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Interview: No I.D. Talks Producing Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ Album & More

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No I.D. recently produced the full length 13th solo studio album 4:44 for Jay-Z here. He’s worked with Jay-Z in the past along with artists including Kanye West (‘Heartless’ & ‘Black Skinhead’), Common (‘I Used to Love H.E.R.’), and Drake (‘Find Your Love’). But, when Jay initially asked No I.D. to help him with 4:44, he passed feeling ‘uninspired.’

‘At this point in my life, I want to do incredible things with the intention of accomplishing something different and new. It’s not a pursuit of money; it’s a pursuit of raising the bar in a cultural sense. ‘I didn’t think I really had anything at the time…’ -No I.D.

But the two eventually got together to create the project, which was the first time Jay-Z worked with one solo producer on a full length album. Take a look at some of the interview belo and read the full story over at Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone: How did you first start working on 4:44?
No I.D.: Maybe a year ago I saw Jay-Z at a restaurant. He goes, “You got any music for me?” And I go, “Nope.” He goes, “What are you working on?” I said, “Getting better.”

The thing that made me want to get better was I heard a quote by Quincy Jones where they asked him, “What do you think about music nowadays?” He said, “four-bar loops.” It really affected me. I said, “Wait a minute, that’s not what I want to be a part of.” So I went and did some studying with the intention of growing.

A little after that, I decided to just do 500 ideas in a short amount of time. It’s like shooting free throws in the gym. I’m going to do this until I have something new. When I got up in the hundreds, I thought I had something new. The first person I actually went to see was J. Cole. I played him them and said, “Who do you think I should give this to?” I wanted a different perspective. We discussed some things, and it led to me hitting Jay-Z up.

My actual email was: “I got some things that I think are Blueprint-level, [Jay-Z’s widely acclaimed 2001 album]. I know that’s a lot to say, but we need to do this.” And from there, I literally probably gave him three to five new ideas every day for a nice amount of time.

RS: At what point in the improvement process did you feel like you were ready to take the music to Jay-Z?
No I.D.: I humbly studied and read. I went to people from my friend Adrian Younge to Puff [Daddy] and Dr. Dre. The thing that was holding me was reading a lot of Quincy Jones’ story and his words. He was an incredible producer and musician for so many years but people didn’t really give him full credit because he was in jazz. I understand that feeling. At a certain point, I remember reading that he took some years in his forties to go out and get better. That resonated at this point in my career.

RS: When you and Jay-Z started working on this, was it clear that it was going to be an album and just you two working on it? He’s never made an album with just one producer.
No I.D.: 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. It only came about me doing the whole album because the scoring part of the story started getting so specific that no one else knew how to do the music that fit what was going on. That just happened by default. Half of this album we credited him as co-producer on. At a point, I said, “Man, make me a playlist of songs you like. Where’s your taste at right now?” And there’s a value in a one-producer album. Most of the greatest albums in the history of music are one producer. It’s just a fact. Or one collective.

RS: So that playlist you asked him to make gave you a sense of what he wanted to say?
No I.D.: That came from conversation. I would go by his house with my laptop. Once I showed him I had enough ideas, then it became about conversation. We would sit and talk for hours about life and different things. That would allow him to unlock these ideas and truths that he wanted to share but maybe didn’t get to talk ’em out. A lot of it was talking early on at his house. We created some music at his house. After a while, I think B[eyoncé] wanted to use the room they use as a studio so that led to him coming by my place. But at this point, we had discussed no business. We were just creating music.

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