A Short Convo With… Tricky Stewart


John Kennedy | December 4, 2009 - 8:45 pm

Though you may not know the face, you definitely know the sound. The-Dream’s other half not named Christina chops it up with VIBE about being a hit factory.

VIBE: I’ve called you and The-Dream the modern day Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Do you personally see yourselves as the top producers of the moment?
Tricky Stewart: I don’t look at it like that. I really, really like what everybody does and I’m really happy about the success that we’re having but I just like even being considered in that company because the one thing about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is that not only did they make hits, but they also made important music.

We don’t see much of you. Do you prefer staying out of the spotlight?
I don’t like the spotlight. I like to let the artist have their shine. I like to get behind the artist and figure out what it is that they want to achieve musically.

Tell me about your working relationship with The-Dream. What percentage of the production do you do? Do you also write?
You know, it’s different. When it first started, it kind of went a certain way and then it evolved. It just depends on the project. Sometimes there may be projects where he’ll get more out in the forefront even on the track side, and there are other ones where I’ll be on the track side but we just get in the room as songwriters and start writing great songs. It’s really a creative process so we don’t really know how it’s gonna happen.

So for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” is there any part of that song that you wrote? Or any song you’ve produced that people would be surprised you wrote a little bit of?
No, the lyrics and melody side, that’s more of what Dream does. That’s his specialty. But at the same time as far as the vocal arrangements… Like, “Single Ladies,” that was a track that I was sitting there doing and by the time I got halfway through the track, he already had a song in his head.

Even the Chipmunks are singing it. I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailer.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard about it. I haven’t seen it. That song is just amazing in the sense that it just keeps on getting bigger. It’s always on CNN–new people trying to figure out how to do the dance–and it just is one of those things that’s a perfect storm. It’s perfectly done.

How did you approach working with Christina Aguilera versus R&B artists?
With Christina it’s a little different, because Christina wants music that you haven’t heard before. She did things that she’s never necessarily heard on the radio. She doesn’t want a record that sounds like anything else so you’re trying to create an entirely new sound for an artist. The three tracks that I did, they’re all uptempo tracks so we definitely kind of get the club moving but it’s just a matter of her doing different styles and using her voice in different ways.

Have you started on The-Dream’s Love King album yet?
We never know because there’s just certain records that are special that we just put to the side because we just know it’s something only he can do. I just know he’s been spending a lot of time by himself just writing but we haven’t officially started on Love King.

Is he still retiring? He said that would be his last album.
[Laughs] You know, I have no idea. That’s my partner, I love him, but I don’t know.

Will there ever be a Dream album that you don’t produce or have any production on?
I don’t think so. We get in the studio and we just have a vibe together. We just have chemistry, so right now everything feels good.

One of the most talked about songs on Love vs. Money was “Fancy.” Can you make a version of that song with the drums in the whole song? They only come in for 10 seconds!
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s the whole point.

Why’d you save the best part for last?
We were creating a suspense record. It wasn’t meant to be a hit. It was meant to be special. You could put the drums in, but if you can captivate your audience for six and a half minutes only having 10 seconds of drums with everything else going on writing-wise, sonically and production-wise, I thought it was a great accomplishment to have a record like that be known as one of the favorite songs off your album.

I thought it was dope–but I wanted more of the drums.
Okay, well I’ll make you a version, how ’bout that?

Yeah, do part two. How exactly did you build the suspense?
There are some things that are coming in and reengaging you whether it’s the live orchestra that’s underneath there or whether it’s effects or whether it’s [Dream] changing the entire way of how he’s singing in the middle of the song and start going fast. It’s just a matter of building it. It’s pretty simple–piano, orchestra, bass and Dream’s voice, which people think are instruments but it’s just actually him doing stuff with his voice.

Can you tell me about the joint venture with Simon Fuller? I know you guys are looking for a young male R&B group.
We’re gonna do a talent search after the first of the year to put together a vocal group like a Boyz II Men or a Jodeci where groups really sang together and everybody had an individual voice in the group. I think that’s a wide-open lane right now. Simon’s obviously had a lot of success with the Spice Girls but this is about his marketing expertise and the music and me handling the content. –Clover Hope