How many hits have you had?' And I haven't had any big hits yet. So I definitely want to get there. I want to get that."