This is the latest entry in EW’s 2018 Songs of Summer series.
On March 14, when Lauryn Hill’s son Joshua took to Snapchat to post a snippet of what would become the lead single on Drake’s behemoth fifth studio album, Scorpion, no one could have predicted the unlikely melding of Hill’s bluesy 1998 hit “Ex-Factor” and the call and repeat stylings of New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia, would yield one of the summer’s biggest anthems. Released April 6, alongside a celebrity-studded music video directed by Director X’s protege Karena Evans, “Nice for What” was touted as buoyant hat tip to the power of womanhood. While the video — which featured Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tiffany Haddish, Syd, Letitia Wright and more — garnered much of the initial conversation, it was the song’s infectious beat and jubilant lyrics that ultimately saw it debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Drake has proven himself an able wordsmith and gifted curator of sound — his ability to identify a ripple in the zeitgeist before it turns into a full-blown wave is part of what makes him consistently successful. More than that, he has an aptitude for aligning himself with supporting talents who are intuitively able to amplify his strengths. Shane Lee Lindstrom, better known as Murda Beatz, the primary producer behind “Nice for What” (Noah “40” Shebib, Blaqnmild and Corey Litwin are listed as additional producers) is one such example. Lindstrom, 24, has carved a niche for himself as a go-to producer for trap music. He was instrumental in the creation of the dab, and his working relationship with Migos dates back to the age of 19, when he would fly back and forth between his home in Fort Erie, Ontario and Atlanta, to attend studio sessions.
Lindstrom’s work with Drake is slightly newer, although the two were aware of each other for several years before finally coming together. EW sat down with the prolific young producer to talk his influences, and how “Nice for What” went from an idea to a No. 1 single.
How did you get your start producing?
My boy actually introduced me to it. When I was a kid I used to make beats with my dad’s drum machine and then I started playing drums. After that I started DJ’ing for my boy and he introduced me to FL Studio so I used that as a drum machine and then I started adding melodies and stuff.
Who were some of your early influences?
I actually grew up on rock music; that’s what was played around my house. I listened to Led Zepplin, AC/DC, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Nirvana, Aerosmith — really almost everything. When I got older I really started to love the beats of trap music. In the beginning, I wanted to work with Slim Duncan. He actually passed away right around when I started making beats.
What about your influences now?
I listen to a lot of different music. I have a really open ear when it comes to music in general. I like everything. You have to. You have to know your history and learn everything you can, you know? A lot of times when I make a different style beat I don’t even know what I’m making. I’m literally just creating music and it comes out a certain way.
How did you connect with Drake?
We connected in Toronto through the scene. Basically just through mutual friends at parties and stuff. I’d say this was around the time I had done “Pipe It Up” with Migos, so after that dropped.
“Nice for What” samples Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” Big Freedia, Big Tymers “Get Your Roll On,” and the Showboys “Drag Rap.” Do you have a special process for choosing samples, particularly ones that are kind of obscure like the Showboys?
Sometimes I’ll specifically go looking for something and sometimes I’ll just be going through YouTube surfing and come across a random sample. If I look it up and find out no one has used it yet I’ll just start working on it. I don’t know, samples are just like unlimited ideas, you know? Sometimes a lot of people sample one song. A lot of it is also really just up to the artist and their creativity to see where it goes and what they want to do. Some artists don’t want to use samples that other artists have used and some don’t care. I’m down with whatever because everyone is going to flip the sample differently anyway.
Were you looking specifically for “Nice for What”?
Kind of. Me, Drake, his engineer Noel, and my manager Cory all decided that we wanted a female vocalist sample. My manager had the idea of using a Lauryn Hill record. I f— with Lauryn Hill’s music but I never grew up with it in my household or anything. I saw her perform last year and that was dope. Anyway, my manager had suggested “Ex-Factor” and I chopped it up, added drums and added that Murda sound, then Drake wrote his verses. I’d say we had it done in like an hour and a half. It was dope to be part of it since it turned into such a women’s empowerment song.
Do things normally go that smoothly? How long does it typically take you to knock out a beat?
My process is pretty immersive. To make a beat it can take me anywhere from 10 minutes to hours. For a song, anywhere from 10 minutes to a really long time. I like it to be an effortless process but sometimes it ends up being much longer.
How do you know when a beat is finished?
God tells me. God told me when “Nice for What” was done.
Did you see Lauryn Hill’s remix of “Nice for What”? What did you think?
It was pretty cool. I like being a part of history. Her version was crazy. It’s a very empowering song for women and I liked being part of that.
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