On a sunny summer afternoon in New York City, host Charlemagne tha God sat down with Salaam Remi, one of the most esteemed hitmakers in music. Presented by Remy Martin, The Producers Series is built on summertime day party events that feature some of the nation’s top producers, including Pete Rock and Mike Will Made-It, as well as offering an opportunity for new producers to showcase their talent and display their sound to legends like DJ Scratch. This weekend at tThe DL in Manhattan, New York, Salaam Remi joined The Producers Series and shared his wisdom and memories spanning more than 30 years in the music business.
Charlemagne spoke to Remi about everything from working with the late Amy Winehouse to the importance of mentorship in Remi’s development as a producer and musician. Remi shared that his first experiences in the studio were alongside his father, helping to produce Kurtis Blow sessions.
The legendary producer also broke down the science behind some of his most iconic productions, including “Made U Look” by Nas, which he revealed was inspired in style and tone by “I Ain’t No Joke” by Eric B. and Rakim. “I had all kinds of ideas. I left for half a day and we did what we needed to do,” he recalled. “Nas did his Rakim flow on it.”
And Remi was the connection between superstars like Nas and Winehouse. He shared that collaborating with both made him an important link between the two, who would become close before Winehouse’s untimely passing in 2011.
“I was working on [the 2002 Nas album] God’s Son and Amy’s album at the same time,” he explained, before recognizing one thing that contributed to their bond. “They were actually born on the same day.”
Remi was able to stretch his sound in various styles and genres, and he says that openness has served him well.
“I always had a different twist, but I’d be beat-digging with the Q-Tips and the Beatminerz…but I was always able to expand,” he shares. “I had the blessed opportunity after I worked with the Fugees; [I was able] to work with Jamiroquai and do things way out of the box. When I would hear a sample, I would say, ‘I gotta recreate that in an hour.’ My job as a music creator is to recreate it in half an hour.”
And there was plenty of advice for the newcomers, most notably, the importance of creativity and originality.
“All of my successful records were left-of-center,” says Remi. “Never the typical beat. Never the typical sound.”