The creative relationship between Drake and Noah “40” Shebib has produced some of the last decade’s biggest hip-hop hits, and they’re not looking to switch things up. In a recent appearance on The ETCs with Kevin Durant podcast, 40 explained why he only chooses to work with Drake.
“I probably solidified the decision when I won the ASCAP Songwriter Award three years in a row. And I think it was ‘11, ’12, ’13,” he said. “And so, in ’13 when I won it a third year in a row, I’m sitting there like, ‘Yo, I only have ever worked with one artist. This is crazy.’ Like, what, like… I’m songwriter of the year again?‘”
According to 40, he realized he didn’t need to branch out in order to achieve the success he envisioned.
“That moment, I was like, ‘I’m never working with anybody ever again,’” he said. “Because it’s just too much work. It’s too much effort. I don’t need to do that. It’s a very emotionally exhausting experience to go into the studio with somebody and create from scratch and do all of that. I found one of my best friends, and we make incredible music together.”
The producer also doesn’t want to adjust his style to other artists. “Like, I’m gonna go sit with someone else and have to, like, relearn that energy and figure out what we’re gonna do, and blah, blah, blah.‘ And also, I make, like, slow-ass, like, dark-ass R&B and like, f-cked up weird music that only Drake knows what to do with,” he said. “Give that sh-t to other people, and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy, right? So that’s kind of, like, you know, also it sort of turns me off from wanting to branch out.”
He compared the situation to him being the “lead guitar player” being asked to play for another band, and said that they have a symbiotic relationship in which he relies on Drake for guidance. “I think that what we have created is, is just special and unique, and I don’t want to give that away,” he said. “I don’t want someone else to have the sound that we have.”
Drake and 40 have been friends and collaborators since 2005, well before either of them had a music career to speak of. He records and mixes all of Drake’s music, and contributes production work on many songs. 40 also serves as co-executive producer on Drake’s projects. He has collaborated with a few other artists, including Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, and Action Bronson, but works almost solely with Drake.
Their relationship harkens back to the early days of hip-hop, when rapper-producer duos and groups from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to Eric B. & Rakim to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were much more common. Although he doesn’t receive billing as a lead artist, 40 has been instrumental in crafting the ambient, sing-rap style that’s defined Drake’s career and become incredibly influential in hip-hop. With Drake sitting as one of the music industry’s most popular artists, he doesn’t need to stray too far from what’s already working.
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