One only has to look at Aubrey Drake Graham’s weight class to see how far he has come. In a short period of time he has already reached a stratosphere where he is grouped with heavyweights like Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I., and Lil Wayne. That’s what happens when you nab two Grammy nominations, drop an endless array of hits (”Best I Ever Had,” “Successful,” “Money To Blow,” “Forever,” and “Bedrock”), and sell 500,000 copies of a mixtape (So Far Gone) that had been available for free for six months before you’ve even dropped an album. And for anyone expecting Drake to let up, he already has three top 20 singles with “Over,” “Find Your Love,” and “Miss Me,” from his debut, Thank Me Later, and has many thinking he might match the first-week sales of his mentor, Lil Wayne, who sold a million copies of Tha Carter III two years ago. Complex already brought you Drake’s album preview, and now we sit down with the producers and featured artists who helped make the most anticipated hip-hop debut in years…
Fireworks f/ Alicia Keys
Produced by: Noah “40” Shebib
Co-produced by: Boi-1da and Crada
Noah “40” Shebib: “’Fireworks’ was [made in] October. [Drake’s A&R, Oliver] had made a link with Crada, and was getting records for the album. Crada had a bunch of stuff we really liked. He had this one titled ’Fireworks’ that really caught all our attention. Drake loved it, but he wanted me to rework it. So I took it and reworked it completely from scratch, and at the end I sent it to Boi-1da, who programmed some drums in the verses, and then I mixed it all together. I think the best part about it for us was the instruments that Crada had picked, like the piano. His had a piano off the top and, the sort of core progression is very similar. Also, the title and putting the fireworks in the song. Those are what drove us to Crada’s composition. All the sounds are brand new. Nothing from his original composition is in the record. Every instrument is me. [Crada’s] contribution to the song was from a writing standpoint as far as melodies and from a conceptual point of view. I’m not in the business of stealing people’s songs. That was originally his beat. But, they’re two totally different beats. Completely. In entirety. But, regardless I kept him involved.
“Nothing happens vocally tracking-wise until the music is ready to go. We recorded at Metalworks here in Toronto, which is where we do a lot of work. Most of the time we’re at Metalworks if we’re not at my house or just kickin’ it somewhere else. I think he did the first verse at Nightbird [in Hollywood, Los Angeles] and the last two verses at Metalworks if I’m not mistaken. I pretty much mixed everything ever in Drake’s entire career with the exception of four mixes on this album, which I gave to my mentor and man who taught me how to mix, Gadget. He mixed ’Light Up,’ ’Unforgettable,’ ’Miss Me,’ and ’Shut It Down.’”
Produced by: Francis and The Lights
Noah “40” Shebib: “Francis Starlight, the lead singer from Francis and the Lights, is the one who produced it. I think everyone [in the band] is involved, though. We’ve always been a fan of their music and had a relationship with them. So we got them to send us tracks around Christmas time and we really loved it. So Drake cut it, and I added production and sort of reproduced the first section where Drake rapped. The rest is pretty much as is.”
Produced by: Noah “40” Shebib
Noah “40” Shebib: “1da did some programming for me on that. I probably did that beat maybe a little bit before February/March. I really only make beats for Drake. I worked with Alicia [Keys], but I really only worked with Alicia because me and Drake wanted to work with her. I work with Wayne, but because obviously that’s family. And that was a circumstance where Drake loved [’I’m Single’] and he sent it to him and then Wayne was like, ’Yo, I’m stealin’ this. I’m takin’ this.’ So I’ve worked with a few other people indirectly via Drake, but at the end of the day, he’s really the only person I work with as far as being a producer. Obviously, I have ambitions to work with other people, but at the same time, that’s like my bother as well as a person I’m responsible for with my career so my main focus is his projects and his work. And, we’re probably going to start working on his next album, like, ASAP.
“We sat on ’Resistance’ for a while. There were a couple other beats as well where he was like, ’Maybe I’ll use this one instead, but I gotta rap. I have so much to say…’ Once I’d gotten it back from 1da, getting the hook to knock right with the drum programming and the chorus, then I was like, ’OK, cool. It works. I’m happy with it. Time to record.’
“[Drake sat on the beat] for about a month. As far as him having the beat and loving it and wanting to use it, but not being 100% on the production of it. And, also me just sort of working with it and tweaking it a little bit here and there. If that shit doesn’t sound perfect, there’s no point in him even going to the booth. He’ll leave for a half an hour for me to fix it. He’ll record a chorus and be like, ’Mix it and I’ll record my verses.’ Normally, I’ll mix it and it’ll sound like a million dollars and he goes, ’All right, perfect! That’s how it’s supposed to sound.’ And then he raps. He doesn’t waste very much of his energy. We really only have a couple records that we didn’t put on the album.“
Produced by: Boi-1da
Co-produced by: Al-Khaaliq
Noah “40” Shebib: “We recorded ’Over’ at the Setai hotel in Miami about a week or two before we released it. [Boi-1da] sent it to Drake’s email and Drake was like, ’Yo, what the fuck? This dude is amazing!’ Two days later we just went in the Setai and recorded the shit in one day. Boom. Done. We went to Jamaica shortly thereafter to work. That’s where we recorded ’Karaoke’ at Geejam studios. While we recorded ’Karaoke,’ I mixed ’Over.’ We put it out from Jamaica, if I’m not mistaken. I just added one sound in the chorus and the verse.”
Boi-1da: “That [beat] was actually made in the studio in L.A. My dude Nick Bromgers makes sample-quality music. He’s a genius. That was one of the things he sent me, and I made a beat out of it soon as I heard it. He’s playing all of the things melodically, the entire orchestra was him. I added the bassline. I sample sometimes, but I try not to. It’s better to do it when it’s not a sample. When you sample stuff, the people on the song can sue you for all your money that you make off of the song. Or I work with someone else because you just pay them instead of paying somebody unknown who gets 100% of your song just because you sampled their song.
“I just wanted it to be a huge record for somebody. I knew it was big, it sounded like somebody’s comeback song. The beat sounds like the king has returned to the kingdom. When I made it, I had Jeezy in mind. I think Eminem had the best freestyle on it, [but it] sounds like something Jeezy would kill. But once I made it, Drake had got a whiff of it and he liked it. I sent it to him. When he was done, he hit me up over Skype and played it for me on the video.”
Show Me A Good Time
Produced by: Kanye West
Co-produced by: No ID & Jeff Bhasker
Noah “40” Shebib: “’Show me a Good Time’ was the last record we put on the album. It was like the top of May. We got that beat from [Kanye] when we were in Hawaii before Christmas. We were sitting on it. He knew he was going to use it. He just didn’t cut it because he waited until the very end of his process to do some of the ‘happier,’ if you will, songs. He wanted more of the emotional material out of the way first. Then, he went to that place after. He wanted to do the ’Resistance’ and ’Fireworks’ first. Then he wanted to do ’Miss Me’ and ‘Light Up.’ Then, he wanted to do ’Show me a Good Time’ and ’Up All Night.’ He cut it on the bus in New York. My assistant Noel Cadastre cut the record and sent me the files when I was in Atlanta mixing at Tree Sound Studios. Then I went back to New York for mastering, mixed it at Blast Off studios, and sent it back to ’Ye for approval.”
Up Night All f/ Nicki Minaj
Produced by: Boi-1da
Co-produced by: Matthew Burnett
Boi-1da: “I made that beat when I was out in L.A. I was in Chalice Studios. It was done by me and a producer that I know named Matthew Burnett, who did the string part. I was working on joints for Keri Hilson. She was in the room right next to mine and she would come by and work. We were working with Bei Maejor too. We were there specifically to work on stuff for Keri.
“That was one of the joints I made for her. She said it was dope. She was singing harmonies over it. But you know how they act when they don’t really like a beat. She thought it was cool but was like, ‘It doesn’t fit what I’m trying to do.’ So I threw the beat in the catalog. Drake had asked me for some beats a couple of days after. I ended up sending it to Drake and he was like, ‘Oh I never heard this. I think I’m going to do a record with Nicki on this.’ He took it and killed it.”
Nicki Minaj: “Drake sent his verse and the hook so I just had to fill in the missing piece of the puzzle. I only had one day to get the verse done. Got it at night and played it over and over in the studio, went home, went to bed, woke up, and the verse wrote itself once I started writing it. The beat kinda hypnotized me. Went to the studio, started to record and in a couple takes, it was done. I was in L.A. and Drake was in ATL. I sent it back to him and he hit me right away spazzing out. [Laughs.] He knew the verse within a few minutes. We were both really excited. I stunted hard cause they ‘locked my CEO up.’ [Laughs.] The song speaks about loving your team. I felt unusually proud of my team that night and a very confident spirit took a hold of me. I spoke about ‘buying the president the Louis Presidential briefcase’ ’cause that’s really the last gift I bought Wayne before he went in. I was just talkin’ real shit”
40: “’Up All Night’ was done the second two weeks of Drake’s college tour two months ago. We cut ’Up All Night’ on the studio bus. [Nicki] cut her [verse] in New York and sent it right back. Sometimes we’ll sit on the hook for maybe like a month. We’ll cut the verses and try and find a hook. But usually that doesn’t happen either, to be honest. Usually, things come pretty swiftly.”
Click here to read the rest of The Making of Thank Me Later