Studio Session: How Producer Avenue Helped Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz Make “Uproar”
Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V 2018 single "Uproar" shook up the hip-hop world thanks in large part to its beat—a brilliant flip of G. Dep's classic 2001 track, "Special Delivery." Producer Avenue—along with Swizz Beatz—is responsible for the updated instrumental that gave Ez Elpee’s claps, drums and bike horn a fresh twist that fans of rap, old and new, can appreciate. The track even sparked a Harlem Shake-inspired dance challenge.
Producer Avenue has had an ear for what sounds good since before he hit double digits. At 8 years old, Avery Chambliss was upstaging professional drummers in his church, beginning a DJ career just four years later. Now 31, Swizz Beatz’s protégé has made a name for himself, having worked with the likes of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, T.I. and Chris Brown.
XXL hopped on the phone to chop it up with Avenue about sampling “Special Delivery,” how he met Swizz more than a decade ago and what’s to come from a lifelong student of the production game.
XXL: “Uproar” had such a great response. Were you prepared for it all?
Avenue: Nah, I don’t think anybody expected it to be as big as it got.
Even as far as the dance challenge.
Yeah, I’m from the Bronx, so you know, that’s all we know. Nobody could have pictured it coming back how it did. It seems like the culture’s damn near back [laughs].
How did you and Swizz put your personal touch on the "Special Delivery" beat?
I always knew as a kid I had the record in the stash. Like, the original “Special Delivery” [sample]. So we just reconstructed it—tried to gather the same feeling that it was before. The drum part is easy. That’s the science part as far as making it knock, but the drums we just made sure it was enough for people to dance to, you know? Bring the dancing back.
Swizz is a legend. I’m aspiring to be one as well and the old making-the-beat-to-change-the-game, we got a billion of those. We just wanted to capture the dance aspect of it ’cause that was the ceiling point of the culture at the time.
How did y'all get Wayne to rap on the "Special Delivery" sample? On “Green Ranger” he said he wasn't fond of it.
Yeah, I read about that. I had no clue about him and Cole using it; I found out afterwards. I was just like Wow, okay. Cool [laughs]. You just never know. It’s a perfect example of stepping out your comfort zone. And he did so and look what it’s doing for the people. And for him, you know, that’s crazy.
What was Wayne’s response to it all?
I got to see him at SNL and he seemed overwhelmed. But you know, it’s Wayne. He ready for all this, man.
That was your first time meeting him?
Yeah, that was probably my first time meeting him. I been around. I was [a] young boy, been around for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of people in passing but that was the first time I actually got to see him in person for real.
You do his “Glory” beat too?
Yeah, that was me and my good friend Onhel; Angel Aponte. We’ve known him for a long time—this industry is like a [fraternity] [laughs]. You never know who’s who, how long people known each other and where they know people from. [Wayne’s] engineer is also family with our circle, ’cause we all family. But his engineer for the past 10, 12 years, he’s a good friend of mine and he produces as well so he kinda reached out to me at that time and was just like, “Yo, Wayne need that shit that’s not that generic shit, but that shit." I just sent what I had and I was surprised he picked that one, too. We had another one before that, I believe, but you know the technology nowadays, it allows you to just catch a vibe with people without even really bein’ around. You get to really reach your full potential that way.
Did you let Wayne know that you were the one who produced that song when you met him?
Nah, nah. It’s SNL. I gotta respect the relationship—Swizz is big brother, you know? There’s a lot of boundaries people like to step in this business ’cause everybody is out for self at the end of the day. And you know I understand the person I’m with—it ain’t no industry thing with him. He came in with family and people that care about him. And you gotta respect that as such. Because if you disrespect that you’re disrespecting everything.
Ez Elpee seemed upset about his beat being sampled for "Uproar." Have you spoken to him about the track at all?
I don’t know how the business is being handled. I know everybody got a lawyer and Puff is family, so I didn’t know anything was said about it. I just know I looked up to him, too. You know Ez Elpee, I was a kid coming up to that. I’m 31-years-old, so I’m just happy to be here.
Do you remember listening to “Special Delivery” when it first came out?
Did it have a really big impact on you growing up?
Yes, yes it did. I was a DJ at 12 years old. I owned that on wax.
So you were playing it in parties at a young age.
Yeah, at the little junior high school parties—I was doin’ a lot [laughs]. “Special Delivery” was one. Everybody wanted to hear “DooDoo Brown” back then but “Special Delivery” made it to where the kids my age can get involved with what’s goin’ on, Harlem Shakin’ and all that.
How did you get into music at such a young age?
I was a musician; I was playing drums. My family played music—you know, the church scene and things like that. And you know, I put myself in the drum chore out there in the Bronx in PAL [Police Athletic League]. I was a teacher—I was already teaching as a student [laughs]. It was crazy. Like, my drum skills picked up faster than expected. I was already playing full-on church services at 8 years old.
Wow, that’s great.
Yeah, I was making the drummer mad. ’Cause I’m doin’ it for free and they had a drummer that was supposed to get paid. So he used to kick me off, I start crying [laughs]. It was little journey. I ain’t just fall out the sky ’cause I seen a rap video. I had a passion for music before I knew I could make money off of it.
When did you first link with Swizz Beatz?
About 13 years ago. He met me in Guitar Center. I was cutting school in there with my friends and he kinda like caught us in there jammin’ out on the keyboards [laughs]. We just knew we had to meet somebody; we ain’t never had a game plan or nothin’ like that. He took our numbers and he kept it a hundred since then. And we did work with a whole lot of people, man. Bone Thugs, Jay-Z, Drake—everybody.
How is has it been working with him all these years?
It’s a true blessing because he’s a very private person. Very private. So seeing him now and how far we’ve come together, I could see he’s opened up more and he’s more adapted to the times. But he’s very secluded for a reason. This business just seems like all glory and glitz and glamour, especially under his umbrella. When you look his way everybody see Swizz, Jay-Z, everybody. But people will forget it’s like Yo, I’m still a person [laughs]. People’ll forget that. Everybody can’t be around; he’s too normal, I’ll say. I understood everything as time went by but outside of that, man, it’s a blast. We vibe; we both from the BX. Everything was always great vibes.
What are your differences in regards to production style?
I was born at a weird time as far as technology and stuff, so I got to understand his way, with like the drum machine and everything like that. But I really got started on the computers. I was the beginning of this FruityLoops wave and what the kids do now. And I’m a full-on musician—I play drums, piano, guitar a little bit. The music part was always there, so in the studio with somebody like Swizz—I was a DJ, too, so I understand what you’re going for. It’s more so like, everything gotta be knockin’ and then you can manipulate everything else from there. Once you get the sounds knockin’ then it’s good. I understand the grid and he more hands-on. I’m hands-on, too, but he’s strictly hands-on. The grid computer stuff, it gets confusing, you know? So you gotta do it a certain way.
And what ways do you favor each other?
I guess when he met me he admired the fact that I was one of the youngest people around that had the knock that [his generation is] used to hearing.
Do you remember the first track you ever did with him?
The first day I met him they picked one of my beats that I did when I was 15. He had signed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at the time when I met him, so I ended up landing two tracks on [their] album.
How did it all come together?
I met him the same day Cassidy turned himself in for the murder charge, strangely. It was when I got home, I’m waitin’ to tell everybody and they like, "Yeah, Cassidy was just on TV, he turned himself in." They called us up like in October that same year, so I had turned 18 in between that time. By the time I came back to the studio I met Grady Spivey, which is his best friend and head A&R of Full Surface. I met him asking him about a beat on the CD I left. He was like "Oh okay, okay, what’s up y’all? Oh, you Avery? Yo, you made that beat for Bone Thugs." I’m like Word? I did? I’m on, word? It was crazy. I’m like Wow, man, these dudes is one hundred. We was expectin’ to get fronted on so crazy and it was never none of that.
What other songs have the two of you co-produced?
One of the first big records we did together was “Swing Ya Rag” with T.I. I was in the video and everything. It never got to come out.
What’s one of the biggest pieces of advice Swizz has given you?
He was like, "When you hot, everybody around"—in terms of labels and opportunities, people tryna act like they’re helping your career. He was like, “Always notice that they only gonna be around when you hot. Remember that. They’re never gonna be around when you’re cold. They not gon’ know how to help you. You gon’ be out of reach.” [Laughs] I keep that close to my heart.
Aside from your work with Swizz Beatz, what are some other tracks you’ve produced in the past?
I worked with Chris Brown but it wasn’t hands-on. I worked with Aaron Reid, L.A. Reid’s son. Me and him are very close friends, long time. We work a lot. The song with Chris was called “Dead Wrong.” He leaked it on Instagram [but] he never released the full track.
It’s a whole lot of records in the works, for sure. I have one of my protégés, he goes by the name Vinylz; he's OVO. “0 to 100,” “No New Friends”—his resume is ridiculous; he’s No. 1 out here. Rihanna’s “Sex With Me,” all that shit. But me and him workin’. You can imagine with all those names I named who we definitely workin’ with right now. It’s a lot of people.
Can you reveal a few of them?
Nah. No [Laughs].
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