No I.D. suffered through a four-year slump before he placed his next track. At the time he struggled to make ends meet, briefly managed Kanye and tried to develop a few other acts. He landed tracks on Beanie Sigel’s The Reason in 2001 and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 2 in 2002 through his relationship with then Roc-A-Fella A&R, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua—to whom he would later introduce Kanye.
In the mid 2000s, he moved to Atlanta to align himself with Jermaine Dupri. He credits the So So Def boss for re-energizing his career and providing him the foresight he previously lacked. “I said, ‘OK, I think I have a full grasp of what I wanna accomplish as a producer,’” says No I.D. “It was almost like I had done my research, I’ve done my bad experiences, I’ve lost. It’s almost like Donald Trump. You gotta go bankrupt a few times and figure it out.”
A few years later, No I.D. would reconnect with his protégé (who he’s known since Kanye was 14) after ‘Ye’s mother passed away in 2007. “Malik Yusef said to me one day, like, ‘Yo, he needs you, you know you are a stable person, you are one of the more stable men he knows,” he says. During a two-day stint in Hawaii, the old friends locked themselves in the studio and, to their surprise, crafted nine beats together, including several tracks that wound up on Yeezy’s 808s & Heartbreak and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3. As a result of their chemistry, he was tapped by Kanye to serve as president of his G.O.O.D. Music label and relocated to Los Angeles.
“I had this conversation with him before it started like, ‘Hey man, be Quincy Jones right now,’” he says of their reunion. “It don’t matter that I taught you. I’m humble enough to play another role so we can just be successful.”
After a productive period he set his sight on an position at Def Jam. His intentions were G.O.O.D. “I made a decision to make Big Sean win and I’m gonna do it in a way where I walk it straight to L.A. Reid,” he explains. “I’ma make it clear that I made this win with the intention of L.A. saying like, ‘Damn, we need this guy.’”
It worked. Though Def Jam’s budgets were frozen at the time, No I.D. paid for Sean’s first recording sessions out of his own pocket and got the ball rolling. The Detroit rapper scored a hit with the No I.D.-produced “My Last” featuring Chris Brown. Sean’s Finally Famous hit stores in June and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200—selling 87,100 in its first week. Though L.A.—who resigned as Island Def Jam chairman in May to run Epic Records —offered him a position under the Sony umbrella, No I.D. stuck with Def Jam and was rewarded with an executive vice president gig and his own label.
Nearly 20 years into his career, No I.D. appears to have finally found his stride and has come full circle in the process. He has tracks on deck on Nas’s Life Is Good and Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, but foremost, he’s reunited with Common for the first time in 14 years. He produced Com’s ninth LP, released last December, The Dreamer, The Believer, in its entirety. Again, No I.D. embraced the challenge. “I know the history of my career,” says No I.D. “This is the time to prove something. I could go do records for Watch the Throne. What does that prove? Nothing. It’s Jay-Z and Kanye West. But, Common, acting, no record deal? Let’s try this.” Resurrection.