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PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: WONDAGURL TALKS THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN AND NON-BINARY PRODUCERS, AND BEST ADVICE FROM BOI-1DA

April 25, 2023

Read the full interview on TheSource.com!

WondaGurl is a true inspiration and role model to all female producers all around the world. In fact, she actually got her name from her mentor Boi-1da, who’s best known for producing some of Drake’s biggest hits to date. Pronounced “boy-wonda,” WondaGurl is essentially the female version — and she’s got the talents and skill sets to back it up.

Hailing from Brampton, Ontario, real name Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde has been making beats since the young age of nine. As a teenager, she entered the 2011 and 2012 Battle of The Beat Makers competition in Toronto where Boi-1da was a guest judge, taking home the first place trophy her second year.

By age 16, WondaGurl had made history: landing a placement on Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album, on the record “Crown.” The crazy part is, she originally made that beat for Travis Scott, who generously passed it off to Hov. Fast forward to today, WondaGurl has an impressive catalog of hits under her belt, including Travis Scott’s “Antidote,” Big Sean’s “No Favors,” Drake’s “Fair Trade,” Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and many more.

Now, Wondagurl teams up with Bose for their Turn the Dial campaign, which seeks to close the gender gap in music production. In fact, only 2.8% of popular songs are produced by women, a crazy low number in the bigger scheme of things. Turn the Dial aims to bring awareness to the issue, while seeking new opportunities for female and non-binary music producers to create music that deserves to be heard.

The Source spoke with WondaGurl via Zoom, who was out in Los Angeles working. Read below as we discuss her partnership with Bose, working with H.E.R. at age 15, studio essentials, Boi-1da being her mentor, producing for Kali Uchis, and more!

Growing up, who or what made you want to produce?

Had ideas in my head when I was young. Started letting out my ideas a little bit when I was 9, trying to understand music around that time. My grandma got me the Casio keyboard, that’s really what influenced everything. Finding TImbaland on YouTube, there’s a certain video of him and Jay Z in the studio that really inspired me. After that, I’m like oh, this is something I can do.

How’d that feel watching JAY-Z on Youtube, then producing for him at 16? That trajectory is crazy!

It is wild, I actually have never even thought about that. [laughs] That is crazy.

How much did your career turn up after that?

My career was completely turned up after that whole thing. Almost everybody in the industry knew who I was after that. It was a big story. It was cool. It was a little overwhelming for me, because I went from not really being someone getting a lot of attention. I was always in my room, just middle child vibes. Not really focusing too much, I’m the middle child you know? After that, my life completely flipped upside down, in the most positive way ever to be honest.

Talk about working with Bose, what does this Turn The Dial initiative mean to you?

It means a lot to me. I’m the prime example, and I’ve never really looked at myself as that. But really looking back at my career, the prime example that girls or non-binary people can come and do the same thing that I do. One thing about me is I never really cared too much about all of that stuff. If I’m able to do it, I’m going to inspire many more to do it anyways. It was really not thinking about it too much and continuing on my journey, letting my actions speak for itself. This campaign means a lot to me.

Your ascent in the music industry is definitely special, but do you feel it’s harder to make it as a female producer?

Yeah. When I was young, I had an advantage because I was young. At the same time, I remember trying to get in touch with a lot of people, they’d be put off by first my age, and the fact that I was a girl. Because most of these people I’m trying to get in touch with were men, so it was a little weird. Some people felt uncomfortable, until I made a name for myself. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even connect with certain men in the studio. But for the most part, I don’t like to put any obstacles. Even if there are any obstacles, I’d like to try to find the solution and get past it.

Why is it important to close the gender gap in music production?

It’s important because we have great ideas, everybody has good ideas at the end of the day. Everybody deserves a chance to, you know, be in the industry and show that it shouldn’t only be men in this industry, and I definitely feel like that’s been been changing recently. Like, I know a lot of female producers and non binary producers as well now too. But it’s just important because we need we always need a different sound in this industry. We always need the new sound and you never know who’s going to have it. Everybody should be accepted.

Talking about doing the campaign with H.E.R., PinkPantheress, BLOND:ISH. What’d that mean to work with these amazing other talented females in the industry?

It was awesome honestly. Everybody’s set times were different, so I didn’t really get to see everybody at the same time. I did have a session with BLOND:ISH and H.E.R., that went well. It was my first time working with Gabby in 10 years. She was 15, I was 16. I went to New York, worked with her for two days. It was cool to reunite and make some cool music. They’re both incredible.

I work with PinkPantheress a lot as well. She’s so awesome, has such a good ear. Also a really dope producer herself. Every time we’re making music together, she takes my stems and breaks it down into exactly what she wants. I really love that about her, I love working with her in that way.

Working with H.E.R. so young, how is it working with such a dope, female R&B artist? I feel like your hit records are more Hip-Hop?

Yeah, it is. It’s true. But it was cool. At that time, I wasn’t really working with a lot of R&B. It was cool understanding how she works. It was also easy because she’s such a talented musician herself. She can take the lead, I just add on to whatever she’s doing as well. It’s cool, she’s so talented. She got the voice, she can play all these different instruments. Especially at that age, I was in awe when I was working with her. I’m not gonna lie. [laughs]

How did you guys link up so young?

She’s been around for a while. She was working with Alicia Keys at that time I’m pretty sure. This is when everything started for me, the same year or the year after. They called me to go over there and I worked for two days, bought my ticket and all that stuff. It was pretty easy. [laughs]

3 things you need in the studio at all times? 

Obviously my laptop. I don’t need too much. Food, laptop, and a subwoofer. I can’t work in the studio if they don’t have a sub, it’s tough.

What kind of food do you like?

I like all types of food. My favorite cuisines, I like definitely love West African food because I’m Nigerian. Jamaican food, literally anything honestly. [laughs] As long as it’s not pork.

What’s your relationship with Boi-1da? 

That’s literally my mentor. He helped me get to the point that I am that today as well, he’s also one of my favorite producers. When I was in the beat battle, he was a judge. This is the first time I went on a beat battle. Our first interaction was  me walking out. He’s like “Hey, I like your name.” I got my name from his name, I just switched it around.

I loved seeing that!

That was validation, I needed it. After that, I was in this program called The Remix Project. You have to have some sort of mentor. It’s a program where they help you achieve your goals within six months. At that time, it was nine months. You need to find a mentor, so I was able to get in touch with him. He was my mentor for that, our relationship has been just as strong since then.

What’s the biggest advice he’s given you?

Not to do too much in my beats, because I came from beat battles. Not like I did a whole lot, I’ve done three in my life. When I was really working in the industry, the beat battles were the start of everything. You have to do so much in one minute to get the crowd going. I used to apply that to all my beats, and artists wouldn’t be able to go on it. I’d play him beats during those times, he’d be like, “oh yeah, you don’t really need to put this in there.” Make the beat, I can add whatever I want, but strip down the stuff afterwards so it’s more open for the artist. That’s the most important advice, and also staying humble.

Were you winning your beat battles?

I won the second one. I wasn’t trying to be a beat battler at all, I don’t even like that type of stuff. [laughs] I wanted to meet people who were like-minded and just network. I lost the first one I was in, the one Boi-1da was judging. I lost to a female actually, she won the last one. The next one, I won, after joining The Remix Project and making that one of my goals. I was able to win that one, which was really cool. Because I was the youngest person to ever win at that time. It did a lot for me. It started my whole career honestly, me winning that.

Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years this year. What does Hip-Hop mean to you?

Hip-Hop means everything to me, it’s my life. If my brother didn’t put me on to Hip-Hop, I really don’t know where I would be as a music producer today.

What artists did he put you on?

My mom put me on to Biggie and Diddy, then my bro put me on to more Dipset. I’d listen to a lot of Dipset back in the day, a lot of Cam’Ron forreal.

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Talk about producing Kali Uchis and Summer Walker’s new song. How’d that happen?

Just had a session with Kali and Nija. They’re both really, really incredible. I really loved that session with them. Session a while ago too, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with that track. She ended up really loving the track, sent it back to me. I refreshed it a little bit and added more to it. She added Summer Walker to it, I really love that song.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Chill. [laughs] I love to sit on the couch and do nothing. Sometimes I like to go outside. I like to go to restaurants. Sometimes I like to go to a party. For the most part, my favorite thing to do is chill on the couch and watch TV or a movie.

You have a favorite TV show?

No, but I have a favorite movie. It’s called About Time, I love that movie.

It’s crazy that Travis Scott’s “Antidote” wasn’t initially supposed to be on the album. Can you bring us back to that session?

I can bring you back to where I was. I wasn’t with him when he went on it. I produced that with a friend named Eestbound, we found the sample while eating steak at the Keg. After that, went to the studio. Chopped it up, produced it out and sent it to Travis. Literally in a matter of days, maybe even less, a snippet was on the internet. [laughs] The way that all happened was so magical for some reason, it felt almost surreal. I heard his energy in the studio was on 10 when he was making that song, it was a lot of really good energy.

Any goals for yourself at this point in your career?

I have my own label and publishing company. I really want to build those out till it’s as big as it can be. Make these stars out of what I have right now, have all these producers be self-sufficient and get to where they see themselves is really important to me as well. I want to drop an actual WondaGurl project in some way, so that’s another goal. Just get better every day. I always have a lot of goals for myself.

I’m surprised you haven’t dropped the WondaGurl project yet?

Yeah, I’ve been overthinking it. But soon. [laughs]

Anything else you want to let us know?

That women and non-binary producers are coming, and let’s take the industry by storm. I see it. I smell it. I feel it.

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