No I.D. On Scoring The Sound Of JAY-Z’s Vulnerability: “We Both Were Doing A Labor Of Love”

Hip-hop luminary and Brooklyn’s own JAY-Z released his 13th album via TIDAL late last week. The studio project, a 10-track offering that touches on slavery, black entrepreneurship and intergenerational conflict in music among other topics, also served as a stage for Hov to issue his long-awaited “Lemonade response.” The latter emerged an apology to his wife Beyoncé for his infidelity.

The 10-track LP absorbs much of its beat wizardry from No I.D., the sole producer of 4:44 next to Shawn Carter himself. In a revealing sit-down with Rolling Stone, No I.D. details their now-celebrated collaboration, along with intel on how they got together, pushing Jay to open up like never before, and why the concise tracklist, alluding “more’s on the way.” Below are telling snippets from their conversation.


On being the sole producer of JAY-Z’s ‘4:44′
Part of my growth as a producer was not just about making beats but also helping in the process of inspiring the song and making the song the center. This album is about Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, opening up, and me scoring that. It only came about me doing the whole album because the scoring part of the story started getting so specific that no one else knew how to do the music that fit what was going on. That just happened by default. Half of this album we credited him as co-producer on. At a point, I said, ‘Man, make me a playlist of songs you like. Where’s your taste at right now?’ And there’s a value in a one-producer album. Most of the greatest albums in the history of music are one producer. It’s just a fact. Or one collective.

On encouraging vulnerability
I knew he wanted to [say those things]. I don’t want to take credit for what he wanted to do in the first place. I helped push him by saying, ‘Hey, this is what you said, this is what we know. And I don’t think people need to hear it. I think people need to hear what they don’t know.’ Meaning: You wanted a Picasso, but why? You’re with Beyoncé, but what is that really like? What’s the pressure? What’s the responsibility? What’s the ups and downs? I wanted him to not be over people’s heads.

READ: JAY-Z Is Turning A Lens On The Legacy Of Slavery In “The Story Of O.J.” (Watch)

On trusting each other as artists
By this time, we had established the relationship of trust and knowing that what we both were doing was a labor of love. It was at a pure point. He knew what I was saying by playing it. And I knew that it would help him as a human to say it and get it over with and get it out of your system.

On recording the album title track “4:44″
He recorded it at his house with nobody around – on [Beyoncé’s] mic. I’ll let him tell the rest of the story. But I remember Guru brings it back and he does this little thing, walks in the room and doesn’t say anything. He stops everything, presses play, and walks out the room. I go, let me go find my wife and give her a hug. Walk down the street and hold hands. It’s a lot.

On album length and other tracks
There’s three more songs that are coming out as bonuses. James Blake came in and joined into the process. There’s more coming shortly that’s equally as revealing.

Read the interview in full here.

Tags: 4:44, Jay-Z, No I.D.