By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
He boasts production credits for everyone from Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, and Juelz Santana to Smitty and even Junior Reid. He almost strictly uses samples, plus the heaviest percussion sounds this side of ?uestlove and Travis Barker. And he's only 26 years old, born and raised in South Florida. Yep, that's Nicholas Warwar, a.k.a StreetRunner, one of the top, most promising producers to touch an MPC in recent times.
While many beat makers are clogging A&R people's gmail inboxes with generic MP3s and "Sexual Seduction" rip-offs, StreetRunner has continued to elevate his status as a producer while keeping his signature chopping skills. And as proof are his upcoming placements on two of the most anticipated albums of 2008, Lil Wayne's The Carter III and Fat Joe's The Elephant in the Room.
It's not simply about a hit record to this Terror Squad affiliate, but rather about collaborating with the artist directly to create the track from its inception. "I love how [Lil] Wayne hears my tracks, gets the concept, and takes it to the next level," StreetRunner says. "For example, 'Gossip' — he heard that beat, made the perfect record to it, and I couldn't ask for anything better than that." The track, with its high-pitched intro acting as a metaphor for Wayne's animated delivery against haters in the industry, was world-premiered during the BET awards this past November and had the Internet buzzing the following morning. "This was a song nobody knew existed. If it wasn't for a digital release of that record [on the EP The Leak], there's a chance it might not have seen a major release at all. I would love to know how many people downloaded 'Gossip.' If an album is in stores, Soundscan is pretty accurate, but if they could Soundscan these digital releases, you could end up getting more plaques on the wall!"
StreetRunner already has a few of those in his living room, after golden contributions such as "Gone" to Juelz Santana's last album, What the Game's Been Missing, and "Take Me Home" off Terror Squad's True Story LP in 2003. The latter can be viewed as his introduction to the game, with a sped-up soul sample and Southern bounce. However, most people assumed "Take Me Home" was a Cool & Dre production, since Dre was on the hook.
"Basically I made the beat, [Cool & Dre] took it to Fat Joe, and we got a call back saying Joe was going to use it for the TS album as the second single," StreetRunner recalls. "It would have been nice if I had got a little more credit for it. Dre wrote a great hook, but that was my production; it says my name on the credits. Labels and magazines were assuming it was Cool & Dre. It turned out to be bittersweet, as I was able to open doors by saying I did that record. People would be like, 'Oh, word? Cool, we'll listen to some beats.'"
Also, from there he continued to develop his relationship with Fat Joe, placing beats on Joe's last two solo albums, as well as a track titled "Addicted," featuring Juelz Santana, on DJ Khaled's Listennn. Plus his own Run the Streets compilation was released in 2006 on Counterflow. More recently, Street has collaborated with the legendary reggae artist Junior Reid, local rapper Brisco, and the number one stunna, Birdman. He also has a new best-of mixtape out with DJ L-Gee, called We Run the Streets, and an instrumental mixtape on the way. Not bad for a self-taught producer who started off collecting records, strictly listening to East Coast hip-hop, and DJing in his bedroom.
The son of working-class Cuban-Americans, he came up in the late Eighties and early Nineties, musically gravitating to N.W.A.; bass music; local acts such as Young & Restless, Gucci Crew, and 2 Live Crew; and shows including Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. He progressed from listener to DJ, cultivating a desire to make the music he played. "I would go diggin', collecting records, and eventually I would start to notice this record was produced by this guy, Pete Rock, or DJ Premier produced this record. I would see the same producers would produce all these hot records, and I was like, Damn, I want to be that guy."
Living in Pembroke Pines, StreetRunner went to Flanagan High, where he began to make beats for rappers from his school, quickly moving from the SP1200 to the MPC2000XL. Eventually, however, he thought he was getting too nice on the sampler for his surroundings. "After a few years, I felt my beats were too good for local talent; rappers weren't moving at the pace I was moving — I'm like breakneck right here with these beats. So I got up to the point where I needed to take it to the next level." At the time, his only option was to mail out beat CDs to major labels, one of which handed him his first check, for placing a couple of beats on a Hip Honeys DVD. He also signed up the services of a manager, Jay, who in turn linked him with Cool & Dre, which resulted in the "Take Me Home" single. "Having a manager is superimportant to handle the wolves in this industry," explains StreetRunner. (He also maintains the consulting services of Spliffington Management.)
And still, he probably most enjoys working with Fat Joe. "He always brings the best out of me. He takes it to the level," he says, "and makes sure that I come with it." Lacing two of the best tracks off Fat Joe's last LP, Me, Myself & I, StreetRunner provides two more for The Elephant in the Room, due out March 11, including the intro and the superhard "Kill All Rats." "I get influenced in so many ways while he works on an album, because so many people present [tracks] to Joe. Hopefully this album will do something special; regardless of the sales, it's going to be a classic."
Rolling percussion, chopped samples, synthesizers, sped-up and slowed-down vocals — StreetRunner can do it all, but growing from just a beat maker to a true producer means stepping out of one's element as an artist. In addition to the aforementioned hip-hop heavyweights, he has begun to branch out into R&B and pop with a record for local boy Casely, as well as a possible spot on Jamie Foxx's next album. "I have to come with music for all kinds of different artists. Whatever artist it may be, I need to have that heat ready to go for them," he says. "That's where I've grown as a producer. Before, I was dead-set, like, this is my style no matter what. Now, instead of it just being me and what I'm about, I'm working on trying to do something for them."