“The two biggest rappers in the world are on a DJ Paul production,” DJ Paul hints on the phone. You can virtually hear his grin from the receiver: not only does he have a beat on what may be arguably the biggest album of the year, Drake's Scorpion, but on one of the biggest songs of the year: “Talk Up,” featuring JAY-Z.
Drake’s love for Memphis, Tenn. has been well-documented, since his father is from there. The Toronto native apparently saw his fifth studio album as a chance to work with the Three 6 Mafia co-founder who he often grew up listening to. The song is further punctuation for a recent year and a half of Three 6 Mafia already making a renewed mark on hip-hop, inspiring songs like Cardi B's "Bickenhead" and Rae Sremmurd's "Powerglide," and having various MCs take on the Who Run It Challenge.
In an exclusive conversation with VIBE, DJ Paul spoke about sacrificing his own first single for Drizzy and how he spoke this JAY-Z collaboration into existence years ago.
VIBE: So how did “Talk Up” come together?
DJ Paul: I’ve been knowing Drake forever. He’s from Memphis, and I’m really cool with his father. Me and his father have the same attorney, we’ve hung out a million times. Real cool dude. We actually wrote a couple of songs together. We ain’t put them out yet, but we dibbled and dabbled with a couple ideas we’re putting together. He hit me up for a beat, which I couldn’t fucking believe. I got the message, and I was like, ‘what? Drake want some beats?’ So he hit me up for a beat, and it was a beat that me and my artist Twhy Exclusive produced. The song was actually my new single. Everybody’s been waiting on me to bring out my new single, but I was like ‘sh**, he can have this motherfu**er. Fu** that.’ Because I’ve got tons of beats, I can do that with my eyes closed. I sent it to him, and he loved it.
Why were you surprised that he reached out?
I’ve been wanting to work with Drake for a while. We hung out a bunch of times, I’ve probably posted maybe five pictures we took together, but we never worked together. He hit me at like four in the morning. That alone was a surprise. I’ve been wanting to work with him for a while, but we never did anything. He’s a fan of my music, I’m a fan of his music. He had my voice on his last album, from a BET skit. He had me on there talking. And on “Look Alive,” he used some lines from us on that song. That’s a song we also spent money off of. I knew he was fu**ing with my stuff, I was fu**ing with his stuff forever. I always thought he was one of the best artists out, so it was perfect.
...I’m glad we did it now instead of earlier, to be honest. Because it probably wouldn’t have been the right song. This song is hard as fu**! Real hard! I went in and I deleted all my Instagram posts, and this was going to be the song I came back with. But nah, he killed that motherfu**er.
So Drake hits you up at 4 a.m. What did he say he was looking for?
He didn’t tell me what he was looking for. He just said, send me some beats. Then I sent him that one. I didn’t even have to send him no other beats. I sent him other ones he’s going to use on his next album probably, but as soon as I sent him that one, he said, “it’s a go. This one is a go.”
Was JAY always going to be on the song, or was he added on later?
He was added on later. … I haven’t even heard it, actually. I’ve heard pieces of it. I’m even excited about what’s about to go down. Drake is secret with it because he can’t release nothing like that. I’ve heard pieces, I haven’t even heard the final final [version].
When did you find out that JAY-Z was on the song?
This morning. You want to hear something funny? You should find this. I just found this out. I didn't even know this, but my artist Lil Wyte called me and said that a long time ago me and Juicy J and Crunchy Black and all of us were on BET's Rap City: Tha Basement. I haven't seen this with my own eyes, maybe you can research it. He found it. He said when I was on The Basement, they asked me what rapper would I ever want to be on one of my beats and I said JAY-Z like 15 years ago, and now JAY-Z is on one of my beats. That's huge. I talked it into existence like 15 years ago. Now I haven’t seen the BET [clip] myself, but he just called me and told me. He called me and he said, 'You said that.' I was like, 'Wow.'
How did you react when you first heard the news this morning?
I fu**ing shi**ed. I couldn't believe it. Two of the biggest artists in the world on one of my tracks, man. I couldn't believe it. It was amazing and Drake hooked it up. I saw a post that 21 Savage did where he was talking about how Drake is the only big rapper that always shows love to other rappers. That's the truth. He really does show love.
You've got an Oscar, you've got this. Where does this moment rank in your career?
We've got American Music Awards. I've got everything except for a Grammy, but I'ma win a Grammy this year. I'ma talk that into existence. I'ma win a Grammy this year.
I'm super excited. This is like the biggest news that I ever dreamed up. A lot of legendary artists always try to run after the young, hottest dude to do something with them. I don't do that. I support them, I buy their music and I f**k with them, I love them. I'm just not the dude just on some like, 'Aye, let's do a song with me' just because you're hot. I'm not that guy. I only f**k with people if I f**k with their music because with me it's deep. If I f**k with your music, then I'll do something with you. I f**k with Drake's music, I love him to death and I f**k with JAY-Z's music. Who doesn't? So this is huge for me because I'm fans of those guys.