Producer Evilgiane was just as surprised as the rest of us when Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem dropped their new single “The Hillbillies.”
Last week, the cousin duo surprised-released the Jersey club-tinged track, comparing themselves to soccer stars Lionel Messi and Neymar while trading bars in a playful back-and-forth manner. The accompanying Neal Farmer-directed visual features an appearance from Tyler, the Creator, announcing the return of his Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival after a four-year hiatus (the festival will take place in Los Angeles Nov. 11-12).
“The Hillbillies” samples Bon Iver‘s 2020 song “PDLIF,” a choice Evilgiane made because of how “pretty” it sounds. The track is the Brooklyn native’s second major credit since producing A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti‘s unreleased track “Our Destiny / Sights,” which reworks Destiny’s Child‘s 2004 cut “If.” Evilgiane’s knack for sampling caught the attention of Keem, and the two connected over Instagram late last year, with the rapper telling the producer to send him some beats.
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While Evilgiane is beginning to make a name for himself, the 26-year-old born Giane Chenheu also runs a producers collective and label, Surf Gang, which has become a budding force in the underground New York drill and alternative scenes. The group has worked with indie artists like Matt Ox, Polo Perks, Babyxsosa and more.
Below, the producer talks to Billboard about linking with Baby Keem, how he chooses samples, his beat-making beginnings and the future of Surf Gang.
Tell me how you first connected with Baby Keem and made “The Hillbillies” beat.
Keem has always been on some different s–t with production. He hit me up on Instagram and told me to send him s–t, that’s how we linked up. How I made the beat was, I just liked the [Bon Iver] song and I always sample songs that I really f–k with. The beat was a made a couple months before we connected. I don’t remember the exact date, [but] like early this year, end of last year.
What specifically about “PDLIF” draws you to it?
Almost everything about it. If you ever heard the original song, it’s just really beautiful. The vocals, the instrumental, it’s all really pretty.
I know people online were saying how Keem and Kendrick’s flows are similar to the one Drake uses on “Sticky.”
I didn’t know people were gonna make up beef about that s–t. I don’t feel like they’re copying anything really, they were just having fun on the song. I like the song “Sticky,” don’t get me wrong, but the beat wasn’t inspired by that song.
What do you have to say to the people who say that sampling lacks originality?
That’s totally not true. Hip-hop literally started from sampling. That’s kinda stupid. The first beats were samples from like, funk songs, blues songs, way back in the ’70s. It takes creativity to see a different song inside of a song that’s already made.
When you made the beat and gave it to Keem, were you aware of anything after that?
I’d only heard a tiny bit of it, but other than that, I didn’t really have that much info on it besides [the fact that] he got on it. He told me he f–ked with it and was trying to shoot a video to it. I didn’t know Kendrick was gonna get on it until last-minute. I didn’t know the video was coming out immediately as well. That s–t really caught me by surprise, [but] it was exciting. It would’ve been knowing for super long and being anxious waiting on it to drop. I think it dropped perfectly. Everything about the video is mad fun, too.
So I guess you didn’t know Tyler, the Creator was gonna be in it either, right?
Nah, not at all. That s–t also blew my mind.
They better invite you to the festival!
I would love to [go], if they could. Shout-out Tyler for showing love to it, that s–t’s wavy.
How’d you get into producing?
I’ve always been interested in it since [I was] a little kid. I’ve always liked skating but it’s always been in the back of my head. Once I finally got the opportunity to do it, I just ran with it.
What’s your go-to software?
I use Ableton. The first thing I used was Logic and FL Mobile on my phone, but I’ve been using Ableton for the past four, five years now.
How long have you been producing?
At least five years.
Where does your producer name come from?
[Laughs.] It’s silly. It was my Instagram name, trying to be edgy and funny. It came from Evil Mario, and I was like, “I’m gonna be the evil version of Giane,” because I have an Italian name anyway. I just thought it was funny.
Tell me about your collective, Surf Gang.
Now we’re starting to become more of an independent label, we have our own releases we’ve been doing. We’ve still been sticking on the same swag we’ve been doing. We started out as a collective and all the artists [we’ve worked with] have all been independent, but still hella loyal to us. I appreciate all artists that we’ve been working with so far, past and present. And future.
It’s always been a family from the start. We literally started out as a skate crew and then it developed into what it is now. We meet new people and [they] join. It’s always been us just trying to build and create with each other.
What are you most proud of so far?
Just how far we’ve come. From people not paying attention to us in the beginning to now people starting… we haven’t gone that far yet, but I still appreciate all the love we’ve been receiving so far.
What can we look out for from you in the future?
I’m always gonna keep surprising people with drops like this. With Surf Gang, we’ve got 454 coming out this summer, shows coming up. You gotta watch, you know? We staying active.