Since she broke out as a teenager, Wondagurl has been making a name for herself producing for Rihanna, Drake, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. Meeting her at Revolution Studios, though, she’s still very much a reflection of her quiet suburban upbringing in Brampton.
In a brief studio session hosted by Doritos, I sit with the producer (real name: Ebony Oshunrinde) to witness her creative process first-hand as she crafts a beat out of sounds from crunching, biting and everything you’d hear while devouring a bag of chips. That, and a sample that I’ve brought in for her to use.
Somewhat timid in conversation, Oshunrinde moves with machine-like precision while working. Her training started at Chinguacousy Secondary School, where she enrolled in Grade 11 after moving from Mississauga. Known for its SciTech North program, the high school helped her foster her passion for producing by introducing her to classes that finally held her interest. By the end of the year she went from struggling to pass to making the honour roll.
“That’s why I loved that school,” she says. “It was super-techy.”
Now 20, Oshunrinde still resides in Brampton, where she’s within close proximity to the strong and exciting rap culture suddenly emerging. There’s Derin Falana, Roy Woods and Tory Lanez. “A lot of people are going to blow,” she says. “It’s just about different sounds.” She names rising R&B/hip-hop singer K. Forest as the one she most wants to work with.
Back at the studio, her right hand stays glued to her work laptop while her left viciously clicks for the hardest set of drums. Though it seems second nature to her, this kind of expedited session is not her usual process.
“Finishing a beat usually takes me a couple days,” she says. “I like sitting on them and going back.”
That perfectionist work ethic helps explain how she caught the attention of Jay-Z when she was just 16 and producing beats out of her family home. She landed a track on his Magna Carta Holy Grail.
There’s no clear way to break out. Some spend thousands of dollars on gear or at recording arts schools, but Oshunrinde sought out a different brand of post-secondary education through the Remix Project, an influential mentorship program for economically challenged young creatives looking to enter the fields of business, recording and creative arts.
“Remix is what helped me get into Toronto and its music scene,” she says.
Remix gave her access to studio equipment she couldn’t find at her high school and led her to meeting Boi-1da, producer for Drake and Kendrick Lamar. He became her mentor, and taught her valuable lessons on two things crucial to her productions: how to sample and how to make the beat hit as hard as possible.
You can hear that in songs she’s produced, like the cleverly used Quincy Jones electric organ sample in Big Sean’s No Favors and the stiff drum patterns behind the flooded bass lines on Travis Scott’s hit Antidote.
The latter song morphs Lee Fields & the Expressions’ funky All I Need in such an interesting way that I’m curious to see how she’ll handle the woozy drive of Bootsy Collins’s Munchies For Your Love.
It’s transfixing watching her rapid-fire synthesizing, turning the sample into an ominous beat carried by a growling bass line. The psychedelic bass pattern screeches and hops between sonorous drum kicks.
Within 30 minutes, she’s saved and closed her Fruity Loops session without breaking a sweat.
She plays me back the finished beat but says she plans to keep polishing it. I’m happy with her initial edits, but her work is never done.
Listen to Wondagurl’s custom beat from the session below:
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