Producer 1SRAEL was helping fellow Nigerian musician Tems refine her songs for a Genius live performance in 2021, and a year later it inspired ATL Jacob to produce one of Future’s biggest songs, “WAIT FOR U.” But, the sonic savant’s success came from years of adding value in sessions not everyone knows about.
“I was in the studio with Mike Dean for a session with Lucky Daye and Fivio Foreign. The song is hard. It’s not what you would expect from Fivio at all,” 1SRAEL told REVOLT. “I started playing some chords, and as soon as I started playing the chords, the whole room lit up.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-winning producer explains the musicality of Yung Bleu that fans don’t see, what he learned from Mike Dean, and how his work with Tems inspired a Future hit. Read the REVOLT exclusive below.
Who was the first major artist you worked with?
Technically, it would be VanJess. Shout out to Tunji [Balogun]. When we were building KAYWHT from the ground up, he basically linked us up with VanJess [for the song “11:30”]. Mannywellz is also a dope artist I worked with early in my career.
What was VanJess’ creative process like?
The synergy was there. I had the idea for the song together, production-wise. K did her thing, and we just sat there going back and forth with each other. They’re good at what they do. They made the process seamless. They went in there, listened to the production briefly, and wrote it. We went back and forth lyrically. But they just killed it. I appreciated that I didn’t have to tell them too much. That was either in 2019 or right before the pandemic in 2020.
Another artist you’ve worked with is Yung Bleu, who recently said he doesn’t get the props he deserves because people don’t see the work he puts in. What aren’t we seeing?
Bleu is dope. We were working in London. He came in while I was starting the drum pattern that was stuck in my head all day. Bleu had the ear to ask, “Can you pull out the MIDI really quick?” When I pulled out the MIDI, he just started playing a bit, and I didn’t expect that. Bleu has melodies for days. His first-take melody was insane. I didn’t expect it. That was in July 2022.
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What’s his writing process like?
I noticed he just went in the booth and laid it in one or two takes. The first take was more for melody. The second take is when I felt he had an idea of what he wanted to discuss. He just went in and didn’t even have to bring a pen, which I love. He just went in straight. This is actually for a record that’s not out just yet. But I don’t doubt it’s going to come out soon.
What is your role in those sessions?
I’m a hundred-percenter. I fully produce records. I wouldn’t consider myself a beatmaker. I can make beats. But, I come in, we listen to it, and I let everybody do their thing. I take all the ingredients that everybody gives and properly cook the meal. When I first signed to Sony, I told my A&R, “I’m not really a placement chaser.” I’m the type of person that values crafting work. I’m not someone who sends beats unless it makes sense.
What do you need in the studio to make your best music?
I don’t need much. I prefer natural light. I prefer daytime sessions. I prefer being able to see the sun. Other than that, I don’t need much. I can be proud of being like water and churning out the same output regardless of where I’m at.
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You’ve worked with masters of the game like Mike Dean. What did you learn in your session with him?
In my session with Mike Dean not too long ago, I picked up a few things from him on how he layers his synths and things like that. I was in the studio with Mike Dean for a session with Lucky Daye and Fivio Foreign. The song is hard. It’s not what you would expect from Fivio at all. I got the call, pulled up, and at the time, I was the only musician in the room. We were just bouncing off each other for inspiration, and I started playing some chords, and as soon as I started playing the chords, the whole room lit up. Then, we took those chords and just built off of ’em. Then, Mike Dean walked in and started playing around with synths. Just seeing him work sparked something in me.
I can’t wait for you all to hear it. I’m always open to learning. Honestly, I feel that I learn most of my musicality from the people around me and from church. I’d say church taught me how to trust my ear and have discipline. Church taught me I don’t need to do too much and that there’s a time for every instrument to shine. I also learned a lot from a friend of mine, the producer Benny X. I learned how to speed up my workflow while still having the quality of production I wanted. Working with Benny was a really important part of my process for me.
Congrats on the Grammy for your work with ATL Jacob on Future’s “WAIT FOR U.” How did you get involved with that record?
Funny enough, I was doing a lot of work with Tems then. I was doing a lot of live work and music direction with Tems. We did the Genius live session, where I had to recompose certain chord progressions on the record and make it work for our live session. That composition we put together for the Genius live is what ATL Jacob used and threw some drums on.
When did you know your work was on Future’s I NEVER LIKED YOU album?
What’s funny is I was in a state of my life where I just wanted to listen to more positive music. I wasn’t planning on listening to the Future album. I was in a different head space at the time. I chatted with some of my friends after the song was released and found out. We had to redo the business after it was released. It was a common mistake for me not to be contacted beforehand. It took me half of a second listening to it to realize it was the version of Tems’ “Higher” we worked on for Genius live. I reached out to Tems’ team, and they told me it was an honest mistake because when they were clearing it, they thought it was a different record or a different song they were clearing. We got it all patched up and got the business done correctly.
Everyone is enchanted with Tems’ unique brand of soulful R&B/Afrobeats. How does she bring that to life in the studio?
To be honest with you, from what I’ve seen, Tems is naturally dope. She started the production on a lot of the records she has on her projects. Tems is also a producer. Tems doesn’t like things being overproduced. When she and Tejiri [Akpoghene] were working on the “Higher” record, they were working back and forth. When I came into the Airbnb that they were working in then, I just switched some things out for it to work for what we were doing.
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What was the most memorable session you’ve been in?
Honestly, when we put the live version of Tems’ “Higher” together. I’m Nigerian, and it felt good to know I was adding value and being a part of such a great moment in Nigerian history. Tems is the first Nigerian female artist to win a Grammy ever. For me to be a part of that, it felt like a full-circle moment.
What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
Man, we have some records. We have so many records, but I never want to speak on something before they speak on it. But some heavy records are coming. “WAIT FOR U” was great, and I love the record. I’m thankful for being a part of it, but so many more are coming.