On Friday Jay-Z dropped his new 4:44 album and the highly intimate and personal album, which is said to be a response to wife Beyoncé‘s revolutionary visual album Lemonade, is getting people talking.
While many have theories about what it all means, there’s one man who knows exactly what went down and what’s what and that’s the 10-track album’s one and only producer—No I.D. (real name Dion Wilson).
Having only one producer on an album is a rarity these days in the rap world, but that’s just what Jay did with his revealing album that delves into his highly publicized marriage, fatherhood, trauma and the black experience.
No. I.D. met up with New York Times writer Joe Coscarelli and got candid about the music man’s orchestrated album that sampled Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and the Fugees music, and also clarified some of the mysteries around this enigmatic new offering.
Mike Windle/Getty Images for ASCAP
In the interview, No I.D. was asked about whether or not Beyonce had input in the process and if she came to the studio during the making of the album. The producer revealed that ‘Yonce was heavily involved in the production.
“I always call Bey our de facto A&R. Pillow talk is the strongest conversation on the planet. Every song has to get past her ears, in my eyes,” No I.D. said. “She came by a lot and played a good part in helping us get over hurdles on certain records. Of course she’s genius-level with that.”
As for trying to do something relevant in the youth-driven rap genre given the fact that the now father-of-three is older, the producer said that was a big factor to consider.
“A couple times we said, ‘Has there been anyone in any genre that really tapped into themselves on a new level at that age?’ It’s really kind of unheard-of across the board, not just in rap. But there are certain cheat codes that are available now—you have streaming, and the ability to listen to everything that ever happened.”
Explaining that they did their research on what makes people relate to music regardless of genre, he continued, “We could gauge: Why does Adele do this? Why did Led Zeppelin do this? Why did Jimi Hendrix do this? What are the common threads? Honesty, vulnerability, pain—these are things that always supersede the trends of the day.
A very big disclosure in the album is Jay’s mother, Gloria Carter, coming out as a lesbian on the track “Smile.”
No I.D. explained how it came to be: “He gave me the Stevie [Wonder] song, ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today,’ on the playlist and I made a piece of music. I just typed an email about smiling no matter what.”
He continued, “[Jay] immediately went in and wrote these words. When he got to that part about his mom — [‘Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian’]—I immediately knew this was way deeper than anything I was saying. He had that line and he ended up playing it for his mom. That’s where he can tell the rest of the story.”
It appears as though more will be revealed from this revelatory album…