The dude Jermaine Dupri used to dance for Whodini, you pop tarts. Fix your face and show some respect.
Until now, you and Jay-Z hadn’t worked together since “Money Ain’t A Thang.” Why is that?
I know when two people get together and make a record and then they just leave it alone people think it wasn’t no magic there. I felt like “Money Aint A Thang” was like magic. I’ve been telling Jay like, “Let me do your album, you’ll sell way more records than you ever sold.” I kept pushing it. We’re going to the club and every time we in the club, they play that record and I remind him—10 years later and they still playing that song, so I guess it kinda got embedded in his mind. He called me to work on this record.
Think a lot of people are shocked about the type of records you contributed to the album. Especially “Fallin’”?
Yeah, I don’t know why. If you listened to Life in 1472, that’s what that album sounded like my records sounded like that type of music. But people pay more attention to the production on Usher and the more pop R&B records that I do than that type of stuff, so I guess that’s what it is. But what I did was, I went to the studio and he played me a lot of his records. I couldn’t really duplicate what he already had going on and I really wanted to be on the album so I had to figure out my role.
Did you know right away that you nailed it? Did you try different concepts first?
Nah, you never know as a producer whether you got it or not. But that [“Fallin’”] was the one I’d been working on the hardest. I was in the studio all night—and I just start coming up with the hook. Once I came up with the hook, I kinda felt like I was going to fight the issue if he didn’t really like it. But you got to understand, it wasn’t a fight with him. He knew the story—everybody know the story. You can’t be a gangster without the excitement of the fall. The rise is crazy, but it’s the fall that’s big. If you see the headlines it’s always the “Rise and Fall” so I felt like the “Fallin’” part—that’s it. Perfect. The hook and everything. It just let you know what the story was about and where he’s about to go.
How does the hook go again?
“I know, I shouldn’t have did that/I know it’s going to come right back/It’s probably going to destroy everything I made/It’s going to probably get your boy sent away/But this the game we play it ain’t no way to fix it/It’s inevitable, I’m ‘Fallin’.” The mindset of it was when you are a gangster, it’s one thing you always do—they make one bad move and your life is finished. And I don’t care what it is. Especially when I watched the movie, in the movie, Frank wore that fur and that was the beginning of the end and that’s where I wanted Jay to start his verse from. Once he saw where I was going with it, it was easy.
So it was like you was helping Jay tell the whole story. You helped the sequence of it—
Well, that’s pretty much how I work as a producer. I always tell people like I make suits for people as opposed to just making beats. I make custom made suits. What I made was the ending part of his story. I wouldn’t have made that if I didn’t listen to the records though. I don’t believe that.
What’d you think about the Puffy/Hitmen stuff?
I thought it was great and it definitely put me in a mind set of where I wanted to be. “Roc Boys”—that’s the song I left the studio singing. I left the studio with that song embedded in my head. Like, just all—every part of the song. When I left the studio the first night we got there, I pretty much had a clear vision of what I needed to make in order to make this album.
You’re used to controlling your sessions, but here you were going into a different environment.
Yeah it was a little weird ‘cause I work in my own studio all the time, so for me to go to New York and then to be in the studio where everything’s going on. There was like three people making beats in the studio at one time. That never happens around me. It was my crew, No I.D. is a So So Def producer and L-Rock so all three of us came to New York to work on one record. And then we just started separating. No I.D. got in a corner and start making a beat on his computer. I was in my headphones—and we all had to put our headphones on because we was in the same room where Jay was basically playing music for everybody that came by the studio. So it’s like Lebron and his crew was in there and they were getting a listening session at the same time we was making beats. Jay kept asking me if he was interrupting me or was he—or was I able to concentrate—of course I said no ‘cause I didn’t want to stop what he was doing, but it was awkward for me. Still it put the pressure on me to make the record I made.
How did the relationship develop between you and No I.D.?
He came to me as a person and was just like I wanna learn how to become more involved in projects. I think he felt that ‘cause he found like Kanye and Lupe—them people from Chicago all came from No I.D. basement. I think the one thing I talked to him about was just him learning how to take control of that. because you cant get nothing from telling people, “I found Kanye.” You can’t win by that. That’s cool you found him, but why you ain’t keep him? That’s the question I had and that’s the question everyone else had. So when he came around me, I just started showing him how to build his situation as well as getting him on projects and making sure people respect who he is ‘cause dude is definitely one of the realest producers out there and he got more knowledge in the game than damn near everybody. He taught a lot of producers how to make beats, but at the end of the day he didn’t get the credit for it and a lot of the artists didn’t even know. He’s a quiet dude, but I try to bring him out as much as I can. No I.D. be going on an island sometime hiding. But I try to keep him out and keep him in the mix as much as possible and keep him working ‘cause he got a lot of crazy beats.
The “Success” joint is going to shake a lot of people up.
I’m a give you the play by play of what happened when we was in the studio. That session came from when we was making “Fallin’.” I played that song for Jay and it was like a joke in the room, who else had something. So then No I.D. was like, “Yo I got something” and Jay was like, “You ain’t got nothing!” Then Guru listened to it through the headphones and listened to what No I.D. had and his face started to crinkle up. I was happy ‘cause that was a bright moment for No I.D. to really let these people know who he is ‘cause he does this all time. Like I’m not surprised you came up with a beat like this, you got a hundred beats like this. People don’t know him and I believe after this record people are going to be like, I need No I.D. on my album.
So that’s really your producing partner-in-crime?
What I do, I provide the vision for him. Like when we did the Bow Wow record, “Let Me Hold You,” I gave him the type of vision I wanted and we put that record together. That was the beginning of our relationship and from then on, we’ve been making records. So when me and him go in the studio, I provide what were looking for and the ear for it and he’ll definitely go find it and put it together and the whole movie comes together like that.