Jay-Z’s stellar ‘4:44’ album is here! Rolling Stone had an exclusive interview with the albums Executive producer No I.D. to get some insight on what the process was like crafting this album.
The album right now is the new hot topic of all media outlets and rightfully so, since this is possibly Jay-Z’s most honest body of work top date. The producer behind every track is music veteran and Kanye West mentor No I.D. Read some of his interview below.
How did you first start working on 4:44?
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.
So you gently pushed him towards the personal parts of the record?
I knew he wanted to [say those things]. I don’t want to take credit for what he wanted to do in the first place. I helped push him by saying, “Hey, this is what you said, this is what we know. And I don’t think people need to hear it. I think people need to hear what they don’t know.” Meaning: You wanted a Picasso, but why? You’re with Beyoncé, but what is that really like? What’s the pressure? What’s the responsibility? What’s the ups and downs? I wanted him to not be over people’s heads.
I knew as a human being we all have these things and we never really want to tell the truth because we’re supermen – in our own eyes – to the people we want to love us. It was just a nudge. “Hey man, I’m going to push you to say it.”
Even the song “4:44,” Guru [longtime Jay-Z associate Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton recorded most of 4:44] had told me [Jay-Z] had the idea of writing a song like that. So I went and made a piece of music that would box him in to telling that story. I remember [Jay-Z] just looking at me, sighing. “O.K., I’m going home.” True story, at 4:44 he wakes up in the morning and writes that song. He hits me a little bit after. It’s literally the way a producer and an artist should work – nudging and pushing, creating boundaries and allowing him to be the center.
What was it like to hear him record that song? No one’s ever heard Jay-Z in that way before.
He recorded it at his house with nobody around – on [Beyoncé’s] mic. I’ll let him tell the rest of the story. But I remember Guru brings it back and he does this little thing, walks in the room and doesn’t say anything. He stops everything, presses play, and walks out the room. I go, let me go find my wife and give her a hug. Walk down the street and hold hands. It’s a lot.
Read the full interview here