Nitti Gritti Is Getting Down to the Real
With the mindset of getting down to the “nitty gritty” with his music, comes an inspirational journey filled with countless achievements and accolades. Not only did Ricky Mears—aka Nitti Gritti—win a Latin Grammy with Bad Bunny and Diplo for his single “200 MPH,” he was also ranked the 14th best producer in the world by 1001Tracklists. His track “On My Mind” released as part of his other musical-duo project SIDEPIECE, was recognized as the #1 most supported dance track of the year and even received a Grammy nomination in 2021 for Best Dance Recording. The list goes on, but how did this world-renowned DJ and 12x Platinum producer achieve the greatest accomplishments of his career in just under 10 years?
Mears was born and raised in Pennsylvania. At the age of six, he moved to Haiti with his family where he lived for eight years. Living overseas for the majority of his childhood made him a musical “late-bloomer.”
“I didn't know any pop music because I was gone from the United States for eight years of my childhood. I didn't know Britney Spears. I didn't know Backstreet Boys. I didn't know what was cool. So I had to discover for myself, I just skipped all that stuff and went straight to metal and you know, Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, all the bands. I loved Fallout Boy, all that stuff. It was an interesting version of me capturing music from that, and because I was overseas I had to do it myself. And then being in Haiti, there's really cool Caribbean music. One of the main genres is called compas and there's stuff like zouk,” he explains.
“All that stuff led me into dance music because it's very dancey in itself. So I remember there were parties in Haiti where all the kids from my school would all play house music, but very French influenced…That's why I found deadmau5 because of the electro era of 2008 and up. That's really where it first started to connect to electronic music, from Haiti.
When he moved to Miami for college in 2012, he downloaded Ableton which sparked his obsession with producing. He began releasing music under his birth name, most notably his single “Threads” and his festival mix of Seven Lions, “Coming Home.” His professional career kicked off only a few short years later in 2016 where he would now be known to the public as Nitti Gritti.
“Essentially, the phrase is getting down to the real shit,” he says about his moniker. “For me, it made sense that it was music. It resonated because it sounds like when I started, I was making fun, club-heavy, hard, kind of grimy-ish music. So it matched that and also, I love basing it around getting down to the music.”
Known for pushing sonic boundaries with his diverse sound, it’d be impossible to classify him under one singular genre. And to him, inspiration is the main ingredient to the perfect musical recipe.
“I love to make music from inspiration. It sounds corny or a general statement, but I literally do it where I will watch a YouTube video of a Drake song. Then I'll watch something random, like a rock song and hear the guitar from this, and be like, ‘Okay, the pop hook that he did, I like that, maybe I can put this together in my own version.’ And so it's very direct, literal translations, and then mixing them together.”
This practice of blending elements from various genres is evident in his most recent release with singer-songwriter Dylan Matthew titled, “Drive You Crazy.”
“‘Drive You Crazy’ to me is one of my favorite releases because I got to make this Taking Back Sunday guitar line. Then Dylan made it more pop and more accessible. And I got to do my electronic future-ish drop. I love that mixture of pop and rock.”
“Drive You Crazy” marks his debut on Monstercat, alongside gold-certified vocalist Dylan Matthew. This feel-good summer anthem is a nostalgic throwback to your first summer romance and falling in love for the first time. The pair melds their unparalleled talents, offering infectious vocals and pop-punk guitar chords.
Dylan Matthew, whose smooth glassy vocals help ground "Drive you Crazy," is an equally experienced artist. Getting his start as a YouTube star at 18 doing covers and original music, he found a massive following. Before he was 25 he'd racked up tens of millions of views and made fans out of bass music's biggest stars. Slander, Seven Lions, Tritonal, and Excision have all called on Matthews to elevate their music with his sultry voice.
Matthew's ability to craft “some of the biggest, catchiest hooks,” led Mears to slide into his DM's during the pandemic.
“I sent him this demo of the guitar. Actually, most of the production was already done at that point. I sent him the track and he was like, 'Yo, this is super dope' and sent me something back a week later. And I loved it. That was during quarantine. It was hard to release music. Obviously, it took until now but I'm very glad we waited because we got the music video. We got the vocals, he cleaned them up, I was able to mix it and I think it sounds a lot better.”
Centered around love and nostalgia, the pair shared a similar creative mindset during the writing process.
“It felt like when I made the track and when he wrote the lyrics, we were both feeling the exact same thing, where it had to be feel-good. Sometimes it's fun to make the emo stuff sad, but it made sense to be a more uplifting version. Like a good relationship in the summer, a fling that you remember as a good fling.”