Outtakes From Drake’s XXL Cover Story
Your collaboration and features seemed to really put you over the top this past year. How do you approach working with other artists?
It’s all very strategic. I remember 40 telling me once in the studio, “One of your greatest gifts is your ear. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy working with you because your ear is forever on. Not only can you hear when the latency is on and you can hear the smallest shift in the voice but you will listen to seven songs and pick the best song and usually you are right.” Hearing that from a guy whose opinion, I obviously live and die by, I started taking that into consideration when I started collaborating with people. If I didn’t like the song that they thought was the “Drake song,” like, for example, on his mix tape, Rick Ross thought I should be on the Stalley record. I asked to hear more music and I heard “Stay Schemin’” and I was like, “No, I thought I should be on that record.”
[A$AP Rocky’s] “Fuckin’ Problems” came from a song me and 2 Chainz had done. He said in his verse, it was really slow too, “I love bad bitches too that’s a fuckin’ problem.” I stopped his verse while we were listening to it, and I said, “Yo, that needs to be a hook. I don’t know how we’re going to explain this to him that we chopped a piece of his verse to do the hook.” We were working on the Aaliyah project at the time, and we had this vocal sample that we were playing with, which we ended up having someone re-sing and in a different melody. We ended up with “Fuckin’ Problems.” While most people would be like, “Oh, we’re going to save this for six, seven months, until my album comes out.” For me it’s, well, I’m going to give this song to someone who is popping now. We’re all on tour now. It’s a big record. It needs to come out in the next two months. I made that personal decision.
It was actually Kendrick’s record first. He had asked me to get on “Poetic Justice,” and again I was like, “Oh, ‘Poetic Justice.'” It’s a great song, but it’s the typical, you know, “I’m going to be on the soft girls song on the album.” So it was like, “Let me give you some shit.” But Kendrick’s album was such a concise, conceptual record with incredible skits. I still want to sit with him and ask him were those real phone recordings? Were those actors? How did you get it to sound so real? I still have questions about the album because I tell my stories through music. I am not a skit person, but I am very intrigued by his layout. But I understood why “Fuckin’ Problems” didn’t fit. The next project I had to work on was A$AP’s album, and that’s another guy, a genuine friend of mine, as is Kendrick. He’s a good person. He took the record and it went No. 1. Sure, I sacrificed the record. Maybe they’ll think I’m crazy for it, like when I gave Khaled “I’m On One” and “No New Friends.” A lot of people think I’m crazy for that too, but it’s like what you saw at the BET Awards. I’m very present in the rap game even when I’m working on an album. That’s what my work ethic is about—I get that from Wayne I think. What I do is sort of pick five or six songs and disperse out and say, “This is going to keep me very much alive in people’s minds for the next year.”
What did you think of MTV’s Hottest MCs list? You were No. 5?
I guess I just understand how it works. You don’t have the album out, no press looks; you’re not going to get the number [1 spot]. It’s all politics and relative to how present you were, how visual you were. It has more to do with that than the bars and the features. I’ll say my little one-off lines, but I never get worked up over that stuff. On the album intro, which I’d love to play for you, I think I address it right off the riff. With the other albums, they had these sort of airy intros. I’m spitting bars, but this is the most confident intro I’ve had. It’s called “Tuscan Leather.” I have a bar in there where I say, “I’m tired of hearing who you checking for/Now just give it time, we’ll see who’s around a decade from now.” I guess just being here now for four or five years now, this run to me is crazy. It’s what I want. It’s what I planned for. It’s what I worked for. But at the same time, it’s just like, I’m curious to see how long I can stretch it. Then I’m curious to see who’s next? Who’s next to have a real run? I don’t know if anyone has emerged and had a real run after me yet.