DJ Toomp Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records

The legendary Atlanta producer talks about how his records with Kanye West, Jay-Z, and others came about.

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A lot of your favorite producers made a name for themselves the new-age, YouTube-driven, reality TV way: They moved from behind the mixing board to in front of the music video camera, and became stars—or what the kids call "legends." But DJ Toomp is what we call "old school": He earned legendary status without people even knowing what he looks like.

While producers like Pharrell were probably somewhere at band camp, and Puffy was on his way to college, DJ Toomp was already a professional in a business that swallows producers and spits them back out. Starting off as a DJ for MC Shy D, Toomp turned producer, and later became a Grammy-winning, go-to beatmaker that still has refused to go Hollywood. He's one of T.I.'s mentors, but never brags about it. Jay-Z flies him to New York just to hang out, and he never brags about that, either. Kanye West has used him as a muse in the studio, but for Toomp, it is what it is.

Though he's notorious for looking intimidating on the exterior, everyone who's met him will agree that Toomp is one of the friendliest and most humble dudes they've ever come across. Even when it comes to those jealous of his catalog or money, Toomp is still chipper. "I know how to kill stuff with kindness and a smile," he says softly from his home in Atlanta one evening while making a protein shake. "You just got to know how to deal with people. That’s a gift."

His other gift, production, has created for him a lifestyle that explains why he's so upbeat all the time. His body of work is unparalleled. His list of hits seems endless. And for the first time, in this Complex exclusive, DJ Toomp takes us through decades of his biggest tracks and gives us the in-depth inside stories you've never heard before.

As told to Linda Hobbs

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MC Shy D "Shake It" (1988)

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Album: Coming Correct
Label: Luke Skyywalker Records

DJ Toomp: “When I was working with MC Shy D, it was my idea to basically come out with a song that was more repetitive, with a concept to it. And that’s what 'Shake It' was: him talking to the girl, telling her, 'Don’t sit around, being lame; get out here and shake it.'

“We were at Shy D’s house one day. His parents use to stay out there in Ellenwood, and we were sitting there, thinking like, 'We got about ten songs so far…' I kept telling him, 'Ay man, we need another song that’s repetitive, to where it can keep saying the same thing. We need something that can really stick in people’s head. And I kept going, ‘do it, move it, work it…'

“So we started putting the beat together, me and Mike Fresh, and I finally came up with 'Shake It.' I was like, 'That’s it.' We sampled Shy D’s voice for the track. By the time we got to Miami we were able to just put it all together because we were able to track it all down. And the drum machine that we had you really couldn’t get but so much music out of it, so we had to track stuff out in the studio and then add more music to it. And it ended up being a big record.”

2 Live Crew "In The Dust" (1991)

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Album: New Jack City
Label: Giant Records, Warner Brothers Records

DJ Toomp: “2 Live Crew took advantage of the little young DJ Toomp. I didn’t get my credits on that particular album. New Jack City movie credits went up, I didn’t see my name on there. But till this day, everybody know that I produced 'Dick In The Dust.' But since [the movie studio] were actually dealing directly with Luke, by the time it got to Luke I don’t know if selective memory kicked in where they just forgot who did the track, so on the credits it was just his name, Mike Fresh and Cool Cali, ODS Productions—but DJ Toomp wasn’t on there.

“What’s crazy about that is, I wasn’t signed at the time. I was working up under some other producers. And that was my first time [producing a big record] like that. I was about to turn 21.

“The song itself was just a track that I had sampled from the Neville Brothers, but I can’t think of the original name. I actually did it with the MP1200 back then. I just put the track together and we were at Luke’s studio. 2 Live Crew were like, 'Yo, we looking for a song for the New Jack City soundtrack!' and so one of the guys, I think Brother Marquis heard it and was like, 'Yo, I got something for that, it’s a song called ‘Dick In The Dirt’!' and they ended up calling it 'Dick In The Dust.' It took Kid Ice about eight hours to get his verse right because the beat was a lot slower than the average 2 Live Crew record. So the rhythm was a little crazy for him, so it took a minute, but it ended up coming out being a cool record. I mean, those guys are cool. I now realize that was a [life] course that I took. It prepared me for the real world.

“But till this day I never got royalties or anything from that record because I was just young, so I never even handled my black and white. I got a little green off of it, but I never did end up with the black and white: which is the publishing and all the rights and stuff.

“I mean, I explained to people I did the record, and even 2 Live Crew has never denied it. They be like, 'Yea, Toomp did do it.'

“I mean, in this game ain’t too many producers gonna just lie about what they did. But with them I was like, 'Go and let people know that I did this track. Don’t stick me both ways, you already done took my credits.'”

Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz "Shawty Freak A Lil' Sumtin" (1997)

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T.I. "Do It" (2001)

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Album: I'm Serious
Label: Arista Records

DJ Toomp: “'Do It' was an influence of some of the stuff Cash Money was doing. 'Back Dat Azz Up' and a few other joints they had around that tempo. That’s when that New Orleans sound started coming through.

“Tip originally came up with the title, 'Dat Azz'—that’s what we called it at first. But then we were like, 'Okay, that can’t be your title'…

“When he rhymed over it, the way he put it together, I remember everybody was like, 'Aight, this is pretty nice.' But then after awhile we started catching on to the little rhythm of it more and were like, 'Damn, this could make the album.' At first we thought it would just be a little mixtape song, but when we started seeing the reaction from people, we were definitely like, 'Let’s put this on the album.”'

T.I. "Heavy Chevys" (2001)

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Album: I'm Serious
Label: Arista Records

DJ Toomp: “‘Heavy Chevys' was originally a Big Kuntry song. If Tip wasn’t at my house, sometimes Big Kuntry would just stop through and listen to tracks. Oftentimes he’d hear a certain beat and be like, 'Man, I got something for that!'

“I never really took Kuntry seriously at first when he’d say that, because he jokes so much. But after hearing 'Heavy Chevys' he was like, 'Man, give me that beat right there!' And I gave him beat, and I was say within a weeks time he came with the hook and everything. Tip heard the song and fell in love with it. He then decided to put it on the album.”

T.I. "Dope Boyz" (2001)

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Album: I'm Serious
Label: Arista Records

DJ Toomp: “'Dope Boyz' was influenced by UGK’s stuff… I ain’t gon’ front. Around that time, Master P and them were doing their thing, and a lot of folks in Texas and Louisiana were using those organs, some of that Pimp C influence. So I will definitely admit and say that 'Dope Boyz [In The Trap' was a Pimp influence.

“When I started working on, I had found the right organs in my keyboard and went to work. But when me and Tip did the song, LA didn’t get it. This is when Tip was signed to LaFace Records. LA Reid was like, 'What the hell is a trap?' I don’t think LaFace was really ready to hear a song talking about dope boys, because it was so new. That track kind of rubbed a few people the wrong way in the beginning. So while LA was trying to figure out what the hell a 'trap' was, we really didn’t get the kind of promotion that we wanted for the song because the label wasn’t really standing behind it, but just so happen, the song had legs on its own.

“We did our own video and everything to it. Then we decided to fly up to New York and sit with LA. It was just me, Tip and Jason [Geter]. We were like, 'Let’s just drive up to New York.' So all three of us all jumped on the road and drove up to New York, in like ten inches of snow, in Jason’s Yukon. We literally drove from Atlanta to New York. When we got there, we spoke to LA and told him how we felt. Of course, we didn’t go up in there on no rowdy shit or nothing, it was just from the heart. We were like, 'Hey man, what you gon’ do? Either get behind this or we ready to get off the label.' So LA decided to let us get off the label. He gave us the release.

“After that happened, we just started doing shows, just surviving and kicking it, and the next thing we know the Atlantic Records deal came around.”

Pastor Troy "Ridin Big" (2003)

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Album: By Any Means Necessary
Label: Universal Records

Dj Toomp: “I think Boyz In Da Hood originally had 'Ridin Big.' I gave it to them and Pastor Troy around the same time. But I liked what Pastor Troy did to it more than what they did to it.

“I first met Pastor Troy about a year after that 'No Mo Play in GA.' Around that time I was like, 'Damn, who is that dude?' I mean, I’m from Atlanta, I use to know everybody that came up out of here. But he was that new dude. Once we met the vibe was incredible, he was hella cool.

“For 'Ridin Big' I had sampled the 'Mack' soundtrack. And it ended up being a great record.”

T.I. "Trap Muzik" (2004)

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Album: Trap Muzik
Label: Grand Hustle Records, Atlantic Records

DJ Toomp: “Me and Tip produced 'Trap Muzik' together. You know Tip produce too. You put him on an MP and a keyboard, and that man will definitely show you what time it is. He already knew how to produce when we met. That’s what helped our chemistry. When you have an artist who knows music to a certain degree, it helps a lot—the songs come together a lot easier, it makes the writing process a lot easier. For this record, first he had the roughs of it together. He had the organ, but we just started playing around with it a little bit more. He had the idea but I ended up coming in and we just took it to the next level, and made it the title song, the intro for the entire Trap Muzik album.”

T.I. "24s" (2004)

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Album: Trap Muzik
Label: Grand Hustle Records, Atlantic Records

DJ Toomp: “I was in Tip mode at that point. Matter-of-fact, that on a Thursday or a Friday, during the summer, I can’t remember the exact year.

“T.I. and the rest of P$C use to come to by my house to get haircuts by me. I use to cut everybody’s hair. I had about twelve customers a week and had no license, just the skills. One day when they all came through for a cut, it was on a Thursday or Friday during the summer. I can’t remember the exact year.

“That particular morning, around 9 o’clock, I was working on the track that became '24s.' And I was just letting the track play all day, the same track over and over. I would normally cut hair in the front room of the house and I use to have the music turned down low.

“A lot of times when you make a track and you know it’s that 'one' you’ll let it play for a while. Sometimes you’ll walk around the house, go get something to eat, come back and see how it sounds when you come back into the room, just to see if you hear something different that you need to add or take out.

“After letting the track just play all morning, around 3 o’clock, T.I. and the crew came to get their haircut. I remember Tip was sitting in the chair and the beat was playing in another room. At one point while I was cutting his hair he was like, 'Man, what’s that back there, who that for?' And I was like, 'Man, don’t ask who it’s for. If you like it, it’s for you.'

“And I would say within the first twenty minutes of me getting into the fade, like I had literally just made the line around his head, he kind of started bobbing his head and I was like, 'Dude, you gonna have to sit still.' And he was like, 'Put that [beat] on CD for me, I got something for that.'

“I guess he was digging the way I had put the strings together, it was like a little orchestra track. By the time I gave him the CD of the track, within a day’s time he had the hook for it already, and next thing you know, it was done.”

T.I. "Be Easy" (2004)

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Album: Trap Muzik
Label: Grand Hustle Records, Atlantic Records

DJ Toomp: “It took me only three hours to make 'Be Easy.' Usually, it may take me about fifteen to twenty minutes to put a beat together. To really finish it, may take a good two hours. If anything, what actually takes long is just digging through crates, listening to old records. But once I find a sample that I like, it don’t take no time.

“I sampled Al Hudson, 'Somebody to Love' for the track. Originally the song kind of reminded me of a gospel record. When I made the record, I was definitely thinking about Tip, I had him in mind—just the whole flow of it, the pianos that I heard at the beginning.

“I remember thinking, 'How can I give this song a whole other kick, another bounce?' I kept listening to it, seeing what I could add in. What I wound up doing was put my bounce to it with the 808, and I put a few horns in it and gave those pianos a whole ‘nother feel.

“I feel like 'Be Easy' was the start of that whole 'trap' sound. Even Shawty Redd said that 'Be Easy' was one of his favorite records. Today I can listen to some of the stuff he’s done for Jeezy and tell where he got that bounce from.”

T.I. "U Don't Know Me" (2004)

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Album: Urban Legend
Label: Grand Hustle Records, Atlantic Records

DJ Toomp: “I had moved the track 'You Don’t Know Me' around to a few people. I think the Youngbloodz had it first. The stuff I heard them put to it was cool, but by the time Tip got to it, I think some of his homeboys called him and was like, 'Yo man, ya’ll got another one!'

“All I can remember thinking was, 'Damn, which beat was it?' Because I had given Tip about four beats along with 'You Don’t Know Me.' When his boys played which song it was I was like, 'Oh my God… I can’t wait to hear it.' And when I heard it, I was blown away.

“When I made the track, I was in a real experimental stage. The record was done back when my studio was on Campbellton Road, right over in southwest Atlanta. I was going through some of my [beats] and I started playing around. I sent some of my [beats] through certain effects processors and this one effect I used basically made my track sound like a totally different song. It made it sound so different, that I actually sampled my own music going through that effect, and built a new song around it. I messed with 'You Don’t Know Me' for at least six hours, and when I finally got it together it was hot.”

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

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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.”

Rick Ross "Prayer" (2006)

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Album: Port of Miami
Label: Def Jam Records

DJ Toomp: “I didn’t do 'Prayer,' but that was my music. 'Prayer' was originally a track that Rick Ross had gotten from me, but [another producer] played it over—basically another producer had almost reproduced the whole track. And I really took offense to that. [Me and Ross] almost took it there as far as lawsuits and whatnot, but we just decided to go ahead and keep the work relationship going. We ended up straightening it out. I can’t remember if I ever got any credit for that song, but I think I got a little publishing [money] from it.

“I mean, you’re going to have people who bite. Even when I came with Jeezy’s 'I Luv It,' about three songs came out that sound just like 'I Love It' within that quarter. When I did 'You Don’t Know Me' for Tip, some producer out of Texas or Louisiana had basically replayed the whole track for Juvenile. And with [T.I.’s] 'What You Know,' the way I went in on those cord progressions, and the way I arranged those synthesizers, a few people grabbed that concept too.

“If anything it’s flattering. I feel somewhat like a trendsetter when I hear people actually biting my style. Some producers get offended and take it personal but my whole thing is, 'It’s mine, so if anybody gon’ get paid for doing it first, it’s gonna be me.'

“People still respect the original version of stuff though. They can tell when somebody’s biting. I get a lot of phone calls where folks be like, 'Man I thought that was you, they biting your style!' But I’m someone who’d still go on the internet and show how I put stuff together. Ultimately, people can do whatever, even buy the same equipment, but they still can’t get that original cuisine.”

Rick Ross "White House" (2006)

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Album: Port of Miami
Label: Def Jam Records

DJ Toomp: “Making Rick Ross’ 'White House' was just organic. I mean, even when I’m here at the crib, once I turn my computer on the melodies just starts coming up in my head, or I might just hear one sound. On 'White House' there’s like this little string in the song and I just kept hitting it and the different melodies. Once I put the 808 and the drums in, it took it to a whole ‘nother level.

“Sometimes I think about taking piano lessons to go to the next level, especially with a lot of the R&B stuff I’m putting together. A lot of times when I be trying to think of where to take the melody when it comes to a bridge on an R&B song, that’s when I kind of wish that I knew a little more music theory as far as piano. I play a little bit of drums. I can sit around on bass guitar, and I’m getting better and better on piano. I just play by ear. I still get it done. Sometimes I would just bring one of my piano players in, or a guitar player, or live strings, or whatever.

“The late Shakir Stewart hooked me up with Ross for 'White House' though. Shakir played a major part in my career on a lot of my Def Jam placements. I can definitely give him the credit for pushing certain things because [dealing with labels] can get a little political.”

Ludacris "Mouths to Feed" (2007)

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Album: Release Therapy
Label: Disturbing Tha Peace, Def Jam Records

DJ Toomp: “It wasn’t anybody in mind when I produced Ludacris’ record 'Mouths To Feed.' Ludacris came through to my studio one day to hear that record. Artists have no problem coming through to see the kid, especially the local ones. I got pretty cool relationships with everybody. So Luda just hit me up out the blue sometimes and be like, 'What’s up, what you up to? I’m bout to come through.' Then he just shows up.

“When he first heard 'Mouths To Feed,' he had the idea for it right than. You got some artists who would have a hook or just a concept in their head, and they’re just waiting to hear the right beat to put it to. That’s how 'Big Brother' was with Kanye— he already had the hook and the idea but he was waiting for a track to really just wake him up. That’s how 'Mouths To Feed' was.

“What’s wild is, 'Mouths To Feed' by Luda; 'I Luv It,' and 'I Got Money,' by Jeezy; and Rick Ross’ 'White House,' were all made in the same week. It was just a certain zone I was in.

“Something was in the air, and it was beautiful. I had my MPC and my Rolling Phantom—those were the only two things I was using when I put those songs together.

“Plus, there was no one around me. Sometimes I have to actually close my door and put a 'Do Not Disturb' on the door to really get my vibe going. Nobody even knew I was in the building when I made those tracks—I was the only one there, because it was right when I had moved into my new studio in the West End. Nobody knew where I was.

“Those songs were the first placements that came out of that building. At this point, a lot of records have come out of there.

“I’m obsessed with it. If it wasn’t for handling family situations, picking my daughter up from school, or little basic things, I would never come out of the studio. It would be hard as hell to get me up out of there. I might take a little nap in-between while I’m in there, then I get back up and I’m on it all over again. So when my day is going like that, I might make eight tracks. I can sit in there for like 24-hours straight. I’ve done 48-hours straight in Cali before, when I was working out there in LA.

“One thing that keeps me there is the fact that it’s so fun. Doing what I do ain’t hard. The only time it’s hard is when your equipment’s acting up; that’s a headache. That’s when it starts feeling like a job. But besides that, it’s cool.”

Young Jeezy "I Luv It" / "I Got Money" (2006)

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Album: The Inspiration
Label: Def Jam Records, Corporate Thugz Entertainment

DJ Toomp: “One day Young Jeezy came through to my studio in the southwest of Atlanta in the West End, to hear some music. He heard both 'I Luv It' and 'I Got Money.' I had gone through a couple of songs on my laptop for him.

“I remember as soon as he heard 'I Got Money,' he was like, 'Okay, yup—put that one on'—this meant drag the tracks over into a folder. So I dragged that one into the folder and we just kept on going. When he first heard 'I Got Money' he knew he liked it, even though he didn’t have any ideas in his head right than. He didn’t have an immediate hook, like he usually would.

“As we continued to go through tracks, he suddenly looked at me and said, 'Man, let me hear some of that other stuff you don’t hardly ever play for people.'

“'I Luv It' was one of those songs. Every producer has that, or should have—a secret stash of music.

“This is important, because you got some artists who come through the studio that just want to zoom in right quick, like, 'Let’s see what Toomp got' on some twenty, thirty minutes, oh I got a flight to catch, stuff. But then you have some folks who just have the patience. If you come and see me and you have patience, like about two and a half hours? Oh yeah, you’ll hear way more than the average person who is just coming through on a fling. It’s more intimate, we’re just zoning out. I can really take the time and go through everything, cause I got music scattered out everywhere, I’m working on like four different software programs when I create music. Plus I still use hardware. So I just have stuff all over the place.

“Everybody don’t deserve to hear my full library. If you just coming through quick? You’re cheating yourself. Before my studio was built, artists use to come to my house to hear music.

“So I went in a whole ‘nother playlist for Jeezy. And when he heard maybe the first four bars of 'I Luv It,' he was like, 'Hold on! Go back to that one!' So I was like, 'Oh shit, that one’s pretty cool.' And he was like, 'Naw, that’s more than cool.'

“I let the track play for a minute and he just tapped me on my shoulder and was like, 'I got something for this one right now! I’m going to call it ‘I Luv It,’’ and [he] started mumbling the melody.

“I would say about a week later he hit me back and was like, 'Ay man, we got a smash.' And when I heard it, I was definitely satisfied.

“For that Inspiration album, I remember Timbaland wanting his song to be the first single. He produced a track called '3 A.M.' It was a cool record, but it was more of an album song. At one point [Def Jam] was like, 'Aight man, we trying to decide between your song and Timbaland’s...'

“When Def Jam decided to use 'I Luv It' as the first single, I was actually impressed, because some labels actually get all hyped and caught up into the name of a big producer, rather than the actual song itself. But in this situation, the song prevailed.”

8Ball & MJG "Worldwide" (2007)

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Album: Ridin' High
Label: Bad Boy South

DJ Toomp: “I first met 8ball and MJG back in ’92, when they had that Coming Out Hard album. That’s the album with them sitting in the convertible Lexus with jheri curls. Around that time, me and my partner from Miami, we were starting our own label, and they had their own label, which was Suave House. This is back when Tony Draper use to actually hang out with them. He was the CEO of Suave House, and he use to show up at every concert and actually tour with the group. Me and the group just happened to meet because we had a show together—the energy was pretty cool.

“At this point, I know 8ball and MJG very well. Those my guys. But as it pertains to 'Worldwide' I was there when they came and got the track, but when the actual work was done, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what actually kept us from linking up and working together.

“So that track was another one of those technology placements. But it came out to be a great record. I wasn’t even thinking about the group when I made that record, that was just one of my tracks I had tucked away. That track was a good seven months old when they took it. Sometimes you can just go in the studio with a certain frame of mind and be like, 'Aight, I’m gon’ be in dirty south mode today.' Or like yesterday, I was in R&B mode and I made this cold R&B track. With 'Worldwide' I was just like, 'Let me make a hard beat.' And that’s how it came out.”

Bone Thugs N' Harmony "Sounds the Same" (2007)

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Album: Strength & Loyalty
Label: Interscope Records

DJ Toomp: “'Sounds the Same' was my first time working with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. But what’s wild is, I still haven’t met those guys…but they got a song from me. I mean sometimes you meet an artist afterwards, but [with them] not even afterwards…I have never met those guys.

“But through technology we worked together. I forgot who actually linked us, but I had sent the track and they heard it. That record was an email placement.

Nonetheless, I was always a fan of theirs. I loved them and the guy who produced them—this guy name DJ Uneek. I don’t know where the hell he is nowadays, but he definitely had a sound that was incredible.”

Kanye West "Big Brother" (2007)

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Album: Graduation
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

DJ Toomp: “'Big Brother' wasn’t just the last song on the Graduation album: it was the last song me and Kanye recorded and the last song he mixed. While working in the studio, I remember Ye kept on telling me about a hook and a concept, and he kept saying, 'I got this thing called ‘Big Brother’ and it’s supposed to be a song where I’m talking to Jay. I need [a beat] with some real feel in it.'

“I’ve always been a fan of Prince. And that song, 'It’s Gonna be Lonely' is one of my favorite Prince songs. I use to always love the end part of it. So what I did was replay that part of the song, after Ye told me what he wanted. I took it to the lab and made 'Big Brother' in one day.

“When I played it, it was some A&Rs from Def Jam in the studio and everybody was just like, 'Wow, that’s incredible.' Ye looked at me and was like, 'Damn dude, you just did that?' And I said, 'Yea, I did that today. Strictly for you.' So he rapped over it.

“I then came up to New York to mix the record. But by the time I got there, Prince said me and Ye couldn’t use his music. Then later he decided to let us use it, but he said he wanted one hundred percent of it— he didn’t want us to have any publishing.

“I looked at Ye and was like, 'Man, honestly you can do shows…but I eat off of publishing. I’m not about to have that man taking all my publishing.'

“Crazy thing is, I didn’t bring the particular laptop I would’ve needed to New York, because I thought that the song would have been cleared. So I had to fly back to Atlanta to not only get my computer, but remake the entire record. I had to move some notes around and come up with my own melody.

“So I flew down to Atlanta for just a few hours, and right when I was done remaking the record, I left right out of my studio and went straight to the airport. I didn’t even have time to see anyone when I came home—I remade the beat and headed back to New York. I never panicked. That’s the last shit I would do. But there was some pressure.

“When I got back to New York, Ye synced the vocals back up with the track, and it was the same magic. Everybody was like, 'Man, you didn’t miss a beat. That shit is incredible, let’s go.'

“I was there when Jay-Z first heard 'Big Brother.' Ye wanted him to hear it before it was finished just to make sure he would approve it. Ye was speaking of Jay on that record but at the same time he was like, 'Let me let him hear this to make sure that it’s cool—so he won’t feel like I’m talking bad about him on the record.'

“Ye had been told Jay about the record, but when Jay finally heard it, it was like a little quiet moment in the studio. In the studio it was just me, Ye, Jay, and Jay Brown. It was an emotional moment. I mean, it wasn’t no tearjerker moment, but it was like, 'Damn bro, that’s how you feel?' It was love. It wasn’t too much said at all, it was just a quiet moment. I mean Jay is good at not showing emotion, he done mastered that shit. I don’t know who he learned that from but he’s good. But when he heard 'Big Brother' he was just like, 'Yea man, that shit’s right.'”

Kanye West f/ T-Pain "Good Life" (2007)

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Album: Graduation
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

DJ Toomp: “Kanye was staying in a hotel down in Atlanta while working on Graduation. When it came time for us to work on 'Good Life,' it was a lot of people in the studio—a lot of the G.O.O.D Music crew. Ye don’t smoke, but he’d just have a drink here and there, and it felt like a party up in there while working on that record. John Legend came through and Big Sean was there a lot as well. At the time folks really didn’t know who [Big Sean] was, but I knew about him because I heard about his buzz up in Detroit.

“When me and Kanye started working together we started off in my studio but Ye was like, 'Yo man, if we had some company, some girls come through, where they gon’ sit?' And I was like, 'Ain’t enough room for that man,' and he was like, 'We need to rent a bigger studio.' So we went and rented Doppler over in Buckhead. Ye would have like six or seven women come in just to listen to records and play them music, then he’ll be like, 'Aye, nice meeting ya’ll. Thank you!'

“The making of 'Good Life' started off with Ye playing with a Michael Jackson sample, 'PYT.' All of a sudden he was like, 'Yo, I always wanted to do something with this…I want to hear it in a different key.' So we just started playing with the sample and he sent it over to me. Because we were in the same room, he just transferred the sounds over to my keyboard and I started playing with it, then he started singing the melody and started putting the bassline with it. It was crazy. We just started playing with the sample and once we got it in the right key we wanted, that’s when he started singing the melody and I started adding more to the beat. We then had a few players to come in with the synthesizers and the shit was crazy.”

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

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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.”

Jay-Z "Say Hello" (2007)

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Album: American Gangster
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

DJ Toomp: “One of my goals as far as my list of artists to work with was Jay-Z. I always wanted to do a Jay record.

“The first time I ever hooked up with him was through my man Big Jon [Platt], the president of EMI Publishing. Big Jon showed me around New York once, and that’s when me and Jay met for the first time. We know a lot of the same people, mainly from the streets, people from New York to Miami. I was up in his office and we just talked and I played some music for him, and he just started freestyling right there on the spot. Then he was like, 'Yo man, I hope one day we can work together.'

“It might’ve been a year later when Jon hit me concerning working on a record with Jay-Z. This was around the time Jay was supposed to retire. It kind of messed me up for a minute when I heard that he was retiring, because I was like, 'Damn man, I thought I was going to produce a Jay-Z record.'

“But one day Big Jon hit me up and was like, 'Jay’s working on another album— kind of on some sideline shit.' I was like, 'Word?' And he said, 'Yea man, just get some stuff together. You can produce some original songs, but he want some funky samples.' I went into the lab immediately.

“When I first made 'Say Hello,' I let that track play in the studio all day. I kept playing it over and over. I’d go eat lunch, sit in the office with my assistant for a minute, kick it with her, go through some paperwork, and go back and play the track again. I just kept on listening to it until I thought, 'Yo, this the one. I got one.'

“When it was time to go to New York, me and [my business partner] Bernard went up there together. When I walked into the studio it was Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri, No ID, L. Rock, Usher, some of everybody.

“Soon as I walked in, Jay looked at me and was like, 'Yo man, listen, I done had like fifteen producers come through here. My ears are worn out man. I definitely respect what you do, glad you came here, but I don’t want to hear no more than about three tracks.'

“So while everyone got back to working, I put my headphones on and started getting my playlist together. I had to go through and narrow it down. When I started playing my songs for Jay, I didn’t even make it to the third track. I played the first track and he was like, 'Yea, that’s cool, that’s cool.' It was an original record—of course I’m going to try to get an original record placed before a sample, that way I own more publishing. He liked the original one, but immediately he was like, 'Alright, what else you got?' That’s when I pulled out, 'Say Hello.'

“When I pressed the play button I turned my back and sat with Jay’s engineer Guru. As Jay listened to the track, Guru suddenly elbowed me and whispered to me, 'Oooh, that shit hard!' Then he said, 'Ay man, that’s out of here!' And I was like, 'For real?' And he was like, 'Yea, [Jay] back there rapping right now…' I turned back around and Jay-Z was back there shaking his head, had his eyes closed, and all of sudden he was like, 'Ay man, start that shit over.' By the time he said 'start it over,' Guru looked at me and was like, 'Yea B, you good…'

“So I’m sitting there happy. Jay hit the booth with 'Say Hello' in like fifteen minutes. That shit felt incredible, and I knew that it was meant to happen. 'Man, that’s that classic shit,' Jay told me. 'That fit with this Roc-a-Fella shit man. That’s that Roc-a-Fella shit.'

“Bernard and myself walked out of the studio for a minute, and Bernard grabbed me and shook my hand and was like, 'You killed it boy! You killed it!' and I was like, 'Hell yea!'

“After Jay heard the record, Bernard and I just hung around the studio a bit. [Jay] started ordering food, and there might’ve been like ten different kinds of wine and chesses and stuff— it was kind of like a party. It was a good atmosphere.

“After working on American Gangster, me and Jay have gotten a chance to really get to know each other. He’s flown me up to New York a few times just to hang out—not even to go to the studio, just hang out hitting clubs. We’d probably hit like four clubs in one night while I’m there. That’s my dude. He’s very much ahead of his time.”

Rick Ross "This Me" (2008)

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Album: Trilla
Label: Slip-n-Slide records, Def Jam Records, Poe Boy Records

DJ Toomp: “I don’t know what I was thinking about when I created that track. I could be cleaning up and a certain melody would pop up in my head and I would turn my computer on and jump right on it. I was just playing around when I made that beat.”

Mariah Carey "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" (2008)

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Album: E=MC²
Label: Island Records

DJ Toomp: “Karen Kwak at Def Jam got in contact with my business partner Bernard Parks, and was like, 'Hey, we’re looking for something for Mariah.' I started putting some mid-tempo tracks together and one of my EMI partners, Crystal, wrote the song. It was incredible. I ended up finishing that one in New York.

“I had already met Mariah a few times. We’ve been at the same functions and parties together. She’s real cool peoples. But I wasn’t there when she recorded 'Loving You Long Time.' Just like it is with Nas, it’s very rare for anybody to be there when Mariah records. But technology put that record together, by way of us being able to send tracks through email with her vocals being transferred. Back in the day you either had to be at the studio, or they’d send the reels or something like that, but now technology is making it so easy for people to collab nowadays.

“With all the rap placements, to get a chance to really exercise my R&B side, I felt like that was the right time. That’s a must-have for me: I must get something in every genre. Some of the projects I’m currently working on is on some other genres. That’s why I don’t even talk about them, I just wait for them to sneak out and just watch people’s reaction.

“The reactions for that Mariah record were funny. People were like, 'Damn man, you did that for real?! Man, I was just shocked, I thought you only did rap!' I was like, 'Oh, okay.' That’s the reaction that I want from people who thought I only did rap music.”

Nas "N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave And The Master)" (2008)

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Album: Untitled
Label: Def Jam Records, Columbia Records

DJ Toomp: “I met Nas through J. Brown, Jay-Z’s right-hand man. We were in Miami at a studio, I think Hit Factory, but I forgot whose project I was working on at the time. J. Brown happened to be at the studio as well and he was like, 'Yea, Nas is down here too.' J. Brown introduced me and Nas and I played Nas a few joints. Later on we ended up hooking up in New York. We didn’t do too much in Miami but in New York we got a lot of stuff done.

“I think I might’ve recorded about four songs with Nas in that New York session. Matter-of-fact, I got a few Nas songs tucked away. I’m supposed to be putting an album together on every unreleased song I’ve ever done on every album. Nas got about two or three of my joints on his hard drive right now.

“When I made 'NIGGER,' I was basically just going through tracks. The song itself was just based on some of the stuff Nas was talking about [in the studio]. Nas is a quiet dude, but once I let him see how I was he started loosening up. Me and him were in the studio talking about political issues, conspiracy theories, and a lot of stuff that people don’t understand yet, like UFOs and shit.

“That 'NIGGER' record was kind of a no-brainer. Cause when he hit the booth with it, he just started rapping and I heard the hook and I was like, 'Damn dude, that shit fits.' I heard it was very rare for someone to be in the room with him while he record. A few A&Rs were asking me, 'Damn man, he did the song while you was there?!' I was like, 'Yeah, shit, he felt comfortable around me.'

“He definitely got his point across on that song— and I didn’t have any problems with it. Controversy has never been a problem for me, especially in the entertainment business. Only controversy that can really hurt your career is if you done something like messing with some kids, some kind of sick act, but controversy is a good thing, especially if it’s based around you making a statement.

“You got people saying, 'Ah, that word ‘nigger’ man, get that out of your vocabulary!' But I be like, 'You say that’s what they called us when we were slaves. But now that you’re making money, you want to take this word out your vocabulary but you eating all this bullshit, so you basically eat like a nigger, but you just don’t use the word...'

“Nigga: Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. People sometimes change things to acronyms to shift the energy of that word. Sometimes we can be too sensitive.

“I wasn’t disappointed when Nas changed the name of the album though, because the fact that you even know that name was changed lets you know that the people still knew what the original title was. People still call it the NIGGER album. Period. Like, I don’t know anyone who call that album anything else. So the fact that people had a chance to see that original title, made a statement. It’s the reason why we even talking about it. If the original title of the album was never seen or known, then it would be like, 'Ah, it didn’t really do what it was supposed to do.' But that song is still on the album. I feel good about producing that record.”

Game "House of Pain" (2008)

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Album: L.A.X.
Label: Geffen Records

DJ Toomp: “I made 'House of Pain' in Atlanta, but I knew an LA artist was going to get on it just because of the way the drums are. I was thinking Snoop [would]. It’s a certain little pace the West Coast is on.

“The Game wound up with it. That was my first time meeting him, but I was definitely digging what he was doing. When it was time for me to go down and see him in LA, I played the track and he was like, 'Oh shit, run that one again!' He started rapping to that one on the spot—he hit the booth in like seconds.

“I’ve never seen Game write anything down. He’s incredible.

“I noticed that he got a whole lot of people that run with him. It was at least fifteen folks in the studio, a whole gang of them niggas. I think I only had like two or three people with me. But I’m from the streets myself so I know how to move around out here. Whenever I hear people say things like, 'I heard he’s difficult, I heard [his crew] wild…' I be like, 'Well, that shit didn’t happen around me. They were cool.' Everybody in Game’s crew cool. It was a smoke-filled room and good atmosphere. Reminded me of some OG shit, plus around that time I had given Glasses Malone a banger too, a song called 'Certified' and he’s from Watts.

“I caught maybe forty percent of what Game did for 'House of Pain,' and then I ended up coming back to Atlanta. What most artists do is when they hear a track, whatever’s in their head around the time they first hear it, they’ll lay that down and come back to the song later on.

The people from Interscope emailed me the completed version. They were like, 'Yo, what you think?' And when I heard it I was like, 'Damn… he killed it.'”

Young Jeezy "Recession" (2008)

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Album: The Recession
Label: Def Jam Records, Corporate Thugz Entertainment

DJ Toomp: “I met Jeezy back in 2003. Maybe a little earlier. We met in a Buckhead club called Shadows. I remember Black Mafia Family use to be around there, [Big] Meech, everybody. It was crazy too. Those were those days. That was a whole ‘nother Atlanta around that time. When Buckhead was jumping at its peak? Oh that was incredible. Those were some real days. Jeezy wasn’t there at Shadows with Meech— he was solo around that time, and was working with Lil Jon. So I met him then. But it was another one of those situations where it was just like; I keep running into this dude. I know we’re going to eventually work together. Once he got that deal with Def Jam, he came back around and was like, 'Ay man, let’s go.'

“‘The 'Recession' was a track I originally made for Clifford Harris [T.I.]. Clifford wasn’t really feeling it that much. I was like, 'Yo, let me play this shit again… For real? Check this shit out man! You don’t hear this dude?!' and he was like, 'Ah, go to the next one, that one cool…'

“So one day Jeezy called me and was like, 'Yo man, I’m over in your complex, you at the spot? I’m bout to drop down on you.'

“When he came through me and him just sat in a room and talked about everything, stuff we always talk about, from the streets, to women, to regular conversations just on some playa shit. Towards the end of our conversation he was like, 'Man let me hear some tracks.' So I started going through them. I played about two of them, but when I got to 'Recession' he was like, 'Oh shit!'

“He stood up, started pacing around the room, whispering to himself. Then he sat down next to me and tapped me on the shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, 'Don’t play that shit for nobody else! I got this one man. This the ‘Recession’ one, this for the Recession record!'

“He came up with lyrics on the spot, in like fifteen minutes. I wasn’t there when he went in the booth and laid it down, but by the time he called me on the phone and put the phone to the speaker so I can hear how the song came out, I was like, 'Oh hell yeah, we good.'

“I got a little mini studio at my crib, and when I made that record I was just going through some samples. That song came from 'The Black Knight' by Sir Lancelot. I took the sample, slowed it down, and put my own music to it. I added some more of my strings, my horns and my drums, made sure I could get that sample cleared, and just got creative on it once I got the clearance. I wasn’t going to put a lot of energy into it if it wasn’t gonna get cleared.

“I love the fact that Jeezy made it the intro. I begged him to make a video to it too. I even had the concept, I had the storyboard and all that. I was like, 'Man, you can make that shit look like the LA riots man, the recession!' But he never did.” [Laughs.]

Rick Ross "Valley of Death" (2009)

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Album: Deeper Than Rap
Label: Def Jam Records, Slip-n-Slide Records, Maybach Music Group

DJ Toomp: “I wasn’t in the studio with Ross when he wrote 'Valley of Death,' but that beat was a collabo between me and this guy name Murder Mark [Kevin 'Khao' Cates], another producer, who actually chopped up the Berry White sample on the song. Thing about it is, when you put songs together a lot of times you don’t know who’s it’s for until it’s done. And then sometimes you may be too far ahead of time. You can make a real futuristic sounding beat, and be like, 'Okay, this year [the artist] may not get it.' But you play that track next year and it might fit right in. I got about a hundred of them like that. Five of them were chosen recently by this new artist name Chris Webby, out of Connecticut. He’s incredible.

“But I met Ross through the late Shakir Stewart in 2006. I use to be in Miami as much as Atlanta, from ’88 to ’95 basically. I was halfway living down there (a lot of people still think I’m from Miami just from my starting off with Luke and stuff). But in spite of that, Ross and I had never met. I knew Ross’ CEO Ted Lucas around that time, and it was wild because every time me and Ross are around each other we talk about different events where we should have ran into each other and met sooner. Our conversations were always like, 'Damn man, I’m surprised I didn’t meet you then!'

“When Shakir finally hooked us up, I liked his energy—he was on some Florida shit. I’m saying, Ross is cool as shit. He got a sense of humor, he can be silly at times. He’s real good peoples but he’s a businessman at heart. He loves R&B, so me and him like to sit around and talk about a lot of ol’ skool records.”

T.I. "Big Picture" (2010)

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Album: No Mercy
Label: Atlantic Records, Grand Hustle Records

DJ Toomp: “This is a song that was done after Tip was arrested for the gun charge. I wouldn’t say it was more difficult working with him at that time, but he was more busy. He was spreading himself pretty thin, he had a few things going on, like movies—which was good. But our working together for this track wasn’t as organic as it was [before the arrest], where we’re just sitting there working. He was more in-and-out now, like, 'We got to get this done, we got to turn this into the film people, we got to get this in cause I got to go back to LA and work on this…' When an artist has more stuff going on, it’s definitely going to be different. We got the songs done but it just wasn’t the same chemistry because you got to create the same environment for that, and that’s kind of hard to do when you got new things going on in your life.

“But we wound up doing that track in LA. It’s amazing how sometimes just being in a different region can help you come up with a whole ‘nother sound, something that you might wouldn’t have done down in Atlanta. I haven’t figured out why yet. I’m a real in-tuned person, and I can just feel energy for real. But when I’m at the crib making a track, sometimes I close the blinds and just have darkness. Sometimes I’d open the blinds, see the skyline, and that would just put me in a whole ‘nother state of mind.

“That’s when I’d just pull up some ol’skool albums and just go through those and listen to the arrangements. I think I listen to more ol’skool stuff than modern stuff. That’s why I hit the clubs every once in awhile, just to see what’s happening. I pay attention to what the strippers are responding to, watch their reaction; watch the reaction of people in the club when a song drops, maybe the first few bars… I pay attention to crowd’s reaction. I don’t really go to too many young spots though, unless it’s a showcase, if I’m looking for talent. I don’t really hang out at those young spots like that because those little 21-year-old girls can be a little aggressive.”

T.I. "Yeah Ya Know" (2010)

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Album: No Mercy
Label: Atlantic Records, Grand Hustle Records

DJ Toomp: “'Yeah Ya Know' ended up being in the Takers movie. Originally that song was made for the movie, and the movie studio just wanted something big, a 'What You Know' type feel. I mean, as far as 'What You Know,' I got tracks just as hard or maybe harder, but the right song has to be put to it. The only thing I didn’t like about 'Yeah Ya Know' was Tip’s rhyme speed. I told Tip, 'Man, you need to slow the pace of your raps down.’ Because that’s what made people like ‘What Ya Know,’ is the fact that you could grasp the lyrics a lot easier.

“'What You know' had a bouncing ball type melody, but on 'Yeah Ya Know,' he was rapping kind of fast and till this day a lot of people still don’t know the words to that song, cause he was rapping so fast. I begged him to turn the pace down on that one but he liked it the way it was. He’s very firm [when it comes to his opinion]…but I’m very firm too. There’s a fine line between firm and stubborn. But hey, ninety-percent of us are guilty of that.”

T.I. "Got Your Back" (2010)

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Album: No Mercy
Label: Atlantic Records, Grand Hustle Records

DJ Toomp: “When I made the track 'I Got Your Back' I was thinking about Beyonce. I’ve sat in the studio with her before, and played some music for her in New York. She loved my sound, but I haven’t been on one of her albums yet.

“I’ve learned though that when it comes to R&B projects you really want to turn in songs more than just an instrumental. People need a guideline or that bouncing ball to be like, 'Oh okay, I get it now.' If you submit an R&B track, you want that song to have a guideline so you can show the artist where you’re really going with it. Cause take Beyonce’s song, 'Single Ladies': if you would have just heard that beat by itself, it ain’t too many writers who would know how to jump on that because it really don’t have too much music. You would have to have a real creative artist to be able to create your melody over a beat driven track.

“But 'Got Your Back' was very musical. I was in LA for some award show when my man G. Roberson heard the track. He fell in love with it and was like, 'Yo, I think I can get Beyonce on it,' and I was like, 'Damn, that’s who I was thinking about being on it anyway.'

“G moved that track around because he was in love with it. He wound up putting it in The-Dream’s hands, and The-Dream wrote to it. T.I. liked the track a lot too.

“Keri Hilson ended up on the track with T.I., but she wasn’t T.I.’s first choice. T.I. originally wanted to get this female artist that Grand Hustle had over there at the time, but the label wanted Keri Hilson. So Keri got on there and she performed pretty good, but prior to Keri’s voice, it was the other girl’s voice on it. Keri did a great job. But it was a little tug of war for a minute. Me and Keri are real cool, and I didn’t really know the other girl anyway, but I knew Keri because she’s a Georgia girl.”

Wale "No Days Off" (2011)

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Album: Ambition
Label: Warner Brothers Records, Maybach Music Group

DJ Toomp: “Everybody was going crazy over 'Legendary,' the first track I had done for Wale. So around that time Wale asked me, 'What else you got?'

“I was going through some beats and came across the song that became 'No Days Off.' I was making that track for Young Jeezy at first. But I didn’t even put drums on it because sometimes when I put a track together, I’ll do the drums first but that’s one of them songs where I just did the music first. I heard these sets and I don’t know where they came from, but I changed the octave later throughout the beat. It was real musical at first.

“A lot of times when producers go through their iTunes, an artist will hear us skip through a song and they might just hear one horn sound and will be like, 'Hold up, hold up, what was that? Go back to that one!' That’s kind of how it was with 'No Days Off.' When I played it and Wale heard the opening beat, he was like, 'Oh my God, it’s bout to break down!' and I said to him, 'See, that’s the problem…it’s not going to break down because I haven’t done anything to it.' So he said, 'Man, you finish that right now. I got a song for it.'

“Next thing you know, right there in the studio, everybody watched me put the beat together, and I get people talking about that record right now cause they were actually there to witness it. The music was done but I had to put the beats and the bassline on. It was about eight people in the room watching. Some producers say they can’t even have one person in the room when they’re working. But I love it, because I was a DJ before I produced. Not to mention, I came in djing in like 1982. Around that time, djs really use to pick up the mic and have like a 16-bar verse about how good they were on the turntable. I’ve been on the entertainment side of it: DJ battling and tour djing where you’re onstage in front of three, eight thousand people doing tricks on the turntable… it’s all performing. So as a producer I can bang a nice beat out in front of a crowd, right on the spot. I know a lot of producers who say they can’t do that.

“Wale went in [the booth] and knocked 'No Days Off' out within an hour. There was never a time I wasn’t there in the studio with him. That’s what I love about that project. Wale showed a lot of respect [to me] too. He definitely was checking to get my approval on everything, which I appreciated. He wanted to get my approval on everything, even the songs I didn’t produce.

“In the studio, Wale is an artist who has rhymes in his head. I would just see him pace around the room just saying stuff and then he’ll look at everybody, and just be whispering, and next thing you know he’s in the booth. He just walks in a booth and kill it. He’ll do like the first eight bars and then just go back in the booth. You’ll see him pace around in the room again, and be like, 'Alright, run it' and then fill that eight bars and then he got sixteen with no problem. When you’re an artist like that, that’s when you really don’t have no problems getting features on stuff.

“Even for remixes, you already got a verse for it. You got some cats who may need about a day, sometimes days to write a verse, but Wale always got one right on the spot. Tip the same way, Jay-Z the same way. Kanye also. Like, they can hear a beat for about twenty minutes and have at least thirty percent of the song together, right there. These kind of artists write very rarely. Matter-of-fact, I ain’t never seen Wale write... wait, I actually have seen Wale write a little bit. He’ll write just to get it started, and from then on, he’s gone.”

Wale "Legendary" (2011)

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Album: Ambition
Label: Warner Brothers Records, Maybach Music Group

DJ Toomp: “I met Wale for the first time through Jason Geter (T.I.’s manager). Prior to this I had sent him a track once, I think when he first got signed to Warner Music—I had replayed the song 'Bittersweet,' and he had put the song to it. He leaked it out on the Internet and it got pretty good views, but at the time we still hadn’t met.

“One day Jason and me were hanging out at Ludacris’ spot Straits, which is Luda’s restaurant. Wale happened to be there and me and him finally met. Wale be moving around like that, that’s how he ran into Ross [the first time]—just hanging out in Miami. Ross saw him a few times and was like, 'Dang man, let’s just hook up.'

“Dallas Martin, an A&R at Warner Bros. who was over the [Ambition] project use to always tell me that I was one of his favorite producers and now that he had a position at a label, he wanted to do some business. That’s how me and Wale ended up working together. I cut at least four songs for Wale, two of which made the album. Which was cool— two out of four ain’t bad. But the first song we did was the song 'Legendary.'

“'Legendary' was a track that I had originally made for Jay-Z. When Jay and Kanye were working on the Watch the Throne album, I sent 'Legendary' to Jay but the track never got to him because I thought I was sending it to the right person but nothing ever happened. After that situation, Rick Ross chose it but he ended up not ever using it. So with Wale being Maybach Music, he ended up picking it, and when he heard it he fell in love with it. Matter-of-fact, the first person Wale wanted to get on it was either Jay-Z or Nas. He was like, 'Yo, I either want Jay-Z or Nas…I want somebody legendary.'

“The Ambition album was going at a pretty fast pace and we were getting a whole lot done, so we didn’t really get too much time to get all the stuff cleared, we just wanted to finish the album. So Wale just went on and took 'Legendary' on his own without Jay and Nas, and when he started laying it down we were like, 'Dude, you don’t need anybody on it—you got this on your own.' And he killed it.

“As far as the beat itself, there was this song I chopped up, it was like the original of 'You Got Your Hooks In Me.' You know the O’Jays version, but there’s another one, Barbara and the Vandelles I think. I just took it there, I stretched the samples out and just chopped it up and everybody fell in love with it.”

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