Producer J. Reid Talks Creating Nicki Minaj's 'Barbie Tingz,' 'Chun Li' And Overnight Success
Nicki Minaj came back in full force last week with the release of her newest tracks "Barbie Tingz" and "Chun Li." Barbz everywhere were getting their life, and music fiends couldn't get enough of the intoxicating beats the songs encapsulate.
The production was done by a seemingly unknown producer named J. Reid. The Decatur, Ga. native, who goes by the nickname #Chevi "now and forever," has worked with musicians ranging from Boosie Badazz ("Show Tha World") to Lloyd ("Holding," "Heavenly Body"). His classic boom-bap style featured on "Barbie Tingz" made the 31-year-old the name on everybody's lips.
VIBE was able to get in touch with the producer to pick his brain about Her Minajesty's return to the scene, his ability to incorporate the 80's style boom-baps in his productions, and what's next for him now that there's a name behind the beats.
VIBE: When did your interest in production begin? What sparked it?
J.Reid: My interest in production began in the ninth grade. I'd already been in band from sixth to eighth grade, but always had an interest in creating music.
A memory of Swizz Beatz on MTV Cribs really sparked my attention. He walked through the house of course, but what caught my eye was the Ferrari in the garage, with the license plate that said, "Beats Paid 4 It!" It was the first time that I saw a producer being displayed as a rap artist. Plus, he was doing something he enjoyed and getting paid a lot of money for doing it.
How did you first get in touch with Nicki Minaj? How did this link-up turn into a working relationship?
One of my artists that I work with named "Brinx Billions" introduced me to Nicki. He did a record with her and it was so dope, and he told me that she wanted me to fly to Miami. When I met her, she said, “I love your music...you're talented!" She told me that she was putting a label together and wanted me to be one of the first producers she signed. The first songs we ever fully recorded and put out are "Barbie Tingz" and "Chun Li."
What sound was Nicki going for when she approached you for the new songs?
The "OG Nicki" really wanted a boom-bap feel... that was up-tempo but also that had no samples. Very difficult compilation of ideas.
What techniques did you use to make sure the beats were distinct from one another?
Well, it's not too much of a thought process that went into it. Nicki rapped four bars of her verse. At that point, I understood the wave she was trying to create. I went to the adjacent studio and pushed out 15 beats in about 10 hours.
What makes a J. Reid beat stand out from other producers in the game?
One distinct element that will always be consistent in all J. Reid/ Chevi tracks is music theory. My melodies will make sense, the 808s will hit hard, and if I'm creating with an artist, I promise to make he/she an original sound that no one can clone.
There's a very distinct NYC flavor in these tracks, however, you're from the South. What separates boom-bap from the trap-heavy stylings of Atlanta?
Well, trap is heavy bass and melodies, and boom-bap is more samples and percussion heavy. The great part about that is I do both well, so I sat in the room and cooked up 15 different vibes, but [the tracks had] the same concept of what I was aiming for.
Do you have any NYC producers, NYC rappers, or an era of rap that inspired this sound?
The changes and breaks remind me of early 80's hip-hop, but the speed and tempo she raps to on "Chun Li" kind of gives me a HOV feel.
You've definitely gotten a lot of recognition after the tracks released. How does it feel to have all these eyes and ears on your work, seemingly overnight?
It feels great but it's almost like I was prepared for this moment. My heart definitely jumped when I got 9,000 followers on Instagram and about 2,000 on Twitter from all over the world, in five days. But I'm definitely working behind the scenes to make sure I don't miss a beat, which includes waking up every day at 7 a.m. since the songs dropped, and interacting with fans and answering questions, just to bring the people along the journey that they helped create.
What type of worker is Nicki in the studio? Hands-on? Collaborative? Dominating?
All those descriptions fit her! Nicki's hands-on because she arranges her vocals with the help of Big Juice, her engineer. She's collaborative because she asks for opinions, and obviously, we created those two songs from scratch, and the hooks were ready both times.
She dominates because she doesn't play about her music. I remember when I first started on the boom-bap beats, and I was doing too much. She said, 'Sounds like you're having a little trouble making the simple boom-bap beats.' Ten hours later, we recorded the reference to "Barbie Tingz." She pulled my talent out more by challenging me, something every producer doesn't have the confidence for. I was not about to leave California without giving her the perfect beat.
Is this the last we'll be hearing from you and Nicki?
I'm currently signed to Nicki and her surprise label imprint. All I can say is what she said in the Beats 1 interview. This will be her biggest project...no cap!
Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the sounds, songs, and vibes of Nicki's upcoming album?
Now if I told you that, Roman would literally come out...and the lawyers too. So just be patient with us and I promise you guys won't be disappointed!
When I tell you, @nickiminaj is an amazing person, her attitude and ambition are unmatched. We definitely celebrate all female hip hop artist. But from what I remember, when “Pink Friday” Dropped in 2010, that changed the game and was an innovative time for female hip hop artist. In a time where she stood alone, She literally paved the way. Let’s continue to celebrate her👑👑👑👑As you guys have seen and heard, She has completely changed my life for the better. Made this producer from Decatur, Ga a worldwide sensation in 3 days. Now let’s count on 1 hand and see how many people have done that for the underdog! #AHTQ 🔱🔱👑👑👑#jreidtheproducer @nickiminaj Tag her 🖖🏾🖖🏾🖖🏾🖖🏾🖖🏾🖖🏾🖖🏾