Working on Dying and Lil Uzi Vert energize ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ soundtrack
Production team Working on Dying endeavored to make a legacy score – and succeeded
Philadelphia production team Working on Dying has reached its biggest career moment yet with its latest work on the soundtrack for Space Jam’s sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy. After making its name working with stars such as Drake, Future and Playboi Carti, Working on Dying tapped Lil Uzi Vert for a futuristic sound to help complete the project.
Working on Dying executive Terrell Greenlee collaborated with Working on Dying producers Faxx Only, BNYX (Benny X) and Lil Uzi Vert’s manager Mean for an update of Belgian dance group Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam.” The synth-heavy smash can be heard at sporting events the world over and was featured prominently in the 1996 film when the Tune Squad prepared for its big game against the Monstars. Other memorable songs that appeared in Space Jam include Seal’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” and Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin’s anthemic Just Blaze production “We Win” will join Lil Uzi Vert’s update as songs in Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Greenlee talked to The Undefeated about Space Jam’s creative influence, what it was like making music fit for an intergalactic basketball showdown, and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was the process of remaking ‘Pump Up The Jam’ like?
When [Lil Uzi Vert] created this, we were in the studio with an engineer for a specific sound that was way more rock. It wasn’t as traplike or in the aesthetic of what we were doing. [Uzi] told me about Space Jam in casual conversation about us doing music, and he played for me an idea of something that he had worked on. I said, ‘Let me try something.’ I went home that night, and a lot of time, how I [collaborate] with my producers is we have a group chat between us and we will put ideas there. We’ll say, ‘Let’s sample or replay this.’
BNYX plays all the instruments. We changed the original song structure [of Technotronic’s ‘Pump Up The Jam’], added drums and made it something that could be rapped over.
At that point, I was spending every day with him. It was this synergy of good things happening. Those moments are more divine than anything.
How did Uzi’s versatility as an artist facilitate the collaboration?
You can [sometimes] get an artist not willing to go big with an idea like that. The positive of working with Uzi is it’s not too much [for him] to go out of his comfort zone. [Lil Uzi Vert’s 2020 album] Eternal Atake was made with no A&R, so it was literally Uzi and us experimenting for four years. We’d often tell each other, ‘I like this’ or ‘I want to do this.’ We’re already experimental and working with an artist who’s equally as experimental.
What was your personal connection to the original film’s soundtrack?
I had the idea for the song because I’m a little older and I thought about the original movie and what moments made me think about it. I looked up the soundtrack and knew that’s where I could find my inspiration. The whole Space Jam franchise is about nostalgia and taking something old and making it new. Older fans would hear that and then connect with their kids who listen to Uzi.
That’s my thought in our production style when we sample. The original listeners and new listeners can come together and enjoy it.
From Working on Dying’s production on Uzi’s Eternal Atake to Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red, there is this buzzing, uptempo energy that’s perfect for a sports movie. What influenced that?
[Music producer] Lil Jon is the king of this. You can’t listen to a Lil Jon song and not do something. Your music should be inspiring a movement. Uzi is not a traditional rapper and doesn’t have a traditional cadence. [His ‘Pump Up The Jam’] is damn near EDM [electronic dance music] and it sounds like the best trap EDM. Our song could be played in Las Vegas at Drai’s Beachclub & Nightclub and that was [our goal]. Certain instruments make you move differently. Horns move your shoulders and synths your midsection.
How has Working on Dying’s beginnings on SoundCloud influenced its desire to be unique?
We come from that SoundCloud era where the kids didn’t give a f— about quality. They cared about quantity over quality. Working on Dying really was anti that from the beginning. We stuck to our guns because we weren’t making a sound that reflected music at the time. It was raspier, rougher and damn near punk rock. These are the babies of Pharrell. These kids skate. Working on Dying was always a home for misfit kids.
How does Working on Dying’s sound reflect Philly’s music history?
[Our music] is Philly. It is not a version of what people think Philly is. [For example,] Philly has one of the largest gay communities in the country. That’s why we have a lot of party music here. With party music, you’ll have gangsters, skateboard kids and gay people all dancing. Uzi dances. We went No. 1 with ‘Futsal Shuffle’ and most of our music is made in the tempo to make you dance. People are in the studio dancing. The music is made to move you to move.
Where does having a song on the Space Jam 2 soundtrack rank among Working on Dying’s accomplishments?
When I talk about legacy pieces, [it’s] a legacy piece. [Us] appearing on [Drake’s] Scorpion, the highest streamed album ever, is a legacy piece. Those types of things matter and exist forever. Eternal Atake is special because of how involved we were. We’re now part of one of the main moments of the soundtrack to a [special] movie.