DeMario Priester, also known as producer Supah Mario, hit the jackpot when he found himself a producer on Drake's More Life project. The 28-year-old earned credit for producing the "Ice Melts" record featuring Young Thug.
Living in Columbia, South Carolina, Supah Mario was running and working for a janitorial business, but remembers being a young kid, skipping class to make beats.
"I was skipping school a lot during the 10th grade so I could go to the studio and make beats," he recalls. "My mom caught me once and showed up to the studio to pick me up." He adds, "Needless to say there was weed smoke and 808s all over the place. I felt like I didn't need school since I already knew what I wanted to do."
Though school wasn't a priority for the producer, making ends meet was. He details his life cleaning bathrooms and classrooms while listening to beats on his phone as a janitor for a company called Savannah P. Cleaning Services, saying, "I only had one account during the entire time. I'd clean up a hair school that my girlfriend's sister works at on Monday. I probably brought in about 400 bucks average a month." Mario's first album placement, Young Jeezy's song "Sweet Life" featuring Janelle Monáe would be the opportunity he needed to quit as a janitor.
With a father who played the bass and an uncle who was a drummer, Mario picked up the drums at the age of 2 and not long after played for his local church. Among his influences were jazz greats Miles Davis and Dennis Chambers as well as rock group Tame Impala. As Mario got older, he realized music could be a long-term career. He would make periodic trips to Atlanta to network, citing basketball icon Michael Jordan as inspiration for "his drive and his never-ending hunger in wanting to be better."
His big break came at 25 while he was forming relationships with people in Young Thug's circle such as engineer Alex Tumay and frequent collaborator C4. "When I first starting making beats for Thug, I was having to go the co-production route and send ideas to other producers he already worked with," he says. He secured his first placement with Thugger's 2014 track "2 Cups Stuffed." For his second placement, C4 would be instrumental in getting him credit for the Young Thug track "Thief in the Night."
After "2 Cups Stuffed" and "Thief in the Night," Mario scored another placement with Thug's "Wyclef Jean," and from there, he began working with various artists in the industry, including 2 Chainz and Lil Yachty. In the process of crafting a second track similar to the vibe of "Wyclef Jean," Drake walked into the studio and caught wind of the record, which eventually became More Life's "Ice Melts." At that point, Mario realized he could quit his nine-to-five and go into production full-time.
However, he notes the sacrifices he's made pursuing a production career. "One main sacrifice was the time I get to spend with my family. The time I get to spend with my daughter is limited because we are on opposite schedules. When she's asleep, I'm working, or when she's at school, I'm asleep." He makes time with his 3-year-old daughter when he can, even allowing her to assist in his work. "She's just mashing buttons, but I'm making it work," he jokes. The reaction from family and friends of his newfound success is positive. "Some of the reaction is 'I told you so,' some of it is congratulations and the rest is 'can I borrow some money?'"
The Caribbean influences of "Wyclef Jean" and "Ice Melts" are recognizable. Mario says it wasn't intentional. "The way that trend came about was kind of accidental," he says. "I was just at my friend's house and he was playing the guitar. I had been wanting to do a Caribbean-style guitar or some trap drums -- it was the perfect opportunity."
With production lined up on upcoming projects for artists like Uzi, Famous Dex and Post Malone, Mario is keeping busy. In addition to crafting beats, he would like to expand into other aspects of the industry in the future. "I'm really good at connecting the dots," he says. "I like putting producers in the room with certain artists to see what I could get out of it."