T-Minus is a name you might not know, but probably should learn. Born Tyler Williams, this Toronto-based producer of Jamaican descent has been on the scene for a few years, making beats for the likes of Birdman, Plies, and Lyfe Jennings. Although he really made a name for himself last year with Ludacris' chart smash "How Low," he's looking to have an even bigger 2011. He's already produced the exceptional T.I. cut "Poppin' Bottles"—a Drake-featured track from No Mercy—as well as Nicki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life" which looks like the next single. We got on the horn with the 22-year-old to talk about how "Moment 4 Life" came about, how Wiz Khalifa's version of "Poppin' Bottles" leaked before T.I.'s version, and how he's currently working on Drake's Take Care as well as Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin).
On producing songs for Drake's Take Care...
"I talk to Drake on a regular basis. Man, I've known Drake from a long time ago. I've known him since "Replacement Girl" days, me and Boi-1da produced that. But what happened was, because me and Boi-1da weren't working that much together, and because Boi-1da was so close to Drake, we didn't really get to talk as much. But about three months ago, we kind of hooked back up in L.A., and he invited me onto Take Care. We're all working on his album; me, 40, and Boi-1da.
"I was just in the studio for three days in Toronto with Drake and T-Pain, trying to come up with some records. Drake just went on tour, so when he gets back we're probably going to get back in the studio to do some more work. But his album is a work in progress. [The other day] I was up for 24 hours because we were at the studio the entire night. The new songs were a mix of [rapping and singing]. He actually just did a record in the studio with 40, and man it sounded crazy. It was more of a R&B record, and T-Pain was on it as well, but man, when that finished product comes out it's going to be nuts. I think he's probably going to drop like in the fall, possibly October. But I'm not too sure."
On producing songs for Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV
"Me and Drake had this record that we were going to put on Take Care, but 40 put this crazy mix on it and just made the beat bang—and after Wayne heard the mix that 40 did he was just like, 'Wow, I've got to use this for my album.' So yeah, I'm on the Tha Carter IV. The record is called 'Maybe She Will.' Things could change, but so far, it's Wayne, and they got a verse from Ross, and they got Drake on the hook. I never even heard Wayne's verse. I briefly met Wayne a few weeks ago, when I was in New York, and it was really short, like a few seconds meeting him. It was a session that we were having for Wayne and Drake. Boi-1da was there, too. But Wayne's project, they're trying to wrap it up really soon. He's got a bunch of songs ready for the album. He's just got to get a few more done, and then they're going to push it out."
"In a nutshell, I gave a few beats to Boi-1da—who I work really closely with—and he sent it over to Drake. That happened maybe four or five months ago. Drake got the record, and from what I was told, he was in a session with Nicki, and she asked to hear some beats. So he played her the beat and that's how the record came about. I wasn't around [when it was recorded]. I was in Toronto when it all happened, but I'm not sure where they were. I've never even had the pleasure of meeting [Nicki]. That's how these sessions are done usually.
"But me and Boi-1da grew up together. We went to the same high school. We met up when I was about 15, he was about 17. I was making beats, he was making beats, and we just started working together. We kind of went our separate ways at one point, but just as recently as maybe seven or eight months ago, actually maybe even a year ago, we hooked back up. And we started working again. Boi-1da has definitely been an influence on me, just growing up and producing with him, and learning from him as well. So I feel like a lot of my style comes from 1da, but it's like its own style in a sense. It's kind of like a Timbaland/Danja relationship: Danja definitely has his own style, but you can feel how his music is still influenced by [Timbaland]."
On the making of T.I.'s "Poppin' Bottles"...
"We had a hook, and we were going to give it to Jeezy. So we got it to Gee Roberson. He got it and he loved it. And he said, 'You know what, we're going to use this for T.I.'s project.' He was A&R-ing T.I.'s project, and he was also managing Jeezy. His connection with Jeezy was originally why we were going to give Jeezy the record, but because he was A&R-ing T.I.'s project, he wanted to give it to him. So we just went with it.
"[Drake got on it] out of nowhere. After we did 'Moment 4 Life,' we were both in L.A., and I randomly got a phone call from Drake. He's like, 'Yeah, I just got this beat from Gee.' Gee is his manager as well. And [Drake] was saying that it was a T.I. track and he needed to put a verse on it. And he didn't even know it was my beat, so he was like, 'Yo. Let's get together and do some more work.' So that was how the whole thing happened. It was almost like a last minute thing. By that time, I think T.I. was already going to jail.
"I don't know if you heard about the Wiz Khalifa situation with that record, but I really want to explain how that whole situation happened. Usually producers send out a beat to multiple people, and hope that somebody will catch it. I had sent it out to them at the same time and both were loving the beat. Wiz Khalifa's people asked [for the beat]. But at the time, I had already agreed to give the record to T.I. So I said, 'Unfortunately, I can't give you guys the record.' And they were a little bit upset about it, because they already did a record to it, and they wanted to use it. This type of stuff happens all the time.
I guess the song just leaked on its own. I don't know who leaked it, but it ended up on the Internet before T.I.'s album came out. So there was a lot of speculation on whether I sold the beat twice. It's possible [they leaked it themsleves]. I mean, anything is possible in the music industry, man. It could've been hacked from an e-mail. It could've been leaked out of spite, who knows? Everything is business. When these guys don't deal with the business beforehand, they can't expect the record to be theirs. You know what I mean? With situations like that, you've got to make sure you lock in the track and deal with all the paperwork before you go ahead."