Producer, musician and writer Mike Summers—known widely as “Seven” because of the age at which he took up the piano—has worked with a number of hip-hop and rap artists, most notably Tech N9ne. The two formed a friendship when they were both on the rise in Kansas City, MO. Summers’ first major production was on Tech N9ne’s 2006 album Everready (The Religion). The pair have gone on to create two dozen records together. He relocated to L.A. in 2020.
Summers’ longstanding friendship and working relationship with Tech N9ne began when he was only 14. “At that time,” he recalls, “he was still a local artist. He’d just done Gang Related—The Soundtrack and had the song ‘Questions’ that was produced by QDIII. When he started [his label] Strange Music in 2000, I was always part of it. I produced with him and helped to develop his sound. When it comes to cadences and rhythmic patterns, I became the perfect counterpart to what he does.”
Pre-production can save a lot of time—and, consequently, money—in the studio and help to get an initial session off to an auspicious start. “Seventy-five percent of the time, I have pre-production done in advance,” the producer says. “Working in L.A., the thing that’s different is that here I’ll get into sessions at which we sit down and create something from scratch. I’m able to call musicians and have them show up easier than in any other city. But I always do some level of pre-production.”
All producers face challenges. For some, it’s dealing with label demands. For others, it may revolve around compensation and/or credits. “Learning how to collaborate with other producers was my biggest challenge,” Summers admits. “The way that I came up was to do everything on my own; there was no one who could add value to my work. As I got older and worked with bigger artists in various cities, it was difficult to let other producers take apart one of my tracks. I liked what I did and didn’t want anyone else to mess with my vision. But the more I worked in L.A., I started to let go of that and the better the tracks became. Things were introduced that I never would have thought of by myself.”
It can be tempting for a producer to become comfortable once he or she has attained a particular level of success. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also much to be said for continuing to test and stretch yourself. “When I notice that I’m comfortable, I do whatever it takes to become uncomfortable,” Summers explains. “As I move from project-to-project, I strive to abandon the things I was doing previously. If I use the same things constantly, I become repetitive and that’s a big fear of mine. Once around 2013, I changed to a new facility and I felt more inspired than ever. Now every six months to a year I’ll make changes. When I do, I notice that I make better music.”
Summers’ current work includes production with Hollywood outfit Love Ghost. Recently the band completed a track with Atlantic artist Rico Nasty. He’s also producing with and for XV, once signed to Warner, and Jon Connor, formerly of Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment. Summers often writes with artists, but also keeps a team of scribes close to hand.
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