Drake's Producer Noah '40' Shebib On 'Take Care,' 'So Far Gone'


(Drake Talks Recording Take Care)

By Dionne Buxton

Artists often develop close relationships with trusted producers during their careers and Drake has already made it clear that Toronto-based beatmaker, Noah “40” Shebib, is his right hand man. 40 was put in charge of crafting the unique sound on Drake’s sophomore album Take Care and this week the Lebanese producer spoke candidly with GQ about his tight relationship with Drizzy, as well as the inspiration behind some of the Young Money rapper’s biggest hits.

His initial connection with Drake: “We musically connected first with R&B…. "Successful" was the most significant turning point where he took one of my beats and worked on it…we discovered that sound, that abstract world we were taking rap music to, between me and him, and that was all pretty transparent. Both of us were so nervous when the song was coming out and the dark, somber music was being released. The way it was received, and people loving it so much and the feedback we're receiving, that was overwhelming and we knew at that point we had something special to embrace and develop.”

Producing Drake’s debut So Far Gone: “[Missy Elliott's] "Friendly Skies" was one of my favorite songs from high school…. I just sampled and slipped it, and we sat on that beat for six months or so and at some point, leading up to So Far Gone, that record was produced and recorded in the hotel room at the Beverly Wilshire, which is where I released, mixed, and mastered So Far Gone… I must have released that song like ten days after. Just vibes. Vibin' out and smoked out in the Beverly Wilshire. Every single song on So Far Gone was mixed and mastered in Room 713 or 718 of the Beverly Wilshire hotel on a pair of AKG 240 headphones and a iHome clock radio.”

Why he’s only worked with Drake: “The record I did for Wayne was for Drake at first but Wayne hijacked it. They're all related to Drake. I've never, thus far, gone outside of working with him. I'm a pretty loyal person and I feel like we have a lot of work to do… So if Jay-Z or Alicia Keys is knocking on the door, I would work with anyone who wants to work with me and humbled by the opportunities I've received, but I've been stubborn to finish Drake's new album first. This is my responsibility and I take a lot of pride in that.

Recording “The Calm":“He rapped that story out a couple times. Lyrics can be interpreted as you want, but his life is transparent through his lyrics, and it's pretty brutally honest and it's scary how much is there. I'd never seen him that distraught or emotionally beat up about something. He just came back in the room and said, I need to rap. Make me something. In 45 minutes, I made "The Calm" and he wrote those bars as I made the beat. Over the next five or six hours, that record unfolded in its entirety. What was interesting and unique about that record is I saw how upset he was and I made it as a palette for how he could express himself. That was a special moment for both of us, I think, and I didn't even know what was going on until after the fact.

People imitating his style: “All creativity is lent and borrowed from somewhere. We grew up in society and hear things and are predetermined to like or dislike chord structures or scales. I'm into all that stuff, so for me to be naïve enough to say, "I invented that"... it's all circumstantial.”

His favorite song on Take Care:

"Marvin's Room" is my favorite off the album! It came from the same place I've been talking about, where we make a real fuckin' R&B record and do what we enjoy. It was a cool, different sound and had a different edge to it production-wise and pushed him musically and the writing was phenomenal… That's an important record for me, if I'm going to push my chest out, yeah sure, I love that record.”

A final word on his relationship with Drake:

We had this bond between artist and engineer that not a lot of people had. I knew how to mix records but I was willing to go the extra mile as far as, "Just me and you, let's do this." I guess he embraced me as an engineer which is unusual. The bond between engineers and artists is really valuable for both of them…. They'll take you from 0-100.