DJ Mustard's creative narrative has shifted this year. Although noted as one of the most consistent and ubiquitous producers out, for his distinct West Coast club-centric sound and industriously addictive melodies, the LA-based soundsmith has notably stepped away from what's expected to focus on a future with a bit more substance. And he's doing it with a much smaller circle.

The past few years may have been emblazoned with chart-topping singles from his crystal mantelpiece full of the rap and R&B world's most notable voices, but beyond the danceable pop tempos and warm pulsating bass lines, Mustard was consciously focused on taking the year to place his priorities in order. It's a newfound direction displayed on recent delivery Cold Summer; a full-length project delivered as a family affair. With more varied production and a notable reconciliation with his closest friend and collaborator, YG (who's working on his forthcoming mixtape Red Friday, out later this month,) Mustard is in a centered and newly-adjusted place - with his family first.

He sounds good, thrilled even, when he hops on the phone from the West Coast. Coming off a long, sleepless stretch, that ended in four video shoots completed for Cold Summer cuts in just three days, there's still a vibrant energy in his voice that's enviable. So when Mustard confidently says it's because he's finally having fun again, it's easy to believe him. The simplicity of the notion is inspiring. But isn't that just the entire genius of DJ Mustard, and his music, to begin with?

You've been busy putting out visuals to accompany tracks from your most recent release Cold Summer so you've been a difficult guy to get a hold of. What can you tell me about those plans?

I shot four videos in three days so it's been back-to-back sets all night, waking up in the morning and then coming back to the set. So it's been a real draining thing. So I haven't been in the studio. I don't know what's going to drop next. The plan was to drop 'Know My Name' with Rich The Kid and RJ. We planned to drop that video for Halloween. But I didn't want to just rush it and give it away too early. I wanted to put it out for Halloween, because it's kind of a scary themed video, but you don't want to rush it.

It's been a scary year anyway, if we're going to be honest, so it will be relevant all year.

We'll get through it though.

Hopefully. So congrats on your most recent release, Cold Summer. How does putting out a full-length project like that stack up to your past work and stand alone in your mind?

In my mind, it was almost effortless. It wasn't so thought-out and I think that's why people gravitated towards it so much. When I first started out in the music industry, the music that I was doing wasn't very thought-out. It was fun and I didn't care what anybody had to say, because I was just doing it for the hell of it. And I kind of went back to that. I went back to that with just being in the studio and having fun again. I was back with my friends again and me and YG are super tight so it's been fun to just be around my friends and getting their opinions on stuff. So it's kind of like being back in 2011 when I had nothing - no music out, just having fun.

But now you have options. Anyone you reach out to is going to want to hop on something. So what was the process like of collaboration this time around with the choice of who you wanted to have fun with on the project?

It was kind of easy. It was one call and people were rolling up. People that are on my album are the people that were genuinely there because they wanted to be there and not just me begging them to do a song with me. We just put everything together. I had some of the songs for a long time and there are a lot of songs that I didn't put out as well. But the other songs came together really fast, like 'Want Her' with Quavo and YG. That was probably one of the most recent songs. I redid the beat and just figured it out and made it all fit together so the process was easy.

What is your formula when it comes to collaborative chemistry. You're able to curate songs by sticking artists together that may have never worked together before and come up with these anthems. Is there a formula for something like chemistry?

I just have a vision for certain things that I think would be cool and I just go off of that. YG and Quavo had never done anything together and neither had YG and Young Thug. I don't think O.T Genasis and Young Jeezy have done a song together before either. I thought that would cool. I was just thinking out of the box and putting artists that I like together and hoping everyone likes it as much as I do. You can gauge it, like, artists that will sound good together. It usually works.

In an interview earlier this year, you spoke candidly about depression and your shift this year as a creative. You were talking about how this year, your main focus was being the best at what you do and the year was all about studying. What did you learn this year that you think will set the precedent for your career moving forward?

A lot of it had to do with my friends and going through normal typical life and learning that you can't dwell on things and think that it's all personal. I don't want to say that I don't give a fuck but it's almost to the point where i'm just numb to the bullshit. I think that's what helped me a lot with getting through everything and not just going crazy, because this music industry can turn you into a monster if you don't really know how to handle it or deal with your situation. Luckily, I figured it out. I've never been a quitter or a fucking punk or soft. Now, I have two kids and I have to be there for them. I have to be strong for them and if I'm not strong for them, my whole family is affected and that's not worth it. None of the bullshit is worth your family values. If you let bullshit come between that, then you failed and the haters won.

The motive is to get through it to secure your legacy. And the thing with you is, you have such a distinguished sound which can ultimately be seen as a blessing and a curse. 2014 and 2015 were you dominating, 2016 was your learning period, heading forward, how do you naturally plan on progressing that sound in order to ensure your longevity?

I think I'm more open to doing different things. When I did 'Needed Me' it was new for me. I wasn't behind it by myself, I had people to help me with the record. And that came with being okay with getting help and not being scared to ask for help. So it worked out how I wanted it to work out. And that's just a part of growing. When you're growing in this music industry, there's no producer in this industry that's doing everything alone. That would be a lie. It takes a tribe to get to this type of success and stay at it. For me, I'm just trying to be great in all aspects of life and not just be great in the little parts. It's about not being scared to put yourself on the line and risk it all.

Not only has this been a fire year for you, it's been great for that tribe you were talking about, those people in your corner, especially YG. He put out Still Brazy and is going to end out the year with his Red Friday mixtape. Are you guys working together on that?

We're definitely working. We probably did over ten songs already, if not more. We're just working everyday and being better. We're on some shit right now. We're really helping each other be better and not just saying, "Yes and Yes." We're really working.

Heading into the new year, you've already put out a lot and learned a lot, so what's next?

I just really want to stick close to my team, TY Dolla $ign and YG, and helping my team progress. Putting out singles. I got my own artists. I got RJ who is signed to YG and I together. So I'm just focused on us as a team.

So it's a family affair from this point on.

Yup, it's a family affair for 2017. My main focus is keeping that tight.