Tony Williams
Tony Williams. You've heard his voice before, but probably won't be able to place the name. He's been a part of some of your favorite records, contributing vocals to classic songs off classic albums like College Dropout and Graduation, as well as singing the hook on Jay-Z's coming-out party for J. Cole, "A Star Is Born," and the smooth standout "Dreaming of Your Love," from Yeezy's stellar Can't Tell Me Nothing Mixtape. The Dallas native recently dropped his first solo mixtape, Finding Dakota Grey, is featured on Consequence's Movies on Demand mixtape, and has been back in the studio working on Ye's highly anticipated Good Ass Job.

In addition to Williams being a part of Kanye's G.O.O.D Music family, he's literally fam, being 'Ye's older cousin. They began working together after Mr. West admired his creativity as a writer and arranger, and talent for putting songs together. Complex spoke to Williams about his most notable studio sessions with Kanye and the stories behind the making of some incredibly memorable records...

As Told To Jordan Martins


We were in Hawaii. We went in with the intent of doing the entire Blueprint 3 album. Kanye was going to do the entire Blueprint 3 and then present it to Jay like here's your album. The writers outside from Kanye were Cudi and myself. I think Jay commissioned him to do two or three tracks. Ye came up with his own idea, "I'll go above and beyond and bring you your whole album." The other joint I did with Jay "History" [Obama endorsing record] spawned out of the same session.

There's a really funny story that I'm almost embarrassed to tell about that record. I'm listening to it for five days before I'm convinced that's me singing on it. "A Star Is Born" actually had Cudi singing on the hook. But typically with Kanye or Cudi, I'll do a vocal, and I'm mixed in singing hooks. Basically I just kind of sung the same stuff Cudi sung. Put in the mix, kind of behind his vocal, underneath to smooth it out a little. The last thing I remember of hearing that song, it was Cudi's vocal, and me kind of mixed in. Fast forward to the release of The Blueprint 3. I was in Atlanta and went to a Common show when he was on tour with Maxwell, and remember running into my guy Omar Edwards backstage who actually musical directs for Jay, and also for Common. He's like, "I love what you did on the "Star Is Born" track." I was like, "Nah, man that's not me." He's like, "I know your voice." I was like, "No that's actually Cudi."

After about four people heard it and congratulated me, I finally got the record. The album said featuring J. Cole and at that point I didn't know who the hell J. Cole was. I'm assuming Jay got somebody else to sing the hook. We do a lot of Common stuff and a lot of artists have preference to certain voices. Kanye likes my voice on his stuff. Common likes Bilal on his tracks. Even when I do it in the studio, if Kanye and I are working on a song for Common, I'll reference a hook, and he'll get Bilal lay it. So I thought Jay-Z wanted J. Cole to sing it, because his name is on it. I didn't get a credit for "A Star Is Born" which is an oversight. All this time I'm thinking it was J. Cole singing. It was me though. I listened to it for five days thinking I was J. Cole. [Laughs.]