June 25, 2009
By Kiko Michaels
In the music business few are able to have careers that span 2 years, let alone 20 years. Super producer NO ID is a rarity in the music industry. With a career that has outlasted many of the different phases of hip hop, this Chicago bred music crafter’s contribution to music is hard to describe with just words. Aside from mentoring a young Kanye West, he has produced hits for such mega-stars as Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, and Janet Jackson.
Several weeks ago a new Jay-Z record surfaced on internet blog sites everywhere. The title of this record was “Death of The Autotune” and it was produced by none other than No ID himself, a longtime collaborator of Jay-Z’s. The title alone had people everywhere curious and after listening to the record, one could not help but ask questions. Fortunately NO ID has answers.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about the D.O.A record, the Jay-Z record that everyone is talking about. What was the thought process behind the record? How did it come together?
NO ID: Actually we were all in Hawaii. It’s actually a pretty good story. There was a debate going on in the studio and some of the main components were Timbaland, Kanye, Jay, Guru, Don Chi, I was in there, and some others and there was a Dj in there. And we were just going over all the records and talking about the sonic direction of the project. And somehow it got to one of the Dj’s saying that Jay needed a record that can hit the kids like Soulja Boy does. And the conversation went a little further and then Don Chi was like..I don’t know about that. And Jay was even like he didn’t know about that. And in that climate I had that beat in my computer unfinished. So I just put my headphones on during the conversation and I finished making it. Then after awhile Kanye was like play what you got in your computer right there. So I played it and then he immediately walked over to Jay and gave him the concept and the chorus. And that’s pretty much exactly how it came about. He was like this song right here should be like dissing everything that is not real. Then Jay took it home that night and the next morning he had the song laid.
AllHipHop.com: It seems everyone has their own opinion about who they think he is going at or if he going at anybody. What do you think?
NO ID: I don’t think he’s going at anybody. I feel like when you really listen to the whole song, there are a lot of things he talks about in the song that don’t have nothing to do with autotune but its just themed “Death of the Autotune”. I would more so look at it as if he’s just taking a position that comes up every so often. The same position that maybe 50 Cent took when Ja Rule was making a lot of commercial music or throughout history its been times where certain aspects get attacked but it really just represents getting back in control and making music and trying to be dope and not just trying to sell records and be popular by imitating what’s selling. That’s my opinion of the record. Everyone else can take the “autotune” theme and run with it, but I look at hip-hop as the pursuit of dopeness. And when you get outside of trying to be dope and you are trying to make money only…that’s the thing he attacks in this whole song. Dealing with the way you dress, the way you act, and the final blow is to the autotune. I don’t really look at it like its coming at one person. I see it as him coming at all the things that he feels like are not pursuing dopeness.
AllHipHop.com: So you see the record as more of a general statement? Kind of like how Nas came out with Hip-Hop Is Dead?
NO ID: Exactly. Same exact underlying point. Except Jay honed in on something that everybody is doing. Hip Hop Is Dead was like a broad statement that didn’t exactly hone in on what people were doing at that time. That’s not an attack on individuals per say in my eyes. Its an attack on the idea of “Is it cool to just do anything if it sells?”. Is it cool to just say anything if it sells? Is it free reign to just say anything and nobody’s supposed to say nothing because it works? I think he was just like I don’t care if it works, this needs to stop.
AllHipHop.com: This record really kick started the anticipation for Jay’s next album. Do you feel like this record represents where Jay is as an artist right now?
NO ID: I think at this moment. That’s where he is,but I also think he’s in a lot of places. And I feel like even up to this every minute he’s still recording and getting everything out of his mind. To try to box Jay into just one record is hard because he has way more depth to him as a person and as an artist. But I know he definitely felt like he had some things he needed to get off his chest. Even with the Soulja Boy thing. He was like “Yo What’s going on?” Why are you mentioning Jay in that light? “Like if BIG was here do you think he’d be cool with me trying to make a record for that crowd? Not to diss Soulja Boy or nothing because personally I like Soulja Boy. But I don’t want to see Jay do a record to try to get his crowd.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been around for a minute and seen the different phases in rap kind of come and go.What do you think about the state of Hip-Hop right now and some of the things jay touched on in the record?
NO ID: I like it because for me rap is a contact sport. This is what it needs. It needs different opinions and different views. Like if I was an autotune rapper right now, I would jut go and try to kill the game with autotune. There’s no era or theory that embodies hip-hop more than another. Its about whoever wants to be dope and take it there. I like Hip-Hop right now because its wide open. Its a lot of space with the internet and dwindling amounts of record deals. Its getting back to where it was when I came in and it was like special to have a record deal. If you come out now its like you are doing something right. It got to a point where anybody could get a record deal and anybody could put a record out and move some units. I love whats going on right now because even the stuff I personally don’t like, it motivates me. I’m a fan of the music. I have 60,000 songs in my itunes and I’ve seen all of this happen before. My first record was in 92. I’ve seen these cycles occur in different ways. I’ve seen Big Daddy Kane dancing and being tough and dropping knowledge and I feel like we are putting the cap on this too much. I’ve seen Big Daddy Kane singing but still murdering people on the mic. It really just needs to get back to people being as dope as they can be without caring what people say.
AllHipHop.com: A little while ago Soulja Boy came under fire from Ice-T because he felt as though Soulja Boy was not living up to what Hip-Hop was “mean to be”. And other rappers have also been attacked by some of the older figures in hip hop for pretty much the same thing. What are your thoughts on that?
NO ID: I feel like I understand both sides. You can’t make somebody who wasn’t even born in that era stand up for what we know from being there. I’m sure Kurtis Blow and Melle Mel felt like people in the 80’s weren’t keeping it real because they weren’t in the park. Then people in the 80’s felt like people in the 90’s who were sampling weren’t keeping it real. Its always been this way. So when older cats say what they say, its valid. But younger cats only know what they come up in. So if you come up in something and this is what you’ve embraced and you don’t necessary know the full history, there’s really no way to learn without somebody putting you up on it. There’s a lot of people from my era who are stuck in what they did that they can’t make relevant records now.
AllHipHop.com: Musically what artists excite you right now? Or does anything excite you?
NO ID: In Hip-Hop I like what Drake is doing. But I really listen to a lot of old music because I really don’t like the way people put their albums together anymore. They put so many different producers on it that it just sounds like compilations to me. I like albums that really have one sound and one sonic direction and one purpose that why I really like most of the Kanye albums because they make sense when I play them all the way through.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you see music going from here in terms of the sound and the business end of it?
NO ID: It will probably just follow the cycle. It will eventually leave out of the dance music and pop/rock sound and head back in a soulful direction. And then go right back through the stages. Even in the 70’s it went from Soul to disco to pop/rock in the 80’s then it went through those cycles in hip-hop. It was soulful then Puff came. And honestly one of the reasons I started working heavily with Kanye on production is because I had a vision to put together like a real good team affect where music is going to go rather than predicting or watching. So we are in the final stages of finalizing me playing a heavier role in GOOD MUSIC to take some of the pressure off of him and also helping him develop a good sound and a label from what he already had. Going back in with Common and maybe John Legend and all the other artists and just get some new energy and hopefully that will be apart of where it goes. But music is really just going to go wherever the leaders take it. And right now I think the DOA record has some of the leaders re-thinking where they want to take it. Or maybe not. Maybe they just want to keep taking it where it’s going. I mean, I like what T-Pain did. But the question is after he heard DOA what does he want to do now?
AllHipHop.com: So 30 or 40 years from now if someone had to come up with one word to describe your body of work and your contribution to music, what would you want that one word to be?
NO ID: Consistency.