Blake Slatkin doesn’t have the exact recipe to make a Billboard Hot 100 hit, but he knows the ingredients when he comes across them. For Slatkin, who both co-wrote and co-produced Lizzo’s steadily climbing single “About Damn Time,” creating a song that gets stuck in the public’s conscious is about “whatever gives us that feeling” — one that has become increasingly familiar to Slatkin in the past few years as he has churned out one hit after the next.
At just 24 years old, his victories already include co-writing and co-producing 24kGoldn’s “mood” featuring iann dior — which stayed atop the Hot 100 for eight weeks — and The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s “Stay,” which held the No. 1 spot for seven weeks. He’s also worked with Lil Nas X, the late Juice WRLD and, now, Lizzo, whom he considers a friend and inspiration.
“I’m not really good at working with people that I’m not friends with, and I’m so grateful to Lizzo for letting me into her circle, ‘cause she keeps it tight,” Slatkin tells Billboard. “We got closer and closer and better and better music came out of that, as it always does.”
“About Damn Time” was released on April 14 as the lead single for Lizzo’s upcoming album Special via Nice Life Recording Company/Atlantic Records, due out on July 15. The song has spent seven weeks growing in popularity, hitting a new No. 4 high on the Hot 100 on this week’s June 11-dated chart.
Below, Slatkin discusses how the rising single came together after Lizzo and her collaborators thought the album was done, when he knew it’d resonate with the masses, what makes Lizzo an enduring artist and more.
How did you first get in contact with Lizzo?
When I first got the call to go in the studio with her, I couldn’t have been more excited. I just remember one day someone called me and Omer [Fedi], who I make a lot of my music with. They said, “Do you want to go in the studio with Lizzo tomorrow?” I couldn’t plan for it, and I was so nervous when I first walked in the studio — and then the second I met her, I was not only in awe, but I knew we were going to do something great together.
How did “About Damn Time” come together?
We had been working for a few months, and we finished 2021 with music that we all loved — Lizzo made an unbelievable album. We thought we were done, and the first week of January, we got a call saying, “Just try one more song. We think you guys can get one more thing.” All of us originally were kind of on the fence. We couldn’t tell if we could even beat what we had, [but] me and Ricky Reed [who also co-wrote and co-produced “About Damn Time” and worked on a significant part of Special] went into the studio for the first time. We started working on the track. I know four chords on the piano — I barely play — and I was just playing around in the studio in the middle of an idea, trying to distract myself to come up with something. Ricky heard the chords and was like, “Wait, that’s something!” I thought he was joking with me. He got that baseline, [and] we FaceTimed Lizzo.
Lizzo didn’t even want to come to the studio unless she thought that she had a hit, [but] we played it for her and she was like, “all right, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” Lizzo came up with that hook, all the melodies, and from there, it was a four-month process. It was 30 sessions or something like that on this song — it went through so many different iterations. Lizzo even had an album party where we played a version of this song with a completely different chorus. What’s so amazing to me about Lizzo’s process is [that] she knows exactly when something’s right, and we’re just going to work until we get it there. I’ll never forget the day we started the track, and I’ll never forget the day when Lizzo first sang, “In a minute, I’ma need a…,” on the second verse. I ran around the studio screaming.
At what point as a collaborator do you know that a song is going to be a hit?
On the very first day, we always knew that there was something special. [With hits], I really don’t think there’s anything else other than the fact that every hit that I’ve been a part of gave me this feeling in my chest when I hear it, where I want to play it for everyone. It gives me a feeling, as a fan of music, that I can’t deny. This one just gave me the feeling, and it gave Lizzo the feeling, and it gave Ricky the feeling.
What is your working relationship with Lizzo like?
Our working relationship doesn’t feel like work. Even when it really gets tough, it never gets tough personally. We’re in the room with a common goal together and we’re always laughing, cracking jokes and having the best time ever.
She’s the most warm, open, special person. That’s what people love about her. Who she is in person is exactly who she is to everyone, no matter who you are. She’s so unapologetically herself. She knows exactly what she wants. She’s a creative force. She’s one of those people that has an energy when she walks in a room that, if you had no idea that she made music and you were in a room with her, you would know that there was something special about her.
Why do you think she’s such a standout talent?
She’s just so herself, and I think she’s unbelievably brave. She has stood up for a lot of things that she believes in in the past, and I always respect any artist that does that. She lets people into her life — I think the world feels like they’re friends with her. She gives you the feeling that you know her and can talk to her, and if you were with her in the room, you would be dancing to her songs together. I’ve always admired artists that give you that feeling.
What is the secret to making a long-lasting hit?
If I knew, I would make it every time. The artist is where it all starts and ends. Song-wise, it’s these songs that you just can’t explain — it ends and you want to put it on again. At the end of the day, those are the ones that I’m going to spend my time on and that I’m going to go to the ends of the earth to get perfect.
Let’s talk about how everyone keeps messing up the lyrics to “About Damn Time.”
I love it. Lizzo’s TikTok [videos] where she’s gaslighting the internet, making people question what it is, is my favorite. It’s so funny. I have a little brother who’s in middle school, and I got a call from his class one day asking, “What is she actually saying?” Half the class was saying one lyric, and half the class is saying another one. When people ask me about it, I neither confirm nor deny. It’s whatever you want to make it. All I care about is that they’re having fun with it.
Have any wrong interpretations stood out to you?
I definitely did not hear a fat b-tch lust when we were making it, but it’s hilarious. That never even crossed my mind in the 40,000 times that I’ve heard this song.