Rap mogul Jay-Z offers his secrets to writing songs and what strategies he utilizes to in order to create a great track in the new issue of Rolling Stone.
Jay credits the songwriting styles of hip-hop greats like Rakim and Dr. Dre for influencing his own technique.
“When I’m writing a song that I know is going to work, it’s a feeling of euphoria,” Jay writes. “It’s how a basketball player must feel when he starts hitting every shot, when you’re in that zone. As soon as you start, you get that magic feeling, an extra feeling. Songs like that come out in five minutes; if I work on them more than, say, 20 minutes, they’re probably not going to work. When I was starting out, I was just trying to tell stories. I wasn’t thinking about melodies. Then I started to marry storytelling with every thing I was learning from all these other great records: the great writers like Babyface and Lionel Richie; Rakim’s technique and syncopation; Dre’s whole package on the Chronic albums; Quincy Jones, the greatest producer of all time; Rick Rubin, who’s not too far behind because of all his genre-jumping.” (Rolling Stone)
Jay also cites today’s advanced technology for adversely affecting an artist’s creative process.
“Technology has caused the songwriting process to lose some of the magic,” he writes. “A lot of times now, people working on a song aren’t in the same room. Imagine if Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones hadn’t been in the same room! Those records would have been totally different. I’ve had times when I changed one word because of something that somebody said in the studio, and it changed the whole song. It’s so important to have other people in the room, vibing, saying, “No, this part is good, put that there.” I spend a lot of time fighting myself to stay out of the way of a great song. It’s hard for me to leave a song alone, in its natural state. I want it to have that mass appeal, but once I start trying to push it too far, you can feel that something isn’t right. When you can hear what a writer is trying to do, it’s like watching a dancer and seeing him counting his steps. Music is emotional — if you’re singing that you’re in love with somebody but it doesn’t really feel like you are, people can tell.” (Rolling Stone)
Last year, Jay-Z also wrote an editorial piece for Rolling Stone.
Mr. Carter has taken up yet another career, but this time not as a Rapper, Director, or CEO, but as a writer. Above are two excerpts written by Jay-Z from Rolling Stone’s upcoming issue. He writes about what music means to him and how music has changed for the better and for the worse. (The Source)
Last summer, Slaughterhouse’s Joe Budden released a book detailing keys to songwritiing called Enter the Mind of Joe Budden.
“[The book] was something I felt the fans deserved, sort of like a give back to them, the fans who do more than just listen to music and words and actually relate to all the special pieces in their hearts…I don’t write if I’m not inspired,” Budden revealed in an interview. “I don’t force it at all. When the words start to come, as a writer, some of you guys know, when you get that sudden barrage of words and you get inspired, it’s much easier to do that way than trying to force it…” (Good Fella Media)
Check out a recent Jay-Z interview below: