Donate to the Transgender Law Center

The-Dream Annotated Songs From Kanye West And Jay Z, Beyoncé, And More On Genius

The-Dream explains the stories behind some of the hits he’s had a hand in.

March 17, 2015

Like A-Trak before him, The-Dream recently annotated some songs he's had a hand in on Genius, along with songwriter and frequent creative partner Tricky Stewart. Check out some excerpts from the annotations below, along with links to the full annotations on Genius; check out all of The-Dream's annotations here.

Dream: I've been in a band since third grade. That's when I started playing trumpet. People are like "Woah, man, those harmonies." I just think, "Man, that's what used to happen when the flute was going into the clarinet section, with the saxophone." Being able to sit in a concert as kids, and put all of those instruments together to make one thing — that was something else.

The thought of a "team," like a band, is different from how it is now. A guy can take a loop program and make himself into something, and not have to use other people in order to get to where he's going. I like it when there are people around, putting their parts in, adding flair. They're there for a reason.

Dream: I was hanging out in Paris. Jay and Kanye found out, and told me to come to the studio. Me and the clique were sitting there, and they were playing these records."Niggas In Paris" comes on, and I hear Jay come in: "So I ball so hard niggas wanna fine me." I was like, "This shit is crazy. This is nuts!" I called someone at Def Jam and told her it was totally amazing, and she asked me what was going on, and at the time I didn't tell her the name or any of the specifics, I just said they had a smash. It's crazy. I had nothing to do with "Niggas In Paris" but I knew how it made me feel. I said "Okay, well, I would do this and this to it. Other than that, make sure you keep that 'fish filet' line in there because it's the ghettoest thing I've ever heard, and it's awesome."

Dream: As they were wrapping up Watch The Throne, Jay says "Are we finished? Is this it? Okay, cool, I want to play you a record that's gonna be on my album." He plays "Holy Grail," and of course a shitstorm happens. Kanye's not an idiot. Kanye says "This track is crazy, it needs to be on Watch the Throne." And Jay says "No, that's a single from my album." And that's how I got the phone call asking me to try to do a record close to that one.

I get to New York, and we're at the Mercer Hotel, working. We had the whole floor. I get in, Frank Ocean's sitting there, and they're just starting on "No Church In The Wild." So "Holy Grail" itself inspired them to change Watch the Throne. Because of that record, six other records got made at that point, including "Otis."

I go in the next room with my engineer, and just sing eight or twelve bars for "No Church." Right after Ye's verse, I sing that whole part. I got a Grammy for that. I end up doing the same kind of thing with "Umbrella" where I'm singing this part, and I think it's awesome, to myself. I didn't know what they were trying to do. Like, can I go back to my habitat on the golf course?

Me and Jay went out, we went to eat, hung out with Leonardo Dicaprio that night—that's what I remember. And the next day we worked more on a couple other things, I don't remember. Later my friend called and said "Yeah, so there's an album getting ready to drop and you're on it, but you don't know you're on it, but I just wanted to let you know." I didn't even remember what I had written. I just recorded it and left it alone.

So that's what "Holy Grail" was, that little nudge. Jay finally admitted what went on around the record in an interview. He talked about playing the record and how there was a little fight about "Holy Grail." Of course that's flattering. Kanye is so great, he's only most of the time just being challenged by himself. It's a blessing when it happens to any of us, for a record to come out of left field and push you to a thing.

Lead image: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The-Dream Annotated Songs From Kanye West And Jay Z, Beyoncé, And More On Genius