Q&A: OTF Producer John Lam

There have been many unique ways that producers have connected with their artists, earning their trust and upmost discretion when it comes to choosing production, tracking vocals, or structuring a song’s layout, and all of the rap game’s top artists have begun to more and more gravitate to working with an individual producer and engineer or two, building the same type of chemistry and camaraderie alongside them as they do their fellow artists. Lil Durk has been on a historic decade plus-run of being one of rap’s most influential and most-improved artists when we compare his career now to where it was at the start of the 2010’s before Durk and Chief Keep first birthed the notion of melodic drill. Growing from his raw autotuned vocals, Durk has managed to polish his sound tremendously and much of this sonic development can be attributed to the team of producers around him, perhaps most importantly John Lam, perhaps better known by his tag, “Pull Up Lam!” 

Lam’s credits far exceed his work alongside Durk and he has crafted records for huge industry names like PNB Rock, Nardo Wick, Rod Wave, Lil Keed, King Von, and many more, including a number of artists on-the-rise to mainstream stardom, gifting them some of their first defining tracks within their respective catalogues. Lam grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida but first became active within the music community as a college student in Tampa where he DJ’d parties and became acutely familiar with the tastes of his peers, something that surely helped him craft songs that have such wide appeals. He began to intern at a studio in Tampa with Hypno Carlito, an associate of Lil Durk’s, who first made the introduction before Lam inevitably signed with Only The Family later that year.

Lam’s horizons are limitless and his true musical acumen reveals itself further as he credits his primary influences as German-composer Hans Zimmer and the trailblazing Kanye West. He hopes to innovate and perfect his sound to the degree that his idols have, creating lavish soundscapes through the mediums of today and tailoring his instrumentals perfectly around the sonic quirks of his collaborators. He aims to not only continue to work with music’s biggest names but help develop the stars of tomorrow before their music has fully saturated the market and guide their sounds straight to the charts. 

Check out our Q&A with John Lam below.

What was the Tampa/St. Petersburg music scene like when you initially started working on music? Is it different now or has it evolved since you got your start?

The Tampa/St. Petersburg’s music scene is dope. There’s a lot of variety of music there from old school to the new age. It has evolved a lot over the years because there are way more artists emerging onto the scene.. It’s refreshing to see new artists and hear the new music they’re creating nowadays.

What compelled you to start DJ’ing? What type of music did you play?

I started DJing because I liked being the curator of the music at different events. It gave me a different perspective to music outside of just playing instruments. I played all types of music from hip-hop to dancehall.

Tell me about first meeting Durk, how did that first session go? Were you nervous? What was your mindset like? How did he react?

I first met Lil Durk in a studio in Atlanta, Georgia. I was definitely nervous at first but Durk is super humble and easy-to-talk to person. The session went great, he ended up recording on one of my beats. I was very appreciative of the opportunity and was ready to work.

What studio were you working at in Tampa? After making those first connections around that area how did you grow into working with artists in other cities? 

I was working out of Executive Studios in Tampa, FL. I traveled to a lot of different cities and networked with different producers and artists. That allowed me to build my network over the years.

What types of hurdles do you have to jump through in the industry? Have you ever had problems with getting artists or labels to pay you? How frequent of an issue is that for a young producer?

A hurdle I had to face in the industry was finding a good manager and lawyer that would represent my best interest. Once you have those, they can assist you with the business side of industry. When I first got into the industry, it was difficult to get paid in a timely manner because the whole process is new and you don’t know which approach to take. This is a common problem with young producers but over time once you find good representatives for your team, everything will become smoother.

Which of your placements are you most excited about?

The placements I’m most excited about are some of the new songs I have with Lil Durk and some other smaller up and coming artists I’m working with.

What can we expect in 2022?

In 2022, I’m looking to expand and work with artists in different genres such as pop and latin music. I’m also working on getting a lot of sync placements (movies, TV shows, commercials, etc.) as well.

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