Studio Sessions | Hey Samyr produced most of Iman Shumpert's forthcoming album during the pandemic
For this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Iman Shumpert’s go-to producer explains how he helps NBA and NFL players transition into music.
People like NBA champion Iman Shumpert don’t just get beats when they work with producer Hey Samyr, they get a marketer, song arranger, music video consultant, and a friendly ear. So, Samyr has seen firsthand how Shumpert’s rapping skills aren’t bound by one sound.
“Iman can rap on any record, but his sound is more of these Andre 3000-type records. He likes those types of vibes. We have records for the younger crowd as well,” Hey Samyr told REVOLT. “He knows how to flow on those beats, too. We have an afropop record on the album and I didn’t expect him to do what he did on that record. On this album, he has a record for everyone.”
Shumpert’s go-to producer explains how he helps NBA and NFL players transition into music, how Shumpert’s filming of “Dancing With The Stars” affected the recording of his album This Car Isn’t Stolen, and talks a possible collaboration EP between comedian DeRay Davis and Shumpert.
Who was the first major artist or producer you worked with in the studio?
I’m from Canada, but I did middle school and high school in Miami. After that, I went back to Canada for college, but I never graduated. One day I said, ‘I can’t really do my music here. I need to go back to Miami.’ I packed up my bags and moved back to Miami and within two weeks, I ended up working on a project with Cool & Dre. I worked out of their studio for about a year and a half. That was like a boot camp where I got all my sonics. They had people like Queen Latifah and others there at all times, which really got me inspired. That was in 2016/2017. I would sit in sessions with them and learn how to know my sonics, frequencies, and song arrangements. Being in that studio really got me to my sound.
How did you first connect with Iman Shumpert?
I met Iman Shumpert through my friend Gerald Green, a basketball player who played for the Rockets. I was working with Gerald on his music. Working on his project at his house, I ran into Iman. I played Iman some music, and we connected through that. A few months later, we reconnected in Miami and did the record ‘Gohan’ with DJ Drama. This was in 2020 before the pandemic hit.
I didn’t know Gerald Green was making music.
He’s really talented. He has a big body of work, and I helped him throughout the course of that. He knows how to record himself. He knows what he’s doing. I helped him from the ground up. I helped him set up his home studio. I helped him write songs. I helped him with song arrangements. It was a pretty cool experience. He already has everything written when I’m there and knows what he’s doing. I just suggest things like how to say certain lines and ask him to try certain things. I help with molding the record with him. I can’t wait for him to release some music. Gerald has a catalog of at least 200 songs. We did music for three years while he was in the league.
How did recording while playing in the league work?
He played in Houston for the Rockets, and I lived in Miami, so I would fly out there, watch the game, and then go from the game to the studio (laughs). Most artists like to record for about five, six or seven hours. So, his sessions were pretty extensive. I noticed that most NBA players and athletes enjoy the studio and take it seriously.
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What sounds have you noticed Gerald gravitate toward?
He’s from Houston, and their sound is very much chopped and screwed. So, if you have bass-heavy beats that are a little slower, he’d enjoy those records.
You also were in the studio with former NBA player Michael Beasley. How do you connect with all of these NBA players?
I linked with Mike through Iman. One day, Iman came to Miami and said, ‘Hey, I want to record.’ He sent me an address and said, ‘Meet me there.’ My engineer Misael and I have a portable studio. We met him at the address, and it ended up being Michael’s house. We set up right on top of his pool table and got everything going. Mike makes music as well. He’s really talented.
What is your relationship like with Iman Shumpert in the studio? How have you helped him transition from knowing how to rap to being a recording artist?
With Iman, he’s already seasoned and knows what he’s doing. He just needed to figure out the right records. He needed help picking the proper single and figuring out the placement of the songs on the album. Iman is really talented. I don’t really tell him what to do or how to do it. He hears a record and already knows what he wants to do. It’s more about crafting the record around him.
What’s a typical Iman session?
My engineer Misael is great at setting up the vibe. Iman likes tea when he’s recording, so Misael makes sure we have different types of tea there. A typical session starts with Iman asking, ‘Let me hear something.’ Then, I would just load up a couple of records. For him, the first record I play is usually the one. We have a connection where I can figure out what vibe he’s in. If I don’t know, I’ll ask him, ‘Yo, what type of vibe are you in today?’ Then, I’ll pull up a record and if he rocks with it, he’ll go, ‘Load it up.’ He’s a writer and likes to sit down and pen his lyrics.
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You two recorded most of the music for the album during the coronavirus pandemic. How did that affect the making of the project?
The single he has coming out that samples Eve’s ‘Blow Your Mind’ is called ‘Drop Ya Glass’ and was actually the first record we recorded. When I played the record for him, he was mind blown and said, ‘I can’t believe you just played that for me.’ The minute he heard it, he knew exactly what he needed to do with it. The record probably took us an hour and a half to get done. That’s more than likely the quickest record we did.
Iman said he has a song on the album called “Forgiveness” about falling out with his friends when he got to the NBA. That sounds like a personal record. How did that record come about?
For that record, my boy Onassis and I did that joint. I think we made that record around the time we were taping for his and Teyana’s ‘We Got Love’ show. He came into the studio and said, ‘Play me the album. Tell me what I’m missing.’ Once I heard the entire album, I told him, ‘I think you’re missing one of these joints where you’re talking about a personal situation.’ Once I played the record, he was like, ‘That’s exactly what I’m missing.’ He went into the booth and did it. He paints a picture of the situation he went through with his friends, where they fell off and got right back together. We just shot the video for that a month ago in Chicago. Being around his friends and family, I realized things like that happen, but it’s family, so you always reconnect. That’s the purest loyalty you could have.
Iman’s a busy guy, so how often were you both in the studio together?
Iman had come to Miami at least once a month over the last two years, except when he was on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and doing his reality show. During that time, it was more sporadic. He’s consistently in Miami working on music. Iman can rap on any record, but his sound is more of these Andre 3000-type records. He likes those types of vibes. We have records for the younger crowd as well. He knows how to flow on those beats, too. We have an afropop record on the album and I didn’t expect him to do what he did on that record. On this album, he has a record for everyone.
What have you two done outside of the studio to build your bond?
We kick it all the time. I also work with DeRay Davis. He was on the ‘No Cap Tour’ and stopped in Miami, so Iman and I watched the show together.
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While you’re recording with Iman, is the game on in the studio? Is Iman giving his commentary?
Absolutely. If there’s a game going on while we’re making music, he’s always watching the game while the music is blasting. He’ll keep up with the score and comment if a team should’ve done this or should’ve done that. He’s usually spot-on, too.
What is your best talent?
I’m a producer who runs the entire play with the artist. From the beginning, I figure out what record you’d sound good on. I’ll vocal produce you through the record. I help you throughout the music video process by getting the treatment correct and visualizing what you want to portray for the record. I also help the artist with the marketing. I don’t know too many producers that run the entire play like that.
What’s a record on Iman’s upcoming album This Car Isn’t Stolen that you can’t wait for people to hear?
There are a couple. Our generation is really going to enjoy ‘Drop Ya Glasses’ because it will bring that feeling back, and the new generation who didn’t know the [original] record will listen to it. We got a record called ‘Should Be Dead’ that will be good for the younger generation. He has a record called ‘Prada’ that’s really dope. He has a record for everyone (laughs).
You said you help with everything, including the marketing. People are going to look at him as only an athlete. How do you two plan to make sure that doesn’t affect people’s reception of the music?
Honestly, we plan on letting the music speak. Once you hear the record and the album, you’ll realize we took the time to craft these records. They aren’t just thrown together. For me, I want to be able to hear what an artist is saying, and he really brought bars. I’m excited. It’s been a while for the album to come, but it’s a great body of work.
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DeRay Davis has been a comedian for as long as I can remember. He was on a few Kanye West albums, but what is it like for him to get into music?
I remember reaching out to DeRay to send him a pack of music, and he didn’t really reply. I thought he didn’t really like it. We got a record called ‘Girls in the Back.’ I did a little visualizer of me in Miami with girls dancing. He heard the beat in the video and was like, ‘Can you send me that?’ I sent it to him. It took him a couple of months, but he invited me to one of his shows. When I got to the show, he invited me backstage, and that’s when he started to tell me about his music career. From there, he rapped to me what he wanted to do on the record. When I heard it, I was like, ‘This is fire.’ Two weeks after our meeting, he sent me two records back. I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ From there, he let me into the rest of the EP he has going. This was around January of this year. We locked in once and have been locked in ever since.
What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
DeRay is coming out with his EP in a couple of months. Iman is coming up with his album really soon. I think I just got both of them to lock in on a joint EP together, but I want them to announce it. So, I won’t say anything else (laughs). I also got two songs with Jay Ajayi, a football player who won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m also locking in with Ashley Waters, one of the main actors on ‘Top Boy.’ But, you know, things can just come out of anywhere.
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