Studio Session: Boi-1da Remembers Producing Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” 10 Years Ago
Drake’s decade of dominance includes several Boi-1da-produced milestones. Beginning with their original chart-topper “Best I Ever Had”—turning 10 this month—and continuing with singles like “Over,” “Headlines,” “Controlla,” Big Sean’s “Blessings,” Rihanna’s “Work” and several others, their collaborative winning streak has maintained throughout the “No New Friends” rapper’s storied career. Already proven fruitful, their creative chemistry has most recently resulted in several contributions to Drake’s record-breaking Scorpion.
“Damn, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already,” Boi-1da says, reflecting on So Far Gone, which dropped on Feb. 13, 2009. “I’m just happy that people enjoyed it back then and are still enjoying it to this day and that I’m able to still make music people love.”
Boi-1da's beloved beats continue to garner both praise and accolades. Capping off a successful 2018 that saw him land production credits on critically acclaimed albums from Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy to Eminem’s Kamikaze to Jay Rock’s Redemption, the “0 to 100” beatsmith earned several Grammy nominations. He competes in the Song of the Year and Record of the Year categories due to his contributions to the Drake’s “God’s Plan.” Also up for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, as well as three other trophies, Boi-1da admits he’s “very honored” to be nominated.
“It means everything because there’s no higher level of an award than that,” says the Toronto native, who appears alongside Pharrell Williams and Kanye West in the producer category. “It’s an honor to be nominated in a category with a bunch of legendary producers as well.”
Boi-1da caught up with XXL to discuss his Grammy nominations, his history with Drake and what’s next for the go-to guy for hit records.
XXL: “God’s Plan” is nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at this year’s Grammys. How does it feel being recognized in categories that don’t always show hip-hop love?
Boi-1da: I was just excited and honored. I don’t think I’ve had a song that’s been nominated in those categories. It’s a high honor. You have to make great music to be in there.
You’re credited as a co-producer on “God’s Plan.” What was your role in the creation of the track?
When it comes to a record like that, I just listen to whatever is needed. I don’t try to overthink or overdo things. That one didn’t really need that much to it. I did my thing and everything worked as planned. You know, God’s plan. It was dope to be a part of it. I’m so thankful.
You also worked on Scorpion’s "8 Out of 10," "Mob Ties," "Ratchet Happy Birthday" and "Final Fantasy." Were you in a particular vibe while working on those records?
I was in a different space for each of them. I was just having fun making them and doing some cool stuff. We put it together and everything turned out amazing.
You recently tweeted that the production found on G-Unit’s debut, Beg For Mercy made you want to step your game up. How so?
That project—production wise—was just amazing. At the time, I might have been 15 or 16 years old. I had just started making music, so hearing records like “Poppin’ Them Thangs” and “Eye for Eye” at the time was insane to me. Compared to what I was making, it almost made me sad. When I say it hurt my feelings, it really hurt my feelings, because I was like, I got a long-ass way to go before my shit sounds anywhere close to this.
Do you remember the beat you produced or the moment that made you feel like you had stepped your game up as a producer?
It was winning a competition in Toronto called Battle of the Beat Makers. When I won the first completion, I was still kind of skeptical with my own music. Being a quiet, introverted kind of kid, I took a chance entering this competition and ended up winning. It was at that moment that I kind of realized that maybe I did step my game up. I did figure it out a little bit.
Has DJing help you as a producer?
Most definitely. Being a DJ has definitely helped me as a producer. I like just going out. It’s weird I go to the club and I just observe. I don’t even go to have fun sometimes. I just go to observe what people are reacting to. It’s almost like a science experiment. When I DJ, I hear the way people react to certain songs. I understand the energy of what’s going on in the world and what people are vibing to. I try to bring that same energy out with what I’m doing. I’m not ripping anybody’s stuff or anything like that, but there’s a certain type of energy that’s going on that I’ll understand by DJing. It definitely helps me a lot.
The 10th anniversary of So Far Gone is coming up. Do you remember the first time you witnessed people respond to “Best I Ever Had”?
The first time I seen people respond to a Drake song was years ago, even before “Best I Ever Had.” I was in the club. He had put out a song called “I’m Still Fly.” People had never heard it before and they turned it on in the club and people just started moving on the floor immediately. It was really cool to see that, because at that time he was relatively unknown and the DJ just threw it on in the club. It was a vibe. It was kind of ridiculous. It was cool to see that because that was the first time that ever happened. Even with “Best I Ever Had” too, it seemed like a huge reaction. It came out and was a fan-favorite song on So Far Gone. I couldn’t turn on the radio and not hear that song.
You served as an executive producer for Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s too Late. What are your thoughts on that mixtape four years later?
That project is one of my favorite Drake projects. I frequently go back and listen to it. I just feel like for all of us the space we were in was very energetic and confident. We really connected on that album. Everything just came together so seamlessly. It worked out great and with the surprise drop and everything, everybody really enjoyed that album. It kind of came out of nowhere and took everybody by surprise. The songs of that summer were off that whole album. It was great. It was good times. We were in such an energetic space.
Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to?
I think I’ve worked with everybody I’ve wanted to work with, which is pretty crazy. I would really love to work with Childish Gambino. I worked with him on one of his mixtapes a while back. That’s when I last connected with him. He’s really dope. I’ve always thought he was really dope. I’d definitely like to work with Rihanna again, Beyoncé, Kendrick [Lamar]—there are so many good artists out there. It is hard to pick.
Looking back, how does it feel to have built a legacy?
It’s a great feeling. Surprisingly, I haven’t fell off yet. People still like my stuff. I’m happy about that. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted. I worked really hard and god-willing, I met him halfway, so I’m happy and I don’t think I’m going to stop anytime soon.
At this point, what inspires you as a producer?
I just feel like I haven’t accomplished everything that I’ve wanted to. I still have goals that I want to get to. I always compare myself to some of my favorite producers and certain things that they’ve accomplished I want to accomplish too, like getting an artist, starting a label, creating a successful record label and so on. I’m just trying to keep it going and do as much as I can. Just trying to make great music and inspire — that’s really what I want to do.
What’s next for Boi-1da?
I’m actually working on my own project that I’m going to put out this year. It’s going to be really dope. A lot of your favorite artists will be a part of it. Look out for it.
See Photos of Drake's Different Looks Over the Years