If you've had the same banjo measures stuck in your head for the last few months, take it up with YoungKio. The 19-year-old producer came across Nine Inch Nail's '34 Ghosts IV' and posted to BeatStars the instrumental for what may be a genre-defining song: Lil Nas X's country-trap smash 'Old Town Road'. We spoke with Kio and BeatStar's founder Abe Batshon about what's happened in wake of the song's success and the future of hip-hop production.

You said that you didn’t make the beat originally with the purpose of it being a country song. Do you think producers should have an open mind about what direction their beats might go?

Well, yeah, because when you make a beat it can be like the simplest beat ever, but the artist can go crazy on it. You see it everywhere. You have to just keep in mind that even though you’re kind of fishing for what you want the song on the beat to be, the artist can just flip it and just make it into something completely different, and that’s what happened with ‘Old Town Road’ because I didn’t even think about a country vibe, and I made a beat and he turned it into something exactly that.

How much of the success of the track do you attribute to your beat?

I think a lot, because I think that the way I used the sample, the Nine Inch Nails sample, set the whole tone of the song. Nas X told me the part where the banjos came in, that’s how he made the hook. He was inspired by those banjos from the beat. I think the beat plays a really big part in the song and how it came together.

Do you know if Nine Inch Nails is aware of the song?

Yeah, they are aware of the song, because the sample has to be cleared. They know about everything.

Have you been listening to the beat or to the song much lately?

Sometimes I just take the beat because I have the beat on my PC, and I just listen to it...just listen, what is so special about this beat? Why this beat just turned into something this big? I listen to the song like every day. Because not only it’s my song, it’s a big song, but I love the song. I would listen to it even though it wasn’t mine. I listen to every day, because it gets me like, this insane high. But it’s cool because I met all the people that worked on the song.

It’s a fairly short song. Do you like doing shorter tracks or do you like mixing it up

Well, the beat was originally, I think, three-and-a-half minutes, but he only used, like, one-point-fifty minutes or something. That’s what he originally used. But when I sell my beats, or get people on my beats, the beats are long enough to get multiple people on it, so everyone can do their thing. But for me, it doesn’t matter, because if a song is short, maybe it gets streamed more. It gets played more. So, it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just what the artist wants to do. That’s what I’m for, is providing the instrumentals.

You also said that you’ve sent Lil Nas X some more country-trap stuff. Is your mindset any different when you’re making something specifically to be country-trap?

Yeah, it’s different because I’ve been listening to Western movie soundtracks and just country music in general to find inspiration. For ‘Old Town Road’, I didn’t do anything like that. I just made something I thought sounded good. So yeah, it’s a whole different process now. And we don’t really want to do a lot of country-trap music, because we just want to move on, to be honest. We want to make other music. All the people are like “Yo, you have some more of this country?” So, we’re just trying to find what’s best for us and the right sound. But yeah, the whole idea behind it is different.

You originally tagged the beat as a Future-type beat. Can you still imagine him rapping over it?

Nah. As a producer, to get people to listen to it, I have to market it in some type of way. So, I just chose like a “-type” beat, but I already knew this beat was so different...and I didn’t even know like somebody who could drop on it. So, I didn’t know what to label it. So, I just put it like a “Future-type beat”, because the drums are kind of hard-hitting, just like Future’s tracks. So, that was like my only option. So, that’s what I chose. I don’t really think Future would be able to make something out of it. But it was just me trying to find a way to market it some way, you know?

Have you ever had an interest in rapping yourself?

Well, yeah, there was a time when I was selling beats and others’ music people made on my beats, I wasn’t liking it. So, I was just trying to do it myself. If you want to do it better, you’ve got to do it yourself. So, I wanted just to try to sing or rap on some of my beats...It was like a year ago, to be honest. But I never went through it, because I had college at the time, more beats to be made, and I just didn’t have the time for it, even though it was just for fun. So, I tried it, but I didn’t really finish anything or just go through with it.

Are there any specific producers that you really admire?

My favorite producers are like Wheezy and TM88. Those two people are since I started producing. They’ve been a big inspiration because I really love their stuff and stuff like that. But right now, because I made something so big, it would be really easy for me to work with them.

Where do you think you’d be right now if ‘Old Town Road’ didn’t blow up?

I would still be in college. I would still be selling beats like regularly, just on BeatStars and just doing what I did before, just making beats, trying to sell them, staying in college, doing all the stuff, and the daily routine, you know? Nothing would have even changed. I’m 100 percent sure that would be the situation right now if ‘Old Town Road’ didn’t blow up.

(To Abe) You started BeatStars in 2008. What were your expectations, originally?

I was one of the first-ever beat-buyers, online. In the mid-90s, in high school, I used to buy beats in AOL chatrooms and stuff. And I got addicted to the process of connecting and collaborating with producers all over the world and working with them and experimenting with sound. I always knew if I was able to create a really dope album and other artists all over the world would have the same experience because there’s just so many dope producers that have been underserved for so long, and when I started the company, I knew this moment was gonna happen at some point. I knew that the evolution of collaboration where the internet and social media just brought us closer, it just makes more sense to collaborate this way. It’s just much more efficient.

I imagine there’s been an uptick in traffic since ‘Old Town Road’ blew up. Has there been?

Not really. It’s been pretty normal, the story hasn’t really been told, how BeatStars is a part of it. Kio has been nice enough to mention how the beat was sourced and stuff like that, which is great. The story is now being told with people like you and traffic and the company’s been doing great. We just reached a milestone of $50 million paid out to music producers around the world, and we’re super-proud of what Kio has done, building his own business on BeatStars, outside of just this big ‘Old Town Road.’ He’s built a very nice, sustainable business for himself, on the e-commerce side, licensing beats directly to tons of artists. And now, with this number-one song under his belt, I know he didn’t ask for this but he’s become kind of, like, the poster boy of the young, online collaborators and what the possibilities can bring, to their lives

Do you think that people tagging their beats as, say, “Young Thug-type beat”, to gain eyes hinders the creative process at all?

No, absolutely not. When you hear people on BeatStars and just listen to the producers on there and all the beats that they upload. I don’t really look at the tags, personally. I just love listening to great music, the amount of quality, the amount of talent that goes into mixing. If you listen to the ‘Old Town Road’ beat, Kio mixed that beat impeccable. It was mixed beautiful. These guys are not just producers; they’re engineers; they’re sound designers. They’re creating the sounds for the future, and if you go on BeatStars, you listen to beats that are trending right now, six months down the road, that’s gonna be the industry standard. It all happens on the internet, and the tagging stuff is really just search engine optimization. It’s really only used for searchability. It’s just another way to get discovered, right? It’s just another way for people to search in the likeness of a certain artist, but I’m pretty sure Kio did not go and say, “I’m gonna go create a beat that sounds like Future’s single.” No, he creates the beat, and then is like “Okay, what tags should I use to help drive more awareness?” So, I’m proud of that, and I wanna remove that notion away from the online beat world, because there’s so much original, innovative music that’s being made every single day on the platform.

What sort of production style do you think might take off in this upcoming decade?

I think music genres are like moving closer to each other, and Kio’s just another example of fusing one style of music with the other. I think the internet has brought us closer and closer and we all kind of have the same taste in music, and I think each genre is using elements of each other, and I think with the amount of available resources and software that’s available to producers, they can bend sound the way they want to. I think there’s gonna be niches for appreciation for certain types of beats. Like right now, I see a lot of really dope lo-fi beats that are trending. I see a lot of fusion-type beats, a lot of guitar and guitar-driven beats...You can find it all.