Story • Jake Krez
Photos • Frankie Skrapka
At 22, Devin Smith, better know as Mulatto Beats, is the embodiment of the image of a hip-hop producer. Quiet and reserved with a quick wit and comfortable behind the scenes, the Rogers Park-raised South Side native has stealthily worked his way into the inner fabric of Chicago music. Having scored name recognition as part of the now-defunct Hurt Everybody collective, Mulatto doubled down on his own craft with the recent release of his full-length compilation project, .22 Summers.
Featuring a sampler of talented rhymesayers from around the city and beyond, the project serves as a steady thread through the tightly-woven Chicago rap scene in a way only Mulatto could. Leaning on studio sessions and plenty of phone calls, the producer crafted a time capsule of the scene narrated by his musicality that has proven his ability as a true-to-the-art hip-hop beat maker that calls to mind what many refer to as the ‘golden age’ of the genre. With the project out in the world and everything moving steadily forward for Mulatto Beats, we decided to get up with him for our very first Six Piece. Check out or six questions for Mulatto below.
Mild Sauce • What’s it like to step out from behind the scenes in a sense?
Mulatto Beats • It was cool. This is what I was trying to do since I started making music pretty much. I’ve had beat tapes and shit but I’ve never really had like the reaction, well I guess I’ve always had the reaction but I like the take on it that we have here. I don’t want to do just beats, I like to work with an artist, get a certain vibe and switch it up and get them on my type of stuff. So it was cool to like get a whole actual tape of my stuff and my own vibe to it and just have them fit the vibe of my aesthetic moreso than theirs.
Mild Sauce • You brought the compilation tape back a bit. What was it like to create a sort of patchwork of the scene today?
Mulatto Beats • I thought people been doing this but that’s real, as far as being a thing. A lot of producers have a lot of stuff coming out though right now. I wanted to make a statement since this is like my first debut project. So that’s why everyone is relatively big but for the most part it is homies at the end of the day. That’s how I got the core of my project. I send them beats all the time so finally I just asked them to get one track and of course they were ok with it so it worked out. And then the other ones just came naturally, just show up to our studio with Lucki or some shit, King Louie we fuck with his manager so it just came naturally. I just thought after I got my first five songs, I started making beats to fit the aesthetic. I would always just be arranging the song and thinking about what was going on.
Mild Sauce • What does it mean to you to show people that you can create that aesthetic?
Mulatto Beats • I like when artists take a whole project and go with a certain producer and do everything because I think that’s how you get the actual vibe of the shit and the producer will take a mental note of it to take a certain tempo or certain things that rappers don’t even pay attention to when they’re making music or making a tape so I think that’s cool. I’ve always been for Madlib, MF Doom collab shit, that’s always made me think artists should dive into doing stuff with an artist, working one on one and shit. I think I specifically wanted something like that. The sound on this tape isn’t exactly my sound, I think it was a good in between of mainstream and what other people wanted and the sounds I wanted to make so it was cool to be able to do that.
Mild Sauce • How would you characterize your sound?
Mulatto Beats • My goal was to make it more of not exactly a mainstream project but something for bigger platforms, something that will take well to a random listener. But at the same time I’m not like super big on melodic stuff and melodies because I’m not taught any of that stuff, piano, I’m self-taught everything. I’m not really into the super-dance-y stuff either so my core is really just hip-hop. That’s it: hip-hop and ambient vibes and shit so its a little different than the natural, mainstream shit that’s super melodic and dance-y, it’s super melodic right now.
Mild Sauce • How do you feel it’s been received so far?
Mulatto Beats • I havent actually gotten any bad responses, I haven’t seen one bad response, I’m thankful for that, that’s cool. But I think the artists that naturally fell into it, I think the genre in between rap that they fell into helped fit. I think motherfuckers should take being called a Soundcloud rapper as a good thing and wear that and push that shit. People are getting on from that shit and its crazy when people push too much and oversaturate it but I’m a Souncloud artist and I love that. But I do think the tape did do well with the melodic shit and all that because I think Warhol and Lucki and all of them flal into that category. At the same time I have Qari and Mick, more lyrical people. It was just stretched across the board pretty much.
Mild Sauce • Where do you see this project taking you, where do you see yourself headed from here?
Mulatto Beats • I think it just opens more doors to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to do a couple of these a year-type shit. Also, I want to do one-on-ones with artists more where I get in the studio but yeah just opening more doors, getting some more production work and shit, show artists more of a stretch of what I can do in a bigger span. Actually getting my emails opened instead of just sending stuff out, some more clout would be cool. Chicago-wise I want to do something with Valee, I want him on a tape for sure. I want to do a little tape with females only if I can get that vibe too. I love boom-bap, I love soulful shit so NoName or someone would be amazing.