30 Roc: The Stories Behind ‘The Box,’ ‘Bartier Cardi’ and ‘King’s Dead’
The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.
New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.
100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.
Over the summer, Rolling Stone said that Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” was the biggest song of the year, and “it isn’t even close.” The year isn’t over, but it’s certainly going to be one of the biggest. 30 Roc co-wrote and co-produced the song, and we spoke to him about it, as well as some of the other songs that he’s worked on, Cardi’ B’s “Bartier Cardi” and Black Panther soundtrack standout, “King’s Dead.”
Talk about the writing of Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.”
When we made the beat we technically wanted to make this very easy for Roddy to be able to flow on it. Be able to ride the beat and have different pockets on it. So me and my co-producer [Dat Boi] Squeeze, we tried to keep it as open as possible.
What is the process between you and the people you collaborate with: does someone come up with a beat? Someone comes up with a melody line? Do you guys help with the lyrics?
No, it’s more of me actually sitting down in the studio making the beat. Sometimes I have my producers with me sit down and we’re just run through different beats, different ideas, different melodies, you know, different drums. And we put them together. So we just sit there all night and we put them together. When we made “The Box,” we were just really sitting there and just coming up with something like it was just us having fun in the studio, doing what we do every day: making music.
When do you know when it’s done? When do you send it off to Roddy, or Roddy’s people?
I know when it’s done… I just have this thing where I just be like, “OK. No more! Let’s just leave it where it’s at!” I think everybody who’s around me now can kind of tell to when it’s done because I just get this look like, “That’s it!” Like, me and Squeeze looked at each other and said, “Tag it and bag it!” When one of us says that, it means, “No more s—!” Don’t put more s— in that, leave it where it’s at.
We actually e-mailed [a track to Roddy Ricch] before that, which turned out to be “Roll Dice,” which was on the album [2019’s Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial] too. And then we emailed “The Box” like a week later.
How many hours into it do you have to be when you get to that point where you’re like, “No more, we are done!”
It normally don’t take us hours to make beats, really. It’s more like minutes [laughs]. I think the only time we ever took hours is something has a lot of sounds. Like something that was like fifteen, twenty-five sounds that can take like two months, depending on how great we want it to be.
But Roddy Ricch, “The Box,” didn’t take us a lot because it’s not that many sounds in it. It’s literally the brass – which is the horns — and then we put drums on top.
So once you send it off, the artist does their thing on top of it. Do you hear back from him? Were you in the studio at all when he started doing his stuff?
No, I actually heard back from them, like, literally that same night. I want to say I woke up to a text message from his A&R rep, who was like, “Man, tuck that beat away. Don’t send that beat to nobody.”
My job was completed at the time because that’s all we was focused on doing, doing Roddy Ricch’s album, you know what I’m saying, getting on Roddy Ricch’s album. He told me to put the beat away, and s—, I tucked it away!
Obviously the hope is always that you’ll have a huge hit. But were you expecting it to do s well as it has done?
No. Honestly… we have this thing that we do every Friday, or whenever a new album comes out that we want to hear. We sit in the studio. We normally just meet up at the studio. We sit there. We go through the whole album. So that night, Roddy Ricch’s album was just coming out and we sat down, there was the intro and then it was “The Box.” And I was like, “OK, cool.” I don’t never get too excited because the people choose which song they like.
So, you know, we listened to “The Box.” Then we listened to “Roll Dice.” You know, everybody in the room that I was with was very excited over “The Box.” And I was kind of like, “Oh, cool,” you know?
But it was like, “I don’t know,” because the other song we did was kind of hard too. So we just waited. We waited. The next morning we woke up, we just started seeing everybody posting it on Instagram like, “Oh, this s— is it! This s— is hard, this s— is hard!” I was like “OK, cool.” And from there, it just really went up. How can you not be excited?
Has the song changed your life?
Yeah, it changed my life in many different ways. You know, I’m doing more work with people that I always wanted to work with. Of course, financial is always a good part of it [laughs]. I’m really just back in the studio.
When when I produce songs, I really be acting like they don’t even come out. They don’t exist to me [after they’re released], because I’m ready to go back to work. “What’s next?” This song’s only gonna last for so long. I just go back to the studio.
You mentioned that you’re getting to work with people who you always wanted to work with. Can you say who, or is that still under wraps?
Still under wraps. Some songs will be dropped in the next couple months. You’ll definitely hear a lot [of them]. It’s a lot of artists that a lot of people wouldn’t think I’d be working with.
A lot of people think that there’s a Ciara sample [“Love Sex Magic”] on that song.
Actually, it’s not a sample, it came out of a VST [a Virtual Studio Technology]. A lot of people go, “It’s still a sample.” It wouldn’t be in a VST if it was a sample. That’s a sound that they made for that VST.
So when you say VST, what is that?
VST is something that a lot of producers use. It’s a bank of just a lot of sounds. And this bank has a lot of orchestral harps, you know, brass and stuff like that. Strings. So that’s what that came out of. So that’s technically a bank.
I want to ask you about another song of yours. Talk about working with Cardi B on “Bartier Cardi.”
Is was an interesting process because we actually molded that song for her, me, Cheeze [Beatz] and London [Jae]. We actually sat down and molded it. Me and Cheeze made the beat, London was in the back working. We had a whole process of like how we put songs together and stuff like that. And, you know, we just put it together. We all went out and did our own little like footwork to get the song to her. And it worked.
Can you elaborate on the footwork? How do you get a song to Cardi B when she’s exploding from her huge first single?
We all had our connections. So, you know, we all kind of like used everybody that we knew that was around her: “Listen to this!” “This need to be the next single.” I got the phone call one day when I was going to go get some hookah supplies. Somebody called me like, “We need the track out, ASAP.” So I had to rush back to the house and bounce some files and send it over there.
I’m guessing that was well worth the interruption.
Of course! I’m not trippin’! I still got my supplies.
That’s a lot more money to buy more supplies.
Do you ever bump into her at parties, occasions events, whatever? Do you get her feedback on the song?
No, actually, I’ve seen Cardi B like, once. I just like to keep working and mind my business really. I go out and stuff like that, but I’m really in tune with just locking in and just staying focused. Doing what really matters.
Talk about “King’s Dead” from Black Panther. That movie and that soundtrack seemed to be a huge cultural moment. Did they ask you “Do you have anything lying around that you can give us?” Or did they say, “We want you to do something for Black Panther?”
No, it was actually me and Mike Will [Made It]. Shout out to my bro Mike Will. We kind of put it together. He sent it off to Kendrick [Lamar]… or I wanna say he sent it to Jay Rock first. And he called me back and he said, “Hey, bro, we got one. Like we got a crazy one.” And he wouldn’t tell me who it was for. And, next thing you know, the song came out. It did a lot, you know. And that was a big song for me; we won a Grammy for that. So, you know, that was kind of interesting.
The crazy thing is: I’ve still, to this day, only watched half of that movie [laughs]. I haven’t watched the whole movie. Maybe I’ll sit down today and actually do it. It was actually a very interesting moment for me. That was my first song with Kendrick. That was my second song with Future. That was kind of like a big moment for me.
Are you just not into Marvel movies?
You know me [laughs]. I can’t watch those movies, I’m just not into that.
Have you been out in a situation whether it’s at a restaurant, at a store, where your song is playing on the loudspeaker or the P.A., someone’s digging it, and they have no idea they’re standing next to one of the guys who made that song?
Like right now, in the neighborhood I live in, my neighbors are trying to figure out who I am. But I had a neighbor across the street the other day stop my mom, and say, “Oh, your son is 30 Roc! He’s amazing!”
Just talking to you for a few minutes, it seems like you’re a pretty low-key guy who doesn’t really crave the spotlight. But it must be pretty fun when someone recognizes you and asks you for a selfie.
It’s definitely pretty fun. I’m pretty low key because I’d rather have my bank account right than be out with all the cappers. I’d rather stay low key and stay doing what I’m doing to make sure that me and the team are straight.
So you’re not looking to make a 30 Roc [solo] album?
No, that’s eventually going to happen. I’m working different moves since all this happened. So, you know, I’m working a lot of different moves, I’ve been working on my artists. I have two artists, I’m working on my label, my brand. You’ll see more of the label this year coming up (2021) because this year is almost done. We’ve put in a lot of hard work behind closed doors.
The artists I’ve been working with, my artists, like a lot of people are not going to think that I would come out with these type of artists. And so it’ll be very interesting.