Photo: @bydirectormitch @DirectorHafiz.
Meet Nabeyin, the Ghanaian-American Producer Working With Travis Scott, Future & Drake
We speak to Nabeyin about producing for some of the biggest names in music.
Travis Scott, Drake, Kanye West, Future. Those are just some of the names of the prolific artists whose voices have graced the productions of Ghanaian-American music producer Nabeyin. His most recent record is “Telekinesis”, the ethereal collaboration featuring Future and SZA off Travis Scott’s latest album, Utopia. Currently at 5.1 million views on YouTube, the record has quickly proven to be one of the more popular songs on the album.
Nabeyin is a 32-year-old producer from San Bernardino, California who has been making music for about 15 years. He’s now a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated producer, who’s worked with some of the most popular artists on the globe. With production credits for the likes of Kanye West, Travis Scott, Drake, Future, Nas, Reason, The Game, Dave East, Wale, and Isaiah Rashad, Nabeyin has contributed to American hip-hop in a manner and speed that even he didn’t see coming.
The first high profile placement of Nabeyin’s career was “Nothings Into Somethings,” a song by superstar Canadian rapper Drake off his 2017 mixtape project More Life. Nabeyin still remembers getting that news, nearly a year after first creating the track.
“So we're in Norway and then I get the call that we’re on Drake’s album,” he tells OkayAfrica. “And I'm just like… I was in disbelief because it was really early in my career and this is my first major label placement, and so I'm thinking like, you know, me getting a record with Drake wouldn’t come until like years down the line in my career.”
The achievement that he had just ticked off his bucket list is one that typically takes years of skin in the game, but it was happening very early in his career — a life changing moment.
“[The Drake placement] definitely put me in a different light,” Nabeyin explains. “People respected me more, because a lot of people don’t have a Drake placement. So it’s like ‘Okay this guy, he’s serious, he’s dope, he’s actually talented. We should definitely do more stuff with him.’ It definitely opened up doors.”
That same year, an unfortunate incident took place that ironically put Nabeyin on the road to his next major placement. His laptop was stolen. It contained all his academic work, as well as all the new records he was working on, Pro Tools sessions, everything. Following the incident, in an effort to rebuild his catalog he created a melody loop that ends up being accidentally put in a sample pack library by another producer, and put up for sale. Fast forward three years later, Nabeyin gets a call where he’s played a record featuring his melody idea. The person rapping on the song is none-other-than Kanye West.
That’s how Nabeyin found out that he was on Kanye West’s tenth studio album Donda, a year before the album dropped. Since Kanye can be unpredictable when it comes to his art, Nabeyin didn’t want to get his hopes up, but it became real to him when he heard Kanye play the final version of “Heaven and Hell” featuring Travis Scott on the third Donda listening session. The album dropped the next day, with his record on it.
“I hear our chord progression and our melody and everything and I’m like ‘that’s the one!’” he says. “I’m over here trying to contain my excitement, and everybody around me is like “yo, what’s going on?” I just had this look on my face, so they were like “wait, you produced this, you produced this?” That was a pretty dope moment.”
Next up for Nabeyin was Travis Scott, on a record which was actually just an alternate, more elaborate version of his production on Donda. Kanye West’s record with Travis Scott was originally titled “Future Sounds” before Kanye added his creative touch to it, resulting in the Donda track, “Heaven and Hell”.
Travis Scott then decided to go with the original version of Nabeyin’s production to make his own record. “So for Kanye West featuring Travis Scott, the ‘Heaven and Hell’ record, it’s the same melody but they took the chords, pieces and elements of that original idea from the original melody idea that we did and they just made it into something way bigger,” he explains.
“I randomly get a call two weeks before Travis’ album comes out and they’re like we’re on Travis’ album. I ask how that happened, and they’re like apparently Travis is using the first version of ‘Heaven and Hell,’ which was ‘Future Sounds’. So Kanye has his version of ‘Heaven and Hell,’ and Travis Scott wanted the original version that ended up leaking. But Travis ended up taking Kanye off it, and he put Future and SZA on the record.”
Although Nabeyin has gained significant ground within the American music industry, his ambitions aren’t limited to the United States. Nabeyin is originally from Ghana. His roots are important to him, and have become a key factor in his vision for the music industry globally. He’s started up a record label imprint called S.A.E Less that is already making inroads towards helping build up Ghana’s music industry.
“My partner and I are building a team and starting a label, and right now we’re taking meetings with other major labels to start a joint venture. What we plan on doing is signing more Ghanaian artists to our label. It will still be an indie label, but it will have major label backing. That’s the plan for S.A.E Less right now. Last December we had a songwriting camp in Ghana. We flew in some of the top songwriters that work with Rihanna, Chris Brown, a lot of the top artists in the States, and had them come work with a lot of the Ghanaian artists, like Quamina MP, Stonebwoy, Camidoh, Kofi Mole, Worlasi pulled up.”
“Quite a few people pulled up. With that camp, we also invited out a Netflix exec and a Warner Bros. exec. We had partnerships with Afrochella, Afronation, and Spotify Africa. They were our brand sponsors for our camp. So we were doing panels, and just giving back knowledge on how the industry works in the western world, and how we can figure out how to sort of bridge that gap between Ghana and the US. So that’s also what the label is. We’re gonna be the pipeline from Ghana and the States.”Now, Utopia has given Nabeyin his fourth number one album on Billboard, an incredible achievement for a young boy from Ghana. With all of this, it’s evident that Nabeyin has a tangible vision, and not just for his own career alone. His aim is to leverage the resources and relationships he’s acquired to help build an industry that matters to him, and to empower other creatives while he’s at it. Nabeyin's journey is a testament to the global power of music, and the remarkable outcomes that are made possible from an unwavering dedication to pushing the boundaries of creativity.
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