DJ Toomp Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records

Kanye West "Big Brother" (2007)


Album: Graduation
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

DJ Toomp: “'Big Brother' wasn’t just the last song on the Graduation album: it was the last song me and Kanye recorded and the last song he mixed. While working in the studio, I remember Ye kept on telling me about a hook and a concept, and he kept saying, 'I got this thing called ‘Big Brother’ and it’s supposed to be a song where I’m talking to Jay. I need [a beat] with some real feel in it.'

“I’ve always been a fan of Prince. And that song, 'It’s Gonna be Lonely' is one of my favorite Prince songs. I use to always love the end part of it. So what I did was replay that part of the song, after Ye told me what he wanted. I took it to the lab and made 'Big Brother' in one day.

“When I played it, it was some A&Rs from Def Jam in the studio and everybody was just like, 'Wow, that’s incredible.' Ye looked at me and was like, 'Damn dude, you just did that?' And I said, 'Yea, I did that today. Strictly for you.' So he rapped over it.

“I then came up to New York to mix the record. But by the time I got there, Prince said me and Ye couldn’t use his music. Then later he decided to let us use it, but he said he wanted one hundred percent of it— he didn’t want us to have any publishing.

“I looked at Ye and was like, 'Man, honestly you can do shows…but I eat off of publishing. I’m not about to have that man taking all my publishing.'

“Crazy thing is, I didn’t bring the particular laptop I would’ve needed to New York, because I thought that the song would have been cleared. So I had to fly back to Atlanta to not only get my computer, but remake the entire record. I had to move some notes around and come up with my own melody.

“So I flew down to Atlanta for just a few hours, and right when I was done remaking the record, I left right out of my studio and went straight to the airport. I didn’t even have time to see anyone when I came home—I remade the beat and headed back to New York. I never panicked. That’s the last shit I would do. But there was some pressure.

“When I got back to New York, Ye synced the vocals back up with the track, and it was the same magic. Everybody was like, 'Man, you didn’t miss a beat. That shit is incredible, let’s go.'

“I was there when Jay-Z first heard 'Big Brother.' Ye wanted him to hear it before it was finished just to make sure he would approve it. Ye was speaking of Jay on that record but at the same time he was like, 'Let me let him hear this to make sure that it’s cool—so he won’t feel like I’m talking bad about him on the record.'

“Ye had been told Jay about the record, but when Jay finally heard it, it was like a little quiet moment in the studio. In the studio it was just me, Ye, Jay, and Jay Brown. It was an emotional moment. I mean, it wasn’t no tearjerker moment, but it was like, 'Damn bro, that’s how you feel?' It was love. It wasn’t too much said at all, it was just a quiet moment. I mean Jay is good at not showing emotion, he done mastered that shit. I don’t know who he learned that from but he’s good. But when he heard 'Big Brother' he was just like, 'Yea man, that shit’s right.'”

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