It takes a village to make an album, and Drake assembled an impressive team to help him complete his newest release, Certified Lover Boy.
In addition to frequent collaborators like Noah “40” Shebib, Boi-1da, and Oz, one of the most eye-catching names on CLB’s credits is former child actor Leon Thomas III. You might have been introduced to the multi-hyphenate singer, songwriter, and producer from his role as Andre on the popular Nickelodeon show Victorious, but he’s since worked with artists like Ariana Grande, Snoh Aalegra, Kodak Black, and more. Now, he’s found himself on Certified Lover Boy, with writing and production credits on “Pipe Down,” “Love All” featuring Jay-Z, and “In the Bible” featuring Lil Durk and Givēon.
“It’s been an amazing collaborative process working with a lot of my co-producers and people I’ve been building with for years on just a huge win like this,” he tells Complex about his role on an album that’s already seen record-breaking success on the charts. “Seeing him take nine slots out of the top 10 was historical, and to be a part of that is a blessing.”
Born in Brooklyn and raised by his vocalist mother, opera-singing grandfather, and stepfather who played guitar for B.B. King, Thomas’ musical career began early. He appeared as Young Simba on Broadway’s The Lion King at 10 years old and began working with Nickelodeon at 13, voicing The Backyardigans character Tyrone and eventually starring in Victorious for the show’s entire run. Thomas signed a deal with Columbia Records while he was still on the show, as did many other cast members, which led to him being under the tutelage of legendary producer Babyface. Although he won his first Grammy for writing credits on Face and Toni Braxton’s 2014 joint album Love, Marriage, & Divorce, Thomas says that he still has several milestones he wants to reach, including a solo Grammy and more plaques. “It’s about continuing to outdo myself creatively and I want to really create my own sounds that will dominate radio,” he says.
That unique sound he’s referring to can be heard in the syrupy vocal chops that line the back panels of “Love All.” Thomas first connected with Drake when his production company, The Rascals, helped produce Rick Ross’ song “Gold Roses,” which Thomas reveals was meant to be on CLB before Ross decided to make it the single for his album, Port of Miami 2. However, it wasn’t until Drake invited him out to the Bahamas in March to work on CLB that Thomas got a real sense of what the rapper was like as an artist and person.
Hopping onboard right as the album was being reworked after a version of “Love All” had been leaked, Thomas focused on soaking up all of the free game from producers like 40, Oz, and Boi-1da. Long past his days on Nickelodeon, Thomas has spent years picking up new production tricks, business acumen, and industry connections, which have culminated into these monumental placements on CLB.
While making songs in the studio for Kodak Black with Boi-1da, Leon Thomas III hopped on the phone with Complex to talk about his experience working on Certified Lover Boy, what he learned about life from being around Drake and his team, and how he’s aiming for longevity in his solo career. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.