Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Producers in the studio with Jay-Z: A primer

No I.D. and Jay-Z

Yesterday, in response to a link posted by the Jay-Z Daily, I said that there needs to be some kind of "Producers in the Studio with Jay-Z" book. It would be a collection of interviews with producers talking about their experiences with the rapper. Reading through such interviews over the years has been a cool way to see how Jay-Z's artistic processes work. Until someone produces such a book though, I decided to start compiling a few of the pieces that caught my attention.

1. NO I.D. talks pushing Jay-Z (2018)
I don't think we discussed anything. Another part of the beauty was: I saw that he, from our initial conversation, wanted to say more and wanted to say some things that he hadn't said. Part of my growth as a producer was not just about making beats but also helping in the process of inspiring the song and making the song the center. This album is about Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, opening up, and me scoring that.

2. Just Blaze Details The Making Of Jay Z's "Public Service Announcement" (2013)
In between hours of press he would come in, drop four bars, go do another press round, come back in drop four more bars, go to the press room, come back in scrap the first eight bars and just get a whole new eight bars and add four more bars, and go to the press room. Which means as he’s doing the press he’s thinking about this beat in the back of his mind. Coming up with the song…By the end of the night he’s like ‘Alright, let me hear it.’ And he’s like ‘nah’ and he walks out. So, he comes in the next day. Spits the whole thing over in one take…Two or three weeks later we’re at the Garden and the entire arena knows the words.

3. Producers Cool & Dre on What It's Like to Make a Beyonce and Jay-Z Album (2018)
"713" was one of those nights when they were up in our room upstairs. They loved the hook, they loved the beat. Beyoncé had told Jay, "Yo, we need to do a hardcore love song, like back in the day, when Method Man and Mary J. [Blige] had that hard record together. Jay was like, "I know exactly what beat to do this to," and pulled this one out the stash. I remember the night he pulled us into his studio and played it for us, he was like, "No one knows the story of how we met. This was the first time I'm ever telling this story." Boom, he plays it for us.
4. Timbaland Breaks Down Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)
I played this one beat. I said, ‘I got something just for you.’ And I played it and he was like (makes surprised face), ‘Oh my God.’ From then, we did two off bat. Then he was like, let’ just go in. And that’s how we did it. We didn’t plan it. It just happened.

5. Rick Rubin on "99 Problems" (2015)
Jay came into my studio every day for like a week, I kept trying things that I thought would sound like a Jay record, and after like three or four days he said, “I want to do something more like one of your old records, Beastie Boys-style.” Originally that’s not what I was thinking for him, but he requested that vibe, and we just started working on some tracks.
6. Pharrell compares Jay-Z to the Oracle (2013)
There’s no pen and paper anywhere in sight. You gotta see this guy listening to the music, mumbling to himself, and then he goes into the booth. It sounds a lot like the Oracle at Delphi’s process. You know, she’s leaning over cracks of—in the cave that have like methane hydrate coming out. Just high as an eagle’s ass. She’s mumbling shit and the next thing you know she has a prophecy. It’s a little crazy. And by the way, I mean, it would seem that I was being artful by stating in that way. And showing you that super-close parallel, but if it weren’t true I wouldn’t be able to say that. That’s the super crazy thing about this dude.
7. Just Blaze discusses making the Jay-Z connection (2013)
I'm just elated to be in the room with him, you know. And umm, he goes in the booth to do vocals to the song that ended up becoming "Parking Lot Pimping." So while he's in there I have an MP in the room I Tommy MPC I just make it beating my headphones, playing it for him when he comes out, and he's like 'what's this? this is crazy?' I'm like I jus made this right now. he's like "how? I was in the booth?" I was like 'I just had the headphones on.' He's like 'so you just made this while I was rapping just now.' He's like 'alright, stick around. you're gonna make, we're gonna make you a star. And that room over there is yours." And that was that. make you a star." And that was that.
8. Jay-Z & Diddy in studio

9. Young Guru talks about mastering Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 (2011)

10. Studio Session: Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" (2013)

• Notebook on Jay-Z

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