2016: The Year in Charts

Rich Skillz on Getting 'Deep' With Robin Thicke & Nas, Plus Producing Thicke's New Album

Courtesy of EverBright Pictures
Rich Skillz

"We didn’t want to wait on it, especially with Nas and what he was saying," Skillz tells Billboard. "We were just like, 'This needs to come out.'"

In early October, a new song surfaced from Robin Thicke featuring prolific hip-hop artist Nas. The politically charged track sees Nas contribute a spoken-word verse in which he speaks of current events --- "News flash, police shoot blacks, distort facts" -- and sets a powerful tone previously unheard from the "Blurred Lines" singer.

The producer behind the track, Rich Skillz (Rich Velonskis), tells Billboard the song was originally about relationships, though Thicke wanted to take it a step further. He immediately thought to enlist Nas, and as Skillz tells it, "Nas heard the song, loved it, and then Robin [told him], 'Nas, I’ve covered the relationship stuff but I’d love to address what’s going on in the world today and everything that everyone’s going through.'" Soon after, Nas sent back a verse so strong Skillz made the decision to cut everything but his words. "We took out the entire track and just let Nas open up the song a cappella and speak that truth."

Skillz describes the way in which the song came about as being a smooth and simple process, which may be because he and Thicke have worked together in the past. Skillz produced Thicke's 2009 album Sex Therapy: The Session -- the two have remained friends since and, aside from "Deep," Skillz is also producing Thicke's upcoming album. He says he's not the only producer on the album, though: Pharrell Williams produced a track too. And in terms of features, Nas won't be the only guest to grace the album, as Skillz shared that Lil Wayne will also have a spot. "We didn’t overthink it," Skillz says of the album. "I love taking chances and allowing our worlds to blend. ... I feel like we’ve made something incredible on this project."

Neither an album title nor release date has been revealed yet, though Skillz says the goal is early next year. "We’re just seeing how it goes, treating this less like a business." They implemented that strategy with the release of "Deep" too: "We didn’t want to wait on it, especially with Nas and what he was saying. We were just like, 'This needs to come out.'"

He adds that the song makes for a fitting introduction to the album because it sets the tone of what's to come. "I’ve been a part of a lot of different records, and when you have something that addresses what’s going on in the world, there’s nothing better to be a part of."

Until more new music from Thicke arrives, revisit "Deep" below: