Mac Sutphin

Even if you have not met Mac Sutphin ’17, you have definitely heard his beats — the bouncing backtrack cadence in French Montana’s single “Unforgettable.” The hit single, featuring vocals from Swae Lee, was released on April 7, 2017 and quickly ascended to number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The track was produced by Jaegen and 1Mind, Sutphin’s own hip-hop production group with his close associates, Michael Lohmeier and Sebastian Lopez.

After graduating from Yale, Sutphin now lives and works in Los Angeles, writing music and sharing beats with artists. When I asked Sutphin how he came to produce the popular beat, he told me a long, circuitous narrative including several different artists.

Over the phone, Sutphin explained to me that when he went to Yale, his friend from home and current coworker, Lopez, moved to LA to work on music professionally. During Yale breaks, Sutphin would travel out to LA to work with his friend. Lopez had started working with Ramriddlz, a Toronto-based artist best known for his song “Sweeterman,” which was discovered and covered by Drake. Lopez had produced a few remixes of Ramriddlz’s songs, to which the artist responded positively and asked for more tracks. By that time in 2016, Drake was finishing his “Views” album, officially released on May 6, 2016. Drake’s manager messaged 1Mind on Twitter, asking that they send more beats. When Drake did not use Sutphin’s beat that would later become famous — though according to Sutphin, his and Lopez’s tunes were well-received by Drake’s manager — 1Mind sent the beat to Swae Lee, whom they knew through Ramriddlz.

French Montana supposedly heard the beat while Swae Lee was working on it in his studio with Jeremih, an American rapper, songwriter and record producer. “Nobody knows how French Montana got the beat,” Sutphin said. In French Montana’s interview with the Breakfast Club 105.1 FM, he emphasized the boost that the track gave to his own career and noted that it was his biggest record ever, reaping more accolades than the rest of his work combined.

“Yeah, it [the track] could’ve been anybody’s record, it was up for grabs … [Jeremih] played it and skipped it, and I said ‘no, go back!’ And he said, ‘Swae Lee sent it to me so I could write something to it,’” French Montana explained during the interview.

The track became an even greater hit during its April release, and especially with its accompanying music video, released in the same month, featuring a youth Ugandan dance group called Triplets Ghetto Kids.

When I asked Sutphin how the recording deal had influenced his career, he characterized it as a “game changer” that attracted more people to his talent. For instance, Sutphin said he had recently signed a publishing deal with a company in LA called Pulse, who mostly publishes producers and songwriters. This contract helps him get work, set up sessions and make sure that his royalties are properly collected. Sutphin noted that 1Mind now has a reason for labels to request their tracks, and that “people believe in us more, want to help us more.”

Sutphin told me how he developed his lifelong passion for music writing. He told me that first and foremost, he was blessed to be surrounded by peers who are actively producing music. Back at home in Indianapolis when he was in the fourth grade, his older brother began to learn how to play the guitar. Sutphin picked up the drums, and together, the duo played for ten years. Later, at boarding school, one of his good friends saw him making music and showed him how to use the music programming software Sutphin uses to this day.

After Sutphin had been playing around with the software on his own, his friends from Indianapolis wanted to join. This group, which congealed into 1Mind, started connecting with artists and sending them tracks. In his senior year of high school, Sutphin found himself so engrossed in writing music that he never wanted to leave his room. Yet, it wasn’t until his junior year in college when he started connecting with famous artists in the industry that he realized his dreams would become reality. At that critical point in his career, he decided to “go all out” and committed to pursuing writing music professionally.

Sutphin, an American Studies major, admitted that once he had embraced his passion, he spent most of his time writing music in the hours he didn’t spend in class. Yale gave him the space to both study and work independently on the skills that were important to him as an individual. At Yale, Sutphin loved surrounding himself with inspiring people and their accomplishments like Zack Sekoff ’18 and Sekoff’s illustrious career in the music industry. Vince Staples, who performed in Spring Fling last year, and Sekoff had met through DJ Westside Ty and have been friends for years before recording “Big Fish Theory.” Before coming to Yale, Sekoff was considered a musical prodigy, playing at cutting-edge music clubs in LA and collaborating with Thundercat. After spending an inspiring semester in London, Sekoff immersed himself in British garage band music and brought these concepts into Vince Staples’ album. Overall, Sutphin told me that he found Yale to be a creatively nourishing and inspiring environment.

Aside from writing music in his free time, Sutphin played the background music to the vocal in Sister Insider, a campus band which describes itself as a “jazz, R&B, and hip-hop fusion sound,” and performed at Spring Fling several times.

In his post-college career, Sutphin relishes the freedom of his job: he doesn’t have the traditional nine-to-five schedule and is grateful to work on music for as long as he wants. Along with Lopez and Lohmeier, he puts aside time to collaborate with other producers and artists, and meets those who have similar artistic goals. Sutphin told me that he enjoys his job so much that it doesn’t feel like a struggle; he just has to remind himself to keep working, to know himself and to treat himself as his own boss.

Over this past summer, Sutphin worked on several writing sessions to pitch to artists: In the world of pop, artists don’t write music, they chose tracks they want to work with. A management company recently gave 1Mind a studio to work with; “Unforgettable” helped them to succeed and to develop a more hands-on relationship with other writers and producers.

“Once you have a beat out, more producers will come to you,” Sutphin said.

Since their production with French Montana, 1Mind has recently worked with Young MA, Chief Keef, PnB Rock, Cousin Stizz, Makonnen, and Swoosh, “one of ASAp’s new proteges.” Young MA, an American rapper best known for her 2016 hit “Ooouuu,” just released a single called “Walk” in collaboration with 1Mind on Nov. 3, 2017. Young MA was born in Brooklyn and began rapping at age 9, but started her music career as an adult, self-funding a recording studio from her income earned at Shake Shack and TJ Maxx. Young MA frequently explores her attraction to women in her music, noting in an interview with Vogue, “I held in being sexually attracted to women for so long that once I got that out of me, the music became easy.”

PnB Rock recently recorded music with 1Mind. PnB Rock, a hip hop recording artist from Philadelphia, is best known for his 2015 single, “Fleek,” and his 2016 single, “Selfish,” which peaked at 51 on the US Billboard Hot 100. He named himself after the streets Pastorius and Baynton, a corner near where he grew up in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. 1Mind produced his song, “Time,” which was released Aug. 4, 2017.

In other highlights since the release of “Unforgettable,” 1Mind produced “High Off Gunpowder,” by Fredo Santana featuring Kodak Black and Chief Keef, released Sept. 7, 2017. Sutphin also met Young Thug in a recording session which was “a dream come true.” He and 1Mind have recently done a few songs with Lil Yachty to come out soon.

Only six months out of college, Sutphin’s music career has already soared to exciting new heights. You have definitely listened to Mac Sutphin before, and you will be hearing from him again.

Annie Nields annie.neilds@yale.edu .