When the sixty fifth Grammy Awards are held Sunday in Los Angeles, the category to observe for Canadians is Non-Classical Producer of the 12 months.
That’s because Toronto’s Matthew Samuels — higher often known as Boi-1da — has racked up his second nomination within the category in five years, this time for his production work on memorable 2022 projects by pop, R&B and rap superstars Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Jack Harlow, Giveon, H.E.R., Lil Durk, Ella Mai and a few guy who goes by the name of Drake.
It’s a difficult enough accomplishment to realize a primary time around, let alone a second — and Samuels is counting his blessings.
“Being nominated for Producer of the 12 months the primary time really meant rather a lot to me,” he said recently during a Zoom call from a house office in Pickering that features wall-to-wall plaques and trophies from cumulative album sales numbering within the a whole bunch of thousands and thousands, plus 2.5 billion streams.
“I didn’t win, but I actually thought I deserved it. And I said to myself, ‘I’m going to place my head down and perhaps one in all today, perhaps I’ll get back there and perhaps I’ll get it this time … there aren’t loads of those that get nominated for that award multiple times, so it’s really just an honour to have my name amongst everybody involved.”
He’s vying against Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift), the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Dahi (Kendrick Lamar, Steve Lacy) and Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II (Silk Sonic, Lucky Daye), but Samuels has three other nominations for his songwriting and production work. If Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” capture Album of the 12 months honours, Samuels will walk away with each songwriting and producer hardware for his contributions to those projects.
He can also be up as co-writer for Best Rap Song for “Churchill Downs,” recorded by Jack Harlow featuring Drake, a category that accounts for his only Grammy win up to now. Samuels captured the golden gramophone for Drake’s “God’s Plan” in 2018, the identical yr he was first up for Producer of the 12 months in a field that included Larry Klein, Linda Perry, Kanye West and eventual winner Pharrell Williams.
“They’re great, iconic producers that shaped my sound as well,” Samuels said. “And for my name to be mentioned with them as well? I’m just so honoured.”
As you possibly can gather, humility is a Samuels traits.
Ever since he “began at the underside” with Drake, collaborating with him on his 2006 mixtape “Room for Improvement,” he has not only been a relentless fixture in Drizzy’s world domination through the years, but has also taken a lot of local studio overseers under his wing and helped them rise to the highest of their international game: Adam “Frank Dukes, now Ging” Feeney, Ebony “WondaGurl” Oshunrinde, fellow Grammy nominee Rupert “Sevn” Thomas, Zale Epstein, Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk, Tyler “T-Minus” Williams, Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans amongst them.
Samuels’ A-list credits include work with Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Eminem, Jay-Z, Cardi B, J. Cole, Alessia Cara, Maroon 5, Kehlani, Lana Del Rey, Nicki Minaj and the list goes on … but he often involves his protégés in his recording sessions.
“I never compete,” said Samuels, born 36 years ago in Kingston, Jamaica. “I used to be never motivated by competition.
“I feel that music is art and that’s the best way I take a look at it. Some persons are going to love my art. Some like Picasso; some like Basquiat. It’s all subjective at the tip of the day.
“After I got here up here, we never had a mentor or anyone to actually look as much as, to actually teach me the sport and put me in numerous rooms and opportunities. So after I get the prospect to spread those opportunities, I do, since it’s hard.
“I adopted the mentality of paying it forward and I actually live by that since it just helps construct our eco-system and helps everybody, you recognize?”
Samuels began walking his own profession path early: when he was 14, he spent the summer experimenting with the digital audio workstation FL Studio, known back then as Fruity Loops.
After working on some early Keshia Chanté and Kardinal Offishall projects, Samuels attached with Aubrey “Drake” Graham, which has been his longest association. While he hasn’t worked on every Drizzy album, he did a few tracks for “Her Loss,” the recent Drake and 21 Savage collaboration.
“What clicks with me and Drake so well is that we just understand one another musically,” said Samuels. “I can see the mood that he’s in, or he’s excellent at explaining things and explaining what he wants relating to music. We just ignite.
“Some people have that musical synergy, where it’s like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson — anytime they got here together they made something special — or Timbaland and Aaliyah. Although I feel prefer it’s just each of our God-given gifts combined and, for some reason, each time we link up it’s crazy each time. It’s fire and gasoline.”
Perhaps essentially the most effective tool that Samuels has is spontaneity: he enters the studio with no preconceptions.
“I actually go in with no objective aside from to simply be creative and do what I feel I should do,” he said.
“It’s music, and it’s best to all the time do what you’re keen on and what you wish to do as a substitute of being pushed by a narrative or an objective. I feel the perfect stuff comes out of you with a free mind.”
Although Samuels is primarily known for hip hop, he also works with singers, songwriters, pop and rock stars.
“After I do hip hop, it’s a bit of more free,” Samuels said. “It’s less meticulous, where you possibly can really simplify the music and something very simple will work. Whereas, working with pop music and R&B and other genres of music, it has rather a lot to do with songwriting, structurally … it’s a challenge every time, one which I accept with open arms.
“I’m all the time willing to learn and do something recent. I get bored easily.”
What does he consider to be a few of his finest work?
“I’ll put ‘Work’ by Rihanna (featuring Drake) as one in all my favourites, since it got here at a time where that was not even expected,” he said. “It was an entire recent Caribbean dancehall-influenced sound that got here out of nowhere and took over the entire summer.
“Then Drake did ‘Controlla’ and PartyNextDoor released ‘Only You’; I feel it was 2016 and that’s the one I used to be really pleased with because I’m Jamaican. Dancehall was really my past love, so to bring it back as a vibe and to make it popular, that was a proud moment for me. I feel prefer it paid homage to Jamaica and dancehall, which moulded me as a producer, as an individual, as the whole lot.
“I’ll also put up ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake and ‘Not Afraid’ by Eminem. ‘God’s Plan,’ one in all Drake’s biggest songs, was such a large hit, so amazing, so loved. That’s all the time the goal.
“And ‘Not Afraid’ — Eminem has all the time been one in all my favourite rappers. Just getting a possibility to make such a huge song with an individual you’ve grown up listening to and idolizing for years is amazing,” Samuels said.
“The primary album I ever bought was Eminem’s ‘Slim Shady’ LP. So going from that child rushing to the mall to HMV to purchase Eminem’s ‘Slim Shady’ LP then growing up and doing a serious comeback album for him was really an enormous moment for me and my profession.”
Although Samuels splits his time between L.A. and Pickering, his family life is centred here around his 12-year-old daughter, Shayla.
“She’s avid in soccer and he or she plays sports, and it’s just very vital for me to be there for her as a father,” he said. “ I’m a really lively dad.”
Currently constructing a studio while working on his own album, Samuels said he desires to see “Canada and Toronto thrive as a music hub where people don’t have to go away and go to America.
“I’m attempting to set that example and stay true to Canada.”
He has given lectures on the Weeknd-sponsored incubator Hxouse and continues to finance a bursary at his alma mater, Pickering High School.
“Any likelihood I get to show, encourage, help, I take it, because there’s just not a greater, more rewarding feeling then giving back, helping others and provoking. It’s the best feeling ever.”