The super producer sat down with Boardroom to discuss his numerous Grammy nominations, Drake’s non-stop ambition, and what to expect from his upcoming compilation album.
That night in Los Angeles, the purple and gold took a backseat to Compton’s own Dr. Dre. No longer sporting the black and silver Raiders cap of his N.W.A. introduction nor carrying the weight of the Death Row drama, Dre was entirely his own entity. Already home, he walked the Grammy Award red carpet with his wife and Aftermath artist, Eminem, clad in a dark denim FUBU jacket with six nominations to his name.
Leading all artists, the sonic surgeon was intent on solidifying his spot in the game.
From Bono to Beyoncé, icons in attendance applauded Dre for his excellence on 2001 and The Marshall Mathers LP — and so did the Academy. By taking home three trophies including a W for the esteemed Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category, Dre lapped the likes of Tom Petty and Radiohead, breaking boundaries and keeping the crown in LA.
Miles north across the border, a Toronto teenager still too young to drive watched the musician born Andre Young hoist his gold trophies on TV.
That watcher, Matthew Jehu Samuels, soon became the producer known as Boi-1da. By 2006, he was behind the boards for a local rapper named Drake, and by 2011, he was working with Dre himself on 2001‘s unreleased sequel, Detox.
From fan to famous, Boi-1da’s grown as an artist yet stayed the same as a person. His status has changed, yet his dreams remain the same.
“I’ve worked with 1da throughout the years,” OVO Sound President and M3 Entertainment Founder Mr. Morgan told Boardroom. “What he’s accomplished from being this humble guy making drums in his room to now he could produce anything? He’s done all of it. To see where he’s come as an individual, a producer, and as a father? It’s pretty incredible to see.”
In November 2022, Boi-1da was nominated for the same prestigious honor once awarded to his hero, Dr. Dre. It may not mean nothing to y’all, but understand it means everything for him.
In conversation with the Toronto titan, Boardroom gets insight on what it would mean to grab that Grammy, details on his upcoming compilation album, the inspiration behind his Nike KD15 collaboration, and what it’s like working with Queen Bey.
IAN STONEBROOK: To start with the obvious, congrats on the Grammy nominations — especially, Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. How’d you first hear you were nominated?
BOI-1DA: My manager called me ecstatic. He’s like, ‘Yo, you got nominated again.’ I didn’t believe it for like a second, I was super happy and kind of stunned. I had a really good year, but I didn’t expect it. But man, it’s much appreciated.
IS: That’s an award won by Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Mark Ronson, you name it. What would it mean to win something like that?
B1: Everything. I’ve dreamed about that as a kid. Like, I’ve watched Dr. Dre win that award. I’ve watched some of my biggest idols win that award. Working my way to that point is something I literally dreamed about as a kid.
It would be like making it to the NBA Hall of Fame, solidifying yourself in something that you worked so hard at and you loved passionately your entire life. That would mean everything to me.
IS: At the 2023 Grammys, you’re the connective tissue between nominees like Beyoncé, Jack Harlow, and Kendrick Lamar. When working on those projects, did you kind of know everything was gonna time out like this?
B1: I didn’t really know everything was gonna happen like that. I just put my head down and work. I’m friends with all of these people they always tap me when they’re working on music and I’m beyond appreciative.
When I really looked at the list of songs that I did this year? I might have produced, like, 37 songs. I didn’t even realize I did that much, you know what I’m saying? I literally don’t pay attention to anything. I’m not counting anything. I’m working and just enjoying the music and the process.
Like I said, it’s like a dream to work with people like Beyoncé, work with people like Kendrick, you know?
IS: Entering a room with Beyoncé, what’s that halo effect like in regard to the level of artistry and competition?
B1: I’ve been in there with her a few times, but it’s almost nerve-wracking, man. Growing up watching Beyoncé on TV? I was watching early Destiny’s Child days and everything she accomplished. It’s next level being in there with her. Sometimes I can’t even believe it.
She’s amazing and I just trust her vision with what she wants with everything. She’s a producer as well and has a lot of creative control. It’s amazing working with her. She kills it every time. This is like the third song we’ve done together and man? She’s next level with it. She never fails.
If Beyoncé is coming out? You already know what you’re gonna get: hits, great songs, moments, classics, great dancing, everything. She does it all.
IS: It’s interesting as a producer the respect you have for Beyoncé as a producer herself. Do a lot of high-profile artists carry that duality in being able to write, perform, and produce?
B1: K Dot is also like a producer, too. He’ll tell you, ‘Put this over there’ and ‘do this’ with an idea, but when we work? It’s free-minded, really open. We kind of do whatever we feel at the moment and just come up with ideas.
I don’t know if he ever wanted anything like that [in regard to production credit], but he definitely should get that because he’s definitely a producer. He’s just creative in all aspects.
IS: I was blessed enough to talk to Nineteen85 and Mr. Morgan this week. It sounds like 2023 is going to be a big year for OVO Sound.
B1: OVO? They don’t stop. Drake does not stop. I’m by his side with anything that he wants to do. This year I feel like he has a lot planned. I’m gonna let him tell it ’cause that’s the boss. So whatever he’s got going on? I’m there with the guns loaded. [laughs]
IS: Transitioning topics, let’s talk about the “Producer Pack” colorway you did with Nike and KD.
B1: Working on that was a dream come true. KD’s literally one of my favorite basketball players. I think that’s the greatest player to touch a basketball — in my opinion.
I think the most skilled player and best scorer of all time is KD. So it was an absolute honor to even do anything with him. Me and KD are super tight. We talk all the time and we play 2K MyPark a lot.
It was just a great experience. I ended up using the colors of FL Studio to pay homage to how I came up and what helped me. I know KD’s into producing and music, too. So, I really wanted to pay homage to that.
IS: From your days of learning on FL Studios to being nominated for Grammy Producer of the Year, is there a song or moment that stands out as a turning point?
B1: Doing a record with Beyoncé is always gonna stand out. That’s legendary, untouchable stuff. Beyoncé? That’s the queen. Anytime I do anything with her I’m always grateful and always happy.
But a dope standout moment for me was also “Churchill Downs” with Jack Harlow and Drake. That was a real moment. I feel like they both got off crazy on that song. I’m a hip-hop head, a rap guy, so that was a real moment ’cause I feel like Jack got off and Drake got off. Drake snapped, too.
It was a real moment and it was a really dope beat that I liked a lot. I thought that was a real dope moment for hip-hop, for like pure hip-hop. I love hip-hop, that’s my go-to. I like that moment a lot, but I can’t really like say a favorite.
Even like the stuff I did with Kendrick. “N95” was a moment. The video for that song is incredible. Kendrick’s entire album was incredible to me. That was a masterful body of work. He’s really good so being a part of that was unbelievable.
IS: It’s funny you mentioned “N95” because when the album came out somebody unearthed a random clip of Kendrick above the water shooting the music video years prior. What was the timeline of that album?
B1: I feel like a lot of thought was put into that album. You know, Kendrick’s very meticulous and you could tell by listening to his album. You could tell that it took a long time and that it took real thought. He put in a lot of extra thought. What was it like five years? Everybody waited for that.
That’s just Kendrick. He’s always gonna be thought-provoking. He’s always gonna put his all into everything and it’s gonna be an art piece every time. He really put his all into that whole album and it came out well. I really love the “N95” video, too. Dave Free killed that. He’s amazing.
IS: A few weeks back, Freddie Gibbs announced he has a project coming with you. Speaking with Freddie’s manager, Lambo, he alluded to always keeping the fans on their toes.
B1: Me and Freddie got something planned. Something real dope. We’re gonna be doing a lot of stuff together that’s beyond even music. That’s really a friend to me. Me and Freddie talk, me and Freddie hang out, that’s my friend and he’s one of the dopest rappers in the world.
We got some cool stuff coming. We got a lot of dope records that ain’t out yet. I’m gonna let him talk about it we’ve got some stuff. You know, he does what he does exceptionally well — and so do I. If you can imagine that: dope raps and dope beats.
IS: 2023 is just getting underway, but what can fans expect next from Boi-1da?
B1: Right now I’m working on my own project. Trying to perfect the sound and come up with something fresh. I feel like it’s time for me to do that. I’ve been helping everybody on albums and been on everybody’s album, but I wanna put out my own album and sign my own artists.
I’ve got an artist, Savannah Ré. She’s an R&B artist that’s really dope from Toronto. I’m doing a lot of stuff with her and doing my own compilation album. It’s gonna be a lot of your favorite rappers, singers … everybody over some dope production. Great songs that are gonna create a vibe this year, my vibe.
IS: Is there a compilation album that you look at as the bar?
B1: For me, the bar for a compilation album is Chronic 2001. Every single level was a master. That was a masterclass in raps, beats, production, mixing, everything.
I listen to something off that album daily just to remind myself what I’m striving for. I listen to that album every single day to strive for that kind of greatness.
I say this all the time: Dr. Dre’s the greatest of all time. I strive to be as great as him one day.
I love hip-hop. Hip-hop’s my first love and a lot of people know me for hip-hop, but I’m pretty diverse. So, I think I want to keep the album pretty diverse and showcase everything I can do.
IS: So like Dr. Dre’s 2001 in terms of sonic brilliance with, say, Timbaland’s Shock Value in regard to breadth?
B1: Yes. Now you got it, bro. You hit the nail on the head, I didn’t even have to say it.
People don’t know that I can do R&B, I can make pop. I do hip hop and everything exceptionally well, so I wanna really showcase that and give everybody a vibe. Man, it’s gonna be fun.
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