Toronto Super Producer Boi-1da Talks Drake's 'God's Plan,' the Creative Process for G-Eazy's 'No Limit' & Remaining Humble
Kingston, Jamaica-born and Toronto-raised super producer Boi-1da has been dropping hits for the past decade.
From breaking out with Drake's 2009 smash "Best I Ever Had" (peaking at No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100), Boi-1da has worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar ("The Blacker the Berry"), Kanye West ("Real Friends"), Nicki Minaj ("Freedom"), and more. He's also become a frequent collaborator of Drake's, having worked with Young Aubrey on several of his singles, including "Over," "Miss Me," "Headlines," the DJ Khaled-led "No New Friends," "0 to 100/The Catch Up," and "Summer Sixteen."
The behind-the-scenes heavyweight currently boasts an impressive three records in the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart this week (dated Feb. 3) with Drake's "God's Plan" debuting at No. 1 and his "Diplomatic Immunity" debuting at No. 7, and G-Eazy's (feat. A$AP Rocky and Cardi B) "No Limit" sitting at No. 10 (previously peaking at No. 4). Hardly a rookie to the top 10, the Toronto producer had already twice reached the apex of the Hot 100, with Rihanna's "Work" and Eminem's "Not Afraid," with the latter also debuting at No. 1, as well.
Despite his astounding and consistent run, the producer has surprisingly kept a relatively low profile, doing few interviews, and focusing on making more music and building his catalog. Billboard hopped on the phone recently with Boi-1da to discuss his recent success, his family (who keeps his business on point), and what keeps him grounded.
How did "God's Plan" come about?
It was a half-finished record that Drake had. He came to me and needed me to put a bounce to it to rock a certain way. So I ended up adding some drums to the record. It came out well. I vibed with it and did what needed to be done. It came out as an amazing record.
When you heard the finished product, did you know it was going to be a smash?
Oh yeah, instantly. With Drake, he never misses. Soon as I heard it, I knew it was going to be great.
Is the story of how "God's Plan" came together with similar to "Diplomatic Immunity?"
"Diplomatic Immunity" actually happened the same night. I was really inspired and ended up playing it for him. And when Drake hears something he likes, he gets on it and it's actually what he did.
How did G-Eazy's "No Limit" come about?
I was in the studio with G-Eazy, and it's funny because it was the first beat I played for him. He flipped out when he heard it and immediately started writing to it. Randomly, A$AP Rocky was in the same studio, and just happened to walk into the room. He heard the beat as well and was like, "Yo. I really like this beat. Is it cool if I try something on it?"
And after, he just hopped on the beat. What he did was almost a freestyle. I didn't see him write anything down. He just went in the booth and started going crazy. And then, they just took that. G added the second hook and verses, then the song was done. Then, he got Cardi B to jump on it. It was cool because we got to sit and vibe and come up with cool ideas. We figured it out.
In addition to producing, you also DJ. Talk about how that feeds you creatively and helps you be a better producer?
I definitely took parts of producing into my DJing. There are certain parts to both that are similar. You got to play on people's heartstrings. You have to have a climax and decline. You have to do the same thing with DJing. The reason I enjoy DJing so much is that you can basically get people hype, play with their emotions. You can have a song drop out, then come back in, which makes everybody go crazy. It's a fun aspect, and something I like to do because I live in the studio basically. So I get to get out there and see what music makes people react. It's almost like a testing ground for me outside of the studio.
You also have Boi-1da.com, a website covering the urban music space. What made you start a website?
It's a way to get people to hear what I'm listening to and what my team is listening to. I also get to feature music from young and up-and-coming artists. It's a way for them to get out there. We aren't afraid to promote other talented people and give people their props and just due. It's my way of reaching out and giving back to the hip-hop community and finding new talent.
Joyner Lucas is signed to you. Recently, Eminem did a Billboard cover story where he mentioned Lucas with the likes of Kendrick and J. Cole as artists who are concerned with being great at rapping. How does it feel to be nurturing talent that is already being recognized by one of the greatest rappers?
It feels great. I think Joyner Lucas is a very special artist. I thought that the first time I ever heard him, it was something about him. I could hear the hunger in his voice, his creativity, and his rhyming. Just everything was on an elite level. I just loves the way he thinks. He also films and produces his own music videos, as well. I think Joyner Lucas will be one of the greatest, and named amongst the greats eventually. He's mega-talented on many different platforms, whether it's rapping or producing his own music, as well. Even directing videos, he's very good.
Recently, on Twitter, someone commented that you didn't have a producer tag. Why do you opt out of having one?
Well, I opted out of having one because I never really had one. I always wanted to have my sound speak for itself more than a tag, my skill and my talent. And the fact that some of my favorite producers I look up to, like Pharrell, Timbaland and Dr. Dre, never had tags. I just want more people to recognize [me] from good music. And it's no disrespect to any producers who have a tag, because it's other people's thing and it works for them, their personality. But my personality is just making great songs, and I want people to recognize me for that instead.
You mentioned on Instagram that having three songs in the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart as "truly God's work." What keeps you grounded? Do you have a spiritual regime?
I stay grounded by realizing that God put me in this position I'm in and blessed me with this talent. I have a 7-year-old daughter. Both my sister and mother work for me. My sister is my assistant and my mother works with my accountant, but wears many hats. If it wasn't for them, I would be a very disorganized person and all over the place. They basically manage my personal life and help me out with a lot. They're great.
Most people envision working with their dream artists, but you've already worked with the best of the best. Whose left?
I've always wanted to do a song with Beyoncé. I'm just putting that out in the air.
There's been a lot of chatter lately about producers not getting enough credit and respect for the work they do. Spotify did a "Secret Genius" campaign spotlighting creatives behind the music. What else can the industry do to give producers their just due?
With that being said, I think Spotify also named producers and songwriters on the songs in their database. It's a nice and beautiful way of moving forward and having creatives get credit for what they do. A lot of producers are in the background and don't get shine at all, sometimes, no credit. I'm just happy that Spotify is doing that and finding a way to spotlight creatives. I hope other streaming services, artists and labels find a way to do that, as well. On the upside, I see a lot of producers getting label deals and putting out their own record. It's a long time coming, but it's on the rise.
What are some of your goals for this year?
I plan on putting out a project, a compilation of songs I produced. I have no set date, but it's coming soon. I'm going to be working with various artists and putting out songs. I got some big stuff in the pipeline.
You're an extremely humble person. Is there anyone in your life be it a mentor or someone else who has guided and helped you be this way?
I credit my father a lot for keeping my head on my shoulders, letting me realize that just because you're producing music for artists and getting paid this much doesn't make you more of a man than another man. It doesn't make you a better person than somebody else that's doing something less than you. We're all equals and human at the end of the day. We all bleed the same blood. I always keep that in my head.
People don't like being around someone that's cocky, full of themselves, and self-centered. So just being around my family, I'm going to always be humble. All of my friends are completely honest with me and I admire that because I always want things to be realistic around me. I keep it real with everybody and everybody keeps it real with me. I enjoy living my life that way because it's the best way. I've been doing this for 10+ years successfully, so I think that's a good way to go about things, definitely.