Let’s start with the roster of talent, which is dizzyingly diverse to say the least. Indeed, producer Salaam Remi’s first full-length solo album One: In The Chamber mirrors the eclectic career of the Grammy-winning studio visionary who has worked with everyone from the Fugees and Nas to the late Amy Winehouse and Beenie Man. Set for release Sept. 30, the ambitious project features, among others, R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, American Idol favorite Jordin Sparks, songstress Corinne Bailey Rae, and artist/producer/mogul Akon. And Remi wouldn’t have it any other way. VIBE caught up with the respected conductor and Louder Than Life label head to discuss why he finally decided to take the solo spotlight, his inspiration behind One: In The Chamber, covering The Beatles and his future with Nas.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: How did the One: In the Chamber project come together? Was it just as simple as opening up your extensive Rolodex and calling a few of your friends?
Salaam Remi: I guess it’s the culmination of several years of working. As far as overall, I started experimenting a lot with an orchestra. During my first trip to Prague I actually recorded a bunch of tracks with orchestras for a project called Prague Nosis. Those instrumental tracks I did became Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” and “Lions, Tigers & Bears,” Black Bond,” off of Nas last album (Life Is Good), and an assortment of other records. Then I had the idea to take some of those songs and do vocal versions, and that was it. I started incorporating orchestras to a lot of records I did such as Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream to Usher. I did a song with Akon called “One In The Chamber” and I decided that’s what I was going to name my first album.
There are some interesting collaborations on this album. But the one that really stands out is your work with Stephen Marley for the Beatles cover “Eleanor Rigby.” Why this particular song from such a vast, classic musical catalogue?
Once again, I was playing around with orchestras. I decided to cut “Eleanor Rigby,” which had all strings on the original. But I cut it all up so it had a ska bounce to it. So when I cut it I thought of Stephen for the vocals. He and I are like family. He lives in Miami, so I went back to his house like, “Yo, can you do me this favor? Can you sing on this song?” But most of the things that I’ve done happen with just someone coming by and me asking them, “Hey, you got a vocal for this?” [One: In The Chamber] feels like the experience in a day of what I really listen to. This is another side of the music that I love.
You also worked with Ne-Yo on One: In The Chamber, right?
Well, I’ve worked on songs for Ne-Yo’s last two albums. He heard one of the songs I did for Prague Nosis. And Ne-Yo heard it and he just wrote some lyrics (“Everything I Need”). After I sat back and listened to it, I put the rest of the rhythm section to it and made an entire song around it.
You’ve had a long and successful career. It doesn’t seem like you have much to prove. What do you hope to achieve with this project?
I don’t think there is anything I have to prove. It’s just more or less about enjoying music. I’m a person where a lot of times things [that I produce] may be too musical…it may not fit on other artist’s albums. But my area is creating music that is musically progressive and just feels good. If I can continue to put out music that allows people to feel the same way I feel…just transmitting that emotion, that’s great. It’s like, I got a good song…you don’t mind? Okay, here it goes.
Arguably your most celebrated collaborations have been with Nas. Are we going to hear your production on the next Esco album?
I haven’t actually worked on Nas’ album like I’ve done in the past. My main thing is I have Mack Wilds (a.k.a. the R&B/hip-hop alter ego of actor and budding artist Tristan Wilds), who is the first artist on my label with Sony. That’s going on to be out next week and I produced almost everything on that album. There’s a lot of new things that’s coming out. I’m also working with Jazmine Sullivan, Jennifer Hudson and a lot of new artists. I’m all about breaking new artists…that’s my lane.