DJ Speedy is not new to the music industry. With a career spanning over 20 years, the South Carolina native and Atlanta transplant born Harvey Miller first gained mainstream notoriety producing Big Gipp’s 2003 single “Steppin’ Out.”
After working with the likes of Jeezy, Nelly and Future, the established producer continues to keep his name afloat with tracks like “Gangsta Nerd” featuring his frequent collaborator Waka Flocka Flame (the pair are also readying a joint album slated for release in 2017). Billboard recently spoke with Speedy on blending trap with rap, his decorated resume and his forthcoming projects.
What song are you most proud of?
I would have to say “Steppin’ Out” by Big Gipp, because that changed my life. Prior to that, I was a DJ and a producer, and that was my first song with my name attached to it. It took me around the world like Soul Train. Thirty placements later, I did Young Jeezy “I Do This S–t,” the first single off his second album. Even the trap and 808 sound came from me, Shawty Redd, and Lil Jon back in the day — that was our sound.
How did you come up with the concept for the Waka Flocka Flame collaboration “Gangsta Nerd”?
Actually, Waka came up with “Gangsta Nerd.” That was my nickname. Back in the days, Jeezy, Gucci, all the trap rappers that I was helping and producing songs for used to [say] I hang with the gangstas but I look like a nerd. The dope boys were messing with me because I was their way out of the hood. They had dope money, and I was a producer that had a name for himself. They asked me for beats and I wasn’t scared to work with them. Waka was like, “You just a gangsta nerd. You hang with all the gangstas.”
Where was the song recorded?
In my crib in Atlanta. Ninety-nine percent of the songs I’ve produced for people I’ve recorded and engineered in my own crib. With my first big check, I went to Guitar Center and bought every piece of equipment I could imagine and sat home, and learned how to use it. I’ve figured out the most important person in the music industry is the engineer. That’s fact, because nothing gets recorded, nothing gets heard, nothing gets played [without the engineer].
Why does the fusion of hip-hop and EDM work?
It works if you know the history of EDM. The history of EDM is disco from New York in 1974 and house music from Chicago. Those [are] the parents of EDM. What people fail to understand is, everything is electronic. You don’t see real guitar players coming in the studio and playing on a rap track. It’s electronic. Hip-hop dance music is just hip-hop musical rap. Even rap music and hip-hop is two different things. That’s when the nerds kick in.
Now to answer your question about hip-hop, there’s a version of hip hop music that the EDM fans listen to called trap step. It goes back to Atlanta — that 808 sound mixed with dubstep. Skrillex got big here in L.A. with dubstep. He was like the father of dubstep. That’s where you see Skrillex doing songs with Rick Ross for the Suicide Squad movie. Clubs want to call it festival music, but they’re playing trap step. That’s how hip-hop gets heard in the EDM community. Real EDM has no words to it. We use words to bring our friends in.
Any plans to release a video for “Gangsta Nerd”?
We are definitely going to do a video now that we are mature and in our own space. This is my third time remixing the track. It’s now more EDM-ish.
What other artists are you working with now?
Nelly, of course. Flo Rida.
Can we expect an EDM sound from Nelly?
Nelly is a little different. He’s considered hip-hop but he’s country. We just doing Nelly because I’ve been around him since ’99. People expect us to just make hits. Flo Rida is the same way.
Do you have any other up-and-coming projects with Waka Flocka Flame coming in the future?
We doing a whole album together. He actually came up with the name of it. The Mad Scientist and Waka Flocka, where I’m the mad scientist. We got to be at least eight songs deep into it now. [We’re planning to release it] the beginning of next year.
Will the project still fall along the lines of EDM?
Trap EDM because it’s really the reason he came up with “the mad scientist.” I’ve dibbled and dabbled in everybody’s music. From Waka to Gucci, Future to Big Gipp, it was during the beginning of their careers. I was the first person to play “Country Grammar” on a radio station in Columbia, South Carolina. I almost got fired. My boss was going to fire me for playing it on my own show because he didn’t like the song. Then the song sold eight million copies later.
The station gets the plaque for the song, but I got a friend. And now years later, me and Nelly still kicking it, still cool, and the radio station has switched hands 50 damn times. God really had a plan for me.