Beyoncé, Jay-Z Collaborators Detail How ‘Everything Is Love’ Came Together

Written by on June 18, 2018

Hours before Beyoncé and Jay-Z released their new album Everything Is Love on Saturday night, their camp was scrambling to complete the surprise LP. “People were still recording parts an hour and a half before the last show in London, three hours before the album was released,” says Andre Lyon, one half of Cool & Dre, who produced multiple tracks on Everything Is Love. “They were still putting last-second touches on.”

“This shit is not a game,” he tells Rolling Stone. “[Beyoncé and Jay-Z] don’t have rules. No one can get away with the things they do – and when I say get away with, I mean pull off.”

Everything Is Love was long-rumored, but the album finally came together during frenetically productive recording sessions over the last few months in Paris and Cardiff, Wales, according to conversations with Cool & Dre and the songwriter/producer duo Nova Wav (made up of Brittany “Chi” Coney and Denisia “Blu June” Andrews), who are credited on six of the album’s 10 tracks.

Cool & Dre first got wind of the Everything Is Love project when Dre flew to Los Angeles “probably eight, nine weeks ago” to play Jay-Z some beats for potential future projects. In exchange, the rapper let him hear some duet records that he had already been working on with Beyoncé, and toward the end of the night, Dre played Jay-Z the demo for “Salud!” – which grabbed the rapper’s attention. “From that night, Jay kept saying, ‘Stay close,'” Dre remembers. When Jay-Z and Beyoncé flew to Paris to start rehearsing for the On the Run II tour, the rapper’s longtime engineer Young Guru invited Cool & Dre to come along. They set up a two-day trip, with two days turning into multiple weeks.

In Paris, as the stars tightened their set list and choreography, Cool & Dre got to work on what would become “Summer,” “713” and “Black Effect.” (According to Dre, Beyoncé had already recorded her part on “Salud!” before Paris.) Initially, they worked in their hotel, but Young Guru persuaded the producers to move to the same building where rehearsals were taking place. “The smartest thing we did was take our ass to that motherfucking arena and create,” Dre says. “Us being there was key. [Beyoncé and Jay-Z] would give us direction: ‘Dre, go in the vocal booth. Say this, sing this.’ We immediately get it done.” When Jay-Z heard a version of “Black Effect,” he asked the producers to re-do it with “more of a trap feel,” presumably with young listeners in mind; Cool & Dre complied.

Proximity allowed the two producers to “feed [Beyoncé and Jay-Z] beats every day”; the stars could pick and choose what material fit their needs. So when Beyoncé decided she wanted “a hardcore love song” in the vein of Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s summer standard “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By,” Jay-Z said, “I know exactly what beat to do this to,” having already heard Cool & Dre’s early version of “713.”

As both the start of the tour and the release of the album neared, the work moved to Cardiff, the first date of the On the Run II jaunt. Coney and Andrews, who have previous credits on songs by Keyshia Cole and Tinashe, also participated in the Wales sessions. The pair originally met Jay-Z in 2014 during a session with Hit-Boy, the producer behind the rapper’s single “Niggas In Paris” and Beyoncé’s “XO.” “[Beyoncé and Jay-Z] always kept us in the loop with anything they were working on,” Andrews says. “Once [Beyoncé] went to Wales, things really started to evolve.”

The songwriters describe their Wales sessions as “very collaborative.” “[Beyoncé and Jay-Z] are involved with everything as amazing artists, amazing writers, amazing producers,” Andrews says. “We’re the supporting cast; we get in where we fit in.”

Andrews and Coney are credited on the songs that constitute the emotional core of Everything Is Love, including “Friends,” “Black Effect” and “LoveHappy.” “A lot of times with artists, we can’t go that deep,” Coney adds. “With them, we can.”

Jay-Z’s interest in communicating vulnerability was also on display in Paris. Dre remembers the rapper giving him context before playing his first verse on “713”: “No one knows the story of how [Beyoncé and I met],” Jay-Z told them. “This is the first time I’m ever tellin’ this story.”

“Friends” finds a gloomy beat partially concealing an affectionate ode to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s inner circle – “That was really dear to B, something she wanted to express,” Andrews says – while “Black Effect” stands as a dauntless pro-black anthem that invokes Malcolm X and takes aim at mass incarceration. While working on the latter song, Coney remembers “everybody on one accord, trying to figure out the best way to relay the message.” “We’re all African American,” she says. “It’s really important saying certain things that are relevant to our culture. Our favorite line is, ‘I’ll never let you shoot the nose off our Pharaoh,'” a defiant statement about the defacing of non-white symbols that touches on some of the same themes as the video for “Apeshit.”

The deepest dive on the album might be the final track, “Lovehappy,” a booming, reassuring story of romantic reconciliation after infidelity and hurt – catnip for anyone who listened to the relationship drama in Lemonade and 4:44. “It’s about surviving, going through tumultuous situations but coming out on the bright side of it,” Andrews says. “That’s what love is.”

“When Jay sat down and played us the record, we thanked them for being so honest,” Coney continues. “As a public figure, you don’t have to do that. He was like, ‘I really appreciate you telling us that.’ I think now, music is a little surface. With Jay and B doing what they’ve done, that lets you know how human people are. It opens you up in a different way.”

While Cool & Dre, Andrews and Coney had a firsthand view of Everything Is Life coming together in real time, others credited on the album were involved more remotely. “Heard About Us,” a shimmering, roller-rink-ready dance cut, was co-produced by !llmind, who had been working with Boi-1da, one of Drake’s most reliable beat-makers, since 2012.

“I’ll send him melodies; he’ll send me drums; we’ll go back and forth,” !llmind says. “That track [which became ‘Heard About Us’] was just another collaboration amongst probably 30 or 40 we have together that exist right now.” Boi-1da, who did not respond to requests for comment, brought in Jahaan Sweet (Kehlani, A Boogie wit da Hoodie) and another frequent Drake associate, the producer Vinylz, to help flesh out the “Heard About Us” beat, which distantly echoes Beyoncé’s “Blow.” He placed the record with Jay-Z; !llmind only found out about the placement in the last month.

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