Over his 30-year rap career, Jay-Z has earned the reputation for having one of the greatest ears in hip hop.
From Just Blaze to Kanye West, Timbaland to Swizz Beatz, Hov has always been the best at pulling out the best production from his collaborators. Whether it was Timbaland’s trunk-rattling “Big Pimpin'” or creating a soulful masterpiece with the likes of Just, Kanye and Bink, Jay-Z has always been quick to spot production talent and capitalise on that.
So it was a big surprise for Hov fans when it was revealed that his thirteenth solo album, the deeply personal and introspective 4:44, had only one producer on the track listing: the legendary No I.D. While Jay-Z would get co-production credits on a few songs (“The Story of O.J.”, “Smile”, “Caught Their Eyes”, “Moonlight” and “Legacy”), the bulk of the work was done by one producer, the first time ever in Hov’s recording career.
“Jay is credited as co-producer on five of those songs because he basically made a playlist of songs that he listened to at his house and it was in the spirit of the soundtrack that he wanted to capture,” No I.D. explained in a Tidal interview. “So I just started sampling songs off of that playlist that he gave me.”
As one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time, No I.D. has crafted countless classics for rappers like Common, Pusha T, Kanye, Nas, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, and Big Sean, just to name a few. But 4:44 marks a special moment in his career – firstly, because Jay-Z has never stuck to one producer over the course of an entire album, and secondly, the project is arguably Hov’s most personal and heartfelt to date.
No I.D.: It was a real artist-producer relationship on a traditional level. I think it’s something we need more of in all music. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that we even started this concept of multiple producers on projects.”The Man Behind the Music for Jay-Z’s Intimate ‘4:44’ | The New York Times