Who Is Elijah Blake?

The Making of Usher’s “Climax”

"I ended up getting a session with Mary J. Bilige. I went from writing songs hoping that the artists would hear them to being in the studio with them. The next thing I know I was on a plane because Mark Pitts had played a song for Usher. He was like ‘I think this kid is the future.’

"I got a phone call—it was nighttime and I was like half asleep—and it was like, ‘I need you to get on a plane and go to New York.’ And I was like, ‘For what? Does it have to be tomorrow? And they were like, ‘Yes.’ And I said ‘For who?’ And they said ‘Usher.’ And I was like, ‘You got the right number? Are you calling the right person?’ Because for me it’s like Michael Jackson then Usher, and when Michael was gone I was like, I have to meet him. I didn’t get that chance to rub shoulders with my icon. 

 

When we got to work with Usher, he was saying ‘I've gotten so much success from the pop world recently and I can’t just leave them hanging, but my real fan base is from the urban world and from what I've been able to accomplish in R&B. On this album I want to be able to please everybody.’

“I got there late, and Usher’s already there. He’s just as humble as can be like, ‘Hey, how’s it going? I'm Usher.’ And I'm like, ‘I know who the hell you are—do you know who I am? Do you even know why I'm supposed to be here?’ The whole time on the plane I was like, ‘I'm gonna embarrass myself. He's not gonna know who I am. He's gonna be like, ‘What the hell are you doing in this session?’ I was thinking Mark PItts is just trying to look out for me and he's gonna have to introduce me in the session as I go in. I sit there and Usher goes to talk on the phone and when he gets back in the room, Usher looks at me just like I thought it was gonna be. He says ‘What are you guys doing here?’ And me and my composer go “Uh...” I end up saying, like, ‘Um, well, Mark Pitts told me to show up here for the session to write with you.’ He was like, ‘You’re supposed to say, We’re here to make history, man!’ And he was like "[Laughs] That wasn’t funny man. We thought we were about to get kicked out.’ He was like, ‘Nah, we here to make history man. Once you say that from the beginning and that’s the goal, that’s what it’s gonna be.’

“When we got to work with Usher, he was saying ‘I've gotten so much success from the pop world recently and I can’t just leave them hanging, but my real fan base is from the urban world and from what I've been able to accomplish in R&B. On this album I want to be able to please everybody.’ He was so successful with [songs like ‘O.M.G.’] and the R&B people were like, 'What about us?' I had like the hardest task—how do I please both of these audiences? Honestly when he was telling me that I was like hell if I know, because that sounded difficult as hell.

"He plays me some of the stuff he's done and then Diplo is sitting there and I didn’t even know that was Diplo, because I had never seen him. I thought, maybe Usher's experimenting because I don’t even know who these guys are; I don’t feel so weird because they are new guys too. Diplo is like, ‘What’s your name?’ When I told him he was like, ‘Oh, I've heard of you.’ And I was like, ‘What’s your name?’ And he was like, ‘Diplo.’ And I was like ‘Ohhhh.’ This shit should have been on a TV show, because I was like, ‘I heard of you too, man.’

“Usher was so focused on bridging the gap that anything that was a good song he would say, ‘OK, that’s a good song but I just wanna be great.’ They would go to the wayside. We were all kinda tense cause we were like if it’s not the best shit ever then he's not even gonna listen to it.

 

I was really good at Connect Four so I was like, let’s break the vibe. I'm unbeatable at Connect Four. It’s very spooky how good I am.

“What really broke the ice honestly was Connect Four. I was really good at Connect Four so I was like, let’s break the vibe. I'm unbeatable at Connect Four. It’s very spooky how good I am. He sends the intern and the intern brings back Connect Four and Usher’s competitive so the fact that I said no one can beat me was enough to get everyone. It was a room full of guys so those were fighting words: I said no one could beat me. For days, honestly, me and Usher played round after round and Usher would not stop. I was like, We gotta get a song and he was like, ‘Nope.’ Usher kept wanting to play me and I understand that he was competitive but after a while he's gotta want to stop. But this guy was learning my strategy and he played me for like 2 days and I was killing him. I was like, ‘It’s not even fair.’ I'm talking all this trash. Then the 3rd day he kicked my ass. He mastered my technique and killed me. But that taught me something. You don’t always have to get it right the first time as long as you get it right. Me killing him and beating him that many times, it didn’t discourage him. It just made him wanna learn it more to be better than me. And so he's just like, 'Lemme show you why I've been able to stay in this game this long. It’s cause I've been able to adapt.' And that’s what he did. He adapted to my playing style and then he beat me. 

 

The concept of 'Climax' was the peak of a relationship where it comes to a stop not because someone cheated or lied but just where there's no excitement left because everything has been exhauste

“Diplo had the track for ‘Climax,’ and we were like, ‘This is a great track but what the hell do we sing to it?’ We were just like putting our ideas out and I was singing melodies and he was like, 'I like this, I don’t like this'—hands on. We ended up coming up with “Climax.” At the time I was like, I know this is a weird song, I don't know how it’s gonna end up being perceived. The next day Usher came through and blasted it and played it—it had to be like six times straight—and danced to it. Or definitely more than that. I don’t wanna sound like I'm exaggerating but it was a lot, and he was like performing to it in front of the speakers and I was like, 'Wow this could really be something.'

“The way ‘Climax’ happened honestly was that I actually have a bunch of concepts in my phone. I have like at least like 400 concepts. Usually when we write I will just throw out concepts and he’ll be like, I like this, I don’t like this—and bounce them around. The concept of that song was the peak of a relationship where it comes to a stop not because someone cheated or lied but just where there's no excitement left because everything has been exhausted and two people just call it a relationship because they're comfortable and don't necessarily know if they want to invest the time to start a new relationship, let alone look for one so you're basically torn.

“The melody and the hook are what came first and then I was like, ‘This is so high. Is he gonna drop the key? And then he went in there and sang it falsetto. Sometimes I get in trouble because any song that I write is like super high, so people always say ‘There goes another Redd song,’ because it’s like super-high. But every now and then you come across a talent like Usher who can sing those types of songs and not have to change it. I just felt that song was something special when we did it. They say you know but I really knew—because me and Usher did a lot of songs. People were like, 'You told us there was one song that was gonna be it.' And they know it when they hear it.

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