“I’m simply the little engine that might,” mentioned veteran Chicago producer No I.D. of an extended and winding profession that’s seen him work with and form the sonic palette of a few of hip-hop’s most iconic names, from Common to Kanye West and JAY-Z earlier than getting into the boardroom the place he now sits as the manager vp of Capitol Music Group.
On Tuesday night time in Chicago, as a part of the Red Bull Music Festival going down all month within the metropolis, the 47-year-old producer born Dion Lewis sat down for an intimate, career-spanning dialog on the Chicago History Museum with journalist and Fake Shore Drive founder Andrew Barber. Speaking like an insightful professor, albeit one fast with a deadpan wisecrack, No I.D. -- who revealed he’s executive-producing J.I.D.’s new album -- mirrored on his hip-hop journey, from serving to his childhood pal Common launch his rap profession to mentoring a younger Kanye West, producing his legendary 808s & Heartbreak album and, most just lately, capping off a long-simmering relationship with JAY-Z by govt producing his acclaimed four:44 LP.
Below are the 17 most fascinating issues we realized from No I.D.’s momentous dialog.
1. During their teenage years, Common first launched No I.D. to hip-hop. But home music dominated the native scene on the time.
“I’ve identified Common since we had been 9 or 10 years outdated. A childhood pal,” No I.D. mentioned. “He was the one who would deliver the hip-hop round. He had a cousin from Cincinnati who used to affect us to get these tapes. That led us to listening to WHBQ which was the premier hip-hop radio station for us again then. But was a home music metropolis again then. Period. All we went to had been home events the place they performed hose music. And in comes this factor referred to as hip-hop. There was no scene. There was no trade. There was no considered a deal. There was no cash. It was identical to “Hmm. let’s attempt that.” And that become break dancing and making beats and rapping and making these little tapes and performing.
2. When he left to attend faculty at Southern Illinois University, No I.D. gave up on his hip-hop dream.
“I stop music sooner or later and went to school,” No I.D. mentioned “I didn’t actually have a thought anymore about it being the scene. I used to be making home music and I believe the enterprise went so unhealthy that I didn’t place confidence in the enterprise anymore. It was extra like “I don’t know what I wanna do with my life.” So went away to SIU, which is a celebration faculty, and I misplaced my thoughts laughs]. I keep in mind calling my mom a 12 months and a half in and mentioned, “I don’t wish to waste your cash. I want to return residence.” I noticed that Common was nonetheless going with the music. And now I may see the seeds of a scene.”
No I.D. wished to discover a method again into the hip-hop scene. “So I began making beats for me. Cause I rapped.” He determined to drive all the way down to Tallahassee, Florida the place Common was attending faculty on the time. “I mentioned “I’m on the best way. Make some area.” And that was the primary time I used to be actually producing for him. Most of the beats on Commons debut album, 1992’s] Can I Borrow A Dollar? had been beats for me. He’d be like “Lemme get that one!”
three. Despite him and Common quickly popping up in movies on Yo! MTV Raps and BET’s Rap City, the trail to success was an extended and arduous one.
“It appears totally different than it's. But we knew we had been going out and touching the individuals,” No I.D. defined. “People revered it. It was child steps although. It wasn’t till Common’s breakout album, 1994’s] Resurrection when issues actually rotated. But once I look again I can see the expansion between Common’s demo, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, and Resurrection. We educated ourselves. We met individuals. We realized.” No. I.D. mentioned he took his father’s twin loves of jazz and home music, in addition to his personal expertise DJ’ing and understanding tempo, edits, and remixes to ultimately kind his manufacturing model.
four. When Common's Resurrection dropped, it was met with crucial acclaim however nearly zero gross sales.
But it losing different rap artists on the time with main monetary windfalls, he mentioned, that impressed him and Common to start reaching out to different artists for collaboration for what later turned Common’s 1997 LP One Day It’ll All Make Sense.
“Seeing that success made us assume, 'Oh wow, that’s attainable.' It made us wish to broaden. 'Let’s work with Erykah Badu, let’s work with Lauryn Hill, let’s work with Cee-Lo, let’s work with The Roots.' It was now not about 'Let’s simply go within the basement and make some music. Let’s not simply attempt to be credible. Let’s try to win.' It was pitbull mentality.”
5. Circa 1996, No I.D. was signed to a cope with Common’s label, the unbiased Relativity Records, to make his personal debut LP as a rapper. But he stop earlier than it was launched.
When he signed his cope with Relativity, No I.D. obtained a large finances to file his debut album. “So I took my finances, purchased a home, constructed a studio in the home, purchased the tools, put it in there, received with Dug Infinite and made a file within the basement,” he defined. “Engineered it, blended it, recorded it. I keep in mind going into the corporate at some point and speaking to the higher-ups they usually’re like “Man, Diddy is killing it proper now.” So now the stress is on. I’m like “You know what? I stop.” I mentioned “I’ll shoot one video, do two reveals and that’s it.”” You’re not going to make me be one thing I’m not. Anybody who is aware of me is aware of my persona wasn’t constructed for that period. I shut the door quick.”
6. He started getting contacted to provide for different big-time hip-hop artists like The Notorious B.I.G., however he turned all of them down.
"People can be like, 'Man, Big needs a beat.' I’d be like, 'Nah, I’m Common’s man.' 'Ghostface needs a beat.' 'Nah.' And then later after I finished working with Common I’m like, what?! Nobody did that again then. Pre-Illmatic was doing that. It was one producer or one group. It wasn’t an idea. It’s like 'Tribe Called Quest is engaged on an album. Let’s submit beats.' 'Submit to Pete Rock and CL Smooth'? No. It wasn’t till my relationship with Common modified the place I used to be like, 'Man, I blew it.'”
7. No I.D. pitched Common on them forming a label that will foster younger Chicago hip-hop expertise and it led to a short lived falling out between the longtime pals.
“That began our first stress, which all lifetime pals undergo,” No I.D. mentioned. “That was once I began having totally different ideas and ambitions. 'Let’s have a label collectively. We can signal these two women over right here, Tiffa and Shawna, this child Kanye over right here. Man, we may be like the brand new Death Row.' He’s like, 'Nah.' Next factor I do know he’s like, 'Oh, you stored that beat for you, huh?' It was unhealthy. He was like, 'Oh, I’m not the golden one. You gonna assist others?' Knowing him this a few years I believe it was extra a degree of insecurity like 'Man, my brother is just not 100 % behind me now. What am I gonna do?'”
eight. No I.D. was nearly in a Roc-A-Fella manufacturing crew with Kanye and Just Blaze referred to as Roc the World.
“Around Resurrection I had developed a relationship with Roc-A-Fella, which was round JAY-Z’s first album,” No I.D. mentioned. Later, after working some Blueprint 2 tracks, a manufacturing deal got here into the equation. “I simply didn’t just like the paperwork,” he defined. “I had labored all these years so I wished my cash now. It was me, Bink, Just Blaze and Kanye, And me and Bink had been like, we don’t like this enterprise.” If you look in the back of Beanie Sigel]'s The Reason album it says it was produced by all of us for Roc the World.” That was what the group was gonna be. But all of us regarded on the paperwork and Just Blaze and Ye had been like “Alright. I don’t care. Whatever. We’re down.” And me and Bink had been like “Nah.” It was humorous as a result of there have been sure individuals after that occurred that we’re like “You blew it. It’s over. you’re a dummy.” Because Roc-A-Fella explodes. But I had put a lot blood sweat and tears in earlier than that to only be cool and accepted.”
9. Having identified Kanye since he was a younger child, No I.D. was shocked when he turned a rap celebrity following 2004’s The College Dropout.
Did No I.D. count on Kanye to explode? “Of course not,” he mentioned with amusing. “I might be a liar if I mentioned I did. Anybody that ever says that could be a liar. I used to be there. I noticed it. I do know. Even should you thought he was gonna win, no person may have predicted that. Come on.” With his mother and Kanye’s mother being pals, No I.D. was requested to assist a younger West get into the manufacturing sport. West used to return to his home and No I.D. would say, “Just take these information and pattern them please. This is the way you do beats. Go residence. Get out of my door. I've grown of us stuff to cope with.” After he noticed Kanye’s success, “Now I’m going, 'Anything’s attainable. We may fly to the moon.'”
10. No I.D. was initially Kanye’s supervisor however couldn’t deal with the rapper’s polarizing persona.
“People don’t know this however I used to be his supervisor early,” No I.D mentioned. “I took him to conferences at labels and all types of stuff. But I wasn’t attempting to be a mentor. That wasn’t an idea. I keep in mind a gathering with Columbia Records. He advised then-label chairman] Donnie Ienner “I’m going to be the subsequent Michael Jackson.” And they had been like “OK then. Have a very good day.” We got here in a limo and left in a taxi. I keep in mind I received residence and I used to be taking part in a online game with Peter King, trigger we had been co-managing him on the time, and I used to be like “I don’t assume I may handle Kanye. I simply don’t assume it should work.” I’m a realist. It wasn’t what I may make off him. I simply couldn’t deal with him. I’d go loopy. I figured I’d simply assist him and get nothing. And that’s what preserved our relationship over these years. I by no means actually requested for something. I simply helped.”
11. No I.D. turned to Jermaine Dupri in a form of hip-hop commerce to profit each producers.
Right after Usher’s platinum-selling Confessions, No I.D. referred to as up Dupri, “Because I wished to coach myself,” he recalled. “He clearly is aware of one thing I don’t know. He’s killing it. He’s received the sauce. He’s doing Nelly, Mariah, Usher, Bow Wow,” It’s like “Y’all simply killing it!” I do know I’m good. I needs to be there with them. But I knew that I had extra respect and he extra money and success. I felt it was a commerce. “I received some sauce, you bought some. Let’s see what occurs.”
No I.D. headed all the way down to Atlanta, cooked up information for Bow Wow, Plies and extra. “That’s once I realized the best way to make large information. I used to be humbling myself,” he mentioned. ““Forget the whole lot . Empty your cup.” It’s additionally when he first received launched to the Atlanta strip-club tradition. “I’d by no means been a strip membership in my life. Why would I am going to a strip membership? We’re attempting to make music. And then I am going in there and it’s like a membership with just a few bare individuals. I’m like “This is totally different. Oh, I get ya’ll information now. OK, I get what you’re saying in these information now. Ah, throw some at you. Got it. That’s the dance ya’ll do on the membership. Got it.””
13. 808s & Heartbreaks started with No I.D. comforting Kanye within the wake of his mom’s loss of life.
When Kanye’s mother died immediately following issues from cosmetic surgery, No I.D. and Kanye’s mutual pal, the spoken-word poet Malik Yusef, referred to as up No I.D. and mentioned, “'Dion, you gotta be there for him.' I am going 'Do I? Our relationship isn’t unhealthy, however he’s a celebrity and I’ve received a distinct persona. I don’t wanna hang around. I’m simply totally different. I’m finding out, I’m studying, I’m rising. That atmosphere is simply not me.' He’s like, 'No, he wants you, Dion. And he trusts you.' So I actually reconnected our relationship non-musically and we simply began speaking extra. One day we noticed one another and he’s like, 'I’m about to go to Hawaii and do some beats with Jay. Want to return work collectively?' So we fly to Hawaii and we’re actually there to work for Jay for Blueprint three, but it surely wasn’t till we made 'Heartless' that Kanye’s like, 'Nah, I’m doing my album now.' And that was how 808s & Heartbreak got here into play." No I.D. recollects at one level him suggesting they offer a number of the beats they had been engaged on to Jay seeing as that’s why they had been in Hawaii to start with. “I used to be like, 'Let’s simply give it to him.' And Kanye was like, 'Hell no!'”
14. No I.D.’s relationship with JAY-Z developed slowly over practically 20 years and included palpable stress between the pair.
“As a Chicago individual at coronary heart it’s arduous for us to change into pals with individuals once I don’t actually know them,” No I.D. mentioned. “So I do know Jay for a few years, however we’re not good pals. Eventually he comes again and we end the Blueprint three, I do 'D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).' And at some point I see him and he walks previous me and I don’t actually say nothing and he look again at me and says, 'Man, you ain't gonna communicate?!' I used to be like, 'Man, this your area. I don’t know you want that to only be strolling as much as you talking.' We would speak however he’s an introvert too. It’s all in his raps. He offer you pretend hugs and pretend wassups. He’s not opening up and I’m not opening up.”
15. No I.D. executive-producing JAY-Z’s critically acclaimed 2017 album four:44 started with an e-mail from Jay about engaged on a Vic Mensa challenge.
“JAY-Z] noticed me at this Tidal factor and he was like, 'Man, the place are the butters at?' I’m like, 'Huh?' He’s like, 'The beats, the butters, man, the place are the beats?' I’m like, 'Man, I received this job.' He’s like, 'Job? Did you simply say job?' I’m like, 'Yeah,' as a result of on the time I had this Def Jam factor. He’s like, 'God didn’t make you to work no job. God made you to make music. You can’t by no means inform me you’re not making music due to a job.' And each time we'd see one another, fast-forward to subsequent time, he requested me what I’m engaged on. I used to be like, 'Getting higher.' He was like, 'What you imply?' I mentioned, 'I’m engaged on getting higher, that’s what I’m engaged on.' He was like, 'You don’t received no beats?' and I mentioned, 'No I’m engaged on getting higher, man. At beats and at life.' I didn’t deliver the job up ever once more.
“All that led to at some point, I made 100 beats. Then I made 500 beats. And I’m like eureka! I’ve received a brand new model. He hits me like, 'Hey, man, I want you to assist me with this Vic Mensa.' And I am going, 'And I received some beats now.' He’s like, 'Yeah? OK.' And I’m like, 'Naw man, I’ve received some beats this time.' He’s like, 'Yeah for positive.' I’m like, 'Stop taking part in. I’ve actually received your subsequent Blueprint-esque factor. I do know that’s so much to say. But I believe I received it.' And he was like, 'Yeah that’s so much to say.' So we meet up and I tear his ears off with beats. He was like, 'Man, don’t disappear, I’m prepared.' And I used to be like, 'You don’t perceive.' So I begin emailing him beats day-after-day. Three to 5 beats day-after-day. Until the 'Kill Jay-Z' beat and he then was like, 'Come over proper now. My home proper now. That was the one.'”
During four:44 at some point, he is available in and was like, 'Man, you’re a very good man.' I used to be like, 'You are too, man. I had no thought.' He’s like, 'I assumed you was impolite 'trigger you'll by no means communicate. You would simply are available in my studio and by no means say nothing.' I used to be like, 'I used to be simply being respectful.' That’s how we turned pals. Now we’re pals and it’s not like I received a whole lot of pals within the enterprise. We knew the best way to cope with one another that introduced out the very best in one another. Not simply musically, however simply having fun with it. It was actually enjoyable and therapeutic."
16. No I.D. turning into a major-label govt was largely on account of him producing nearly all of Big Sean’s debut album, 2011’s Finally Famous.
“At one level me and Jay had mentioned me being at Roc Nation, however I believe we each had greater views and objectives we wished to perform. One day round My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy time, Kanye was like, 'G.O.O.D. Music is over. If you don’t change into president, I’m distancing myself from this.' So I gotta say sure, proper? So I begin to plan it out in my thoughts. Malik Yusef tells me, 'Yo, this man Big Sean is nice.' So I am going seize him. I take him to LA. He was about to be carried out. I grabbed him and we put collectively the challenge and I turned it in." Once it was a smash success, "Everybody on the label was like, 'What the hell simply occurred?' So Def Jam then was like, 'Man, if we rent you may you simply hold doing that?' I used to be like, 'Yeah. I can try this.'
"I began off when it was all indies after which I watched the majors kill it after which I noticed the youth demand independence once more. I’m like, 'We had it within the first place and nobody wished it. And now we wish it.' But watch out what you ask for. I liken it to having your personal treehouse within the forest. It’s yours, however there’s ants and rain and no bogs, so be ready. But these majors are like mansions that possibly there’s a little bit mildew on the wall, possibly the pipes ain’t proper, however someone gotta go in there and repair it. I don’t wish to be within the forest. I ain’t falling for that. I wish to management one thing and make it so it may well serve us higher.”
17. No I.D. is a agency believer in studying out of your elders.
“Today I am going and hunt down mentorship from individuals like Quincy Jones] and Stevie Wonder] as a result of I really feel like we now have all this data with these giants and our technology doesn't take these jewels. We don’t go these jewels on they usually get misplaced. We see our greats go on and we deal with them unhealthy till they die after which we have a good time them. And we play all their information. And we cry. And they’re proper right here. And they’ll gladly inform us three-fourths of what we don’t know and try to determine. A sure degree of humility can mean you can entry that data and extend your keep it doesn't matter what you do.”