Diddy did it. Don’t hate the player. Study the game.
Obviously people are surprised that you have such a huge role in Jay’s new album. How did this musical connection finally come together?
You know for a while, I’ve always been on Jay about doing one of his albums. I think that’s one of the things I think I’m best at—executive producing and creating a whole vision for a whole album. He hit me and was like, “Yo I already got the vision.” So I was like, “Cool I can respect that. What’s the vision?” And when he told me the vision, it was something similar to like a lot of the tracks I had already in pre-production. The original Bad Boy sound was always that Harlem type of, Black exploitation, American Gangster film sound. That’s what we specialized in. So, it wasn’t really something that was a reach for me. It was something that, you know, over the years, sometimes I would store tracks and I would just call ‘em “Biggie Tracks” ‘cause there was nobody really to rap on them.
Jay told me that you called him one day was like, “You gotta come to Daddy’s House.” He said he was headed home and had the car turn around to come see you in the studio.
Yeah, one day, I was just came upon a couple joints and I was like, “Let me finally do it.” I was like these shits sound crazy so, “Come over here now.” But I had procrastinated for like six months really before that saying I was going to do it, and it never got done. That day, it just felt right. So I had these tracks and played it for him and it was right in line with what he was talking about. He was like, “Where did these joints come from?” We have a whole catalog and arsenal of unreleased tracks but Jay is an artist that really motivated me to get back behind the board and really produce.
You said “We,” and I know you have plans to push a new revamped version of Hitmen, right?
Yeah I decided to do it before that though. For the No Way Out anniversary, we were working on some stuff and I was just playing around saying you know, I may put it back together. It was also being inspired by seeing all the success the producers were having from Timbaland to Kanye and Swizz. Sometimes you get that hunger, you get that bug back and I started to get it back but it never really like came back all the way until the Jay project came up. I was like this is the perfect project to really put the Hitmen together and the overall concept is really, just bringing us all working together and bringing the best out of people.
I know LV and Sean C played a heavy role in those six tracks on the album.
It has to really start from somebody really giving the energy and Shawn C and LV—they were the cats that were in the MIDI room. That’s where the whole thing starts and then it goes to the different rooms and they were the ones that were in there everyday. Anytime I would walk in the studio and I would just be hearing joints and they had that creative bug and that new freshness. It was similar to the style and the sound that we had created in the past, but it was like they had a new improved swagger.
So who are officially the Hitmen now?
Me, Shawn C, LV, D-Dot, and Mario Winans.
So you got “Pray,” “American Dreamin’,” “No Hook,” “Roc Boys,” “Party Life,” and “Sweet.” You was bogarting everything, huh?
You know what it was? It was natural. Everybody knows the name of the game—the hottest tracks they win and we was lucky this time. We woulda been happy to get two tracks on there. We feel it’s going to be a big album, and feel proud to relaunch the Hitmen and for me personally to get back behind the boards producing. It don’t really get no bigger than this. So I felt like I wasn’t going to put out no statement or make no announcement. I was going to let the music speak for itself. So really the announcement is on November 6th.
Which one of the joints you worked on is your favorite?
“Pray” is my favorite joint. Beyonce does the voice and made the shit really, really crazy. I told Jay if there’s an event you know 2000 years from now and they giving him a tribute and if they play that “Pray” joint, they going to know who he was. They gonna know who he was and what he was about and what he stood for. When I make a record, I try to think about that. What joints you have that’s going to represent what you meant to the game.
Yeah, it’s almost like in honor to Biggie in a lot of ways. You guys finally come together but it’s a natural organic thing. It’s not forced.
Yeah, to be honest, it’s only one degree of separation with me and him, creatively. I never was working with him closely because I was doing my thing with Bad Boy and he was doing his thing with Roc-A-Fella. We were friends, we were cool and the whole nine but we wasn’t really all up in each other’s business like that. But over the last two years, we’ve gotten closer. We spent more time with each other. And now, it feels right so that’s why we were able to get busy.
Jay was talking to me about how impressed he was of the mixes of the songs that he was getting back. Like even he forgot your production pedigree.
I think that’s because since becoming a producer, I’ve done a lot of things. I know for a fact that a lot of people don’t really remember, as far as what I do in the studio as a producer. People see me as far as the glamorous life shit or just think of me as someone who’s shit crossed over, going pop or whatever. Sometimes they may forget about the Lox album, the Biggie albums the Mary—My Life, 411 albums and some of the hardest rawest shit ever to come out of New York in the last 10 years, we did those albums. To be honest the hardest album to come from a New York rapper, I produced it. Nobody can ever take that shit away from me. And now being on this American Gangster, I’m humbled by it and I’m going to let the work of it speak for itself. But you know, be clear that it’s like riding a bike.