There are few producers in the game as decorated as Virginia-born studio whiz Bink! Breaking into the game in the mid-to-late-1990s, Bink Dawg cut his teeth getting early placements with Blackstreet and working with the likes of Kurupt, U-God, Lil Cease and A+ as the decade wound to a close. But his early hustle caught the eye of the Roc-A-Fella head honchos, and the new millennium brought with it a slew of opportunities with the R-O-C—working on Jay Z's Roc La Familia: The Dynasty and Beanie Sigel's The Truth—as well as with high-profile spitters like Prodigy and Mystikal.

But it was his work on Jay Z's The Blueprint that really pushed his star to a higher level; Bink! bookended the album with opener "The Ruler's Back" and album closer "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" as well as contributing "All I Need" right smack in the middle. From 2001 onward, his list of credits reads like a laundry list of legends and hitmakers—Fat Joe, Aaliyah, Diddy, Nate Dogg, Eve, Xzibit, Rick Ross, GZA, LL Cool J, Cassidy, Method Man and Redman, Kanye West, J. Cole, Game, Drake—the list goes on and on, and all along Bink! kept knocking out bangers.

Along the way, he picked up a hell of a story collection, from meeting Rick Ross while the Bawse was an unknown ghostwriter for Trina to personally delivering beats to Prodigy while P was in the hospital. "Prodigy was in the hospital; he goes back and forth [with the sickle cell anemia], and he was sick at the time," Bink! said during a recent phone conversation with XXL. "So I drove to Queens, saw him at the hospital and gave him some music. It was dope—I was just honored to do that, to go that far to make sure he got the music."

But Bink! hasn't slowed down of late. He's the man behind the boards on Rick Ross' "Mafia Music III" off Rozay's sixth album Mastermindand he's got a crew of producers following in his footsteps under his Humble Monster umbrella. With Ross' Mastermind set to debut at the top of the charts next week, XXL spoke to Bink! about some of his most memorable moments in the studio over the years, from crafting hits with Xzibit to learning his trade with A+ to why working on The Blueprint was unquestionably his favorite work of his career. —Dan Rys (@danrys)

bink producer

Hempstead High, 1999

Bink: [The first album I did start to finish] was probably when I did A+'s album; this was back in probably '97, name of the album was called Hempstead High. That was the first album where I spearheaded the whole project. A+ used to stay at my house, and I really coached this guy from start to finish on how we need to do it, how we need to approach it; it was a good feeling knowing I had a lot to do with the whole outcome of the record, and not just sending some music and not being involved anymore once you press "Send" on the email.

It's way more responsibility. Of course, today's beat makers are safe in this environment, because they don't know how to make records. People like myself and other seasoned producers, when you're doing music, you know what you tryna hear on it, or where it needs to go, not necessarily conceptually, but sonically. Sometimes they send it back to you and it's nothing like you thought it would be, or what you imagined it would be, but just for the sake of the business it's like, "Whatever, whatever, let's see my check." You let it go and just keep it moving.

aplus hempstead high

Jay Z
The Blueprint, 2001

Bink: Blueprint [was my favorite to work on], hands down. Jay Z just makes your job that much easier. He's not a guy who is short of ideas, and that's mainly the problem with today's artists—they have absolutely no vision. They can rap for days, but if you go to the studio with any of these guys and put a beat on, the first thing they do is start writing without even having a thought of, "Okay, what am I talking about? Where are we going?" That's not even a conversation, they just start writing. What are you talking about here? What are we talking about here? So working with Jay, it just really makes your job easier, and it allows you to focus more on your job moreso than having to make sure that the hook's cool, the verses are right—you don't have to worry about none of that with Jay. You can give him the beat, get something to eat, come back and the beat is right where it needs to be when you get back.

I'm a fan first. I was flattered, first of all, and excited, because you came up on these people. I was a DJ first, so these were the guys I was spinning, mixing their a capellas with my beats before I got in the game. So it was like, "Wow, I'm actually here working with this guy. I'm not mixing a capellas to one of my beats right now, he's actually right here." It's good to see your peers that you actually grew up on respect my craft to that level where they wanted to work with me.


"The Gambler" featuring Anthony Hamilton, 2002

Bink: Oh hell yeah. I remember when Xzibit, Anthony Hamilton and myself were together recording "Gambler" for Xzibit's album. It was a three-way split: we all really came up with the hook, the whole concept of the record, what we were gonna talk about, and then we started writing the record. And then after we wrote the record, I came back and re-programmed the beat to fit the record better. So that's what's missing—that extra production that you would do after somebody puts what they feel is right on it. Lyrics inspire the producer. So once you hear the lyrics, sometimes it inspires you to add other things, do certain things in certain areas to make the record tailor-made for them.

Back in the day—I don't wanna say back in the day like it was 30 years ago—but around ten years ago, that whole collaboration became a lost art. It was a lost art with the whole collaboration with the actual artist and the producer sitting down and doing a Gang Starr album, doing a Doggystyle album. Those are two groups of people who actually sat down and actually plotted out [the albums]. That's why they were so successful, I feel. When there's more hands-on with everybody.

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"All My Life" featuring Nate Dogg, 2003

Bink: One in particular [where I was inspired by the lyrics] was "All My Life" by Freeway, the one we did with Nate Dogg. He sent me the session back with the verses on it. That's why you got that part in the second verse, where the beat and the lyrics go right together—"I'm going going, back back"—I actually programmed that to fit with the verse to make it more tailor-made. I always tell [rappers], listen, you can get a suit off the rack or you can get one tailor-made. What do you want? If it's off the rack, the sleeves might be too long, the hem might not be right, but you got it. But when you tailor-make it, it's so much better; you can really make that record fit that person and everything that's going on inside the record.


Rick Ross
"Cigar Music" featuring Masspike Miles, 2009

Bink: I've been on Ross before Ross was Ross, first of all. I met Ross in Miami when I was actually working for Angie Martinez at the time, she had a deal at Elektra. We hired Ross to write her verses for her, because at the time he was doing a lot of writing for Trina, which a lot of people didn't know about. So we brought him in, he was coming in every day. Actually, he had a cast on his foot at the time, he was on crutches. I remember I said, "Who is this big dude coming in here writing these verses for a woman, and it still sounds like a woman wrote it? That's crazy." Like, this guy is really talented.

I started talking to him, come to find out that Jay Z was one of his favorite artists, and he found out about what I did, so it was a mutual respect. But once again, he wasn't Rick Ross. He was just a young dude signed to Slip-N-Slide that hadn't come out yet. So we exchanged numbers, I started sending him music, and he drove down to my house in Jersey twice—he and Gunplay—and they just stayed at my house, and we did probably, like, 7, 8, 9 records at my crib. And then maybe a year later, a year-and-a-half later, he came out with "Hustlin'." So that's where the initial relationship came from, right there.

I did "We Shinin'," and then "Cigar Music." Oh yeah—actually, when "Cigar Music" came out, that was during the 50 beef. And I think that was the last nail in the coffin for that, was "Cigar Music." It didn't bother me because he didn't come at 50's neck on the record, he just put out a good record. It wasn't like he designated a verse to 50; he didn't say anything about 50 Cent, which is cool because I really respect 50, and I always wanted to work with 50, too. So it definitely kept me unbiased in that situation, 'cause I definitely had nothing to do with it.