The Runners: Track Stars

The Runners don’t look like two men with their ear to the streets. The Orlando-based production duo is more GQ than they are AllHipHop. Their unapologetic fashion sense is a little flashier and more form-fitting than two men ingrained in Hip-Hop typically have. That’s a risky move in an industry that places as much emphasis […]

The Runners don’t look like two men with their ear to the streets. The Orlando-based production duo is more GQ than they are AllHipHop. Their unapologetic fashion sense is a little flashier and more form-fitting than two men ingrained in Hip-Hop typically have. That’s a risky move in an industry that places as much emphasis on image as it does on substance, but lucky for the Runners, success allows you to break the rules.

Friends since either man could spell Hip-Hop, Dru Brett and Mayne Zane made a loud debut on music charts this year. “Hustlin’” – the bass-heavy scorcher they produced for Miami street king Rick Ross – quickly became a hit, which has the duo in a good place right now. “Hustlin’” built a momentum that’s making the Runners’ phone ring more often than ever before. Everyone from trap star Young Jeezy to pop star Jessica Simpson is requesting their musical services.

Brett and Zane are clearly enjoying success, but the respect it brings has limitations. The Runners have endured criticism from journalists and Hip-Hop fans since “Hustlin’” first bubbled, with some claiming that their beats sound too similar. For every supporter of their biggest hit to date, there’s also a detractor comparing it to Lil’ Wayne’s “Money on My Mind.” The Runners spoke about the knock on their resume, and they had some choice words for naysayers. Brett and Zane are hearing a lot of talk, and they’re ready to send some of it back. T.I., Young Jeezy, and a few other artists had the “Hustlin’” beat, but never purchased it. How would things differ if someone besides Rick Ross used it?

Dru: I think it would have been a big record for anybody. Ross just knew that it was a hit record and ran with it. The fact that that record broke a new artist made it so much bigger than it was. People already knew who those other [artists] are and out of nowhere this guy comes out blasting all over the radio station and everybody’s saying, “Who did that? Who did that?” It brought us a lot more attention and also a lot of credibility because a lot of people tried to break Rick Ross and it took a special sound to do that.

Mayne: Dude was doing his thing for like…12 years.

Dru: Yeah; why didn’t it ever pop off until now? Obviously it was that creativeness between us and him. What do you say to critics who claim your beats sound too similar?

Mayne: Man, critics, we don’t listen to them because they doing their job and we doing our job. That’s our own sound. We have a wide range of genres that we can touch. We can touch R&B, we can touch New York artists, and we can touch the South, we can touch the West Coast. We just did a track with Young Jeezy that is like a sound that we never put out there before. People never heard this sound from us before. F**k the critics ‘cause they don’t know us. People also say you rely on the “Chopped & Screwed” sound too much.

Mayne: It all started with the screwed-up vocals and hooks, but those beats were us. We put those hooks in those songs. Some we took from recent songs and we just put a couple words and chopped it up, but most of those hooks we made. It’s not just putting a screwed hook on a beat; it’s that sound behind the beat. Some producers complain that artists ask them to reproduced hits. Since “Hustlin’” was such a big song, have you experienced that?

Mayne: All the time, man. All the time. That’s our job to stay creative and please the customer, please the artist, and then keep our reputation hot by coming up with something new. Presenting something new to them is our job to do. Like, yeah, we did this, but this is what we’re working on now. Take a listen and tell me what you think. Let’s go back a little bit. How did you guys link-up?

Mayne: We knew each other since preschool. <br<

Dru: I was actually in North Carolina, I was about 16 and Mayne was down in Vero Beach, Florida. We were on the phone and we kind of had creative ideas that were bouncing back and forth between both of us. So we came up with a plan on how we should approach the music business being that it’s such a difficult business to get into. We came up with an idea to structure our company correctly and decided to vibe together on everything we do. Did you work well together at first?

Dru: Yeah, because Mayne is more on the creative, musical side and I handle more on the business side, so we don’t step on each other’s toes. What happens when you disagree on how a beat should sound?

Dru: That doesn’t really happen. I don’t think that’s happened. I’m not going to mess up somebody else’s creativity because he could be taking something to a level where maybe I don’t see the vision at first, but then it all comes full circle later on. Mayne, who would you say influenced your style?

Mayne: Dr. Dre and anybody who came up with their own sound. All of the people before me who stayed in their own lane [like] Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Neptunes, and Scott Storch right now. Anybody who stays in their own lane and doing something new. Anybody that’s adding new material to the game by doing it their own way and not by copying the next man. What made you want to become a producer?

Mayne: I don’t know. That’s kind of like a question if you’re married or you got a girlfriend, “Why you like that girl?” You don’t know you just fell in love with her, you know what I’m saying? It just happened; it’s just in me. Your managers are DJ Khaled and DJ Nasty. How did that happen?

Dru: DJ Nasty was like the first person that believed in our talent. A little over a year ago, he passed our first track to Fat Joe [“Does Anybody Know”]. He was on the radio station in Orlando [102 JAMZ] and he had connections to the music business, so he kind of stepped us in the door; walked us in. After we kind of walked in, we started needing to expand our management to touch more people. Khaled was willing to jump on board and anxious to get things rolling quickly. And that was a good look because of his personal connections and he’s such a great person, such an inspiration to us. Is it strange because they’re producers too, so they’re kind of your competition?

Dru: It hasn’t really come to that point to where we felt competitive with them. They’re getting us so much work and doing so much for us that I really don’t have any complaints right now. What’s the worst thing you’ve encountered about the Hip-Hop industry so far?

Dru: I’d say the worst thing is dealing with people’s personalities. Certain people are difficult to deal with and you have to deal with them regardless if you want to or not. Have you guys had any lessons in Industry Rule # 4080 about record company people being shady?

Dru: Oh, absolutely. That’s just part of the business, so we deal with that on the professional level and handle everything that we need to handle. Whether you’re doing construction business or you’re running a shop or shoe store, you’re going to deal with shady people in the business. That’s just the way it is. What are some projects you’re involved in now?

Dru: We just did Trick Daddy, and we’re going to have a single coming out. We just did Young Dro and gave him two really crazy records. We just gave Bohagon a single and Fat Joe’s newest single that Flex dropped bombs on. We shot the video for DJ Khaled “Born N’ Raised” and we did a bunch of new records with Lil’ Wayne. I don’t even know how many we have on there.

Mayne: Young Jeezy too with Keyshia Cole. Hold up – Keyshia Cole and Travis Barker. Travis Barker from Blink 182 is gonna be playing the drums on there. Are you on branding your own stuff like with a mixtape or a compilation?

Dru: Yeah, we’re working on something. We’re going to focus more on our own artist and R&B artist right now. That’s a side of us most people don’t know about. We just did a song with Trey Songz that’s the title track to his album called “Trey Day.” We’re also going to do Ciara, Mario; we’re going to keep expanding into R&B. We do ballads and everything so that’s why when people say, “Oh they only can do that sound,” they have no clue. When they hear the Trey Songz record, or they hear the Mario record, they’re gonna be like, “Wow.” I can imagine that a year ago, your lives were very different. How do you think your lives will change in another year?

Dru: Even crazier than it is now. People are gonna see our R&B side, the Pop side. We’re going to be working with everybody from Jessica Simpson to Ashley Simpson to Maroon 5. Everybody that you can imagine.

Mayne: Just be on the look-out for The Runners in your Top 40 radio station.