starsmp3 Interview

Starsmp3 is a gifted producer from Pennsylvania, fluent in jazzy chord progressions and hard-hitting, phonk-influenced drum patterns. Originally pursuing graphic design and video editing, at first in the form of CoD montages, Stars felt a connection to the music involved in the process. His melodies, often sent out in packs to other producers in order to facilitate collaboration, range from ambient and melancholic to gorgeous symphonies of synthesizers and samples. We spoke with him in this exclusive Music Mondays article to pick his brain about his history, creative process, future goals, and advice to new producers in the scene.


What’s your name? Where are you from?

“My name is Jimy. Starsmp3. I’m 21, and based out of bullshit Pennsylvania. It’s like, southern PA– pretty close to the Maryland border.”

When did you start making music? What motivated you to do so?

“I started making music in late 2018– no, late 2019. It’s been about four years. Before that, I was 13 or 14, and I started playing Call of Duty a lot. I really got into Black Ops 2, and I wanted to join all the sniping teams. I wanted to be like FaZe Clan. But, I was not a good enough player to get in based on that. So I was like, “Oh, I’ll just be a graphic designer. I can join the teams that way.” So I started doing that. I was like, “Oh, I can also do the editing!” I could edit the montages and get on the teams that way. Boom. I never really got into any big teams, but I was doing, like, graphic shit and video shit and just general creative stuff on the computer for a long time. Then, I feel like that was just a pipeline; a lot of CoD kids ended up producing, just cause– like, especially when you’re editing montages, you kinda have a thing for music. You’re editing to the music. I was also like a little band kid, always playing the drums and shit. It was just another creative avenue to try, and it was just so fun, and I really really liked it and kept with it the longest. I didn’t really like graphic stuff as much, my favorite part of video editing was the music with it, and I always just– music was always just so important to me. I felt like it would make more sense. Like, graphic design can be a real job, but nobody gets rich off music. That’s just a pipe dream, and you're stuck as a SoundCloud rapper forever. “You shouldn’t pursue that.” “It’s a waste of time.” That probably played a part in it, but I’m really happy I did this shit.”

Who were your influences at the beginning of your production career?

“So my influences were a lot of SoundCloud-era artists and producers. I started– I mean, I was looking for songs to edit videos to, so probably that whole phonk era. Fifty Grand, Ginseng, uhh… just any sort of producer that was making flips of songs. Like, I don’t know, one of my favorites is the MadeinTYO’s “Hunnid Dolla” flip by– I forget the name but, like, “hundred- hundred dollar bill!” It was the really wavy one that some producer flipped. I remember loving that song. Producers flipping songs, like, putting acapellas on their own beats in that kind of era was just– that was really my favorite type of music, so I wanted to make shit like that. And of course, around that time, like, old Carti, X and Ski, that whole group of rappers and stuff.”

Who influences you most at this point in your career?

“Then cut to now, who influences me? Lucki, for sure. Future, for sure. Jaydes, for sure. Jaydes is probably my favorite artist right now if I had to pick one. That guy's harmonies and the way he pans his vocals– his vocals are so beautiful. And his beat selection is crazy, like, ‘Elastic’ is a crazy song. Stuff like that.”

How would you describe your style of production?

“I would describe my production style as… ambient, and interesting… and loud 808s. And versatile, maybe an amalgamation is a good word. ‘Cause there’s some phonk elements, some pretty ass piano (a la Izaya Tiji) elements, and there’s… a bunch of weird shit all combining into [my style]. I’m definitely on my way to a distinct style, I definitely have a lot of distinct things and a lot of distinct drum sounds, but I feel like [...] only me recognizes that. I fuck around with my drumkits all day, so I’m like, “This is my clap, I love this clap, this is my sound.” I don’t feel like that’s as apparent to other people yet, though. Some examples are “Sunset” by Lucki and “Higher” by Overpaid, and “Skrt” by Kodak [Black] are like.. Top 3 favorite songs, favorite instrumentals to me. I try to make shit somewhat similar to that. But I can do boom bap shit, and I can do a lot of different styles. I also love Eem Triplin, [with] the way he does drill music and uses drill hats but kinda does it a different way than the classic New York drill.. That is really influential to me right now. It impacted my current style, for sure. “

Who are your favorite collaborators to work with?

“I like making music with people that I’m a fan of. I’ll always hear somebody’s something and be like, “Oh wow! This is sick, I would listen to this; let me get in on the action.” You know? And then DM them and be like, “Can I send some loops?” Like, how can I provide value for you because you are doing something that I like and appreciate from afar, and I want to get involved. That’s kind of my thought process around it. Back in the day, Level$ was one of my favorites. Rest in peace. That man changed my life because he just added me in some group chats, and like, so many people I know today are from him. A lot can be attributed to him, and that’s just crazy, so everyone– I feel like everyone that was friends with him, I love collaborating with. Like, there’s Doki, there’s Apartment9– there’s you, I think. I’m pretty sure we met based on Level$, I’m not entirely sure. [AN: We did not meet from Level$, Stars heard my XO1 beat tape and contacted me in 2021, then we reconnected through the artist Hytes. Rest in peace to Level$, a true legend and amazing artist.]  

For artists, @probablyzion, @1__vslove, @tara4rushing, @heavensentence, @whereistome, @ry2kawaii, @Bew_D. That’s the quickest– most recent ones that I can think of. For producers, you, easily. Esse, for sure. @Illysochilly, and [I’m] a huge fan of Baredex. I don’t think we have any beats together, actually, but I’m trying to get that. @ERKINYURTA, that’s my guy. We produced a song for Yung Bambi. @prodkapras. Scrolling through my DMs, there are so many different people that I fuck with so heavy, and it’s so hard to pick them out. But yeah, there’s a lot of people I’m fans of in the underground– in our little scene– and it’s just crazy to see.”

What’s your creative process when making beats? How has it changed over time?

“My creative process? I don’t know, it’s not some profound shit. Just like, I love making beats. I feel like I probably have ADHD. It’s not diagnosed, but I’ve always had attention problems, so I’ll be doing something, and I’ll like– “Oh, I should do this, I should open FL.” FL gets me to stick. Every time I open FL, I make at least two loops. Two beats. Like, two is my thing. I could be doing homework, and I’ll be like, let me make two loops before I go out. Before I go to class. I try to stay inspired a lot. When I’m in the school library, I get distracted. I’ll be trying to do homework, and I’ll end up watching a thirty-minute video about unique samples that PinkPantheress used. Like, just watching beat tutorials and… I don’t know if you’ve seen those Tracklib videos where they kinda break down samples. Those are so entertaining. I get a lot of TikToks of other producers. Obviously, on Twitter and everything, I try to stay inspired by the people around me and what I see. I also go outside. That’s part of my creative process, I would argue. I’m up at 7 every day, I go to the gym, and I run. It keeps me sane, and that’s a very important part of maintaining my mental health, which is also maintaining my creative process. That’s pretty macro-scale.

If you wanna get into it, deep down, I just click fuckin’ notes in. I’ve spent a long time studying– makes it sound like I’m goddamn Gary the Scholar from Spongebob [laughs]-- I do know a lot about chords. A decent amount about scales and chords and note intervals, just kinda brute forcing… I’ve made so many melodies, I can just tell what’s gonna work and what doesn’t, and I just randomly get at it. Drums, at this point.. it’s like second nature to me. I was in band [class] playing drums, so I knew how to read sheet music pretty well. Just for rhythm, I can’t really read notes on sheet music. I understand rhythms, and it comes pretty naturally to me. For the first full year I was producing, I was only flipping Looperman loops. That was it. I swear, I only made like ten melodies my whole first year. It was just more fun to do drums. I’ve just learned so much over so many different tutorials and stayed so inspired. And copying people, for sure. Seeing a beat I like and then remaking, one-to-one, the drum pattern. Not really using it, but then I can take one little thing from that experience and do something else.”

How do you feel you’ve improved over time?

“I have improved so much over time. This “making music” shit is the only thing that I have done this hard and this consistently. Graphic design, video stuff, I was never this dedicated or for this long. So just that in itself, practicing all the time. I get obsessive about trying to learn new shit and watching people play piano, then stealing the chords and studying like, why do these chords work? Things like that. I’ve also learned to be nicer to myself. There is such a productivity trap of like, “Oh, I made a hundred beats today, and I made a hundred beats this week. You need to do that too, or you’re cringe!” And I say, “Nick Mira, please! I’m not cringe!” I just can’t do that. I can’t make that many beats that fast; it burns me out. [laughs] So it’s important to– it’s hard. It’s so much easier said than done, like, “Just don’t listen! Don’t care what anybody else is doing. Just focus on yourself and what works for you!” That is so hard to actually do. I feel like, for me, I’ve been off the deep end and I’ve tried. 

I did make a hundred beats in a week one time, in December. It sucked. It was really fun, but then I didn’t make another beat for like, a month and a half because it burned me the hell out. Even still, I’ve been having way more fun with melodies because I just burnt myself out on drums, so I wanted to hit an arbitrary deadline. That’s not how I should operate, and I know that now because I went through it. There is no such thing as wasted time. That’s kinda my thing because if I go a week where I only make one beat… I normally don’t do that. I at least try every day. Sometimes I’ll just have a day where I just scrap five things, and they all sucked, but I at least tried. But on those days when I start to feel so useless, like “Aw, I couldn’t get this done,” or “I couldn’t do this,” or “I wasted my time doing this.” I feel like I always come back more inspired, and I feel like that’s just part of it. If you get down on yourself on that– like, mad at yourself and feel worthless, then that’s gonna keep spiraling, you know? So you need to let yourself take breaks, and live life in order to be inspired, because you have all the time in the world, and freaking out about wasting time is just gonna make things worse. Allow yourself to waste time because… yeah. You can always gain something from every experience you have, even if you wasted time on TikTok for six hours. That doesn’t have to be a waste of time. It isn’t, because you learned something or you saw something cool, you know?”

What advice would you give to new producers that want to make a name for themselves in such a saturated scene? What do you feel makes you stand out?

“How to make a name for yourself? I don’t know; that part’s hard. Talk to people. Be a cool guy and provide value. Those are probably the big ones. Also, be good at what you do. If you hit somebody up like, “Yo, can I send you some loops?”, and they’re great loops then boom, they’re gonna tweet it out, and that’s gonna grow you. And if you’re a cool guy, then somebody can tweet about something and you can say something funny, or contribute to the conversation. Then other people see your name and… Just try to make friends. Get in group chats, talk to people. It just keeps snowballing after years and years. I certainly have not really made a name for myself… I wouldn’t really say that– No, I feel like I could. It’s hard to understand how other people perceive me and that other people see me when I’m tweeting into the void.

I think what makes me stand out is… I am funny. I am cool. I always try to provide value. I’m always- I’m just posting shit a lot, and I’m around the same people. You just end up seeing my name because I’m working with so many people in similar circles and just, like, got involved and shit. And I stand out because I’m a human being, and I haven’t touched ChatGPT yet. [laughs] And I don’t just trend-hop, I don’t make type beats anymore. I used to try to run a “type beat” channel, ‘cause I mean… that’s what the world tells you producing is and how you can make money. A lot of people do make their money off that, and that’s no disrespect to BeatStars. But I just hate it. I hate it so much. I feel like it takes away all the fun when I have to label it as a Juice WRLD goddamn type beat and do the SEO for it and shit. My main goal is to make songs, so I would rather spend that time DMing artists, getting beats out, and then getting songs back. That’s what’s more important to me, and it took me a long time to figure out that that is what’s important to me. I feel like if you’re surrounded by, like, “How to Grow a Type Beat Channel” and see everybody else do it, then you kinda subconsciously put aside what you really want. I really want to get the songs back, because I really like that. That’s my main focus, but it took me a long time to figure that out.”

What are your goals for the future?

“My goal for the future is that I want to have a million songs– no, three million songs. [laughs] No, I don’t really care, I just wanna have songs back. I love expressing myself, and I love learning about this music shit because it’s so fun, and I’m gonna keep doing it forever. And I like hearing songs that I made because I make beats that I like listening to. Sometimes I hear a song and I’m like, “Damn, that would be sick if they did this,” or if they did this different, or if this was louder. My shit sounds like how I want it to because I made it. So when I get a good artist on there, that’s a perfect song to me. That feeling is so crazy. Seeing my years of practice and trying really hard, like, in a tangible manner… It’s really sick. My other big goal, in terms of popularity– I don’t know if you’ve ever played [Call of Duty:] Advanced Warfare, that was my favorite game, and it died so fast because everyone hated it. That was my favorite CoD, and there were these weird game modes, like Momentum, where there are five flags throughout the map. One in the middle, one kinda in between, and then one on each side of the map. So, you start at one and make it all the way to five. I would get the Bulldog, which was this semi-auto shotgun, and I would run that game mode. But then the game died, and you could only play Team Deathmatch, if that. You couldn’t– there wasn’t really a thriving scene for it. So I want to, one day, organize an Advanced Warfare day, where everybody gets Advanced Warfare and– I mean, God willing, if the servers are still up, that everybody just hops on Advanced Warfare. On PC, because that’s what I play, and I don’t wanna play no Xbox bullshit because I’m not good at it. I wanna run Advanced Warfare, in real life… [laughs] I wanna be able to plan it out, make an event like, “Yo! We’re gonna play Advanced Warfare today, guys,” and have enough Twitter followers or enough popularity to make that happen. That would make me so happy, just to play it again.

Obviously, I would love to [have] a full-time income making beats and shit, and grow something… I definitely have some dreams of creating some sort of all-in-one brand or business, because I still love graphic design. I still love video. I feel like if I had the right artists in my hands, right next to me physically, I could shoot the video for them. I could edit the video for them. I could design the cover art. I could make the beat for the song. I could engineer their vocals on the song. I could– like, all I need is someone that can write and perform, and I have all the tools to do everything. I like that. I like being able to do all of those different things, so maybe like a Lyrical Lemonade type situation, where they’re making music videos, and they got this and that. I definitely don’t want to work in accounting! You feel me? So, money-wise, I just want to make a living wage where I can– where it’s me running it, you know?”

Who do you want to work with most in the future? 

“I think Lucki is the dream placement, for sure, like a big placement. If I get a Lucki song back, [whistles], that’s it. I made it. I would say Jaydes right now, even though I don’t make too much pluggnB shit– I don’t know, he’s versatile, I could get something to him for sure. Overpaid. I don’t have a song with Maria Kate yet, I need more songs with Slugger, I need more songs with– If I ever have a song with somebody, I need five… fifty more, you know? I wanna make some beats with Kurtains, the producer. [AN: Voice memo ended, this is what Stars texted me to finish the question.] “prods- nine9, baredex, pierre bourne, meltycanon, and then the obvious goats like southside and metro and hitboy and boi 1da and mike dean, all them””

Stars is an amazing producer and artist/editor, and I’m grateful for the chance to have spoken with him for Music Mondays. He has high ambitions, and rightfully so— the talent is and has been there. I look forward to seeing what he does and who he works with in the future, as well as the future of my own collaborations with him. He’s come a long way from Call of Duty edits and has worked with a lot of great artists so far, even just four years into his musical career. Honestly, another thing: If he can ever set up that Advanced Warfare IRL event, I’m there.

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Written By xoarctic: