A lot goes into making a hit song, from hours of songwriting and production to meticulous mixing and strategic marketing. Rarely do those outside the camera frame get recognized beyond liner notes. But if you take a close look, you might learn that some of your favorite songs received a helping hand from your neighbors. Meet some of Las Vegas’ hitmakers.
The Audibles The production tag team of Jimmy “Jimmy G” Giannos and Dominic “DJ Mecca” Jordan might have made a Belieber out of you. The duo helped the then-teen heartthrob level up to a more mature hip-hop sound, producing five tracks on 2013’s Journals and “No Pressure” off 2015’s Purpose. The two have been industry mainstays since connecting in the studio 11 years ago. “I liked DJ’s drums; he liked my melodies and chords. It was a perfect musical marriage,” Giannos says. The rest—writing for Sam Smith, producing for French Montana and Ty Dolla $ign—is the manifestation of a dream no one believed in more than Giannos’ mother. “She would always tell us, ‘You’re going to be at the Grammys,’” Jordan says. It came true: Purpose was nominated for Album of the Year. Despite their national credits, the duo makes it a point to represent its hometown; it has collaborations with Las Vegas artists Lazr, Interstate Fatz and DJ Franzen in the works. “We really want to support Vegas’ own and bring the culture up,” Jordan says.
Cam O’bi Chicago’s spellbinding hip-hop scene is indebted to a Las Vegas native. In 2012, producer Cameron Osteen, aka Cam O’bi, moved to the Windy City, where he met then-upstarts Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, helping craft their respective breakout projects, Innanetape and Acid Rap, in 2013. “That gave me a key to the entire [Chicago] music scene,” says Cam, who also worked on Chance’s Grammy award-winning Coloring Book. Soon, his catalog expanded beyond the Midwest to include SZA, J. Cole and Moses Sumney—critically praised artists all drawn to Cam’s distinctive sound, self-described as “hip-hop meets Disney.” It’s vivid, colorful and playful. Take “TenderHeaded,” which features a sample of a baby laughing as Cam raps—for the first time on record—about growing up with nappy hair. It’s the first song from his upcoming debut, Grown Ass Kid, due out next year. If his past work is any indication, expect a star-studded and whimsical head-nodder.
King Vay If you’ve ever been to a T.I. concert, you’ve seen Vasjon “King Vay” Hill banging on the drums and giving life to the Atlanta rapper’s southern-fried beats. For the past seven years, Vay has been the rap superstar’s go-to drummer, while also providing live percussion for hip-hop artists like Future, Rae Sremmurd and French Montana. That’s quite the leap for a guy who grew up playing in church bands and touring with gospel artists Kenny Lattimore and Chanté Moore. Ever restless, King Vay also makes beats for artists like T.I., Snoop Dogg and Jeremih and runs Las Vegas studio the Hit District. And he’s not stopping until he has his own empire. “That’s my next move,” he says, “executive producing and having a few artists under me.”
Pat Hundley When Rick Ross, Gucci Mane or Riff Raff get the urge to lay down a track in Las Vegas, they call Pat Hundley. A transplant from Nashville, Hundley moved here six years ago and quickly became the go-to engineer for trap-rap stars. He credits that to his professionalism. “I take the long road around the mountain. I’ll give you a three-hour session to make [a project] better,” he says. That has led to a constant stream of work at just about every studio in the city, from Studio at the Palms to the now-defunct studio at Chumlee’s mansion. Hundley is currently building his own in Downtown with veteran rock producer and engineer Bjorn Thorsrud. Though Hundley is most recognized in the street rap circle, he’s finishing up albums for local rock acts Leather Bound Crooks and Almost Normal. “I get along with the gangsters, I get along with the rock stars,” he says. “If you come to the table with a positive attitude, people will want to work with you.”