Eminem’s Kamikaze album was the true definition of a surprise release. It even surprised some of the people who helped make it, such as acclaimed producer S1.
The Grammy Award-winner (and co-producer of Kanye West’s legacy single “Power”) was behind two of the beats on Slim Shady’s new LP, yet the Texas native found out it dropped when everyone else did. The placements were just the latest in a busy year for the skilled producer, who played a pivotal role in Royce Da 5’9’s Book Of Ryan and contributed beats to albums from the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Xan.
On the heels of such a big release, HipHopDX caught up with S1 to discuss how his work on Kamikaze came to be. The Strange Fruit Project co-founder elaborated on the supergroup he’s spearheading with Black Thought, Phonte and Rhymefest as well as revealing major plans for the immediate future.
HipHopDX: To start off, I just wanted to get some background on how you first started working with Eminem. I know you were on The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Can you tell me about how you first connected with him?
S1: Well, the first song that I ever did that had Marshall on it was 50 Cent’s “My Life.” It was featuring Eminem and Adam Levine, so that was the first song I actually did with him. I guess, the first one of his songs that I actually did was the “Bad Guy” joint that I co-produced on MM LP 2 and that was just from me working with Royce Da 5’9, my man Denaun Porter and then also with Paul Rosenberg and Tracy McNew over at Shady Records.
DX: For this new album, obviously it came out of nowhere for everybody. When did you first start hitting the studio with him or send him any beats?
S1: Well, I was sending him stuff during the last album. I was sending him something for that, but I didn’t make the album, so I had already told myself that I didn’t know when he was gonna release his next one. But that was one of the goals I set was I have to make the next Eminem album.
I put it on my dry erase board and what I would do is just consistently send him beats through Paul and Tracy, just make sure I would consistently send him something and every time I would send him something, they would be like, “Yo, Marshall said hold this one back” or “Marshall said put these two back,” so I would just keep doing that because I knew the more songs I had with him, the more possibility of me getting on the album whenever he dropped it.
DX: As far as that goes, did you hit the studio with him at all or was it just sending beats?
S1: No, I wasn’t in the studio with him. It was just me really just sending records to him.
DX: Got it. At what point did you realize this album was coming so soon?
S1: Well, I knew the album was coming at some point, but I didn’t know it was coming out the day it came out. I literally looked at my social media timeline and I saw somebody’s post say, “The Eminem album is out now.” I said, “What?” I had wind of it because they started asking to do paperwork on some joints and usually during that stage when you start doing paperwork, you know that the album is getting to a closing out point. But as far as the release, I had no idea. They kept that from … I guess they had to keep it really secret so it wouldn’t get out. They didn’t even tell us, the people that were working on the album. They kept it pretty private.
DX: That’s amazing. I wanted to get into the making of these beats. What went into “Normal” and what inspired that production?
S1: “Normal” was actually an idea sent to me from my producer Lonestarr. Then another producer by the name of Swish Allnet, he was part of that idea too. So when I first got the idea, I actually got this idea maybe 10 to 12 months ago, but I always knew it. I had the idea and I was like, “Yo, this idea is gonna be something.” As soon as I got it from my producer Lonestarr, I was like send me the files. I’m gonna mess with this because it’s gonna be something. I just knew.
I had sent it to a couple of people, but they didn’t bite. But I knew that it was gonna cross paths with somebody, and it was gonna become somebody’s song. When I started back shooting joints to Marshall for this album, that was one of the beats that I put in there and he just gravitated towards it.
DX: Nice. You mentioned Lonestarr. I think he’s a bit of a hidden gem out there in the production landscape. Can you detail your connection with him?
S1: Oh, that’s my guy. He’s a super great dude. I’ve been knowing Lonestarr for a minute now, and he was just one of those guys here in Dallas on my radar years ago. What I like to do is, I notice people for their talent, but then I just like to observe them as a person. And he’s a super good dude, just a super good-hearted dude.
It became a time where we were just working a lot together and I was like, “Yo, I want you to be a part of the team.” He was excited about it and soon as he became part of the team, we just went full speed. His first big placement was the Lil Xan album. He had a song called “Saved By The Bell” on that and then this Eminem album a few months later is really his biggest placement to date.
DX: That’s great. Let’s talk about “Nice Guy” because I really like what you did on there. Can you tell me about how that one came to be and what went into your process for it?
S1: Yeah, so “Nice Guy” is a pretty odd story because I like to compose a lot. So, I’ll compose different compositions and I’ll send it to several producers. I happened to send that composition to Fred Ball, who is another incredible producer. I sent that to him, and this was months and months ago, and I didn’t even know he was messing with that. But, he hit me up one day and this might have been a little over a month ago.
He hit me up and he was like, “Yo, Jessie Reyez is loving this song. We did something to this beat that you co-produced with me.” I was like cool. They were like, “The labels want to use it for her album.” Two weeks later passed. He hits me up and he’s like, “Yo, Eminem is on the song.” I guess they had a session with Eminem and played the song and then he grabbed it from her for his album because he liked it so much. It ended up going on his album instead of hers.
DX: Sticking to this Detroit connection, you mentioned working with Royce. Obviously, you were a big part of the Book Of Ryan. Can you tell me about working on that album and what was it inspired those collaborations?
S1: Those are my guys. Royce da 5’9 and Denaun Porter, those are my good friends. I really love working with those guys. I had worked on the previous album [Layers] with Royce and then he had already told me, “My next album, I really want you to be a part of it,” so I wound up executive producing it with him and Denaun Porter. And I co-produced maybe four songs on there with my guy Epikh Pro as well. I would go to Detroit, and we would really just block out. Royce is one of those dudes that doesn’t leave the studio, literally, so when he’s locked into album mode, he stays in the studio and he doesn’t leave.
We were going to the studio, we’d stay all day. We’d leave at night, and he’d still be there recording songs. We were just feeding him songs. Then, we’d get to a point when we had all these songs and it’s like, “What fits the theme of the album?” We would start pulling songs out and be like, “OK, we need another song that fills this slot,” until we got to a great body of work and then that became Book Of Ryan. Also, with the Book Of Ryan, I felt like the “Caterpillar” joint that had Marshall on it was like the warmup for his album because the feedback that people were giving him for how he came on that joint, I think was a warm-up to his album.
DX: Definitely, I agree with that. That got the juices flowing.
S1: Yeah, it got the juices flowing. People started talking again, like, “Oh, he’s spitting on this.”
DX: I think to point to your versatility, you also ended up on the Lil Uzi Vert album. Can you tell me how you connected with Uzi and how that track came together?
S1: With that particular joint, I co-produced a song with TM88 on that album, and it’s just by me and TM88 working on a lot of songs together. So, we have these songs and they just wind up ending up on certain rappers’ or singers’ albums.
DX: Talk to me about the chemistry that you’ve built with TM88. He’s huge right now. What’s that process like with y’all collaborating?
S1: It’s a cool process. He’ll hit me up and see if I have something new or I’ll just send him something new. With him, we’ll just bounce ideas back and forth too. I’ll send him compositions, then he’ll do stuff with that, send it back to me and we just keep that creative flow going. That’s how we keep our creative flow going, just bouncing ideas back and forth off each other.
DX: I’ve always been a big Strange Fruit Project and love hearing you handle an entire album. Is there anything like that in the pipeline, anything that you’ve got your hands on for the entire LP?
S1: Yeah, I executive produced this artist by the name of Jagwar Twin that’s coming out later this month. Man, it’s a really dope body of work, so I’m super excited about that. And what else am I executive producing? Oh, I’m also the executive producer— so Black Thought, Phonte of Little Brother and Rhymefest have a group project.
DX: Oh, wow.
S1: Yeah! So, we’ve been knocking out songs for that as well. I’m excited about that. Really dope stuff. What else? I got a lot going on. I would say those are the two as far as just overseeing. Those are probably the two main projects that I’m super excited about, minus just working sporadically with a bunch of different other artists.
DX: Absolutely. Man, that’s an amazing trio right there.
S1: It’s amazing, bro. Every last one of them is on top of their game.
S1: Yeah, it’s so dope. We’re just making great music. We’re not trying to cater to anybody specifically. It’s just bring dope beats, dope rhymes, dope concepts, and then we’re putting it together.
DX: Can you tell me how y’all came together?
S1: Yeah, I work with Rhymefest a lot. We did a song with Black Thought that turned into two songs, that turned into four songs. It was like, “Let’s just do an EP.” And then during that process, we had sent a song to Phonte where he was like, “Yo, this is crazy. I want to hop on this.” So, he hopped on it. Wound up hearing another song we did and he was like, “Yo, how can I be a part of this?” He wound up jumping on more songs, so that’s how it came about.
DX: That’s great. I know people are gonna be really excited to hear about that one.
S1: Yeah, it’s gonna be a dope one. It’s really gonna be dope.
DX: You mentioned that you got the Jagwar Twin project coming. Is there anything else, maybe placements you’ve got coming up, that want to make sure fans know about?
S1: Yeah, I got a song on the YBN album. I think it’s coming out Friday (September 7). Me and my guy Epikh Pro produced a song on there. Zhavia, she was one of the big ones on the show The Four, the [DJ] Khaled and Diddy show. I did some records with her. She has an EP coming out that I produced a couple songs on.
What else we got? MØ. I don’t know if you heard of MØ before, but she works in the pop world. She works a lot with Diplo. I got songs with her. Yeah, just a whole bunch of stuff. I’m super excited about the rest of this year because there’s been so much that I got going on with just different dope artists. Lecrae! I got to do more stuff with Lecrae and Dee-1. Just a whole bunch of artists, man.