The-Dream Talks About Working With Beyonce
Over two conversations, one sitting in the pool house of his Atlanta residence and another over the phone, The-Dream goes deep into what inspires him, the unlikely origins of “Break My Soul” and more.
Let’s talk about the relationship between you and Beyoncé. This is an artist who does anthems. It’s one thing when you talk wild shit to other people, how do you work with someone like her where you’re telling her, “You should say it this way…”
That's my Virgo sister right there. So I'm the friend that's there that just happens to know how to relate musically, of course. I could look at her and just like, Nah. I know exactly what to say for this thing. People don't believe this most times, but it's the same thing that you're doing. I am a reporter. I'm just reporting emotions. I'm reporting Bey back to herself. Even shit she's missed. “You can't keep up with what the fuck you doing. I saw what happened yesterday and I could write the whole day down whole album if you needed me to, because I saw. You couldn't have seen it. You were doing it.” So in most things like “Single Ladies,” and I've said this before, where it's like, Oh, it's actually an easy story to write. … She's already written most of the shit that you're trying to write because there's only one motherfucker you can write that for.
So for her, Rih, Jay—I get up for that because I now have a job to write the wealthiest outlandish shit that I can possibly say, but knowing exactly where the fuck I come from, in part reminding them . You still know them Jordans drop on Saturday. I'm breaking it down: This is what we're going to say because this is what you say. So now let's figure out a fresh way. I wanna say it in a fresh way, that's the gift. But the shit you're saying is the shit you're saying already.
Since we’ve been talking about the songwriting process, can you give me a soup-to-nuts breakdown of how a song like Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” came to be?
I'll give you both that and “Break My Soul.” With “Cuff it” we were trying to graduate the song to a certain space, so it needed a certain lift on it. “F– up the night” was already there and I remember Bey saying, “I need you to do that Dream thing you do and make this…you know, it just needs to go up.” And man, we just got in the room and I was just thinking of ideas of who could make it. As a producer, I'm trying to figure out how to simulate exactly what we were feeling or wanted to feel with that song. What's a Vegas night at 2 a.m. in the morning, you know, what's going to make it a thing?
And I said I gotta call Nile . I gotta call Nile! And of course the base of the record was already there and established and Bey had brought the thing halfway home. It was just about making sure we went to outer space at the end. So we went from the juke joint and put it on the spaceship.
A song like “Break My Soul” which is a song I probably wrote like 85 percent of the lyrics on that record and 85 percent of the track as well. That particular song, Bey had already cut and forgot about it at this special time in her life. I can't wait for her to talk about it, if she does. It's not for me to speak about it. Because of what she was doing, that was the beautiful thing. She couldn't really remember that she was doing it.
I had to remind her of that record and of course, she got excited all over again. And I would have reminded her sooner. I just thought that she was over it. When I first did the record, I had just moved from one house to another house and I was just sitting there in the foyer just playing around to see if my equipment is set up right. And the song just came about and I remember having it and I was like, “Oh my God, this is a smash, probably. Let me make sure I get it to Bey.” And so there's a rough demo that she has and that she loved from the beginning. It was that simple. Get in the foyer. Plug the MPC up, get some Pro Tools going, annnnnnnnd action. And voila. You know, when you leave a man to his own to his own tools...