You may not be familiar with the face of Toronto native Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels, but you without a doubt know all about the stellar soundscapes he’s created for superstars like Lil Wayne, Eminem, and most notably Drake since stepping into the role of hitmaker-for-hire to Hip Hop’s heavyweights following Aubrey Graham’s ascension to platinum-plus status.
Now at the behest of HipHopDX’s Guest Editor for this week, Game, the humble, soft-spoken 24-year-old music prodigy is making his formal introduction to the DX audience.
In his first Q&A with the site, 1da discusses the difficulties in impressing Dr. Dre, why he’s not impressed by the backlash to Drake’s new single, and why he’s not always impressed with the song selections of the artist’s he creates for.
Boi-1da Breaks Down Contributions To Game’s R.E.D. Album
HipHopDX: Critics are everywhere, and I’m sure you know there were some folks who weren’t feeling the smoother selections in the third quarter of Game’s new album, including the song you produced, “All I Know.” Did you purposefully make the drums harder to contrast the more mellow melody of that track?
Boi-1da: Yeah, definitely. It sounds kinda like almost Gospel-ly in a way, so I was definitely trying to come with that sound. It’s something where we did it and my boy, Luu [Breeze], did the hook on it at the same time. So, we were definitely trying to come with a sound that was still the hard-knockin’ but it still had that emotion to it. ‘Cause the content of the record is … about the pain. So, it was a nice little contrast to it.
DX: In my opinion Game shoulda kept one of your other productions, “Monsters In My Head”, for his album.
Boi-1da: Yeah, that was a dope one. But … ya know, I don’t pick songs to go on the album. Everybody picks the beats that they want. Like, in a perfect world I would pick the beat I wanted to go on the album. But, I like that [“All I Know”] beat a lot, it was good.
DX: Is that something you wanna try to do more going forward, is try to make it so you can be in-studio more with these artists instead of being in the submitting tracks phase?
Boi-1da: I played that one for Game in-studio. So, I mean, I like that track a lot. And Game did well on the track; he snapped. … But like, you can’t really make somebody like something, you gotta just let ‘em hear something that they wanna do. You can’t just make ‘em do something that you want all the time. It doesn’t always work like that. They just like what they like and you just gotta deal with it.
DX: The real first question I have for you is … do you plan on sampling any more soap operas after the Das Racist joint? [Laughs]
Boi-1da: [Laughs] Um … yeah, but I don’t know, they might not make it on nobody’s album ‘cause nobody wants to clear a soap opera sample.
DX: While we’re speaking on sampling, what was the end result of the lawsuit over “Best I Ever Had”? Did Hugh Hefner take all the publishing for that joint?
Boi-1da: To be honest, I don’t know anything about that. I think they settled something; I don’t know. I really don’t know anything about that. That was like … some other shit.
DX: Has the bullshit of the business soured you at all on sampling?
Boi-1da: Yeah, for sure. Like, I don’t wanna sample anything. [Laughs] ‘Cause sampling, it’s just … it’s a lot of trouble. So, I’d rather not sample anything. I’d rather do everything original than have to clear a sample, because yeah, it’s rather difficult.
DX: What is your current methodology to making a beat? I mean, since you’re not listening to old records I presume, are you just jumping on the keys and messing around until you find something or ..?
Boi-1da: Yeah, pretty much. A way I do it too is I like to work with other producers and other people that know how to play the piano. I’ll just have somebody sitting there, playing the piano until I hear something … let them lay something down, and then I just keep constantly building over it and – You know, the process is different every time I’m doing beats. So it could start any other way as well. Like, I could be doing something and then just add something else over top of it. So it’s different every time.
DX: I did some interviews for the old Scratch magazine, and we had to ask each producer what equipment they were using. So let’s take it back to the Scratch days and get a quick rundown of your tools of the trade.
Boi-1da: I use a MusicXPC laptop – it’s built specifically for just music. And the program that I use to make beats is FL Studio 9. My setup is pretty simple: it’s just a laptop, FL Studio 9, a hard drive with all my sounds on it, and just a Fireface USB external sound card. … And a MIDI keyboard.
DX: No MPC?
Boi-1da: Nah, a MPC is old school. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] You talked a little bit about this earlier: all of your credits on Discogs.com have co-producer’s listed. Is that ‘cause you work with a lot of other cats, or is that ‘cause other cats are taking credit they really shouldn’t be?
Boi-1da: No, I have a lot of producers that I work with. And, not everything has other people’s [involvement]. There’s some stuff I do by myself. But, it’s more fun when you’re with another person doing a beat, and you have like a different opinion sometimes. And I like to give people – Some producers don’t give credit for other people who played keys on their beats, but I always do. I make sure whoever I work with gets their credit. Your favorite producers work with other producers. But sometimes people don’t get credit. And I make sure anybody who I work with gets credit on everything. … I would hate to be a person that helped somebody make a beat and your name is not even on it. That would just suck.
Boi-1da Talks Meeting And Getting Advice From Dr. Dre
DX: Switching gears here, do you know if Dr. Dre has re-corded to any of your tracks since “Set It Off”?
Boi-1da: Um … to be honest, I’m not sure. He could of, but none that I know about.
DX: Have you gotten a chance to actually be in-studio with Dre or Eminem yet?
Boi-1da: Yeah, I been in the studio with [Dr.] Dre before – not with Eminem yet. I met Eminem a few times, but I haven’t been in the studio with him working just yet.
DX: Were you actually in the studio working with Dre or was that just sort of a meeting?
Boi-1da: The very first time was a meeting, where it was the first time I met him. And the other time I was actually playing him some records. It was just a crazy experience in all.
DX: What was Dre’s feedback? Did he say much?
Boi-1da: I mean, he liked the stuff. But like, a lot of it – He’s very particular, and he wants what he wants. So, I mean, he liked the stuff that I was playing, but a lot of it he said it wasn’t for him. And just one of them he really liked. He’s definitely hard to please. But he’s one of the greatest producers of all time, and he’s probably heard it all so …
DX: That still must’ve been surreal though: that you’re still technically in the early stages of your career and you’re already playing shit for Dre.
Boi-1da: Yeah, man, it really was. ‘Cause Dre’s my favorite producer; he inspired me to start doing what I was doing. So when I was in there with him it was almost like at some points – Like, he was so cool, so normal and down to earth that when he would say something to me I would just … sometimes it was hard to respond ‘cause I’m just like in shock still that I’m actually sitting in a room with Dr. Dre.
DX: I mentioned Em. I thought after “Forever” we were gonna hear Em on some hard, crunchy shit, but then y’all came with “Not Afraid”. Was that symphonic sound something you created specifically for him?
Boi-1da: Yeah. I was making that beat in the mindset of either Em or Drake. It sounded like either of them could’ve went on that. So that was where my mindset was when I did that one.
DX: And, I understand Em recorded to it immediately?
Boi-1da: Yeah, he did. I had sent over that and a bunch of other beats …. I ended up getting two on the Recovery album, which was a song called “Seduction” and “Not Afraid.” He took both of those beats when I sent that batch.
DX: Have you submitted anything new to Em of late?
Boi-1da: Oh yeah, we got some new stuff coming up. But I’m not gonna talk too much about it. I’m just gonna say we got some stuff coming up, ‘cause I don’t wanna get in trouble.
Boi-1da Talks About Working With Drake On Take Care
DX: I know you can get in trouble with the Aftermath camp but can you reveal who else you’ve been submitting tracks to of late?
Boi-1da: I’ve been working on Drake’s second album, Take Care. The shit sounds amazing. I’ve also been working on … I did a track with 50 Cent. I got like a lot of stuff, and every time somebody asks me this question I freeze up. Busta Rhymes, I got a couple of tracks for his new album. Um … a lot of people, I just, I don’t know why I can’t remember right now.
DX: Have you submitted any more tracks to Big Boi or Andre 3000 after Jive Records blocked “Lookin’ For Ya” from being on Big Boi’s last album?
Boi-1da: I’ve talked to Big Boi sometimes on Twitter, and I’m gonna send him a few more beats. But yeah, that was a great song and I wish it would’ve made the album ….
DX: Switching gears again, Drake said “Headlines” is “by no means … the best song on my album.” So what is the best song on Take Care?
Boi-1da: He got like a lot of good songs on the album. “Headlines” is a dope record. And, it does what it does. Some people like it, some people don’t. … It’s a fun song; it’s catchy. It goes hard. But Drake has a lot of songs on his album that are spectacular ….