Taz Taylor doesn’t consider himself an overnight success, but he’s definitely having a moment. “I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years,” says the 27 year-old producer from Florida. “I come from humble beginnings and I know what it took to actually get here,” he adds, referring to his hip-hop mogul-worthy mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Taylor’s involvement on the Lil Tecca hit “Ransom” has both those qualities but also feels a little like fate. Here’s how it came about: Taylor gave a shout-out to Tecca on Twitter (“Yo, I really like your whole sound — I think it’s dope”) and they bonded over a mutual love of Speaker Knockerz. Later that day, the rapper was making plans to fly out to the producer’s home, which doubles as a studio and the base of his aptly named production collective, Internet Money. The recording process was fast-paced — Taylor estimates about 10 minutes — and that included a tutorial on songwriting for the inexperienced artist. (Their session produced half a dozen other songs, including “Somebody,” with Lil Tecca and a Boogie Wit da Hoodie, the first release from Taylor’s joint venture deal with 10K Projects.)
“I literally told one of my producers, Nick [Mira], who did the melody, ‘Yo, I want you to just go straight dance hall, but we still need to keep everything, like, trap for him,’ ” says Taylor. Tecca typically freestyles, but at the time, he was writing lyrics on his phone. “He didn’t know song structure, so I was just like, ‘Yo, this here, that’s a hook. That’s dope. And then what you’re doing right here, that’s a verse. That’s dope.’ I just structured the song out for him, and now it’s one of the biggest songs of the year.”
“It’s just a feel-good song,” adds Taylor of its appeal. “Kids love it — they can’t stop singing it — because it has a lot of energy. It’s really catchy. At the end of the day, that’s all people want: Melodies — little ear worms to get stuck in their head.” Not that Taylor takes all the credit for its success; in fact, he is quick to deflect it. “Tecca has a weird, interesting look that people just can’t get enough of,” he says. “Combined with Cole Bennett doing the video and me producing the song, everything came together at the right time and lined up perfectly, so it blew up.”
Surprisingly, hip-hop isn’t the foundation of Taylor’s musical knowledge. “I grew up on rock music,” he says, noting that the first song he learned was “Sure Know Something” by KISS. “I started playing guitar at the age of three. My stepdad was in a rock band and whenever they were on smoke breaks, I was on the drums, playing bass or guitar. That was like my passion, my love, my life.”
Taylor eventually moved on to Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue and The Doors. “I got really deep into Jim Morrison,” he says, proudly noting that “my baby mama is a distant cousin” of the late rock icon. “I remember my stepdad [asking] me [at] six years old: ‘What do you want to do? You want to play football?’ I was, like, ‘Nah, I want to make music.’ He said, ‘If you want to make music, you have to respect every genre.’ So from that point in time, I dug deep into every genre.”
Taylor has a soft spot for one in particular. “One of my favorite pastimes is sitting outside and listening to ’90s dance music,” he says. “I’ll be, like, ‘I want to interpolate “Waiting for the Night” by J.Lo.’ ”
After a prolonged break from music that Taylor refers to as his “hood rat” period, he learned how to profit from his hobby at the age of 17, when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and the family needed extra income. Initially an aspiring graphic designer, Taylor played around with FL Studio — the digital audio program formerly known as FruityLoops — which features an interface based on a music sequencer. “I was like, ‘I could do this sh–’ — and then the love for making music came back again,” he says. Taylor sold his first beat online for $250. “I remember my mom breaking down and crying,” he says. “She was, like, ‘You never made a dollar before. This is crazy.’ So from that second, I was, like, ‘I’m just gonna pursue this.’ And I did.”
At first, his only goal was making money. What he lacked in a formal education — Taylor dropped out of school in the seventh grade — he more than made up for in ambition and creativity, quickly establishing himself as one of the original Internet producers. One of the wealthiest, too: At his peak, Taylor raked in half a million dollars in one year. “I would just upload beats to YouTube,” he says. As it turns out, he has a knack for marketing ingenuity and found a surefire way to make his music stand out online. Taylor crafted what he dubbed “type beats” that are so named for the type of beats that have become sonic signatures for A-List rappers. “We’d title them ‘Future-type beat,’ ‘Drake-type beat,’ ” he says.
Eventually, one of his beats attracted the attention of Desiigner and Big Sean, who rapped on it for the song “Life.” Success snowballed from there, leading to a meeting with a manager and a publishing deal with Atlantic. “It was my little crack into the music industry,” Taylor says, “and I just kicked the door open.”
These days, he works with the biggest names in the game like Drake and Post Malone. And as Lil Tecca’s “Ransom” video passes 160 million views on YouTube, and “Somebody” racking up more than 6 million in a week, Taylor next wants to reignite the careers of artists he listened to as a kid. “At this point, I’d like to use my influence to like work with people like Good Charlotte,” he says. “Who’s expecting me to work with Good Charlotte? The fact that I could do all this stuff is just dope to me — and there’s no limit. I want to work with Dolly Parton. F–k it.”
Ultimately, though, it’s clear that his mother’s approval, and not the chance to work with country music legends or streaming figures, means the most to Taylor. “My mom doesn’t know nothing about charts,” he says. “All she knows is that I’m doing what I want to do and I’m pretty successful at it. She’s just thankful that I found something I’m good at because it was looking really f–king bleak for a second.”