Veteran producer Mike Dean has seven Grammy Award trophies lining his shelves. The lucky No. 7 was awarded on April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for Kanye West’s 2021 Donda single “Jail” featuring JAY-Z — but Dean wasn’t on deck to receive it in person. At this point, he’s collecting them like he collects bongs. While Dean seems to brush it off as a non-event (although he still says it’s “cool” to win one), co-writer Sean Solymar is noticeably appreciative of the honor.
“Obviously it’s a lifetime goal of mine for sure,” the 26-year-old Los Angeles native tells HipHopDX in a recent Zoom interview. “It didn’t feel like it really happened until a few days afterwards. It’s still definitely an accomplishment.”
While they may be in different stages of their careers, both Mike Dean and Sean Solymar are equally as serious about their craft. Posted up at Dean’s West Coast studio, Dean is in the middle of mixing Megan Thee Stallion’s upcoming single “Letter To My Ex” — the same one she previewed at Coachella last week — and only periodically looks up at the camera. They’ve also just spent the last few months mixing half the tracks on Pusha T’s impending album, It’s Almost Dry, which is expected to drop on Friday (April 22).
Like Harvey Keitel in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, who’s tasked with cleaning up the mess John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson made after accidentally blowing poor Marvin’s brains out in the back of their car, Mike Dean is the album closer. He did it with Donda and Donda 2 and will undoubtedly do it again.
“I’m the guy you call when your record’s coming out in two days,” Dean says matter-of-factly,” to which Solymar replies, “Yeah, because he’s the only one that can get it fucking done.”
And that’s exactly what Dean did when he flew to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Atlanta last year when Kanye needed to revise Donda.Solymar was along for the ride and witnessed first-hand the craziness that ensued trying to finish it.
“I’m pretty used to the pressing, last-minute changes to songs,” he says. “But I think it’s more of an excitement, because there was talk of Jay being on the song [‘Jail’]. And then when you finally like get to hear his verse, you’re like, ‘Oh shit.'”
Dean jumps in, “I remember we were walking through the arena the day before the release, I think we were walking through the venue with Kanye, and the big clock on the wall said ‘4:44.’ He was like, ‘Oh, I should call JAY-Z.’ That’s what had happened. I didn’t witness [the phone call], I witnessed what triggered it.”
Solymar is clearly grateful for the position he’s in and has learned a lot working alongside Dean. He adds, “I think the biggest thing that I took away [from working with Dean] is just work ethic. And even though we get to do what we love daily, there’s different levels of professionalism in this industry. And I think he’s pretty much the prime example of it. And ‘less is more,’ that’s one thing I picked up from him that is the golden ticket, for sure.”
Mike Dean is preparing to drop his next instrumental album, the appropriately titled 4:22:22, on Friday (April 22). Until then, bump “Jail” below.