Cool & Dre on Crafting Fat Joe & Remy Ma's Grammy-Nominated 'All the Way Up,' Working With Lil Wayne
For Marcello "Cool" Valenzano and Andre "Dre" Lyon, music reigns supreme. The production duo's voracious appetite for success began in Lyon’s mother’s garage, where they crafted bangers for a young Rick Ross in their native Miami. In 2001, the production tandem landed on Fat Joe’s album Jealous Ones Still Envy. With aspirations of charting on Billboard, they produced The Game’s 2005 record “Hate It or Love it," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. They also swerved into R&B by producing Christina Milian's 2007 song "Say I," which hit No. 21 on the same chart.
Cool & Dre then began expanding their résumé by producing records for Lil Wayne, Nas, Chris Brown, DJ Khaled, Wale and more. This year, they scored two Grammy nominations when Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s street anthem "All the Way Up" was nominated for best rap song and best rap performance. It also earned the remix treatment from Jay Z. (Cool & Dre are also serving as executive producers for the rap duo's forthcoming Plata O Plomo album.)
Billboard recently spoke to the duo about their creative process behind "All the Way Up" and more:
Congratulations on being nominated for two Grammys for Fat Joe and Remy Ma's "All the Way Up." How did the record come to fruition?
Cool: It started out with the elements of the track with our guy Exclusive. We put the beat together with him, and the whole sh-- came together. We had the beat sitting for a little bit and then we had a session with Joe. Joe had been coming to the studio and he was like, "Play me some new vibes." We played him the joint, and Joe was like, "That's it right there." We just thought it was a hot joint. Joe definitely heard something that we didn't hear in the beginning process. Then, once we heard he hooked up with Infared and they put the hook on it, me and Dre were still kinda like, "I don't know, man." [Laughs]
Dre: I think the one thing that we've always respected about Joe is the fact that we say that he has the golden ear. He knows when he hears a hit. When he heard the hook [for "All the Way Up"], he was very animated about it. He was like, "Yo, this is gonna be bigger than 'Lean Back.'" The way he was promoting it even before the verses got on there made me tell him to ease back on his expectations, because "Lean Back" was on the Hot 100 forever. But the theory of what he was saying did come to fruition, because it was definitely the biggest record in 2016 culturally. It grabbed the club, the radio and the people. The remix got Hov on there, which was something people thought they would never see. For Cool & Dre, we're so appreciative to Jay Z for participating on this record with us and for giving us the biggest shout-out of our career.
Did you have another artist in mind for that particular record initially?
Cool: Nah. The beat was sitting there. He heard it, took it immediately, and that was day one. I think what was great about "All the Way Up" was the horn sample. It was a throwback to New York hip-hop with all the horn samples from back in the day, like '90s Fugees. Joe knew what he was doing.
Do you ever feel as if the newer generation sleeps on Joe's legacy and hitmaking abilities because he's from the '90s era?
Dre: This is something we've always spoke to Joe about. He's found a way to make massive hits and still maintain his teeth in the mud, which we call the culture and hip-hop. Usually, when you come from that era and make massive hits like "Lean Back," "Make It Rain" or "What's Luv?," what tends to happen is people continue making those kinds of records. Then people call you the biggest hitmaker. What Joe has done is that he's kept a balance and still makes the hard-core hip-hop. I feel as though his talent as a hitmaker does get overshadowed. I think that's what's been the fuel to his career, because whenever his back is against the wall and people are counting him out, he always comes with something.
So now that we have the flame lit, the key is to keep it lit. Joe makes hits effortlessly, so it's like let’s just keep feeding him the hits. This album that we're executive producing with him, Plata O Plamo, has so much hard-core gritty beats. The subject matter is ill as hell, but we still gave you a hit record with "Money Showers" with Ty Dolla $ign. There's another hit record on there with The-Dream that's amazing. He does get overlooked as one of the biggest hitmakers, but if you think about the era of the '90s and the year that he came out in 1993 with "Flow Joe," think about all the artists that was around in '93. They're no longer here.
Rick Ross is currently prepping his ninth album Rather You Than Me and you both have worked with him from the beginning, since Port of Miami. What has Ross' success meant to the city of Miami?
Dre: It's been unbelievable. We've known Rick Ross since 1999, 2000. Cool and I kind of broke through in 2001. When we did [The Game's] “Hate It or Love It," Ross was still on the come-up. Our brother DJ Khaled was still on the come-up. So, you know, two years later, "Hustlin'" came out and pushed the culture in Miami when it came to music and what you can expect from the city. Ross showed the country, hip-hop and the world that we got some serious MCs out here. What he's done outside of music as an entrepreneur and as a businessman, creating so many opportunities for people to feed their families whether it be through Checkers, Wingstop or now Pizza Hut, he's a boss. We're excited about his new album. We sent some stuff in. We can't say whether it's on the album or not, but it's hard as hell. [The song's] called "Hope to Pray." If Rozay is reading this, it's called a movement.
Is there an artist that still gives you goosebumps whenever you work with them in the studio?
Dre: That's a good question. I think whenever we're in the studio with Lil Wayne, it's always a surreal moment, man. He's like an icon. He's a special force. I think he's one of the most gifted rappers to ever step into a vocal booth. If he was the frontman of a rap group, he'd be the greatest frontman ever. He's that unbelievable. Whenever we're in the studio with Lil Wayne, I always soak up the moment.
Cool: I think there's been several times where I have gotten goosebumps on records that we've done with Game. We've done so much music with him and we have so many studio experiences with him. I remember we did "My Life" with him. When he jumped in that booth and laid that first verse, it was just chills. It had Wayne on it, as well. Game and Wayne are both special.
Mentioning Lil Wayne, what are your thoughts on his label situation and the holding out of the release of Tha Carter V? Were you able to produce some records for his upcoming album?
Dre: Cash Money Records is family. We don't really weigh in too much with whatever is going on. It's gonna get figured out because it's all love. As far as Carter V is concerned, I can't wait for that to come out. The next time we get in the studio with Wayne or speak with Mack Maine -- because we speak to him all the time -- we'll get him music. Wayne is in the studio all the time. That's where me and Cool picked up some of our own work ethic, by just watching Wayne live in the studio nonstop, 24/7. That's why he's so great. We're gonna get in the studio with him soon once we get back to Miami. Hopefully, we're on C5 because we know it's gonna be fire.
You're both in London working with Lily Allen. What made you guys decide to step outside of hip-hop?
Cool: At the end of the day, me and Dre has always been fans of music before anything. We've been fans of multiple genres. We listen to it for inspiration and just vibe. For us, these different transitions and different sessions with these different genres and super talented artists comes second nature to us. We can pretty much get with anybody and make something special.
Dre: We've had the honor of working with groups like Linkin Park and Gym Class Heroes, just to name a few. We love great music. To be able to blend in and bring what we have to the table with whatever a great artist or songwriter has to offer, we just believe that good music trumps everything. Today, we had a great meeting with Rudimental. They're like massive out here and they started playing their music. It just felt good. It's live instrumentation, but it has some hip-hop and soul elements. We're just fans of great music, and that can be on the rock side, the gospel side, the R&B side or the hip-hop side. As long as it's great music, we always find ourselves attracted to it.