DJ Toomp Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records

Kanye West "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (2007)


Album: Graduation
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

DJ Toomp: “Me and Kanye West really connected when I was in New York to work with him on his album Graduation, but we actually met while I was working on T.I.’s album Trap Muzik. At the time he was still only producing. I remember me and him chatting real quick because he was just in and out of town, and we hung out a bit in Atlanta. We even hit up Body Tap, this spot where they had female boxing.

“Fast-forward years later: I was in New York and had missed a flight, and the next one wasn’t until the next six hours. So Big Jon called me and was like, 'Yo, kill some time: Kanye’s down in the studio. Let’s just see what could happen.'

“When I arrived at the studio, Ye remembered me from the T.I. shit so it was a lot of respect. He was in there messing with some stuff and he had the keyboard hooked up, an Ensoniq ASR10, which is the same keyboard I’ve been using since day one. The ASR-10 is a real vintage board that a lot of producers still like to tap. Timbaland and some of everybody still use it, Pharrell too. But it’s known for blinking out, I mean you can be in the middle of making a banger and it just choose to say, 'Aight, I don’t feel like working no more' and just cut off on you.

“When I showed up in the studio, Ye was like, 'Man, let’s see what you can come up with.' And I made a beat right there on the spot. But it happened: the ASR-10 cut off on me.

“So my [business partner] Bernard was like, 'Man, what just happened?!' and Ye said, 'Man, that’s just what it do.' Then Ye looked over at me and was like, 'Just from the fact that you put that track together that fast, and how hot it was, let’s hook up. I want to get up with you down in Atlanta. I want to work on an album in Atlanta and I’ll come down with you to get started on it.'

“When it came time to make music, he was touring so it took him about another two months before he called me and was like, 'I’m on my way down there [to Atlanta].'

“Once we started working together on Graduation, it definitely felt like a team atmosphere. It felt like, 'we.' The whole vibe was perfect. Him being an artist slash producer made it even better, because thanks to his producer side, he really gets it. Plus we both use the same type of equipment. Even though he’s a fellow producer, I didn’t feel scrutinized.

“On 'Can’t Tell Me Nothing,' those strings mesmerize you. We wanted [the song] to feel spooky like that. Those were real strings, and me and him were just going back and forth with files. I would say that sixty percent of 'Can’t Tell Me Nothing' was Ye, and forty me. Ye is a mastermind.”

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