Dr. Dre and Timbaland need a hit. Okay, technically they probably each make more than the gross domestic product of a small, Third World country. So, financially, they don’t need a hit. If they both respectively chose to keep endorsing headphones and make songs with Katy Perry, no one would be able to discount their contributions to Hip Hop over the last 20 years. After all, these two were becoming icons when Ice Cube and De’Vante Swing were combing texturizer through their hair. But the competitive aspect of the game demands at least one more classic from each of them to bookend careers that even they would refer to as legendary.

But where does this hit come from? You could make an all-star team from the former Aftermath and Beat Club protégés no longer with Interscope—Bishop Lamont, Obie Trice, Bubba Sparxxx, Miss Jade, Petey Pablo, Bobby Creekwater and Ca$his—to name a few.

Enter one Earl Hayes. Because all throughout Timbaland and Dr. Dre's epic money and hit making run at Interscope, they have never collaborated on a full album together. So they picked Hayes, another Interscope castaway, and decided he would be the one to receive their collective talents. Dre thinks he's dope. Tim says his nasal baritone and storytelling prowess remind him of Biggie. Yet as much as Hayes co-signs his own skills, he says this potentially historic partnership isn't based on his talent. During a rare break from recording with Timbaland on the Shock Value 2 Tour, Hayes explained how he got in the position to do what no one before him has.

On How Detroit Has Influenced His Sound: “My early impressions of life were all based on [living in Detroit], because those were the first things I experienced. On a song like ‘No One Knows,’ that’s talking about how a nigga had to learn to hustle, survive and do for himself. I was forced to learn those things at an early age.

“I listen to a lot of Detroit music. In the city, everybody that got some light inspired me. Them being from the same city was just a positive, because every time another nigga made it, it seemed that much easier to touch for us that was trying to get on. When I was about 12 or 13 I used to run with a couple crews out there. We’d go to clubs and do the battle thing, and that shit was crazy; I was so young they had to sneak me in. I don’t think I went to the famous spots everybody talks about now. Honestly, that was so long ago I can’t even remember what the names of the spots were.”

Lessons Leared From Kayree Of Young Black Brotha Records: “I love Kayree’s hustle—that nigga was independent. He got it poppin’, and he had the [respect] of a lot of the well-known rappers in the Bay Area. He was all about that independence. Nobody is gonna give you anything, and you have to do a lot of the work yourself. Kayree was all about his business. Even if that shit didn’t blow all the way up like he wanted it to, he would still get it out there and make it work for himself.”

Why Jimmy Iovine Won The Bidding War To Sign Him: “I was looking at the influence of Detroit like we talked about earlier. I saw what Eminem did with Dre, and then I saw what 50 [Cent] did with [Dr.] Dre. So I looked behind them and saw that they all did it with Jimmy [Iovine]. So I said, ‘I need to get with Jimmy because he believes in building brands—Aftermath, Shady, G-Unit, Beat Club, Mosely Music Group.’ He gave niggas a shot. I knew I was talented, so I wanted to go over there and get the same opportunity. It didn’t work out like I wanted it to at first, but it’s working out now.”

How To Survive Being Dropped From Your Label:
“I’ve been in so many different situations with labels, that I can figure out what’s happening. I’m smart enough to take what I can from a situation and just keep a positive relationship with everybody. The tables are always turning, and you never know what’s gonna happen in the next six months to a year.

“I got dropped from Interscope. But I was still fucking with Dre. He told me not to worry about it, because he was gonna put together a situation for me. So me and Dre were at Jimmy Iovine’s Grammy party—like the last one he had—shooting craps. So Tim walked in like, ‘What are y’all doing.’ Dre tells him, ‘I’ma do an album on Hayes.’ And Tim tells him, ‘Nah, we gonna do an album on Hayes. That’s my dog.’ And they were both down, so we’ve just been like, ‘Let’s get it.’

“I was just chillin’ with Dre everyday and working with Tim. I never left out of the loop, and there was never no downtime. People want to associate those two events with different times, but we never stopped working together the whole time. I just tried to soak up whatever I could whenever I was around those dudes. They’re both real open as far as schooling me about the music and stuff.”

How A Trip To The Bar Turns Into Checks From HBO:
“I was at a bar drinking with the nigga who gets songs placed on Entourage. He was on the phone trying to get a song placed for the show. He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, Hayes, you wanna get a song on here?’ And we got ‘Damn Fool’ placed on the show. It thought it was amazing what Saigon did on Entourage! He blew up off that.”

His Response To Timbaland Comparing Him To The Notorious B.I.G.: “I can’t even believe it. I don’t even hear niggas comparing other niggas to [Notorious] B.I.G…I don’t know. I just act like I don’t even hear that shit. You know what I’m saying? I don’t know how to take that in. How are you supposed to even respond to that? I was inspired by dude, and to me he’s the greatest. I just try to focus on me, because this is a great situation. What more could you ask for? To just get signed and have Dre and Timbaland working on your album is amazing. It puts the anticipation for you album through the roof off top.”

On Life With Timbaland During The Shock Value 2 Tour:
“The deal is that Dre does half of my album and Tim does the other half. So after shows, Tim is recording tracks with me on the tour bus or we go to the studio and work. I can hit a studio and work until we get to the next city, and we can also lay stuff down in the studio on the bus. I pressed up about 10,000 copies of The 1st 48, and I’m on the road giving out hard copies in every market so the people get to know me as well.”

Changing The Average Listener's Expectations:
“I just want my shit to be a breath of fresh air. People are so used to not having to use their brain. You can sit through a lot of what’s out and not have to listen to any of the words because nobody’s saying anything. I wanna hit people to the point where they go, ‘Whoa, wait a minute! What did that nigga just say? He’s actually saying something to us instead of that same old yadda, yadda, yadda.’ I hope people understand that. I just think you have to catch people off guard and force them to have to listen to it a few times. But I love this.”

Why Interscope's Tendency To Go For The Homerun Doesn't Worry Him: “I think we’ll be just fine with this situation. The whole business is set up on building anticipation. That’s what creates a homerun. You put a little out there for the people, and then they anticipate more. Having Dre and Tim involved in this situation already makes it highly anticipated. It’s a real fresh situation right now, but the more people hear about it, the more we can create a demand and more anticipation for it.

“It should get to the point where it promotes itself, because this is the first situation of its kind. Ever. People are naturally gonna gravitate to it, so I’m sure everything will take care of itself on the homerun tip. I can’t sit here and say, ‘I’m the shit,’ because it’s going down for me. I just say, ‘God is good.’”