Has Kanye changed your process?
2 Chainz: When I do a song, I consider that song history. Around here, they go revisit the song, touch it up, change it, flip it, move it around. [All laugh.] Dude sees all these fucking colors and builds around your vocal tone and moves it around. “Mercy” is some cool-ass genius shit, where he separated the sounds and voices. From the fucking chant, to the hook, to “swerve,” to Sean, to P, and even him switching it up with me coming back in. That’s just what radio needs.
I came from a situation with DTP, being under Luda, where I got a phobia. Sometimes when an artist signs another artist, they’re so worried about themselves. And with Kanye, he helps everybody.
Tip: You know what’s the cool thing about Kanye? Once niggas get to that No. 1 spot, they play it safe. They’ll put out joints that just fit it right, and they’ll get the right motherfucker to sing it. ’Ye don’t give a fuck. He’s trying to change that whole shit. It’s brave, and more niggas need to follow that example.
Cudi: Sometimes in hip-hop people forget about the bed that the lyrics lay in. You can enjoy the raps, and you can enjoy the music at the same time—to the point you don’t mind hearing it for another 30 to 35 seconds. It’s like back in the day, with motherfuckers like Mozart. There wasn’t no fucking words on that shit. It was just sounds and beautiful-ass melodies. That’s what was entertaining to people. I think it’s cool to bring back the instrumentation. When you do shit like that, when kids hear a record that has a long-ass instrumental break—and it’s mad creative, with strings—that triggers kids’ minds.
John Legend: He’s always pushing himself. That’s always been part of his core. That’s what makes him try new things with each album. He’s already been where he was, and he’s ready to move. He’s consistent in the fact that he’s willing to change. He’s willing to push himself and go beyond what he did in the past.
2 Chainz: I’m confident in the music I’m putting out. Me and ’Ye had—it wasn’t an argument, but a conversation. He said, “You shouldn’t put this out,” but my confidence told him, “This shit is going to work.” I premeditated all these things—the timing and everything—and it worked. I thought that was the coolest thing, because Kanye hit me back and let me know that was the move.
Sean: That basically happened with all my singles. ’Ye was like, “I don’t know.” And then they ended up working, and he was like “Good job.” [All laugh.]
Common: I’ve had the opposite experience. They've been saying, “Yo ’Ye, I’m going to put this out,” and then, he’s like, “No,” and that shit works. I’ve been like, “Man, I don’t like that shit,” and it turns out to be somebody else’s song, and that shit be a hit. [Laughs.] I passed on a lot of beats he’s done and...
Cudi: —[Makes bomb noise.]
Any in particular?
Pusha: “Niggas in Paris.”
Tip: You passed on that?
Sean: Get the fuck out of here.
2 Chainz: He ain’t lying. I thought Pusha had that beat. I heard that three or four times, and it wasn’t for him.
Common, you’ve been working with Kanye since 2005. How has the label changed since then?
Common: Now he’s choosing artists that have established themselves to a certain extent because it’s tough when you’re an artist and you’re trying to develop artists. I think he felt that to do the work he wants to do—you see it’s not just music—he didn’t want to take a baby and teach it everything. That’s the biggest change that I’ve seen. And shit, he used to have a phone. [Laughs.]
2 Chainz: I never met Common before. I never met Q-Tip. I’m a country nigga from Atlanta—and they say I’m the hottest nigga doing it. I told them straight up: “I’d like to pay homage to people before me.” I feel like New York is the capital of this shit, as far as this being created here originally—samples, lyrics, substance, all that shit. I tell Sean when he had a hot line, “Nigga, you went in.” Ever since I seen Common’s video, I’ve been wanting to tell him that shit was crazy. And this ain’t being on nobody’s dick or nothing like that, but people don’t do that anymore. Everybody’s got these big-ass egos or they’re scared.
Cudi: You know what it is? You don’t know how they’ll respond to your kindness. Because we’re so real, we want to be kind to somebody and shit.
2 Chainz: You know that shit I’m talking about? When I could be right here and act like I didn’t see Pusha T. That rap shit y’all do, while we in the same club. [All laugh.] Talking to your homeboy, like you don’t see him right there. That shit is lame as hell. That shit is hurting the art.
Cudi: Yeah, but I just don’t like anybody. [All laugh.] Everybody here, I love. If you ain’t in my family, I don’t like you. [Laughs.] Nah, I’m just joking. I love these niggas. I can tolerate other people but I love these niggas. Before this, I was just a wayward wanderer and then I finally found a home. We’re all artists, man. We’re not just writing raps. That’s what I was saying in the beginning. Ain’t no cookie-cutter shit. This ain’t no factory with robots running around, just spitting our raps. We’re there from the ground up creating magic, and that says something, man. If motherfuckers ain’t with it, they better get with it.
2 Chainz: Yeah, man. Win on three. One, two, three. [All laugh.]
Perfect place to end.
WATCH G.O.O.D. MUSIC'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: Lead Image (Clockwise From Top Left): Kid Cudi, Q-Tip, Kanye West, Cyhi, 2 Chainz, Common, Pusha T, Mr. Hudson, John Legend, D'Banj, Teyana Taylor, Big Sean. (PHOTO) Cyhi, D'Banj, Mr. Hudson, Teyana Taylor: Fabien Montique. (STYLING) 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Common, Kid Cudi, Q-Tip: Matthew Henson / Pusha-T: The Sartorial Collective. (GROOMING) Gaston Nunes. (MAKEUP) Rebecca Hickey. SIXTH IMAGE: On Big Sean: T-shirt by Givenchy available at Mr. Porter. On Pusha T: Sweatshirt and T-shirt by Givenchy. On 2 Chainz: Jacket by Public School / T-shirt by Calvin Klein. EIGHTH IMAGE: On Q-Tip: Jacket by Rag & Bone / Jeans by RLX. On Pusha T: Jacket by Dior Homme / T-shirt by Dries Van Noten / Jeans by Acne. On Big Sean: Jacket by Carven available at Mr. Porter / T-shirt by Shades of Grey By Michah Cohen / Jeans by Naked & Famous. On 2 Chainz: Jacket by SLVR / T-shirt by Calvin Klein / Jeans by Naked & Famous. On Common: Jacket by Tim Coppens / T-shirt by Calvin Klein / Jeans by A.P.C. On Kid Cudi : Sweater by Calvin Klein Collection / Jeans Cudi's own. NINTH IMAGE: On Kid Cudi: Jacket by Alexander McQueen available at Mr. Porter. TENTH IMAGE: On Common: Jacket by Tim Coppens. On Kid Cudi: Jacket by Surface to Air / T-shirt by Calvin Klein / Hat by SSUR / Jeans Cudi's Own. On Big Sean: T-shirt by Givenchy / Hat Sean's own. On Pusha T: Sweatshirt and T-shirt by Givenchy. On 2 Chainz: Jacket by Public School / T-shirt by Calvin Klein. On Q-Tip: Jacket by Rick Owens / Jeans by RLX. All jewelry and watches artists' own.