Grammy Producer of the Year Nominee Nineteen85 Reveals Stories Behind Drake's Smashes

Lesean Harris
Nineteen85

Anthony Paul Jefferies, the 31-year-old Toronto native best known as Nineteen85, was working at H&M in 2009 when OVO maestro Noah "40" Shebib first brought him into the studio with then-burgeoning star Drake. Since then he has produced some of the rapper's most inescapable hits, including 2016's "One Dance," "Too Good," and "For Free." He also serves as one-half of the mysterious R&B duo and OVO Sound signee, dvsn

For the past few months, Nineteen85 -- who funded his early musical dreams to buy a navy blue Fender guitar working as a paperboy at 12 -- has been keeping his hands full with Drake’s More Life project, slated to drop this year. “More Life is interesting because this is [Drake] right on the peak of his biggest project yet [with Views], doing his biggest tour and still having so many good ideas that he just wants to put out without making it a big ordeal,” he explains. “That's why he's trying to call it a playlist because he has a bunch of people in a space, hanging out.... He's so aware of what everybody else is doing musically that he likes to introduce new music and new artists to the rest of the world.”

Ahead of the 2017 Grammys -- where he's up for producer of the year -- Jefferies shares the stories behind some of his biggest hits.

“Too Much,” Drake (2013)
“There’s an honesty in the way Drake raps on it that we don’t often hear from him -- he’s touching on personal topics, like family. The beat [which features a hook from Sampha] works with what he’s saying. It’s one of the songs that’s not as fun, that brings different emotions to the music.”

“Hotline Bling,” Drake (2015)
“I was in my car, listening to a satellite station that plays a lot of smooth-rock deep cuts, and the original song [“Why Can’t We Live Together,” by Timmy Thomas] came on. By the time I got home, I had basically made the beat in my head. There’s a thing he knows how to do on my beats that connects with the audience so well.”

“One Dance,” Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla (2016)
“We were in London a couple of years ago for Wireless Festival, and we kept playing ‘Do You Mind?’ by Kyla, which I sampled on ‘One Dance.’ I wanted to figure out how to create that I-don’t-care-who’s-looking vibe, the vibe of those parties. ‘One Dance’ makes you feel not embarrassed to dance, no matter who you’re in front of. There’s a void when it comes to that type of feel-good record nowadays the songs that the Michael Jacksons of the world used to make. Drake always knows how to make people feel.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Jan. 14 issue of Billboard.

2017 Grammys