DJ Toomp Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records

T.I. "What You Know" (2006)


Album: King
Label: Grand Hustle Records, Atlantic Records

DJ Toomp: “A few people had 'What You Know' before T.I. did. First Benzino and then Baby from Cash Money made a song to it. But after T.I. did it, I had to call everybody and be like, 'This track is not available anymore.' Some people took it kind of hard, but at the end of the day they had to basically commend me. They were like, 'We wouldn’t have been able to do what this song did. We’re glad that you let T.I. get this record.'

“I use to always go through the crates and just listen to a lot of ol’ skool records. Some of the end-parts of a lot of those records from the 70s be the most musical part with the most feeling. . A lot of joints that I’ve actually sampled is usually the end part. On Mariah Carey’s 'Stay With Me,' I used the DeBarge record, and that was the end part of the song. I did the same with Jay-Z’s 'Say Hello.'

“So around this time, I had always liked the end part of that song 'Gone Away' by Roberta Flack. But it really didn’t come out too cool when I tried to sample it for 'What You Know,' so me and my engineer at the time, this guy name Wonder, we played the melody and we put it together and he played some of the instruments on there to help me pull out some of the synthesizers. Once I put the beat on it and just really started arranging it and really hooking it up, making it thorough, I started moving it around.

“It came together nicely. When I played it for Tip I remember he came up with the hook in like ten minutes. People would walk into the room and just when they heard the hook, they knew it was out of here. I mean, no verse or nothing, just the hook alone, had them like, 'Oh my God, it’s gone. It’s a smash.'

“Till this day, 'What You Know' and 'Good Life' are two of my biggest records. Kanye won a Grammy off 'Good Life,' and I won a Grammy off 'What You Know' also. I would say both records are neck and neck as far as success.

“I remember when 'What You Know' first came out, DJ Khaled called me from Miami and was like, 'Yo, you guys got a smash! I want you to listen to this crowd man when I drop this record and watch what they do.' He dropped that shit and everybody went crazy. He was like, 'Man you got one, I’m telling you, you got one.' He was excited, it was like he was almost about to say, 'Yo man, we the best!'

“It was also wild because I had the pressure put on me. Craig Kallman and Mike Caren were like, 'Hey, we doing this ATL movie too and we need a big record— something big and crazy!' and that’s what we came with. I delivered.”

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