Project X Knows What It Takes to Produce the Biggest Names in Music

A conversation with the rising, 20-year-old hip-hop star about going from unknown to working with Future.

Growing up in Manchester New Hampshire, Xavier Barrios — now better known as Project X — always had a love for music. He dreamed of producing for some of hip-hop’s biggest names, especially anyone affiliated with Atlanta-based production collective 808 Mafia. And despite run-ins with the juvenile court system and placement in a group home without access to computers, Barrios’s earliest passion never abated. At 15, he purchased a copy of popular production software FL Studio, studying the manual so he was ready when his moment arrived.

Three years and countless hours of dedication later, his heroes in 808 Mafia took him under their wing, quickly signing him after seeing the impression he made on some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. All that hard work and determination paid off when he scored a major production placement with hugely popular Atlanta MC Future.

Now 20 and based out of L.A., Barrios has collabroated with the likes of Zoey Dollaz, Sonny Digital, 24hrs, and Southside, and is widely considered one of 808 Mafia’s most sought-after protégés. His work on Heroin Young’s “Gucci Bucket Hat” helped the track rack up nearly three million streams on Spotify since its October 20 release.

We caught up with the in-demand young man for a quick primer about hustling his way to exactly where he wanted to be, and raising others up along the way.

What does it mean to score a production placement?

To score a placement means an artist has decided to use a beat, melody or lyrics that you, as a producer, songwriter or artist created when putting out a new song. However, not every placement gets released. For example, an artist could use a beat, but the song never comes out. Some producers get it confused when an artist uses their beat and it never comes out, but they still consider it a placement. To me, it’s when it’s released.

How does a relatively unknown producer get a chance to work with major artists?

The fastest way I’ve personally seen is working on loops/melodies and sending them out to bigger producers. It’s almost like a cheat code. You see kids getting huge placements from their bedrooms off sending loops. It’s crazy. I’m more of a drums kind of guy. I love hearing what other people can come up with as far as melodies.

What should up and coming producers that might be naive watch out for in the music business?

Never take anything personally! People will reject you at first. Nobody wants to lock in with you until you’re hot. Everyone has their own goals to reach and their own career to focus on. Be cautious who you let around you as well, because there will be a whole bunch of people who will try to be “buddy-buddy” just to get closer to who you’re locked in with, for their own benefit. Not everybody is your friend when it comes to music. Just keep working, do what you do best; keep your head down until you come up. Hard work never goes unnoticed.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been planning on putting together something super big. Like a compilation project with a few songs I’ve done with other artists — all produced by me. I want to put it all out myself. There’s so much unreleased music I have that I have no idea whether it will ever come out, so I want to put together all my best stuff and let the world hear it. My team and I are also are working on putting together an immersive music-based experience under the Project X brand. I’m always on the lookout for talented up and coming producers to take under my wing.