Talking to Drake, I told him there seems to be this underlying current of the “The Real.” Like, "Fuck all the other shit that’s going on in the rap game. What we’re doing is the real shit." Even on “Headlines” there’s that line, “The real is on the rise.”
Fuck them other guys.
Yeah. What constitutes “real” to you guys?
“Real” for me is the music. That term can be interpreted so many ways. When “keeping it real” goes wrong. [Laughs.] But I think for us, when we say “real,” or when Drake says “real”—of course I can’t speak for him. But what I interpret that as is the music.
The music is real. We’re really saying shit that’s happening, it's really his life. He’s really honest. It takes balls to say the shit Drake says. And people might think he’s funny or he’s a really great writer. That’s his life. It’s not a joke. That’s the real to me.
Drake rarely cares about money. I’m constantly letting him know, “Are you sure you wanna do that? I mean, we’re gonna lose a lot. They’re gonna charge us this much for that sample. And this for this.” I don’t give a fuck. I’m making this shit the best I can make it. That to me is the real.
That’s what gives the music some sort of genuine quality. We’re not making it to satisfy a demographic. We’re not making this to please the marketplace or to put money in the bank. Drake rarely cares about money.
I’m constantly letting him know, “Are you sure you wanna do that? I mean, we’re gonna lose a lot. They’re gonna charge us this much for that sample. And this for this.” I don’t give a fuck. I’m making this shit the best I can make it. That to me is the real.
Can I tell you that when your A&R delivers you a record that’s been produced and written by someone else, and you cut it and it goes number one, that that’s the real? No, I can’t.
When me and Drake and Boi-1da or T-Minus stumble into the studio at one o’clock in the morning, and we’re sitting there shooting the shit, laughing and having fun because we’re great friends, and we fire up some instrumental and make a piece of music in a couple hours and have it mixed a couple hours later, and it leaks onto the Internet 30 minutes after that—that’s the real to me. That’s what it means to me.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. How did you and Drake first met?
What’s funny is you’ll hear me tell these stories, and you try to tell them in a way that’s really neat. You have to figure out a way so people can interpret it. Some of these stories just float around.
Even like the story I did with Fader. In that article, I tell the story of the “Replacement Girl” video shoot, which is a very true story. That was really the first time I went to go sit with Drake, play him music and talk to him about working with him.
But the first time I shook his hand and met him was in 2004 at Gadget’s—who mixes our music to this day—studio in Toronto. I was working on a record for an artist named Divine Brown. She appears on “Headlines” singing back-up vocals, which is completely ironic and funny.
I actually got my first gold record with Divine here in Canada, which sold 50,000 units and was a really big record. That’s like selling 500K in the U.S. Boi-1da had produced the remix to the song that I produced for Divine Brown called “Twist My Hair.”
Saukrates—another rapper from Toronto—who produced the Divine record with me, knew Boi-1da and got him to do the remix. Boi-1da was just a kid. He must have been 18 years old. He does the remix and throws Drake on it. Drake and Boi-1da came to the studio to drop off the files for the remix so that Gadget and myself can put them all together and get the mix done. I met Drake and Boi-1da that day.
Oliver had a run-in with Drake over a girl, and they thought they hated each other. They even had a stand-off outside of a club at one point. It’s the best story ever. They realize that they don’t even know each other, and that they’re potentially friends.
Oliver and I went to the same high school and sat next to each other in homeroom, and we both had Lebanese last names, so we instantly became friends. Their story is hilarious. He’d had a run-in with Drake over a girl, and they thought they hated each other. They even had a stand-off outside of a club at one point. It’s the best story ever.
They realize that they don’t even know each other, and that they’re potentially friends. So Drake and Oliver kind of made a connection and a relationship. Oliver kept telling me, “Yo, you’ve got to link with Drake.”
I had been the biggest Drake fan in the world. The first time I heard him was on the radio on a song called “Do What You Do” featuring the Clipse, and I was working on Divine and Jelly’s album in 2005, and I had heard the song on the radio, and I lost it. I was like, “This kid is unbelievable. Who the fuck is he? I can’t believe he’s from Toronto. I’ve got to find him.”
Eventually, he walked in the studio with the Boi-1da remix situation, and I got to meet him. Then we didn’t have that much communication, and it must have been six months to a year later when Oliver had run into him and stated to me, “You have to link with him.”
So Oliver gave me his number, and I called him a few times, and he may have called me back, and we played phone tag and missed each other. Another month goes by and Oliver’s like, ‘Yo, did you talk to him?” I’m like, “Yeah, I called him twice. He never called me back.” He’s like, “What the fuck yo? Swallow your fucking pride and call the fucking guy!” I’m like, “I’m calling him, what the fuck. I want to work with him. I’m calling him. What can I do, you know?” [Laughs.]
So I call him again and he says he’s got the video shoot. That’s when I go by the video shoot for “Replacement Girl.” I remember I had a CD with 10 beats on it. I think I still have some of those beats. They’re probably all terrible. Some of them aren’t even cool. I was an engineer and a mixer.
So he listened to them, and I remember him being very impressed with the quality of it. He was like, “Wow. Sonically, this sounds great.” Some of the stuff was cool. There was a couple Ark beats in there. So he was like, “I want to work on this mixtape.”
Drake came to the studio a couple days later, and I charged him to work with me for a couple days, and we sort of made a pact and decided we were going to take over the world.
We started discussing it and from that point, it was an engineer relationship. So he came to the studio a couple days later, and I charged him to work with me for a couple days, and we sort of made a pact and decided we were going to take over the world.
I had a studio and could record and mix him, and he could rap, and we could get a beat from Boi-1da or whoever we needed it from, and we just sort of kept it running. I worked my day job and stayed up all night making music with Drake.
That’s the full of it. That’s everything, all the encounters. From originally me listening to him on a song at Jelly’s house to hearing him on the radio, then meeting him at Blacksmith with Gadget and Boi-1da and the Divine song, and then Oliver having his run-ins with him and Oliver being my best friend, and then those guys connecting, and Oliver forcing me to connect with him, and then me and him finally connect, and me—I mean, I had really been trying to get with him since I heard that song.
Then we got in the studio just for some money for a couple days to track him and then from there it was just off and running. That was it. That was the entirety of our connecting.