How Drake’s “Sandra’s Rose” got made

Legendary producer DJ Premier explains how the Scorpion album came together.

July 03, 2018

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On side A of Scorpion, Drake reverts back to his most defensive positions amidst a world he perceives as against him in every way. No where is that more evident than "Sandra's Rose," where he raps bitterly over a swooning sample: "Sandra knows I pulled us out of a living hell / I'm the chosen one, flowers never pick themselves"

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The song was produced by New York icon DJ Premier, with additional production by consistent OVO hitmaker Maneesh. This is the first time Drake and Premier have worked together after knowing each other for many years. The pair have met a ton of times, including an instance in Derek Jeter's Yankee Stadium suite while watching JAY-Z and Eminem's 2010 stadium concert, and backstage at Rock the Bells in 2011.

Speaking from his mom's house in Texas, Premier said that his recent work with Drake came at a pivotal time for him. His father unfortunately passed away two weeks ago and the work has come as a welcome distraction. "I worked on the Drake thing during the transitions, when he died and while he was in the hospital," he said. "That actually kept my mind on focus — and gave me something to do."

Last Friday, DJ Premier shared the story of how the brilliant track got made.

DJ PREMIER: My manager Ian pushed me to do this one. Ian knows I don't like to ask people to get on their records. I don't sit there going, Let me be on your album, let me be on your album. When it came down to Drake, Ian was like, Drake is working on a new album called Scorpion, you should get on that one. I was like, Dude I'm not going to ask but it's not like we haven't met, so I hit up 40 and said if there's a slot, let me know and I'm down to rock on one. He said: We actually do need you on one, let me get back to you. Maybe a week or two passed and he said, hey I have a guy who's signed to me — I knew him as DJ M Rock — but his name is Maneesh. He's signed to OVO as a writer and producer. Drake has a Maneesh sample that he wants to know if you could flip, can I send it to you?

40 actually sent me two, one was called “Sail,” like a sailboat. I worked on that, and he said, "[Drake] wants you to do that Preem bounce. Do your drums, your bounce, your instrumentation, the way you do your beats." I did it, I sent that one back, then I started working on “Sandra’s Rose.” I thought that was a tentative name of the sample, not the song title. Like I said, Maneesh creates his own sample sounds, kind of like the way AntMan Wonder gave us sounds to do the PRhyme album. We just picked the ones I thought I could flip into a Preem-style beat. It was the same sort of thing here.

Maneesh gave me the "Sandra's Rose" sample and I sent it back at like four in the morning, the night I worked on it, maybe closer to five. I get up very early — I take my son to school — I wake up 6:30 or 7 in the morning. As soon as I woke up, the first thing I said when I opened my eyes was "thank you." Soon as I said that, the phone did the iPhone alert, the doo-doo-doo. When I looked it was 40. I figured he was going to say, "I got the beat I heard it, Drake's gonna listen to it." It was a video with the vocals already laid. That was a short window from me sending it, going to sleep, and waking up and it's already done. He ended up jumping on that before the "Sail" beat which he had already sent me. Rick Ross actually spit on that one and Drake never put his vocal on it to finish it.

I did scratches on it that they didn't use, too, but he really wanted to let the song breathe. Maybe the scratch version will see the light of day later. As far as finishing it up, he finished it two days ago. They were still recording new songs. They were doing new stuff right up until it got released.

How Drake’s “Sandra’s Rose” got made