Boi-1da, The Free-Spirit Super Producer, In His Grammy Moment

The man behind Beyoncé's 'Heated,' Kendrick's 'N95,' and Drake and Jack Harlow's 'Churchill Downs' reflects on his recognition

Boi-1da isn’t one for repetition — he’s an explorer of sound. Throughout his run as a top-booking producer, he’s fused his love of hip-hop, reggae, dancehall, R&B, and other genres in pursuit of the next sonic wave, and he’s done it by refusing to limit his creative ambitions.

“I don't like to just do the same thing,” Boi-1da said. “I'll get bored and just feel like doing something completely outside of the box just to challenge myself or push myself. And it's good for the mind. You sit there and make a million rap songs, beats, ideas, and whatnot. But then sometimes I just want to do something different and just get outside of my box and comfort zone.”

From the days he spent obsessing over FruityLoops beats as a teen to the years he’s been cranking out platinum-selling hits like “Headlines” and “Work,” the Kingston-born and Toronto-raised producer has harnessed his artistic powers to spearhead the industry’s biggest musical trends and established himself as one of the top producers in the last 15 years. Between collaborations with heavy hitters like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and fellow Canadian superstar Drake, along with a slew of platinum plaques to his name, Boi-1da, born Matthew Jehu Samuels, has the hardware to back up the claims.

As the Grammy winner’s star has grown brighter, he’s kept his profile low and his goals in frame. And his approach to life and music has led to a second Grammy nod this year for Producer of the Year in the Non-Classic field, with songs like Jack Harlow’s “Churchill Downs,” Kendrick’s “Silent Hill,” and Beyoncé’s “Heated” helping him score a nomination. “It's always a deep honor to get any sort of nomination from the Academy. So to have this again, it almost feels surreal,” the 36-year-old producer said. “It's hard to even muster up a feeling. This is stuff I dreamed about as a kid.”

With the momentum of Drake’s “God’s Plan” setting the industry ablaze, Boi-1da was nominated for producer of the year for the first time back in 2019. That year, the title was granted to Pharrell Williams, an artist he said inspired him to make music. This year, Boi-1da is joined by pop juggernaut Jack Antonoff; Steve Lacy and SZA producer DJ Dahi; The Black Keys guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach; and Oscar-winning producer Dernst "D'Mile" Emile II.

While the relatively laidback and humble producer attributes his success to his family and talented friends in the industry, he’s beginning to embrace his own greatness in full — a feeling that’s grown as he’s reflected on his accomplishments. This year’s Grammy nod would have been a “surprise” in past years, but the recognition came right on time.

“I'm not going to lie, I wouldn't say I was surprised this year,” Boi-1da shared. “I did a lot of big songs. I was on some of the biggest albums this year. It is one of those things where you don't expect it but you expect it, you know?”

Boi-1da’s success in 2022 — like all years — is tied to his uniquely aimless approach to music-making, which is about as boundless and free-flowing as the strokes of an abstract painting. Admittedly, he doesn’t always know what songs will climb the Billboard charts, or which artists will hop on which beat. Most times, he said those things come together naturally, and he’s at his best when his mind is transfixed on other things, like video games and movies like the Brazilian crime flick City of God.

“I still watch a lot of movies and play a lot of games because there will be those times when you just don't feel like making music,” Boi-1da noted. “For me, I’ll watch a good movie and be like, ‘Wow, I really like that movie,’ and it’ll make me want to get in the studio for some reason. Or, I’ll play a game and I’m like, ‘I want to make music now.’ It’s always important for me to keep my mind occupied on other stuff because it just leads me back to music every single time.”

Over time, Boi-1da has learned to let the music happen and have fun in the process, and collaborations with friends like Harlow on “Churchill Downs” breed those kinds of moments. Boi-1da and the Louisville rapper came together seamlessly for the song’s concept, and the Drake-assisted track later turned into one of the biggest songs of Harlow’s career and a standout on his debut album, Come Home the Kids Miss You.

“Working with Jack is just so effortless and so easy,” he said. “It's like two homies just get in the studio, we crack some jokes and we just figure it out.”

His collab with Kendrick was much of the same magic. The two superstars have worked together for years on album cuts like “The Blacker The Berry,” so putting their minds together to notch out tracks for the Grammy-nominated Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was like another day in the studio. “Anytime I’m in L.A., I always got to tap in with Dot,” he said. “So we were just having fun and cooking up some ideas in the studio. He’s a mastermind. He took everything we did and just went into his hut, master-crafted it, and put it all together. But it’s always effortless working with Dot. He’s one of my favorite people to work with.”

On his discovery of untapped sounds that turn to trends, Boi-1da has mastered the ability to bend the familiar and make it nuanced. Whether he’s working on stadium anthems like “N95,” soulful, sample-driven hits like Drake’s “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” or fierce, dancehall-infused tracks like Beyoncé’s “Heated,” his appetite for experimentation has reached towering heights. And working with artists like Beyoncé brings his Frankenstein-like production to life.

“It's always a pleasure working with Beyoncé,” he said. “That's the queen, man. Whatever she does, whatever she stamps, or whatever idea she has, it's just always a goal. She just doesn't miss and it's just a pleasure working with her.”

As he charts his path forward, the super producer is chasing another “dream” of his: a compilation album. He shied away from revealing a release date, but he said fans can expect “everybody’s favorite artists” on the project. “I'm taking my time with it and making sure it's the best quality of music that I've ever done,” he said. “That's just my dream — to do something I haven't done yet. I can't wait for everybody to hear it.”

In fulfilling his dream, Boi-1da said he will continue to roam freely as a creative and drift toward whatever inspires his path of musical exploration.

“I'm just a free spirit with music,” he said, “I just go wherever the wind takes me, so I couldn't even predict what I'm going to get into. It's just going to happen. You're just going to hear about it. I go where the wind takes, where life blows me.”

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