The Produce Section | Cool & Dre talk producing for Rick Ross, Wale, Jay Rock and more of hip hop's biggest artists
REVOLT TV chopped it up with Cool & Dre about their production process, the backstory behind their most popular records and what new projects they have up their sleeves.
REVOLT TV presents ‘The Produce Section,’ a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, TheProduce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of “The Produce Section,” we speak with Cool & Dre. The duo has spent nearly two decades crafting classic anthems to some of the greatest artists in hip hop and R&B. Bi-products of Miami, Florida, Cool & Dre built a following in their hometown by servicing local music acts before taking their talents to New York City. The duo’s trek to The Big Apple would later prove to be fruitful, with the Floridian’s earning early placements on hits from the likes of Ja Rule, Fat Joe and other rap luminaries from the five boroughs. From there, Cool & Dre would expand their brand with collaborations that included Lil Wayne, Nas, Rick Ross, The Game, DJ Khaled, Chris Brown, Jeezy and Juvenile. Scoring a Grammy award for their work on JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s The Carters album and helping introduce rising stars like Kent Jones to the public, Cool & Dre continue to add to their resumé and are among the most accomplished boardsmen in the game.
In our latest installment of our series, we chop it up with Cool & Dre about their production process, the backstory behind their most popular records and what new projects they have up their sleeves.
The Origins Of Your Production Tag:
Dre: We did this beat back in the day and we gave it to Joe Crack, and he loved it. But, he’d been sitting on it for a while. So, [he eventually]… gave it to Jadakiss. [I didn’t know] and one night in the studio, I put a hook on the beat, just fucking around when the beat start… [then] Irv heard it and was like, ‘Yo, this shit is crack, I know who I’ma put on here.’ So, he calls Joe [Crack] up like, ‘Your peoples Cool & Dre just gave me the craziest… record. I need you on there.’ So, the whole time, I would stay quiet [because] I was like, ‘Fuck, Joe is gonna hear this beat…’ So, when he got the beat… Joe comes like, ‘This is my beat, this is my beat,’ and I was like, ‘Crack, it’s too late.’
The other artist Irv wanted was another icon from Queens, but he couldn’t get a hold of him… so he was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ma give this shit to Jadakiss.’ … Long story short, Jadakiss is on the record, we’re mixing the song and as the engineer is mixing the record, I told the engineer… ‘That sounds dope kid, leave that… when we shoot the video, I want you to do that.’ It was our first hit record that we produced in our career.
Tools of the Trade:
Dre: When we first started out, we were on the ASR10 and Soniq keyboard… we eventually [moved on] to MPC and… settled in on Fruity Loops. So, we use Pro Tools… on some records, we’ll call in the live players. But, that’s what we’re rocking with.
Your Process As A Producer:
Dre: We just give each other space to do what we do… Cool will cook up a beat or I’ll cook up a beat, play it for each other and then we’ll do tweaks… it’s collaborative all the way around.
Producers Who Have Influenced Your Style:
Dre: Organized Noize would be one because they would flip obscure loops and add live instrumentation, and mix it all up in one pot. Another producer I would say is Dr. Dre strictly [because] of his sonics… he did it in such a masterful way, when you press play on a Dr. Dre beat. And then we loved Preemo, the way he would flip crazy loops. We loved Trackmasters for taking familiar samples… The Neptunes because of their creative style, and the way that Pharrell would come with the hooks and shit. Timbaland for just the pocket and his drums were crazy. He would be sampling babies crying, and crickets as his hi-hat [and] percussion instruments.
Favorite Artists You’ve Worked With:
Dre: Fat Joe is one because he believed in us. He opened up the door of opportunity for us and he’s just a wealth of knowledge. He’s one of the dopest emcees and he’s real as fuck… Another artist I would say is Lil Wayne because… he allowed us to create music for him and give him ideas… And the third artist I would say is The Game… All the hits we’ve done together, it’s a chemistry that we have with Game where we can just press play on the beat and he just starts rapping… [it] was like a marriage, his vocals and the beat together.
Three Beats That Have Defined Your Career:
Cool: Definitely [The Game’s] ‘Hate It Or Love It,’ Juvenile’s ‘Rodeo,’ and of course, I can’t forget ‘New York.’ ‘New York’ was a game changer for us and one of my favorite beats, sonically.
One of your more popular records is ‘Hate It or Love It,’ which was a massive hit for The Game. What do you remember about that first collaboration with him and the making of that track?
Cool: The crazy thing about that record is I remember the day I found the actual sample. We went to Gainesville, [Florida] for some radio promo thing and normally if I hit a city, I’ll be like, ‘Yo, where’s a dope mom and pop record store?’ So, DJ Q45 had this low-key spot and it was a little whole in the wall record store that had mad records on the wall and I was like, ‘Leave me here for a couple of hours.’ So, I remember I picked up like five records and normally when I find a sample — even if I just hear a snare, I’ll put a record to the side. So when I heard the record, I put it to the side and when I got back home — I started chopping the sample up on the MPC. So, Dre comes in, he presses play on the MPC and started messing around with the swing on the sample, and that’s how the beat came together. We had the beat for like a year, but nobody made a move on the beat. We finally found that out later and A&R got the CD with the beat on it to 50 Cent, and 50 had just wrote a hook on it, and we heard that [Dr.] Dre heard the record and was like, ‘I need this for The Game, what’s up?’ And that’s how the whole record came together. We got hit from Amsterdam on an email saying there was a record that was used for The Game’s album. The first time we heard the beat, it was already on the radio.
Your production on DJ Khaled’s ‘Holla at Me’ helped score him one of his first breakout hits. Being that the track features Lil Wayne, Paul Wall, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Pitbull; what are your memories of those recording sessions?
Cool: That’s one of those records that’s from my DJ background. I remember I was at the crib and I was playing that record and the original [sample] was mad fast. But, I had just got one of those turntables that let you slow the record down, but still kept the sonics right and kept the same key. So, I remember slowing it down and Dre came in, heard the joint and added some vibes, and then we played it for Khaled, and Khaled lost his mind. Every time a verse would come in, he’d rush in and play it. When it came together, we were like, ‘This is a huge, timeless DJ record for the clubs,’ and you still hear the record in the club all the time. And I remember the video was just a movie. The whole city was out and it was just Miami coming together… That was a jump-start to the Khaled albums and everything he’s doing now. That was the launching pad.
‘Rodeo’ by Juvenile is an underrated gem in your catalog. What are your memories of crafting that particular record?
Cool: Juve was there in the early stages, man, ’cause he found a beat CD of me and Dre’s in one of his homeboys’ cars. He used to come out to Miami a lot, and me, and Dre was hustling beats on the streets…So, he calls me like, ‘I’m in the car and I heard y’all beats,’ and we got in contact off the rip ’cause we used to put our [phone] number on the CD… We kept in contact and I remember getting that beat to him. Just the way we flipped the sample, we knew it was a special one and what Juve did to it, he put the perfect lyrics for that beat. I remember getting a call from the label like, ‘Yo, this record is a monster.’ …That record was responsible for Juve’s first no. 1 album. He had big records like ‘Back Dat Azz Up’ and other records…that were big singles. But, this record was not just a hit single, it propelled his album to go No. 1. It’s one of those records that low-key inspired a lot of people.
Your working relationship with Rick Ross dates back to Port of Miami, which you produced two tracks on, one of them being ‘Blow.’ How did the three of you connect?
Cool: We was rocking with Ross before any of that, before Port of Miami. I’m talking Carol City Cartel. Put it this way, the first record Ross ever had, that was released, and the first appearance that Ross ever made in a music video was a record that we produced for Trina called ‘Told Y’all.’ …And when ‘Hustlin” took off, after we got [back] home from L.A., we got in the studio immediately and just started coking up. We did three records. One was ‘Chevy Ridin’ High,’ one was ‘Blow,’ and the other was ‘Boss.’
‘Brown Paper Bag,’ which features Dre, Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Fat Joe; was a massive record for the streets at the time of its release. What do your recall about crafting the instrumental ?
Cool: Originally, we wanted to give the beat to Hov…and we didn’t have the hook at the time. I remember running over to Khaled’s crib and playing it for him in the studio, and Khaled was like, ‘This is the biggest anthem.’ Like, Khaled heard it right away, he was like, ‘Yo, we gotta get Jeezy on this.’ He already knew who he was gonna put on it. He was like, ‘This is gonna be a huge record, Cool, please don’t send this to nobody, fam.’ And then, Khaled started doing what he do, he started putting the pieces together. And it was one of them records where Dre came up with the hook reference on there, and there was no one else that we could’ve put on that hook that was gonna deliver that hook like he delivered it.
Prior to TDE becoming one of the bigger brands in rap, you produced Jay Rock’s first single, ‘All My Life’ featuring Lil Wayne and will.I.am. What was your initial introduction to the TDE camp and how would you describe that initial experience working with them?
Dre: Top Dawg reached out to us personally. He got our number through mutual friends and he was like, ‘Yo, I need me one of those ‘Hate It Or Love Its’ for my artist Jay Rock, straight up.’ So, me and Cool was like, ‘Yo, it’s all love, man.’ But, he was like, ‘Yo, but I’m independent, though.’ We was like, ‘If you got the brown paper bag, let’s make it happen.’ I don’t know if it was Dave Free he sent, but one of his guys from TDE pulled up to the hotel we were staying at in L.A. with the brown bag in real life. We cooked the record up for him and that’s one of my favorite records ever ’cause Jay Rock is a real dude. And Top Dawg, to see how far they’ve come from that initial meeting back in the day, is a blessing. It’s good to see brothers from the streets put their ideas to work and execute. It makes me and Cool feel good to have a connection to that whole brand. So, shout out to TDE, for sure, and Jay Rock.
Another unsung gem from your catalog is Wale’s ‘Chillin,’ which featured an appearance from Lady Gaga. What led to the two of you being approached to work with Wale for his major label debut single?
Dre: Wale reached out ’cause he was on Interscope Records at the time and he was somebody who appreciated the music we were doing, and he wanted to work with us. Cool and I, we didn’t know too much about him. We knew he was running with Mark Ronson back in the day, so we finally listened to his music and we was like, ‘Let’s go.’ We got in the studio for a couple days and we kicked off. We had a good time and ‘Chillin” was one of the records that came out of that session. And it was dope because when they approached Lady Gaga, she was somebody that fucked with our beats, as well. She was like, ‘I like Cool & Dre beats…I’ma do it.’ So, she got on the record and they shot a cool video and we’ve always kept contact with Wale. That’s someone we’ve always maintained a relationship with. He ended up going and signing to our brother’s label MMG, so it all worked out. But, that was another gem, too.
‘All the Way Up,’ which was released following both Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s release from prison, was a big cultural moment and picked up where the pair left off. How important was it for you to be involved in that reunion, given the history between the four of you?
Dre: It’s one of the most important records of our career because me and Cool decided to put everything we had into our record company Epidemic Music, and after a couple of years, it was just tough for us to break a new artist. So, with us being music producers and not producing as much hits as people are accustomed to…they say you’re washed, you’re finished. So, at the same time, our brother Joe Crack had to go on vacation for a couple of months and he came home, and people was saying he was washed, he was finished. Same thing with Rem. So, we all had our backs against the wall and that was the energy of that record. We had to prove everybody wrong. And for somebody like Joe Crack, he’s been in the game for 30 years. So, he’s had to prove people wrong countless of times. This was one of the first time in me and Cool’s career [that] we felt like, ‘Damn, niggas is sleeping on us.’ So that record was important ’cause we ain’t stop since that record. We felt what it felt like for niggas to close the door on you and shovel the dirt over you. We felt that and we don’t ever wanna that feeling again. So, ‘All The Way Up’ was definitely turning the page on a new chapter for all of us. And as you can see, Joe Crack ain’t stop, me and Cool, we ain’t stop. Speaking of Remy, she’s supposed to be down here…and we’re gonna get in with her and get her album 7 Summers, 6 Winters, sounding right.
You’re known for working with more established acts. But, one of the newcomers you’ve worked with as of late is Kent Jones, whose track ‘Don’t Mind’ has caught a major buzz. What was it like working with him?
Dre: Kent Jones is an artist that Cool discovered years ago as a music producer. We didn’t find out until like two years later that he was also an artist. He was sleeping in our studio ’cause at the time, he ain’t really have no place to stay and the thing we can say about Kent Jones is he’s super talented and a brilliant musician. And for us to see the growth of him as an artist and producer — from being homeless to making a single to go Top 10 on the Hot 100 chart — triple platinum, and seeing him live out his dreams is amazing. What that did for me and Cool, it got the monkey off our back. We had been trying to break an artist for years and Kent Jones is the first artist that we discovered and broke, of course with the help of our partners We The Best Music and the whole crew at Epic Records.
‘Summer’ helped set the tone as the introductory song on JAY-Z and Beyonce’s The Carters album. But, it’s a slight departure from what fans have come to expect from you. What was it like to switch up the tempo and deliver a track that was more R&B than hip hop?
Dre: Working with those two icons is a dream come through and an opportunity, and a blessing, and to this day, we’re so grateful to be able to even say that we worked with them. ‘Summer’ was a record [that] Cool had started with the beat and he had pressed play on the beat, and immediately, the melody started coming in my head, and I just started humming, and singing melodies. And shout out Young Guru. We called him upstairs where we was working…we were like, ‘Yo, Guru, come here this shit,’ and when he heard it, he was like, ‘Nah, you gotta play this shit.’ You gotta play this for the king and the queen.’ So, when we played it for them, they loved it and the rest is history, man. They did what they did. And a lot of people don’t know that side of me and Cool, but we come from an R&B background, as well. As much as we love hip hop, we love R&B, as well, and we come from that. So, working with them gave us an opportunity to showcase that side.
Another record from The Carters that garnered a positive reaction is ‘Black Effect,’ which boasts some of Hov’s best verses on the album. Who’s idea was it to use the dialogue at the beginning of the track?
Dre: That’s all JAY-Z and Beyonce, that’s all them. We cooked up the beat and that [sample’s] The Carters’, as well.
What’s next for Cool & Dre?
Dre: Definitely Epidemic Music. We’re partnered up with Roc Nation, shout out our partners at Roc Nation. We got artists signed to us, shout out Eric Leon and Tom G. We’re always looking for new artists. So, look for a lot of new, exciting things from Epidemic Music/Roc Nation. Of course, we’re working with a lot of new artists, as well, we’ve been in the studio with DaniLeigh, she’s dope as fuck. Been in the studio with Bri Steves, been in the studio with Ameer Vann. Like I said, we worked with Big Sean on his new shit. Been cooking up this Family Ties album. Me and Fat Joe, our new single ‘Pullin’ featuring Lil Wayne, we’re about to drop another monster in a few weeks, so look out for that. We partnered up to start our own CBD venture. We’re about to get that cracking off, as well. So, a lot of shit coming, man.
Cool: I wanted to mention the kid LAMBOLAMBO, he’s super crazy. We got a couple of [other] big, big projects that we gotta keep on the low right now — big artists that we’re in the development stages, as far the music, and all that. So, definitely look out, we got some shit coming.
Dre: Shout out to Casanova, we just did his new single with Chris Brown that’s dropping in a few weeks.
Cool: We did two on BJ the Chicago Kid’s album that’s crazy.
Dre: Shout out BJ the Chicago Kid, that’s fam. So, you know? We’re never stopping, we’re gonna keep going.
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