“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 coming into the boardroom the place he now sits as the chief 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 buddy Common launch his rap profession to mentoring a younger Kanye West, producing his legendary 808s & Heartbreak album and, most not too long ago, capping off a long-simmering relationship with JAY-Z by government 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“I’ve identified Common since we have been 9 or 10 years outdated. A childhood buddy,” No I.D. mentioned. “He was the one who would carry 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 have 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 similar to “Hmm. let’s strive that.” And that was break dancing and making beats and rapping and making these little tapes and performing.
2. When he left to attend school at Southern Illinois University, No I.D. gave up on his hip-hop dream.
“I give up music in some unspecified time in the future and went to school,” No I.D. mentioned “I didn’t also have a thought anymore about it being the scene. I used to be making home music and I feel the enterprise went so dangerous that I didn’t think about 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 yr and a half in and mentioned, “I don’t wish to waste your cash. I would like to return house.” I noticed that Common was nonetheless going with the music. And now I might see the seeds of a scene.”
No I.D. wished to discover a means 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 school on the time. “I mentioned “I’m on the way in which. Make some house.” 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? have 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 seems to be completely different than it's. But we knew we have 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 after 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 finally type his manufacturing model.
four. When Common's Resurrection dropped, it was met with essential 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 grew to become Common’s 1997 LP One Day It’ll All Make Sense.
“Seeing that success made us suppose, 'Oh wow, that’s attainable.' It made us wish to increase. '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 attempt to win.' It was pitbull mentality.”
5. Circa 1996, No I.D. was signed to a take care of Common’s label, the unbiased Relativity Records, to make his personal debut LP as a rapper. But he give up earlier than it was launched.
When he signed his take care of Relativity, No I.D. obtained a large price range to report his debut album. “So I took my price range, purchased a home, constructed a studio in the home, purchased the gear, put it in there, bought with Dug Infinite and made a report within the basement,” he defined. “Engineered it, blended it, recorded it. I keep in mind going into the corporate in the future and speaking to the higher-ups and so they’re like “Man, Diddy is killing it proper now.” So now the stress is on. I’m like “You know what? I give up.” 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 crew. 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 may foster younger Chicago hip-hop expertise and it led to a brief falling out between the longtime mates.
“That began our first stress, which all lifetime mates undergo,” No I.D. mentioned. “That was after I began having completely 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 will 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 dangerous. He was like, 'Oh, I’m not the golden one. You gonna assist others?' Knowing him this a few years I feel it was extra a stage of insecurity like 'Man, my brother is just not 100 % behind me now. What am I gonna do?'”
eight. No I.D. was virtually 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 have been like, we don’t like this enterprise.” If you look behind Beanie [Sigel]'s The Reason album it says it was produced by all of us for Roc the World.” That was what the crew was gonna be. But all of us seemed on the paperwork and Just Blaze and Ye have been like “Alright. I don’t care. Whatever. We’re down.” And me and Bink have 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 simply be cool and accepted.”
9. Having identified Kanye since he was a younger child, No I.D. was shocked when he grew to become a rap celebrity following 2004’s The College Dropout.
Did No I.D. count on Kanye to explode? “Of course not,” he mentioned with fun. “I'd be a liar if I mentioned I did. Anybody that ever says that may be a liar. I used to be there. I noticed it. I do know. Even should you thought he was gonna win, no person might have predicted that. Come on.” With his mother and Kanye’s mother being mates, No I.D. was requested to assist a younger West get into the manufacturing recreation. 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 house. Get out of my door. I've grown people stuff to take care of.” After he noticed Kanye’s success, “Now I’m going, 'Anything’s attainable. We might 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 informed [then-label chairman] Donnie Ienner “I’m going to be the following Michael Jackson.” And they have been like “OK then. Have day.” We got here in a limo and left in a taxi. I keep in mind I bought house and I used to be taking part in a online game with Peter King, trigger we have been co-managing him on the time, and I used to be like “I don’t suppose I might handle Kanye. I simply don’t suppose it would work.” I’m a realist. It wasn’t what I might 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 bought 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 must be there with them. But I knew that I had extra respect and he more cash and success. I felt it was a commerce. “I bought 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 after I realized find out how to make large information. I used to be humbling myself,” he mentioned. ““Forget all the pieces . Empty your cup.” It’s additionally when he first bought launched to the Atlanta strip-club tradition. “I’d by no means been a strip membership in my life. Why would I'm going to a strip membership? We’re attempting to make music. And then I'm going in there and it’s like a membership with just a few bare individuals. I’m like “This is completely 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 dying.
When Kanye’s mother died instantly following problems from cosmetic surgery, No I.D. and Kanye’s mutual buddy, the spoken-word poet Malik Yusef, referred to as up No I.D. and mentioned, “'Dion, you gotta be there for him.' I'm going 'Do I? Our relationship isn’t dangerous, however he’s a celebrity and I’ve bought a distinct persona. I don’t wanna hang around. I’m simply completely different. I’m learning, I’m studying, I’m rising. That surroundings 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, nevertheless it 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. remembers at one level him suggesting they provide a few of the beats they have been engaged on to Jay seeing as that’s why they have 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 particular person at coronary heart it’s exhausting for us to develop into mates with individuals after I don’t actually know them,” No I.D. mentioned. “So I do know Jay for a few years, however we’re not good mates. Eventually he comes again and we end the Blueprint three, I do 'D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).' And in the future 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 converse?!' I used to be like, 'Man, this your house. I don’t know you want that to simply be strolling as much as you talking.' We would discuss however he’s an introvert too. It’s all in his raps. He provide you with faux 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 mission.
“[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 bought 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 bought no beats?' and I mentioned, 'No I’m engaged on getting higher, man. At beats and at life.' I didn’t carry the job up ever once more.
“All that led to in the future, I made 100 beats. Then I made 500 beats. And I’m like eureka! I’ve bought a brand new model. He hits me like, 'Hey, man, I would like you to assist me with this Vic Mensa.' And I'm going, 'And I bought some beats now.' He’s like, 'Yeah? OK.' And I’m like, 'Naw man, I’ve bought some beats this time.' He’s like, 'Yeah for certain.' I’m like, 'Stop taking part in. I’ve actually bought your subsequent Blueprint-esque factor. I do know that’s quite a bit to say. But I feel I bought it.' And he was like, 'Yeah that’s quite a bit 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 every single day. Three to 5 beats every single 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 in the future, he is available in and was like, 'Man, you’re man.' I used to be like, 'You are too, man. I had no concept.' He’s like, 'I believed you was impolite 'trigger you'll by no means converse. 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 grew to become mates. Now we’re mates and it’s not like I bought loads of mates within the enterprise. We knew find out how to take care of 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. changing into a major-label government was largely as a result 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 feel we each had larger 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 develop 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 sweet.' So I'm going seize him. I take him to LA. He was about to be executed. I grabbed him and we put collectively the mission 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'll be able to you simply preserve doing that?' I used to be like, 'Yeah. I can do 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 slightly mould 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 possibly serve us higher.”
17. No I.D. is a agency believer in studying out of your elders.
“Today I'm going and search out mentorship from individuals like Quincy [Jones] and Stevie [Wonder] as a result of I really feel like we have now all this info with these giants and our era doesn't take these jewels. We don’t go these jewels on and so they get misplaced. We see our greats go on and we deal with them dangerous till they die after which we rejoice 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 stage of humility can help you entry that info and lengthen your keep it doesn't matter what you do.”