Exclusive: SoundSmith Talk Producing Jeezy, Kendrick Lamar & J. Cole’s ‘American Dream’

From left: Y-Not, Kool Aid, Richie, Mac

December is full of Hip-Hop releases, both songs and albums but if we had to pick one song that we’re looking forward to the most, it would probably be Jeezy, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole’s ‘American Dream’.

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The song is track #12 on Jeezy’s forthcoming album Pressure which hits stores December 15th, the same day new albums also arrive from Eminem, N.E.R.D., G-Eazy and Boosie Badazz. The producer behind the beat is SoundSmith, a team of four producers hailing from Toronto, Canada. This is isn’t their first placement of course — the crew made of Y-Not, Kool Aid, Richie and Mac have earlier supplied production for a wide range of artists like Gucci Mane, Nipsey Hussle, KXNG Crooked, Rakim, Bow Wow, and many more.

But it’s safe to say that ‘American Dream’ is their biggest placement to date. And why not, it’s three rap superstars on the same song. And the first one to have K.Dot and Cole sharing the same space since ‘Forbidden Fruit‘ in 2013. The collaborative project may not ever release so we have to be thankful for what we’re getting.

I had the opportunity to talk with the SoundSmith production team about the much anticipated song, how it ended up being in Jeezy’s hands, the sample used on it, their dream collaborations, biggest influences and more.

Thanks for chatting with me guys. For those who are not aware of you, please introduce yourselves.

This is Y-Not, Mac and Kool Aid. We go by the name of SoundSmith productions. We’re from Toronto, Canada.

Toronto has grown in a big way these past few years. A lot of both big and underground artists, some great producers coming out of the city. Why do you think Toronto is shining so much?

Kool Aid: I think Toronto is shining because Hip-Hop is always evolving and looking for something fresh and new. It’s always looking for something to add to the culture. Toronto is such a pot which is bubbling with different kind of flavors all the time, different kind of cultures and stuff like that. It’s bound to happen. We got the flavor right now.

Tell me how you got your start in the music business.

Y-Not: I always had love for music when I was a kid. It all started with listening to music as a kid and playing video games. I also grew up in church so I was exposed to playing different instruments like bass guitar and drums. It was in High School when I met Mac and a couple of other people who had the same kind of passion for music. We would connect and play each other different kind of music that we’re interested in and would regularly have jam sessions. Then years fast forward, one of our good friends has a cousin out here, an artist named Finesse. I had flipped an Aretha Franklin sample and made a beat out of it – one of my first ones I made on Fruity Loop (FL Studio). He ended up loving it and made a track out of it called ‘I Love You’. After that I just kept running with it.

Kool Aid: I started doing music when I was 6-7 years old, just beat boxing, freestyling and I took part in talent shows around the city. My mom recognised my talent and introduced me to a few people. I became part of a group in Toronto which was distributed by MCA Records. That’s how it started. By age 12 or so, I was in the studio recording.

Mac: I started around 14 or 15 and wanted to become a rapper at first. Then soon realized that it would cost to get beats. I was once in the studio with a bunch of producers and started noticing how they are making beats. They were using Fruity Loops 3.0 back then and I was like ‘you know what, I’m gonna make beats’. I started trying and the first couple of them were just techno beats but I kept trying and learned the foundation of laying instrumentals. I kept getting better at it and ended up connecting with this artist named Nemesis from the city. Just been working ever since. All of us crossed paths with each other one way or another, the rest is history. We just gelled and made it work, now we’re here taking to you.

You’ve produced records for artists from East Coast, South, West Coast, everywhere. What has been your favorite placement so far?

Mac: Definitely the new one that we have coming out: Jeezy, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole ‘American Dream’.

Y-Not: This has to be our favorite. There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation behind this one, fans are eager to hear it. It feels nice that we made something that they liked. Mac was actually behind pushing this one for so long.

Kool Aid: Definitely the favorite one so far.

Do you get specific requests from artists for beats?

Kool Aid: Yeah, sometimes we do get requests from artists where they ask for a certain kind of beat but the way SoundSmith works is, we don’t stick to one certain kind of sound. If you listen to some of our previous work, you’ll notice we don’t have a particular sound. We have different influences and sounds mixed together. Whatever we’re feeling emotionally that day, we create music based on that.

The track ‘American Dream’ on Jeezy’s album featuring Kendrick and J. Cole has the people very excited. Please tell me how you connected with Jeezy.

Mac: Well really I had a relationship with DJ Folk who is Jeezy’s right hand man. I built a relationship with Folk over time and have been sending records to him for past almost half a decade now. That was one of the records I had sent him and he really liked so kept it in pocket. When it was the right time, he made Jeezy hear it and he ended up loving it. They wanted to get some features on it and those happened to be Kendrick and Cole.

So you sent them the beat a couple of years ago?

Mac: Yeah, we’ve been sending them a bunch of records every now and then. But I somehow felt that this record we made was something special. It ended up being in the right hands. Toronto has really grown for producers as well. We have so many influences, we’re worldwide – we incorporate sound from the West Coast, the East Coast, the Caribbean, Asian sounds, from all over the world and that plays a part.

Definitely. How did you come up with the beat? What was the inspiration behind the beat and what software did you use?

Y-Not: The one thing we really like is putting some soul into our music. For this record too, we sampled a song and when we originally made it, it sounded very different and interesting, and that’s why we liked it. We then put some drums on it and it came out really nice. We knew it was the one. We used Fruity Loops for it and that’s our go-to now.

Can you tell me what sample you used?

Y-Not: I don’t know if I can speak on the exact sample (laughs) but I can tell you that the artist behind the sample is Bilal.

Oh wow, that’s great. Kendrick and Bilal have a great chemistry so I can see why Kendrick liked it. What is the sound of the track? Have you guys heard the final cut?

Mac: Yeah, I haven’t heard the final version of the song in its entirety but I’ve heard the majority of it and I can tell you it’s something that fans are going to really like. Just wait for it.

It’s definitely the most anticipated song on the album and I can say, maybe for rest of the year. Who are your favorite producers of all time? Like a top 3 maybe.

Kool Aid: My top 3 producers would be Dr. Dre, J.Dilla and DJ Premier.

Mac: For me, it would have to be Dr. Dre, Timbaland and oh, I want some time with the third pick, there are so many great producers. I guess it would be Preemo (DJ Premier). So Timbo, Dre and Preemo.

Y-Not: Off the top, definitely Dr. Dre, he’s very influential for me. Swizz Beatz is one of my all time favorites. I guess Timbaland would be the third pick. I guess Dre and Timbo are like the safest picks. But there’s no denying that they changed the soundscape of music. What music was and what it became after they came out. It’s the sonics they focus on so much, how clean it comes from the speakers, the drums, the snares, that plays a huge part and they are so great with it.

I agree. What is your dream collaboration?

Kool Aid: Man, that’s a tough question (laughs). I think one artist I would pick is Busta Rhymes. He’s just on another level man, the energy, the hype. The vibe is amazing. I would have loved to do something with J.Dilla, he was amazing. It would be great to do something even now with something that he’s left behind.

Y-Not: Apart from the three producers that I named, Dr. Dre, Swizz and Timbo, I’d love to do something with Jay-Z. That’s a dream collaboration for me, he’s the G.O.A.T. in my eyes. If I go a little outside the genre then I’d love to collaborate with Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Definitely Kanye too. I can go through a list really but those are the names that jump out to me right away.

Mac: I would have said Jay-Z too but Y-Not beat me to the punch. I’d say Snoop Dogg since he’s been a force to reckon with. I would say Stevie Wonder too. Even someone like Aretha Franklin, it will be great to hear her voice over our sounds. Someone from today, I’d love to get a song in with Beyonce. Producer wise, I think Swizz Beatz and Just Blaze would be amazing.

Last question before we get out of here. This is something we ask everyone we interview at HipHop-N-More: Prince or Michael Jackson and why?

Mac: Oh wow, what a question. ‘Billie Jean’ is the greatest song ever to me. I would say ‘Beat it’ and ‘Rock With You’ too, they are undeniable even to this day. Mike for me.

Kool Aid: I love Mike to death, I grew up impersonating him but I will pick Prince. I just love what he did, that Funk and he plays instruments, we could collaborate too so Prince yeah. But I love Mike too, I’m not dissing Mike.

Y-Not: Yeah, I would go with Prince too. Mike is great but Prince, his music resonates more with me even growing up. I heard more Funk in my life than Pop music so if I had a choice, I would pick Prince. But if I had to choose Mike, it would be the old Mike (laughs).

Check out SoundSmith’s discography on Soundcloud

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