On Thursday May 14th Just Blaze, 9th Wonder, Khrysis and Good Music President Che Pope participated in Red Bull Music Academy’s “Studio Talk: Beatmaker Roundtable” for their annual festival in NYC. The two-hour long talk was moderated by Chairman Mao and Torsten Schmidt.
The entire discussion is worth watching, as they walk us through more than four decades of collective music experience. However, we’ve culled a few nuggets for you to peruse until you get to watch the full video.
What is the seed of inspiration for you guys?
For me inspiration can come from anywhere. There is a record called “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna. I wrote that record and gave them the hook…the concept. I actually wrote that entire record as a “fuck you” to my ex-girlfriend. ‘Go live your life,’ but to the world it translates as something different. You don’t know how you’re feeling at that moment may translate to the world. Because people come up to me and say I was so inspired, that record made me feel like I could achieve anything.
Che Pope (President, A&R at GOOD Music)
I can speak for Kanye, myself, G.O.O.D. Music…with us we’ re constantly looking for inspiration… Listening to new artists around the world, watching films and movies and constantly looking for inspiration…it could be an opera, it could be architecture. Yeezus was done primarily in Paris and we were inspired by the architecture. Kanye was doing to the Louvre everyday. I’ve been working with Diddy lately and everyday he ’s trying to find the magic, to capture that energy.
The first time I set foot in Baseline studios I was playing beats for Jay for the Black Album and I made the mistake of asking him “let me hear what you have so far…” So first he played “Change Clothes” and said “this is the single.” Then after that he played “What More Can I Say,” then “December 4th” and “Lucifer.” So here I am in the studio and he says “Me and you gonna work on something” I’m thinking I’m not going to make it…
I remember [when making the Blueprint] Jay said he felt like rapping, he left and came back with a CD from Kanye and they all had this soulful feel. So he was like “Just, what you got?” and I was like “Shit…” Then I remembered I had been listening to Supreme Clientele heavily, by Ghostface and I had this record that ended up becoming “Girls, Girls, Girls.” And I was like I have ONE that works in this mix. Gave him the “Girls…” beat and he said “ok, what else you got? I got more raps.” So an old friend of ours named Will had the Bobby Byrd “I’m Not To Blame” sample and we’d been trying to flip it for a month, but there was not urgency to it…so I had five or six versions of it. Then that day was like ‘find anything that has horns and singing’ so I ended up bringing that back up in the MP. I made that beat about 6 times and it just so happened that as I was attacking it for the 7th time Jay came in and started singing “Turn my music, high, high higher…” I was like YES, we’re one song closer.
From there I had the Bobby Glen Shout It Out album, which is the sample I used for “Song Cry.” And Guru was like “that shits wack.” The singing makes no sense. I was like trust me, trust me. There was a girl that worked with us at the time named Shaka and she walks in and says “I like this” and starts singing and Jay walks in saying “You gotta make the song cry, he sounds like he’s crying.” Hip Hop, who was A&Ring for us at the time, said “Yeah, that’s it.” So I look to my left and I see Ye and he says “I used those shakers already.” We both stole the shakers from Ma$e’s “Tell Me”…and I said yeah, I stole your shakers. So there was the light-hearted competition.
Something you’re proud of…
Rapsody’s “Betty Shabazz”
I was in the old HeadQCourterz studio in 2013. Preem is down the hall and Showbiz is in there too. Showbiz has his MPC 2500 and it was myself, Terrace Martin, Rapsody was in there…I said I’m gonna make some beats but I ain’t got no records. S I went down the hall and asked “OG, you got some records, I need some records” with my head all down. So Preem looks at me and points “not that stack, not that stack, but that stack right there..” Then he picks up five records and says “Take these.” I couldn’t look through ‘em or nothing.
So I walk down the hall with these 6 records, one of them I knew the artist pretty well. So now I got Preem’s records and Showbiz’s MP to make a beat. I sat down, put my headphones on and I play the sample. I go back down the hall to get Preem and say let me play you something. So I play him the beat and he said “That’s from them bullshit records I gave you?” and he said “motherfucker!” and walked out. I was proud as hell. I made him go back down the hall mad.
Harshest lesson learned…
Everyone’s familiar with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That was my harshest lesson. I’d just come from a situation where I was working with Wyclef…same like with the charity, Wyclef can be a little funny with the money. I did the “No,No, No” remix with him for Destiny’s Child, “Ghetto Superstar” and these other records with him and they’re playing on the radio everyday [but I wasn’t getting any money]. Long story short, Lauryn was able to be on the sidelines and witnessed what was going on and said you need to come with me, I’m working on my solo album. She had something to prove and I had a chip on my shoulder so I said I’m gonna go make these records.
The relationship with Lauryn was so genuine that we literally started in her attic. Just me and her. No one else. The first record we did was with this girl Andrea Martin who was on Arista. Clive Davis was fascinated with Lauryn. He was the first one to really give her a shot at producing records but she didn’t know how to produce records. So it was the perfect opportunity for me to come in as her producing partner if you will. So the next record we did was “A Rose is A Rose” for Aretha Franklin…it was like a sister relationship and that was the mistake. You gotta remember that it’s still a business and you have to protect yourself…I had a weak attorney and management at the time and they didn’t protect me. There are songs I did in my Brooklyn brownstone, “Zion” and “I Used To Love Him,” me and James Poyser did about seven records on that album. [But] when the album was said and done we didn’t have any publishing, barely any credit and we were like “Is she on crack?” There were literally records that we brought in. I brought in ‘Zion’ and she started crying, sayin it was a vessel for her son. So this is art and creative but you have to have your business in order. You can make a living from this but you have to protect yourself.