Mic’d Up: A Conversation With Mike Dean

The producer is revered as one of the most important key elements of music. Many of our favorite albums remain timeless due to the contributions of a honest, gifted, and hard working individual. Mike Dean has reigned as one of music’s most remarkable producers, responsible for ideas and a level of imagination that many wish they could match. Celebrating his 52nd birthday only a few days ago, he still provides an astonishing amount of knowledge and experience one can acquire when studying and becoming a fan of the legendary Mike Dean.

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As a kid growing up in Freeport, Mike spent most of his early days riding motocross for Suzuki, playing piano and creating art. There was a clear distinction that as his interest grew for music his fascination with learning and creating more grew. Growing up with siblings who both played instruments–his sister played piano and his brother played saxophone–would inspire him to learn both instruments at the age of 8. Ms. Ambuhl would be the woman that taught him classical piano lessons as a young boy and would continue to train him for 18 years.

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Mike grew up finding a love for rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and Deep Purple. One of his favorite groups responsible for being incredibly influential was Pink Floyd. “I played weekends in school with rock and country bands,” he says. “It was a lot of Blues Brothers chicken wire type places!! and later the Holiday Inn, Hilton circuit, lots of covers.” He grew to love rap and other genres in many ways and found himself evolving from a fan to a professional while still attending high school. The beginning of his musical journey was with Selena Quintanilla, a cultural icon who will be remembered forever as one of the greats. Mike came into contact with a young and vibrant Selena who was still learning about her musical gifts yet that didn’t stop him from hitting the road the day after graduation. Dean helped develop her talent from the age of 8 to 13. While he was hoping to get Selena to record more records singing in English, at the time that didn’t seem to be a priority. Ultimately this led to both parties moving forward in opposite directions.

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The hard working Texas native would create opportunities out of any moment that would limit his potential. Dean began to make his mark in rap when he began to create the signature sound that would represent the state of Texas and the South as a whole through his timeless records. All of his work contributing to the Rap-A-Lot entity gave the world a rude awakening had they ever tried to doubt the quality of music coming from the South. Mike reflected on how remarkable studio sessions with Scarface and Z-Ro were for records such as “Smile” and “I Hate You Bitch,” two records that will forever be highly regarded in Hip-Hop history. “Just smoking, vibing out as always,” Dean, 52, says. “Back then it was more drum machines and tape, good times. All straight from the soul.” From “Mary Jane” to “In Between Us,” these two are always challenging each other to bring out the best in each other. Yet who would’ve imagined that a rising producer would contribute to Face’s 2002 The Fix, and change his life forever.

Kanye West entered Mike’s life and began reaching out to have him mix records for Get Well Soon and I’m Good, his early mixtape releases. This would lead to recruiting Mike for The College Dropout and essentially having him become a part of every album Kanye has since released. Mike’s discography expands so elegantly that you wouldn’t realize he has been a huge contributor to so many incredible moments in music. He’s worked with everyone from Immature to Common, Ashanti to Rappin 4 Tay, and Quincy Jones. Each year Mike continues to do it all. Although very vocal about not relying on samples, in 2013, Mike created a sample-based masterpiece for country singer Brad Paisley. Another moment in history reminding us to never limit such a creative genius.

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A master at both music and marijuana, Mike has a set of lungs that will overpower any loudmouth thinking they’re dealing with an amateur. Although as a teenager Mike may have taken a toke or two, he didn’t become the weed connoisseur he is until the age of 27. Since then he doesn’t waste any time to profess his love for marijuana. Dean says the medicine allows his creativity to be maximized and he smokes more in a day than some can handle in a month. “A lot… A half a day,” Mike says. “Blunts and dabs and wrapping wax on blunts.” Mike prefers smoking everywhere he chooses to roam like a true stoner. He expresses that Pink Floyd’s music is a great choice to include in your smoke sessions and he hopes to smoke a few with the legend Willie Nelson.

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As the story continues to write itself Mike prides his work on inspiring young musicians. You can expect him to embrace new talent and continue to impact the masses globally. So what’s next you might ask? “Lots of new things on the way including, ‘Mike Dean OG Kush’ and my album Mike Dean OG 2018,” says Dean. “My album Mike Dean OG 2018 sometime in next year or so. And on a lot of the new singles from your fav artists as mixer and or producer.” With news like that we are very excited for what’s to come from the great Mike Dean.

“Smoke on people!!! Keep it creative and positive” – Mike Dean, 2017.

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