With the arrival of Beyoncé‘s highly anticipated seventh studio album, Renaissance, on Friday (July 29) via Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records, the superstars mentioned in the writing and producing credits have not gone unnoticed.
Industry veterans like Drake, No I.D., Mike Dean, Honey Dijon, Syd and of course her husband Jay-Z have all contributed their efforts to Bey’s first solo studio album in six years. But no one else had their fingerprints all over the project (beside Beyoncé herself) quite like Grammy-nominated female songwriting/production duo Nova Wav, consisting of Brittany “Chi” Coney and Denisia “Blu June” Andrews.
The two had a hand in eight out of the 16 total tracks. Coney and Andrews are credited as writers on eight songs — “Alien Superstar,” “Cuff It,” “Energy,” “Virgo’s Groove,” “Move,” “Heated,” “Pure/Honey,” and “Summer Renaissance” — while earning production credits on “Alien Superstar,” “Cuff It,” “Energy,” “Pure/Honey” and “Summer Renaissance.” “We love her to death and we appreciate her being the first artist to really, really, truly trust us,” Coney tells Billboard over Zoom.
Both originally from Tampa and Tallahassee, Fla., respectively, she and Andrews formed Nova Wav in Atlanta, Ga. and got their first placement on Rihanna‘s RIAA-certified platinum hit “Loveeeeeee Song,” featuring Future, in 2012. Two years later, the two moved out West to L.A., where Andrews says “we realized that things were popping for us when we would come,” and went on to write and produce for Ariana Grande, DJ Khaled, Teyana Taylor, Kehlani, H.E.R., Jazmine Sullivan and more.
It took four more years to land something with Beyoncé — but as the three women have continued bouncing ideas off of one another over the last few years, they’ve established a unique understanding of one another’s craft. It doesn’t mirror the kind of perfection expected from a superstar like Beyoncé (let alone, a Virgo superstar), but looks more like throwing clay on a wheel and molding it into something excellent.
The two keep mum on whether or not they’ll be working on the next two albums included in Renaissance‘s three acts. But in the meantime, Nova Wav says they’re working with frequent collaborator Khaled (who recently announced his 13th studio album God Did) and City Girls, while seeing how they can continue pushing the envelope with their own sound. “We want to move into the artist and DJ space and just put ourselves in the forefront. At this point, we’ve done so many incredible things. So we feel like it’s boss level time,” says Coney.
Here are some of Nova Wav’s highlights from working on Renaissance.
Getting the Queen’s Summons
The duo says they began working with Beyoncé in 2014, after they gathered enough money to move to L.A. and got a three-month lease. “Six days later, we got a call to go in the studio to work with Hit-Boy because some writers had canceled on him,” Andrews recalls. The sessions were for the superstar, and for the next four years, Nova Wav hustled and waited to get a placement. And it was worth the wait: The duo co-wrote four songs (“LoveHappy,” “Black Effect,” “Friends” and “Nice”) and co-produced “LoveHappy” on Bey and Jay’s 2018 Grammy-nominated joint album Everything Is Love (billed under The Carters). From there, Bey tapped Nova Wav for The Lion King: The Gift and her 2020 charity single “Black Parade,” which scored Coney and Andrews Grammy nods for song of the year and best R&B song in 2021.
In 2020, Beyoncé’s A&R Mariel Gomerez called them and said, “The Queen is back — the Queen is back working,” says Coney. “And we just knew what time it was.” Andrews adds: “[Gomerez is] like, ‘She wants you guys to come over to the crib and listen to the album.’ We went literally to her house, and we got the first listen of where she was in the process.”
Seeing the Beauty in Anything & Letting Perfectionism Go
In a note Beyoncé left for fans on her website the day before the album dropped, she spoke about her intentions of creating Renaissance as “a safe place, a place without judgment — a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.” And the same can be said for the place it was made in, according to Nova Wav.
“She accepts our creativity,” Andrews elaborates. “The things that we can say to Beyoncé, it just feels like a no-judgment zone. I think we think the same way in a lot of ways. And when she gives us an idea, it’s a judgment-free zone. She can just see the beauty in anything. That’s the thing that we love about B: Most A&Rs and most artists, you have to give them a super pristine, polished project, but with B, you can give her something that’s super rough that most people would turn away from and she turns it into brilliance.”
Magic No. 8
“We were surprised,” Coney explains about getting credits on eight out of the album’s 16 tracks. “First of all, Beyoncé’s camp is super tight, and so a lot of times, most people don’t know when they’re making the album. Fortunately, we built a relationship with them that we’ve kind of known — but it was a super surprise… And just to see how many we had at the end, and that they stuck all the way through — again, we had been working on it for two years or so — to see that those particular songs that we created with her made it through, it was such a blessing.”
Pizza, Prayer & Perseverance
“We got to meet up with B a couple times throughout the process. We’d go to her house a couple times. One time we went over, we ate pizza and we just talked,” says Andrews. “A lot of the time, it’s just talking through things, her sharing her vision with us of what she wanted and how she wanted the album to feel.”
The Renaissance tracks Nova Wav worked on involved a range of upstart to A-list producers and songwriters, from Bey’s frequent collaborator The-Dream and fellow production duo The Neptunes to R&B multiphyenates Leven Kali and Dixson. But aside from occasional meetings with Bey, Coney and Andrews say they prefer to work on their own — cooking in the studio by themselves before sharing what they have with their collaborators and coming together to tweak the music. “And that’s kind of how she works, too, which works for us,” Coney adds. “We’ll get together, we’ll talk about where we wanna go, and then we go in our separate rooms. We’ll come up with some things, and then we’ll pass it back and forth.”
The two first worked on “Virgo’s Groove,” which provides a sensual, groovy journey back to the ’90s for its six-minute runtime. “She played us a couple of records. And she was like, ‘Yo, I really want to work on these particular songs.’ And ‘Virgo’s Groove’ was definitely one,” Coney recalls. “I remember we stayed there overnight. We didn’t even go home. We took turns working. And we stayed at the studio overnight and just worked until she got there in the morning. And I remember her coming in, they played her the records, and she was like, ‘Yo, this is so dope. I really just love when I have a lot of help that I can trust.’
“And it’s so crazy because before we went upstairs to meet with her, we actually prayed,” Coney continues. “We’re super big spiritual people. And I think that’s where we also aligned with her, because she’s a very spiritual person as well. So we prayed before we went up there, like, ‘God, we hope this girl likes these songs.’ And for her to reflect that we were the perfect people to help her work on the album, it was dope.”
“She shifted from a mainstream space to a verv explorative one. It feels like she’s just exploring so many different things and she’s not afraid to take chances. And I think that’s why you become great, it’s when you step outside of the box and say, ‘I’m gonna just do what feels right to me. I’m gonna push the needle,’ Andrews says. “Sonically, the adventure she takes us on is so different than anything she’s ever done. Now when she releases a project, you actually don’t know what it’s gonna sound like. You know it’s not going to sound like anything that’s out.”
Adds Coney: “I do feel like sonically, she’s our soulmate because sometimes we have these crazy ideas and people don’t want to take them. And we’re so comfortable sending them to her, because she just understands out-of-the-box, she understands greatness and great creativity.”
Never Underestimating the Power of Women
“Just to having three produced records by us on this album, I don’t think that’s ever been done by a woman on a Beyoncé album. That’s an incredible moment,” notes Andrews. “We’ve been working really, really hard to have visibility and have people understand our vision.”
Coney recalls telling fellow songwriter/producer Sean Garrett about what working with Bey has taught her about herself, and the perception of female producers during Warner Chappell Music’s annual songwriting camp in Las Vegas this past May. “They don’t think that we can really do it, and to see her do so many things and for me to not even be like, ‘Oh, she’s really producing’ — it’s seeing that reflection of ‘Wow, that’s what people also think about us in that space.’
“Just to have that moment to see her be greater than what I even thought she was — even though I knew she was great — taught us a lesson about how people view us,” she continues. “It gave me personally just a lot of peace about how people even treated us in the production space, because she gets the same thing.”