For "Studios Sessions," we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
AnonXmous may soon become the most ironic producer name in the business. The 29-year-old beat prodigy's sound has been ubiquitous since Beyonce's "I Been On," a song he co-produced. It was not only featured in her astounding Netflix special, Homecoming, but also the eponymously named live album. But, before Beyonce catapulted AnonXmous' name to a new stratosphere, Timbaland let him know he was already a star.
"[Timbaland] was basically telling me, 'You're the only one that can keep the sound alive.' I'm literally studying all of his music, and I look up to him and he's telling me, a kid from Brooklyn, that I have to keep his sound alive," AnonXmous told REVOLT TV.
In this installment of "Studio Sessions," the producer discusses the star-studded collaborations Timbaland has in the vault, how his music made it to Beyonce and the new genre he's creating.
You have one of the most movie-like stories. How did your journey start?
My family moved to Georgia my last year of high school between 2004 - 2005. So, we went to Douglasville, Georgia. I got out of high school. My pops (Newton Myvett) was the president at the Art Institute of Austin, so I went there for a year. Then, came back to Atlanta, all while still producing. At that point, I was in a production team. We weren't living bad, but we were unsatisfied and wanted to do more. So, in 2011, randomly we were like, 'Let's go to L.A.' He didn't have a ticket, so I sold my Xbox 360 on Facebook and got him a standby ticket. We waited in the airport for 10 hours.
We finally got to L.A., and a CD I had made in Atlanta that I had given to this girl, I knew had made it to Polow Da Don and he had been spreading it around at the studio. So, I get somewhere to sleep in L.A. and I just think, 'Yo, I'm about to just tweet him.' I hit him up like, 'Yo, I'm the person who made this CD.' He hit me back up like, 'Yo, we've been listening to that CD all weekend. Come to the studio.' So, I went to Record Plant and I never left. Then, after a week or two, I met Ethiopia Habtemariam (the president of urban music at Universal Publishing Music Group). Without a placement or anything, she got me a deal at Universal. All of that took a max of two and a half weeks of me being in L.A. I know it's a testament to anybody being able to do whatever the fuck they want.
I have to ask you about how your work on Beyonce's 'I Been On' made her Homecoming live album and Netflix special. You must've signed some documents about it that let you know what was coming. When did you know?
I actually found out the day of. I woke up and literally saw people posting about a Beyonce album. The reason I found out the day of is because some people don't know this, but she released this song close to five years ago. She even put out a remix with all the Houston legends. So, all the paperwork was done five years ago. The last few years, she and JAY have been using it for the intro to their tour. That's when it was converted to live. She's just been rocking with it. She put it on the [Homecoming] album twice.
It actually came out March 2013 on her SoundCloud page. So, when did you start working on that?
A few weeks before that.
So, you worked on a beat and a few weeks later, it came out as a Beyonce song?
Yeah, it was a reference track first from Rock City, the songwriters that have done Rihanna and a bunch of people. They had it screwed and chopped, and everything. I really didn't know who it was for, at first, while I was doing it. As I was hearing the lyrics, I was like, 'Hmm, you're talking about Beyonce' (laughs). So, I waited and then, she just threw it out there. This is why timing is everything. I was mad at the time because I was like, 'Damn, she didn't put it on her official album? It's not even an official release.' But, obviously, timing is everything and it all worked out.
It came out as the B-side to the 'Bow Down' record. There were a few producers on that beat. What did you specifically add that people can hear?
Specifically, the 808 bass drum. That was kind of my first little innovation I made up. Let's say, for example, a whistle noise. You notice the paths and the waves, and notes of the whistle. I just took the mentality of regular instruments and then, I converted it to a bass note. So, instead of a whistle going 'wooooo,' I'll make a bass note go 'wooooo.'
How long did it take to make the beat for 'I Been On' with the other producers?
It took probably two or three weeks, the most.
Beyonce's only one legend you've worked with. You've also been called a protege by one of the most influential producers of the 21st century, Timbaland. How did y'all link up?
The first time we met, a mutual connection took me out to New York to meet him randomly. A year and a half passed and Polow Da Don showed me a text message from Timbaland saying, 'What is AnonXmous's number?' He called me and I had people in the room. So, I had to put it on speaker phone. I had to have witnesses to what he was telling me (laughs). He was basically telling me, 'You're the only one that can keep the sound alive.' I'm literally studying all of his music and I look up to him and he's telling me, a kid from Brooklyn, that I have to keep his sound alive. He said, 'I'm going to bring you to Miami.'
He flew me to Miami. That was when I started working on the 'Empire' soundtrack with him, all of his artists, and his insane album that hasn't come out that he has in the pocket. That was probably early 2014. I had never met Timabalnd when we worked on the Beyonce song (laughs).
Wow, that's game recognizing game. What's the most impressive thing you've seen Timbaland do in the studio?
I've seen him make a beat with his mouth. Go sit down, take a shot or two, hit a joint; then, proceed to go in the booth and finish the whole song. Mind you, this is 6:00 a.m. -- hitting sunrise. This is after a whole evening of making beats and working with other artists. He's a music-making machine.
If he's such a machine, what's holding this Timbaland album up?
I think what's holding it up is that he just has so many ideas. He's trying to bring so many other people up that he's not focused on putting himself back in the limelight. Honestly, at this point, it's probably two albums. The first one has this blaxploitation feel to it with some old school feel to it. I came in and did the 808s and it was us, basically. The other one is just some newer, amazing stuff and none of it's out (laughs).
As someone who's heard all of these Timbaland songs, would you say he has some huge collaborations in store?
He has separate songs with Drake, JAY-Z and Justin Timberlake that are so great, you wonder why they're not out (laughs).
What are some things you've learned by observing and directly speaking to him?
From observing, I learned not to impose your ideas or overdo it. There's magic in the simplest things you can make intricate, where the simplest minds would be amazed. But, you don't have to be over the top. Something I learned from him telling me would be when I got my first Grammy nomination. I came to him hype as hell like, 'I got an email saying I got a Grammy nomination.' He was like, 'That's amazing. But, remember that none of that shit matters. All that matters is what is in you and your family's bank account.' I never forgot that he made me always focus on feeding my family.
One of the biggest songs you were a part of was Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda.' How was the making of that?
It was natural to me. People don't even know that the song that 90% of the original beat was stripped down with more of the sample added by Da Internz. There was no Sir Mix-A-Lot vocals in it originally. I was literally just chilling in Miami at a family friend's house. This girl I was hanging with, her phone randomly played Sir Mix-A-Lot on Pandora. I went, 'Wait a second.' I just had a weird thought in my head. I acted like she wasn't there and I started making the beat. I made the full beat and sent it to Polow. He sent it to Nicki and she hit us back like, 'Everybody is going crazy. This has to be the single.'
So, we went to L.A. and got it mastered and everything. We were just waiting on the release. Then, the label hit us like, I guess Nicki wanted to add in producers to do something. I understood because the way the record was before, it was too vulgar. So, it couldn't get played on the radio. Da Internz came in, they gave it that safe but still ratchet feel. They made it perfect.
You've also worked with Chris Brown in the studio before. What's his vibe like in the studio?
It's chill. It's not too much with everybody in there. He makes sure it's his people and not some random energy. He's just in there cranking out magic. He has a drive with folders from all the top producers full of their beats. He'll go 'OK, go to Metro [Boomin'] folder' or whoever's folder. He'll pull one up and kill that shit. It'll either be a song or a reference, and he'll take the reference ten times beyond what it was.
You seem to attract stars. What was the most star-studded studio session you were a part of?
It was Will.i.am and then, Pharrell walked in. Chris [Brown] was there. Randomly, through a lobby, Bow Wow walked in -- all at Record Plant studios.
Anything you have coming up that you want us to be aware of?
I got some joints on Earthgang's Mirrorland album. I also have a secret album with a newly created genre.
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