“Does this make me a Grammy-nominated producer???” Toronto producer FrancisGotHeat tweeted on the day the 2021 Grammy nominations were announced. Of course, the 24-year old was being coy – he actually was part of the nomination for a Best Reggae Album Grammy, for his work on Skip Marley’s song, “Higher Place.”
Known primarily for his hip-hop productions over the past few years, the producer admitted he was surprised by the nomination being in a reggae category. But he welcomed the “pretty crazy” creative process around the song, which he attributes to his connection with Malay, a Los Angeles-based producer who’s worked with Frank Ocean, John Legend, and Alicia Keys, among many others.
“ [Malay] likes to involve me in a lot of the projects he’s working on,” says FrancisGotHeat. “I had sent him the beat earlier. And then he took one element from the beat I sent him, and he built his own melodies around that… Then he sent me that back, I put on some drums, and some 808s, and some bass. And that’s all the record really needed. I sent it back to Malay, who’s in the studio with Skip during all of this. He heard it and jumped on the beat, and then he FaceTimed me right away, he had to tell me, like, ‘Yo, man, this is so fire,’ and all that. It was pretty much organic, even though we weren’t in the same room.”
FrancisGotHeat’s working relationship, being signed with Malay, means he also has production credits for pop artists like Zayn and Lykke Li, and he says the experience has helped broaden his creativity. “What I love about working with him is, he’s never doing hip-hop or R&B, like I usually am,” says Francis. “So he’s always pushing my boundaries, trying to force me to have a bigger sound than I have already. It always drives me to try something different, that I would never normally try.”
FrancisGotHeat first came to prominence as a hip-hop producer, with his self-described “ambient and eerie” sound, notching credits for local artists like Tre Mission and Roy Woods – before his major breakthrough scoring the Sampha-featuring “4422” from Drake’s More Life project. This success came after logging time and making crucial connections at The Remix Project.
“On a lot of my streams, I probably spend more time talking to the audience than making the beat”
It was at that renowned creative hub that he was able to fine-tune his love for hip-hop with his background as a multi-instrumentalist, and strengthen his working relationship with Wondagurl – who he met in their teenage years, at Toronto’s Battle of the Beatmakers, where they engaged in an extended face-off battle. Francis attributes that night as the moment Toronto’s music scene was put on notice about the then-15-year-old’s potential.
Since then, FrancisGotHeat and Wondagurl have gone on to work together on tracks such as Big Sean and Eminem’s “No Favors,” Bryson Tiller’s “Blowing Smoke” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Feelings Mutual. ”She’ll just, like, ask me for a particular vibe, or I’ll start playing something,” says FracisGotHeat. “And then she’ll just say, ‘Oh, that’s dope,’ and I’ll just keep building off it. When I feel like it’s ready, I’ll send it to her again, she’ll do her thing. Working with Wondagurl is one of the easiest things ever.”
Like everyone else, FrancisGotHeat found that the ease of his creative process was impacted by COVID-19. In the early days of the North American lockdown, like many producers and DJs, he made his presence known on Instagram. But then, feeling restricted by the one-hour window time-slots, he made the switch to Twitch, after seeing what producer Kenny Beats was doing on the platform.
“I decided to try it out, because he was the only other producer on there, really,” says Francis. “And then the audio is way better on Twitch, and they can actually see my whole screen. And I can actually talk to people properly on there. I’m very shy to begin with, so for me to even try to do it was really, really weird at first. But the first stream, I had very low expectations, and then 30 people pulled up. I’m, like, ‘Wow, okay, you know what, I’m just gonna keep this going.’”
Over the past few months, FrancisGotHeat’s online confidence has grown in step with his audience, which regularly numbers in the thousands, as he’s let viewers in on his process of creating beats, and hosted songwriting sessions with Jessie Reyez, and his frequent collaborator Anders, among others.
Yet for FrancisGotHeat, the streams also provide him with an opportunity to give back. He recently held Heat Check, a songwriting contest that doled out music-production software to the top three entrants, and he’s also raised money for charities. Days after the Grammy nomination, he hosted a prize-pack remix contest, playing an impressive mountain of remixes, submitted by emerging producers, of a song by Los Angeles vocalist NEVRMIND.
Throughout the event, Francis remained humble and readily accessible to the audience, and the producers chiming in on the chat. While he’s providing opportunities for up-and-coming beatmakers, it’s evident that FrancisGotHeat gets as much out of the process as he puts in. “On a lot of my streams, I probably spend more time talking to the audience, answering questions and bantering with them, than making the beat,” says Francis. “One thing they’ve told me is, a lot of producers don’t talk to them on their stream. I find that weird, because the main reason I’m on here is to talk to you guys, answer your questions, and whatnot.” (He was similarly open about his production techniques at a SOCAN “Cooking Beats” session at Canadian Music Week in 2018.)
Now, in the pandemic era, FrancisGotHeat considers his streaming sessions an inherent part of his workflow, despite his initial reluctance “They [Twitch] were really on me about it,” he says. “Like, ‘Yo, you can’t just do it one time, you got to keep it consistent. Because you’re not gonna see results in a week, it’s gonna take time’… And then, after the first month or two, I got really comfortable with it. Now it’s like second nature to me.”