by Nadine Graham
Today’s the day the world can finally hear Nas’ Life Is Good album, his first solo effort since 2008. On the final day of our countdown, The BoomBox speaks with producer Salaam Remi about building the new LP alongside Nas and fellow producer No I.D. According to Remi, he went into Life Is Good knowing the precise sound that he was looking for and as long he brought his expertise to the studio, he was certain the Queens MC would do the same.
Remi is much more than simply a rap beatsmith, having produced for a number of genres from reggae and R&B to soul and hip-pop. His musical prowess has even carried him as far as London, where he worked with the city’s most promising young soulstress, Amy Winehouse, assisting in her vast catalog before her untimely death in 2011. Remi has the uncanny ability to highlight the greatest attributes of artists he collaborates with, ultimately giving them the spotlight.
He has more than 10 years logged as one of Nas’ go-to producers and it shows in the work that they’ve put on wax. It isn’t hard to tell that there’s a close work relationship built on instinct and here he tells us about their course of action.
“For me, it hasn’t been that much of a change. The first time I worked with Nas was on Stillmatic back in 2001, and my process has kind of become our process as far as the way that we create. A lot of times, Nas will come up with an idea or might say something in passing, but I have the ability to hear what he was thinking and create whatever it was that he was saying in passing.
So a lot of what happened on this record was me talking to him and thinking about ideas and ways to be able to create the music for it and him being really comfortable with just recording. A lot of the songs that we did on this album may have started two or three years ago. To me, the only difference with this album is that some of the ideas on this album are ideas that we’ve had for many years, stuff that I’ve wanted to put out years ago. Like ‘A Queens Story’ has been in motion for maybe five, six years but now it’s finally on the record as is. It’s a culmination of life matching up with the music that’s coming out.
At this point, with the eight songs that I’m involved in on the Life Is Good album, I’ve probably done, 100 in the past 10 years… You know, just different things on records and different things that come out. Even for me, on the last two albums, I haven’t really participated that much although perception would make it seem that way, but I’d only done one song on Untitled and it never really came out. It was a leaked record that came out before the album did.
I hadn’t really done that much since Street’s Disciple but this time it was just a lot more records that we had in that area. I felt that more than anything else, Nas himself was in a good place so he’s on his rap A-game, he sounds young and energetic and it was a good chemistry between himself and No I.D. and himself and I. He had more than enough great records to choose from.
I put Nas to vocal a certain way and that’s from the first record I did with him, ‘What Goes Around’ like when he’s rapping, ‘Poison,’ I’d tell him… ‘Cause he can rap, he’ll write it, and he can rap it in 10 different flows, change his voice, but that’s me always wanting to hear that energy that you hear on ‘Nasty’ or ‘The Don,’ I kinda push him vocally in a certain way, so he can express himself but make sure it’s coming across the way I would want to hear it. Then, a lot of times with some of the songs on there, I’d be like I want everything to sound like the songs you would tape off the radio.
It was coming from that element, like even on the ‘Bye Baby’ or the ‘Reach Out’ record, which was last second, me and No I.D. did it in general like the Mr. Magic-sounding stuff, things that we only heard back in the day. So it had an underlying theme of that but bigger than anything else he was able to express his life through ‘Daughters’ and ‘Bye Baby,’ this was his album and I don’t think he made anyone else’s album. A lot of people are coming out in this climate and making the album that everyone else is making. He really made his album.”
I’m glad people are receiving it the way that it was created to be. I’m happy that it’s being received that way but I’m not really surprised by it.”