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Dreamville's Revenge of The Dreamers III (ROTD 3) is the biggest album in the country and it's had the cultural ubiquity of the number one album. You've seen the documentary. You've heard the album. You've probably consumed enough op-eds, interviews, and podcasts about this rap nerd dream of a project that your mind's produced false memories that made you believe that you were crammed in room 222 in Tree Sounds studios with the Golden State Warriors of rhyming.
"The same day we made 'Sacrifices,' I was in [studio] room 222 and I had smoked like six blunts. I looked over in the corner and I realized Chris Bosh was in the room, and had smoked like six blunts with me," the song's producer, Groove, told REVOLT TV. "I didn't even know this nigga was in the room. He was behind the door sitting and looked small. He stood up tall, damn near seven feet."
A week after ROTD 3 dropped, REVOLT TV spoke with the people involved in shaping five of the best songs on the album. In the conversation, we discussed how the songs were created, the unreleased tracks we're hopefully going to hear, and how they keep the legacy of those ROTD 3 sessions alive.
I cried 4 times during these sessions— Maine. 🔌 (@Mvinestream) January 16, 2019
- 1st day getting here
- Childish Major, Hollywood JB, Groove & Lute session
- Hearing Baby Rose's voice for the 1st time
- Last day when everyone was leaving.
You changed lives fr @Dreamville
Groove (producer) on "Sacrifices"
The pieces for "Sacrifices" began getting laid before the Dreamville sessions began, thanks to some miscommunication and a few missed opportunities. The first missed opportunity was, initially, J. Cole's fault. "I made that beat sometime last fall and crazy enough, I had actually sent that to Cole a while ago," Groove said as he let out a chuckle. "I guess it got lost in the sauce."
Before missing his second opportunity, Groove remembered longtime Smino producer Monte Booker arriving the day before "Sacrifices" was made. It was then that Booker discovered that Groove was a producer in his own right. That miscommunication is what led to the first vocals being laid to the year-old beat.
"He was like, 'Bro, let me hear some shit. So, I pressed play for him in the little kitchen at Tree Sounds. He was like, 'I ain't going to lie, you damn near have to help me make Smino's whole next album. I'm going to tell Smi all about you.'"
Later that night, Groove put together a folder of beats meant for Bas and stayed in the studio overnight in an attempt to get a record done with him. Unfortunately, they never got to record, and Bas missed his opportunity to possibly be on the "Sacrifices" beat.
(left to right counterclockwise) Smino (in hoodie), , Groove, Johnny Venus (behind Groove), Monte Booker
The next day, Jan. 11, was the fifth day of the Dreamville camp. But, Groove remembers it as the day everything changed. "Buddy, Smino, Saba, Mez, all of these niggas had got there that same day. It was kind of an energy shift of the artists that were there."
After the producer returned from a late breakfast following the all-nighter, Monte asked him to play some beats. "I look[ed] on my computer and the folder I had made the night before for Bas was called 'Bas Beats.' I just opened that shit because I'm thinking we're about to make something on the spot," Groove remembered. "The first beat I played was the 'Sacrifices' beat. [Smino] was like, 'Load that up right now.'"
The room instantly turned into a writing session after Saba entered the room and he was shortly followed by EarthGang's Johnny Venus. Since there were artists cranking out music into the wee hours of the morning, engineers for those sessions had to stay until it was all done.
"Childish [Major] takes out his laptop and his own interface [saying], 'I'll record y'all.' So, the original 'Sacrifices' session with [Johnny Venus], Smino, and Saba was recorded on Childish's laptop."
J. Cole with Childish Major
After Venus recorded his verse and set the tone, the perception of the session "went from being some shit niggas were writing to 'Oh shit, this shit feels special.'" Groove walked out for five to 10 minutes before returning and noticing Cole was now in the studio on his phone writing. After Saba recorded his verse, Cole approached Groove about texting him the beat, so he can go into his private room and record his own verse.
"Maybe two minutes later, he comes back to find me like, 'I ain't get this shit yet. You have to AirDrop it to me real quick.' From that point on, I was like, 'Bro really [is] serious about this shit. He really [is] about to violate this shit.' From that moment I got excited," Groove recalled.
Later that night, after everyone had dinner and was recording, Cole gathered people into one of the studio rooms to have them listen to his verse for the first time. Groove recalls closing his eyes and getting lost in J. Cole's verse. But, unlike basic rap media that instantly highlighted Cole's announcement of having a second child on the way, Groove remembered that news being the last thing on anyone's mind in the studio.
"We weren't there like, 'Damn, you about to have a baby?' It didn't really open a conversation. He went so crazy, we didn't know what was going to happen to the song," he remembers. "His verse was so potent, it could damn near be its own song. So, it was so good, it scared us like, 'This nigga just took the song.'"
Everybody was on they A game on “sacrifices”. So crazy.— Ibrahim H. (@KingOfQueenz) July 6, 2019
Pyrex (producer) on "Sunset"
"Sunset" wasn't an accident, but it surely wasn't born from a plan. Probably the most talked about collaboration resulted from a roaming Cole who stumbled on gold. "It was a skeleton that I and Chasethemoney had started in another studio. We had started that a year ago and we came back to it, and were in the room making the beat when J. Cole walked in, heard it and was like, 'Can I write?''
Before the Dreamville head honcho was done with his verse, he already had the vision for the song. "As Cole was writing his verse he was like, 'This [is] the song I want to get Nudy on," he said. "Nudy was already on the way to the studio." By the time Nudy came to the studio, Cole's verse was written and would be recorded 60 to 90 minutes later, according to Pyrex. The whole song took roughly a day to have vocals recorded because Nudy recorded his verse the next day.
Pyrex remembered being amazed by Cole's writing style, a callback to the days when the producer grew up on seeing lyricists connect lines throughout their verses with precision. Add the fact that "Sunset" boasts some of Cole's most self-aggrandizing lyrics in recent memory, and you have one of his most venomous verses on the album. Pyrex said: "When he did 'Sunset' he did that shit so far left. He said, 'Big ass choppa make God flinch.' I was like, 'This is Cole talking right now.'"
The producer not only produced the first Nudy and Cole collaboration, but he also produced "Costa Rica," one of the five songs released to promote the album. All of that would've never happened if he continued to perceive the variety of rapping styles in the sessions as hindrances rather than opportunities to spread his sound to more ears.
"I could've probably done more if I wasn't so nervous. I was so scared to walk into the room and play people beats because I'm thinking, 'I don't know if they would want to hear this," Pyrex recalled. "But, I realized, if the beat hard, then the beat hard."
(left to right) Cousin Stizz, Cozz, Pyrex (center), Guapdad4000, Buddy
Najee Travis (songwriter) and Arsenio Archer (producer) on "Self-Love"
"Self-Love's" producer Arsenio Archer also produced the majority of Summer Walker's Last Day of Summer project including her platinum single "Girls Need Love." He made the "Self-Love" beat in less than 30 minutes at LVRN studios before ever arriving at the Dreamville sessions. Before Archer entered the fray, Najee Travis, who wrote the song, spent a few days scoping the dynamics of the session "to see who were the most personable people to work with and what sessions were the easiest to work with," he remembered.
One of those people happened to be the Shea Butter Baby songstress Ari Lennox. "I told Maine, one of the A&Rs at Dreamville, that I got my brother Archer coming in. He works with Summer Walker. Let's get him with Ari Lennox," Travis said.
(from left to right) Omen, J. Cole, Najee Travis
According to Travis' recollection, he and Archer walked into the studio room that Ari was in to see her wrapping up a record with legendary producers Bryan-Michael Cox and DJ Toomp. As people were setting up for the next session, Archer remembers a lull in the usually frantic energy. "At that moment, Naj was like, 'Yo, Arch. Here's the [opportunity]."
Once Archer commandeered the aux and filled the room with the seductive "Self Love" beat, everyone was instantly drawn to the song. "Bryan-Michael Cox and DJ Toomp, our idols, said, 'This is a banger,'" Travis recalled. A few minutes later, Baby Rose walked in. After a few hugs and exchanges of pleasantries, Travis told Baby Rose they needed her on the song. They both remembered it took the "Borderline" singer only five minutes to record one of the standout performances of the entire ROTD 3 album.
Those ROTD 3 sessions were imbued with the spontaneity of creativity where an idea can evolve seconds after it's born. Five minutes after Rose laid her verse, Ari returned and was so taken back by the song that she wanted to be involved, but only suggested that she give background vocals. As she was laying the background vocals, Rose and Travis looked at one another and agreed that Ari should do the first verse that Travis wrote.
"I pressed the 'talk' button [on the mixing board]. I said, 'Hey Ari, cut that first verse.' When I said it, she was like, 'Ahh, it's cool.' Then, Rose gave her the girl power. She was like, 'You would kill this record.' That's how Ari was bought on to cut that first verse," Travis said.
(left to right) Baby Rose, Juro "Mez" Davis, St. Beauty, Ari Lennox
After the song was recorded that night, the person who helped align the stars, Maine, not only began campaigning to make sure this record made it on the final tracklist for the ROTD 3 album, but Travis remembered Maine being the one who suggested Bas join the song. A few days later, Bas was on and the song was complete.
The song can be compared to someone learning to love themselves in direct contrast of the toxic love from their significant other. But, there was no love interest in mind when Travis penned the lyrics. That is, unless you consider the Dreamville sessions, as a love.
"I'm not one of the premiere people at the sessions in all honesty. I was feeling like I wasn't getting any love. So, I had to love myself and that's how the record, and the concept came about," Travis told REVOLT TV.
Bizness Boi and Hollywood JB on "Oh Wow…Swerve"
Hollywood JB made the "Oh Wow" beat in 20 minutes in summer 2017. Fate has a way of taking a while to make itself known, but when it does, it shifts events to its will. "The beat was actually entitled 'J' because I was going to send it to Cole. I sent it to Cole sometime last year. It was a little bit before K.O.D. dropped. He was like, 'This shit is hard.' But, nothing happened with it."
JB went to college with EarthGang and J.I.D, and has made music with them as part of the collective Spillage Village. He played the "Oh Wow" beat in a session with Smino, J.I.D, Buddy and Guapdad4000. They all started working on the hook and possibly even a few verses before fate intervened.
"I don't even think Smino had his verse done and Cole came in the room. They had recorded the hook by then and he was like, 'Yo, this shit is hard. Send this to me.' So, I texted him the beat again," Hollywood JB recalled with a hearty laugh.
(left to right) J.I.D., Buddy (in hat), Hollywood JB, Cozz
In no more than a few hours, Cole returned with a finished verse that prophesied the world's end and argued everyone dead is happy. "We weren't even expecting that. I think [Smino, J.I.D, Buddy, and Guapdad4000] planned to do go back and forth with four to eight bar verses. Then, Cole came in with that and it was like, 'Damn. He just went crazy on that.'
Similar to JB, Bizness Boi's contribution to the album preceded the sessions. "I made the beat for 'Swerve' at the crib [a month before the sessions]. Before the Dreamville camp was announced I was already sending J.I.D beats. When the camp started, J.I.D was pulling up my beats. They Facetimed me when they did the 'Swerve' record."
At first, it was just J.I.D on the verses and Key taking care of the chorus. Then, J.I.D sent it to Maxo Kream and the Punken MC jumped on it a month or so after the Dreamville sessions.
"I think it was J. Cole or Ib's idea to combine our records because they were trying to find a place for it. It was people's favorites."
DeAnte Hitchcock on "PTSD"
At first, DeAnte Hitchcock wanted revenge on the dreamers. When the invites initially went out, he was mad because he didn't know if he would get one. Either way, the 26-year-old MC was determined to pull up via any connection he had. Four days into the sessions, on Jan. 10, he got his invite, arrived and got to business.
"Right next to the [room] was a little [tiny space] about as big of a closet. You could maybe fit six people in that room. We were all in there... Me, Cam [O'bi], Mereba, and St. Beauty."
Everything was fast in order to maximize time and be on as many songs as possible on the album. So, he wrote this verse in 30 minutes and recorded it in no more than two takes. Even at that quick pace, Hitchcock was diligent and deliberate with his lyrics to the delight of one of the most powerful people on Dreamville.
One of my favorite line on the album is when @DeanteVH said “a lot of dead niggaz living through me shawty, but not in the literal more so dead cause they ain’t follow they dreams”..... sheeesshhh that line gets me everytime, too real. I even put a drop on it so niggaz hear it 😂— Ibrahim H. (@KingOfQueenz) July 5, 2019
"Originally, [on] the line that Ib told me hit him the hardest, I was having trouble between choosing what I was going to [do with] that line," he said. "It was going [to end] with something about Noah Shebib, Drake's partner 40. It would go, 'Dead niggas living through me, shawty/so for my homies, I pour 40s like I'm Noah Shebib.'" However, he felt the lyrics he chose would fit better on a personal letter instead of in an attempt to wow people with a name flip.
The Unreleased Revenge
Love u bro. Me u Guap n Dreezy is NOT GONNA STAY UNRELEASED FOR LONG https://t.co/A2fEAecvGM— Bas (@Bas) July 6, 2019
"There should be a hashtag or something. There has to be a way [for] people [to] identify [music that was] made at the camp that drops later on," Groove asserted.
That's a fair point. Those 10 days of sessions were always meant to do more than produce one album worth of music, as 142 songs recorded and only 18 released on the final project. Groove stated the same cast of characters on "Sacrifices" and "1993" made roughly 10 songs together in just one day. One of those songs is called "No Lack" with Smino, Saba, J.I.D, Guapdad and Buddy, which Monte Booker and Groove produced.
"Since them sessions, we all hang out outside of the studios. We're really brothers," Groove revealed. "Now, for sure, nobody's album is going to be wack because we are all in the studio with each other, playing each other['s] music and helping each other."
J.I.D (left) and Groove (right)
Masego and Guapdad4000 have a song together that Groove made with Monte Booker from scratch. Pyrex said he did about six solo songs with Ari Lennox and made some R&B music that doesn't sound like anything he's made. Bizness Boi has a special plan for all of his unreleased collaborations.
"PTSD" standout, Hitchcock, said he has a song with Smino and Buddy that he was skeptical of it making the album since there were no Dreamville artists on it, which they did the day before the last day of the sessions. "We still [have] that file. We don't know when we are going to drop that. But, that one is nuts." He exclusively gave REVOLT TV the lyrics to his verse from the unreleased song. Check it out below:
"Niggas broke that's why they outta pocket,
I'm the plug they grabbed me out a socket,
I don't sell but my patnas got it,
Used to have da white like the Houston Rockets,
The flow crack, gotta otter box it,
They done got me started, don't know how to stop it,
Imma young prophet,
Making alotta profit,
Got it out the mud like I was flower shopping,
She wanna sing on the mic, I'm feeling like Jodeci back,
Guapdad and Smino and Buddy and me know we snapping like poetry night,
I brought them hoes to the crib,
Fucked her and two of her friends,
Paid for the Uber, she think that I like em but nah I'm just being polite,
Living like a rapper supposed,
You having pressure? We can address it, put a stamp on them hoes,
Niggas out here asking for verses, I've been rationing flows,
'Cause I been getting w's too so now I'm taxing for those,
I need some good sex, no stress, new boo, no ex, fuck y'all,
Small circle, big checks, new phone just text no calls,
All bite, no bark, new leash can't fit big dawg,
We tryna ball for real, aye Buddy talk to these niggas."
When the decade started, artists like J. Cole, Drake and other luminaries of the blog era were graduating to major label debuts. But, those were the days when blogs were bustling with talent that would progressively shape the sound of the next decade. ROTD 3 could very well be the final collaborative album from a rap label this decade to top the Billboard charts and a sketch of what the next 10 years will be.
"We're definitely going to usher in the next 10 years of what music is going to sound like," Groove said. "This is the closest niggas have felt since seeing Cole, Big Sean, [BIG] K.R.I.T. and Wale hanging, and touring together.
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