Ambezza has seen a bunch of industry doors open up thanks to his production work on Future and Drake’s multi-platinum selling hit “Life Is Good,” which was the first song in Billboard history to spend its first eight weeks at No. 2 on the Hot 100. Yet the German producer, who’s English is A-1, has resisted offers to sign any deals and join a bigger name’s production team.
For Ambezza, slow and steady wins the race. And if that means sticking to his independent grind, he’s perfectly fine with that.
“I just wanted to build my own brand first and stand on my own feet,” he tells HipHopDX. “Then maybe I sign some people under me or build my own team but just have 100 percent creative control and 100 percent association to solely me.”
On the heels of landing his biggest placement to date, Ambezza spoke with DX at length about his journey as a producer.
The rising beatmaker details his production origins, what it’s like working in the U.S. market while living overseas, how DaBaby’s KIRK album marked a breakthrough moment in his career and much more.
HipHopDX: What got you into production and do you remember your first beat?
Ambezza: I think it was around 2008. I was still in high school, and one day my friend showed me this program where you can basically put loops together, premade loops, and I think the program was called Magix Music Maker 2008. I bought the program and I was just fooling around, just putting the loops together. And I guess I made my first beat around that time too, but I don’t remember my first beat. I remember my first beat that I made on the program I’m working with now, which is FL Studio. I think I switched programs in 2008 too, so I have that first beat actually. I saved it.
HipHopDX: These days, how long do you spend making one instrumental? And what’s a day in the life for you right now in terms of spending time in the studio versus networking?
Ambezza: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean to answer your first part, my production process is usually split into either making melodies — so that’s just the instrumentation — or I take premade melodies, either from myself or that people sent me, and make the drums. I’d say on average I spend maybe 20 minutes on the drum part and maybe half an hour to 40 minutes on one melody. If I were to make a whole beat by myself from scratch, that would probably take me half an hour I’d say.
And for the typical day, it’s usually waking up in the morning then working out. I mean now, it’s difficult. It’s kind of different right now with the corona situation. But it’s usually waking up, working out first thing in the morning, going to the gym. And then midday, I just start by usually making melodies, because I feel like that’s … it meets more of my creativity and uses more of my creative juices so to say.
So, I need to concentrate more, I need to be in a creative space and I need to be comfortable. So I usually just go with that. And if I’m content with what I made for that day, a couple of loops, I move over and make some drums. So, I basically finish some beats and by the end of the night, in the evening, I just send out tracks or melodies. I just make sure I connect or send emails out.
“Life Is Good” is Future’s highest-charted song of his career.
HipHopDX: As far as focusing on melodies and things like that, how much would you say you just do independently versus artists reaching out and saying, “I have this idea in mind, what could you come up with for that?”
Ambezza: That’s a good question. I guess it depends from producer to producer. But in my case specifically, given my situation that I’m located in Germany and I don’t get to work in the studio as much because it’s just not a thing here, my focus is more on American artists or UK artists, so overseas. Most of the time, I develop my own ideas and just go by feeling or what I’m feeling right now, which is different day-to-day. I might be feeling like today I’m going to make afrobeat and the next day I want to make futuristic-type sounds. It depends.
But at the end of the day, whenever an artist hits me up and says, “Look, I’m looking for this and this,” I strive to have something there, whatever the genre or whatever the direction. When people hit me up, I usually have something in that pocket. So, I’m always prepared, I guess. But right now I’m not working too closely with any artist on a project or anything. It’s more day-to-day. I just sit down and do whatever I do and whenever an artist happens to hit me up, I just have something ready.
HipHopDX: I read you really started full time around 2016. What happened at that point in your life where you were able to say, “OK, I’m able to do this full time. I’m able to devote all my days and nights to this?”
Ambezza: It was actually … I said I started in 2008 but that was just my first connection I guess or me just fooling around. I didn’t really take it serious at all. It was just a hobby thing that I used to do when I was bored. But 2016 was when I was done with my bachelor’s degree. I studied business for three years. And after that I just … I was going to go into management consulting, but I was only 20 years old at that time.
So I said, let me take half a year off and just do nothing or travel or whatever. And it just so happened that when I opened the program after a long time and I just started messing around again like the old times. After a while, I just found myself sitting down every day for eight hours figuring out the program again and just cranking out beats every day.
It was just so much fun that I didn’t do anything else in that time period. And I just thought to myself, if I’m not going to take that shot and just try and take that leap of faith right now and just devote all my time into this and invest a lot of time into this, I might not have this chance again. So, I just pushed back starting to work in consulting, further back and further back until I was making enough money to stand on my own feet making music. And from then on it’s the perfect situation obviously because it’s my passion.
Released in September 2019, DaBaby’s KIRK dodged a sophomore slump to earn his first Billboard 200 crown. The album went on to make HipHopDX’s Best Albums of 2019.
HipHopDX: That’s dope. What would you say was your first major placement or one that changed things for you and opened up some doors?
Ambezza: That’s a very good question. I mean, I guess you could say there’s a difference between a major label placement and a placement that opens doors. Just given the situation of the artists, if he’s popping right now, if it’s a single, there’s a lot of factors that go into that. And I’d say the first one that really gave me some kind of exposure was probably the two tracks I had on DaBaby’s album.
That’s when stuff really started to move. Just things started happening. I think that was in September of last year. So yeah, took a couple of years. I mean I had some placements before that, also major label placements, but it hasn’t given me too much exposure, to be honest.
HipHopDX: You spoke about being in Germany and working with the U.S. market. I’m sure this digital age helps a lot, but what kind of difficulties are you faced with in navigating the industry from overseas?
Ambezza: The first one is obviously that I’m not present all the time. I try to go to L.A. three or four times a year for multiple weeks and just get some sessions in and meet with all the people I know through the connections I’ve made through Instagram or Twitter or whatever. But it would still be an advantage if you’re present all the time. For example, if you live in L.A., you can just pull up on people and that’s really convenient, I guess, in this industry.
I think that’s about it. I feel like many people overestimate how difficult it is to break into the American market. But nowadays with the internet, Instagram and Twitter and social media, it’s pretty easy to navigate no matter where you come from. I feel like a lot of people still don’t know that I’m from Germany and I don’t mind to keep it that way, if that makes any difference. I don’t think it does. But most of the work, honestly, is made through the internet I’d say.
And yeah, so it was … I mean in the beginning, it’s going to be difficult for everyone. It doesn’t really make a difference if you’re living in L.A. or New York. If you don’t have a brand, if you don’t have the quality yet, that won’t make a difference to get you into the room. You just got to build your brand slowly step by step and for that, I don’t really think it matters where you come from.
HipHopDX: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like there’s almost maybe a sense of pride that you are able to make it from Germany. Have you felt pressure to move to New York or L.A. or anything like that? Or are you content in making it work in your home?
Ambezza: I mean obviously there is a bit of pride. I don’t think it’s that many people that can “make it” from Germany because it’s maybe not in their scope because I don’t know, it seems impossible or whatever. But yeah, I’ve gotten that question a lot lately, if I want to move to L.A. or to the States or whatnot. And honestly I haven’t really made up my mind about it. I mean, as I said, it would be really convenient.
But what I really value about those trips that I take to L.A. from time to time is that I really have a limited time period where I can just give it my all and totally exhaust myself, take sessions on sessions and really focus and remind myself what I’m there for. And I don’t want to lose that.
I don’t know. I feel like once I’m back home in Germany, I can really concentrate on my work. There’s no pressure. I’m in my comfort zone and I really value that. I’m not an outgoing guy. I like to be in my bubble. I have my family and friends around me. And I think, for now, that’s enough for me.
HipHopDX: As someone still making their name, have you had any veteran artists or even other producers reach out to you, give you advice or taken you under their wing in any way?
Ambezza: I wouldn’t say there’s been anyone that has taken me under their wing. I mean there’s a lot of producers that … producers are signing a lot of producers right now. It’s just the way to go. They’re building production teams, which I think is really smart. And a lot of producers, big producers, have approached me to join their team. But I basically declined all of them so far, not because I wanted to disrespect anyone or anything. I’m still working with all of the guys. But it wasn’t … it just wasn’t my goal or my focus to be that, and I don’t mean that in any disrespectful way.
And maybe my attitude in that matter has forbidden a big producer from taking me under their wing. It hasn’t really been that way. I’ve basically made everything myself and I pride myself on that. Of course, there’s been people that’s been helping me, that have gotten me placements and I’m eternally grateful for that.
But I feel like it’s really important … young people and young producers are rushing in that matter. They’re just looking for management so fast, even if they don’t need it. They’re looking for producers to help them. They’re looking for handouts. But in my opinion, if you build your foundation all by yourself, you don’t have to depend on anyone. And from then you can choose your allies or your partners or whatever. And then you not dependent on anyone as I just said. For me, that’s the optimal situation.
HipHopDX: Sounds like a good strategy to me. So as somebody that is building that brand as an independent producer, what’s your outlook on building your name up and emerging from behind the scenes to get recognition? Some producers tag their beats and stuff like that. Is it something you’ve ever consider doing?
Ambezza: I feel like a couple of superstar producers have gained a lot of exposure and a lot of attention through their tags, obviously. And I mean right now I have a tag, which is low-key. It’s not saying my name or any catchphrase or anything. I feel like it’s important to tag your beat in some way. Whether it’s an effect or any … Pharrell has that four-bar start. Anything that is recognizable because people like to drop stuff, for instance, and you can always say that that’s your tag in that beat.
That’s one important reason, but also it’s just … I don’t feel the need for it. I’d rather let the music speak, all in all, but I don’t think it’s wrong. I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it that much to be honest. I’m just going to let it ride. If I hear a good line where a rapper used my name and I can cut it up to make it a tag, why not? I’m not opposed to it.
HipHopDX: Staying on that subject in terms of production credits, it just seems like it’s tougher and tougher these days for producers like yourself to get that name recognition. Liner notes aren’t a priority anymore. Would you like to see production credits listed in YouTube links and on iTunes and Spotify to make sure the producers like yourself are getting that recognition?
Ambezza: Oh, 100 percent. I mean it’s only going to be in our favor if that is happening. And you’re right, I mean the production credits are missing on a lot of videos and a lot of stuff. People are getting credits messed up. Labels are dropping songs before the paperwork is done. The only thing that you can really control is promoting yourself on these platforms. I’m big on keeping your Instagram profile clean, posting your stuff, your achievements, your placements so that when people come across your name they have a way to see your work or what you’ve worked on.
And another thing, another good thing is the Genius website where you can make sure that your credits are … I think it’s user-based, so you can somehow make sure to get your credits right on there and where most people look. So if you got it on there, that’s all you can really do.
I mean people or labels or artists or other producers, there’s always going to be people that don’t get it right, [even] if it’s mistakenly or not. The only thing you can really control, especially in the early stages, is promoting yourself and making sure you promote yourself. And yeah, promote yourself, how you want to be seen.
HipHopDX: As far as credits go, we gotta talk about “Life Is Good.” This is your biggest one to date. How did it come about? Were you working with Future already or had some inroads with him? Or was this your first time connecting with him?
Ambezza: I wasn’t even connected through Future. The connection happened through my co-producer, OZ. He’s closely connected to the Drake camp, and I think basically the song happened in two stages where it was two separate songs that just got put together. It’s two different beats. [The] Future part was produced by this producer named D. Hill, really awesome guy. And the Drake part was produced by myself and OZ.
And basically, as I said, I like to make melodies and send them out to other producers to just collab and to broaden the network and to broaden the possibility, in the end to land something or you never know what might happen. I just love to collaborate, I’m big on that. So, I sent him the melody, I think back in November last year. And he hit me back like, “Yo put this one aside,” so I didn’t send it out anymore.
But I didn’t really know until four days before it dropped, for sure. That’s when [OZ] FaceTimed me and gave me the confirmation and that’s how it happened. So actually, it wasn’t a direct connection to Future or Drake, it was just through the co-producer in that case.
HipHopDX: Gotcha. Since the song has blown up, have you been able to connect with Future or Drake and build any relationship with them at all?
Ambezza: Not yet. I mean, we’re talking about the top guys, so it’s really, really, really difficult to get in with them. Of course, I’m hoping to in the future, you never know what the future holds. But until then it’s just important to build your credit and your brand. It just goes to show that one placement with those guys doesn’t really mean that you’re locked in with them forever. I don’t know if they know my name or whatnot. But all that stuff for me is just work until they do.
Ambezza’s co-producer OZ also produced Drake’s TikTok sensation “Toosie Slide.”
HipHopDX: Well, they need to know your name considering how big that song’s gotten. [Laughs] You mentioned the quickness of how it all came together and finding out just four days before it dropped. When did you know that this was going to be something huge for you? Was it when it hit the Billboard Hot 100?
Ambezza: That’s a really good question. I honestly didn’t think it would perform that good, to be completely honest. But just the feedback, just my phone blowing up completely and people hitting me up that I’ve never talked to before. Labels hitting me up, management and all these new instances, artists, producers and stuff. So, I don’t know, I think it’s always different for the producer because I started the idea in the basement in Germany and that’s how far it came.
So, I can’t really see it objectively, if that makes sense. It’s always like, I don’t know, I’m too close to really see the impact that it has made, I feel like. But still, I’ve never witnessed something like this before where it was just overwhelming for me. All the feedback, which has been through the roof, just positive and love, which I appreciate.
It has opened a lot of doors for me and that’s what I’m really grateful for it. I mean I’ve always heard before that you got to get that one hit. I mean, you obviously got to get that one and it’s good to have a big track like that under your belt because it just raises a lot of attention and puts you in the spotlight. You can use that to your advantage to make some moves, to exploit that and push to start your career.
HipHopDX: What doors have been opened for you since you scored this major hit?
Ambezza: It’s been labels and that’s obviously a connection to artists again. But it’s been a couple artists, but it’s also labels, of course. They want to get you in a deal as soon as possible, which is only natural. It’s other producers, top producers and yeah, artists, songwriters, everything basically. You can just imagine it as a push. It’s just a lot of new people coming and the people that you’ve already been locked in with are more eager to work, which is only natural I guess.
HipHopDX: Going forward, do you have any plans to produce a whole project for any rapper? Is that something that you desire to do?
Ambezza: Oh yeah, for sure. I don’t know if it would be in the near future because I’m still in that phase, I guess, of building my brand. But what I really want to do, I definitely want to do that. And not even with one artist, I want to do it with multiple artists at a time.
But I really, first, I want to make sure I have the leverage to make it as effortless as we can that the artist is really motivated to work with me and I really want to work with this artist. So, I think I’m just going to take my time for now and try and get more work in first and then we can definitely do that. And I’m so excited to do it, to touch up on all the records, to produce all the records on there and make sure it’s a joint effort. So, it would be amazing.