To paraphrase Jay-Z, Noah “40” Shebib‘s workflow is foolish. Drake’s silent right hand man in the studio (and life), 40 has built up a resume of hits for Drizzy utilizing a melancholy, synth-heavy sound. From the bulk of So Far Gone to future hits like “Fireworks” and “Unforgettable,” 40 is the quad-core Pentium chip in the Drake machine. VIBE sat down with the Toronto native to talk Kanye bites, the only two other people he would produce for, and Drake’s spoiled ass.—Jerry L. Barrow
You’ve got a pretty simple, but interesting name. What’s the story behind it?
The first major label project I did in Canada was for this artist named Jelly Stone. He was a super gangster rapper up here and those guys didn’t really use government names so I gotta nickname pretty quick. Those guys used to knock out in the studio, wake up at 10 a.m. and [see me] still be working. They’d say “Your work never stops. You work for 40 days and 40 nights.” Plus my name is Noah, like Noah’s Ark so they named me 40.
What do you think makes people so receptive to your signature sound?
There is a secret [to my sound] but I can’t tell you. Nobody’s figured it out. I don’t know why because it’s so simple. There’s only one other person I’ve seen do it with my own eyes and that’s Kanye’s engineer. When I got the “Find Your Love” session I said “Oh shit, you guys do it too?” I hope they don’t think I’m biting them.
Ha! I think that’s the only criticism you ever received when So Far Gone dropped — that it sounded like a bite from 808s & Heartbreak.
There are more similarities between me and ‘Ye on 808s and So Far Gone than on Thank Me Later. ‘Ye cussed me out one day about jacking his sound. “40, I don’t think you should be in the studio right now because you might just hear my new shit and subconsciously steal my new shit and it wouldn’t even be your fault.” I can’t even be mad at him because the last CD I listened to was 808s & Heartbreak before I started doing So Far Gone. I swear to God I haven’t listened to a CD since Erykah Badu’s new album. I try not to listen to too much music because I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced and Kanye’s 100% right about that.
Yeah, it’s almost impossible to ignore your influences.
And at the end of the day I think that’s what music is. We take influence from different people and we put it all together the best we can. ‘Ye has been an influence to me but not too much— not in my drum programming. I just think he hit something for me on “Say You Will” that I fell in love with and I think I’ve been running with it a little bit. I’m not afraid to admit that. But to say that I haven’t brought my own swag to it? My favorite shit is Jodeci. ‘Ye doesn’t make fuckin’ slow jams. I make R&B music. Even if I do take his sound a little bit I don’t think he’s done anything that sounds like “Successful.”
Speaking of successful, you’ve been such an instrumental part in Drake’s career. To the point where he says he will never stray from your lead. What makes your bond with him so tight?