UK producer Beat Butcha has been responsible for some major hip-hop moments, but as he explains, none quite like co-producing the bonus track “SALUD!” for Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s surprise collaborative album as The Carters, EVERYTHING IS LOVE.
"This is the greatest achievement so far, for sure,” he tells me over the phone, ecstatic. “They’re both greatest of all times.” Butcha has had his hands on some classic New York hip-hop, including with Prodigy of Mobb Deep, but this placement is hands down the most exciting of his career.
“My manager, Mike [Heron], he basically introduced me to Cool & Dre a few months ago,” Butcha says, breaking down how the record came together. “We’d been sending ideas back and forth and that was the composition that I had worked on that they turned into a beat. They asked me for the stems about two weeks ago, said: ‘Yeah, it’s for a big project. I’m not gonna tell you what it is yet.’”
Big indeed. On Sunday, Cool & Dre broke down exactly what this record meant to them.
With a hearty laugh, Butcha goes on to explain that the beat came together in an attempt to cheer himself up. He happened upon a folder including the sound of a shovel digging, and after tinkering with it, imagined himself making an R&B hit.
“I was trying to find something with an interesting percussion noise,” he explains. “I was going through a pack I had and found that noise and thought, ‘Oh, I could slow that down and make it sound like a squeaky bed. Like a bed rocking.’ That was my idea with it, I was trying to make it sound like people were having sex in a bed… I thought, ‘Oh, this could be an R&B song about breaking beds’ [laughs].”
Not exactly a song about breaking beds, “SALUD!” is an astral and whimsical wonderland of a tune. The compounding layers on the track give it a bright and racketing twist. Though Beat Butcha alludes to the album meaning to be released Friday, June 15, “SALUD!” and EVERYTHING IS LOVE were both well worth the delay and a fantastic surprise.
DJBooth’s full interview with Beat Butcha, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: First thing’s first: how did you not break that NDA?
Beat Butcha: [Laughs]. It was very fucking difficult, to be honest with you. I knew, kind of, about it two weeks ago. I didn’t know that it was going to come out this week. It was really hard trying to keep that to myself. I’m used to having to be secretive about certain things, but this one was super difficult.
I cannot fathom that level of self-control.
There’s another two things that I’ve got coming that are also similar caliber that I’m having to hold onto as well. I’ve had a couple of things that didn’t actually go through, and I thought that I jinxed them. So if you start thinking about things as if you jinxed them, [laughs], it’s easier to hold onto.
I’m the same way. I don’t talk about anything.
Absolutely! And the anticipation was killing me, because it was meant to drop on Friday, originally. Obviously, they were in London, but it was kinda exciting that they were meant to be debuting it in London. I was telling my friends, “I’m not gonna tell you what it is, but you’ve gotta watch out on Friday.” People would text me: “What am I looking out for?” And I’m like, “You’ll know! You’ll see the smoke signals!”
Who initially tapped you for “SALUD!”?
My manager, Mike [Heron], he basically introduced me to Cool & Dre a few months ago. We’d been sending ideas back and forth and that was the composition that I had worked on that they turned into a beat. They asked me for the stems about two weeks ago, said: “Yeah, it’s for a big project. I’m not gonna tell you what it is yet.” Then I found out and the rest is history [laughs]. So it was basically via Cool & Dre, which was via Mike, but we’ve got a couple other things as well.
Did anything happen in-studio?
No! I actually haven’t met them yet. We’ve been going back and forth on text and email because they’re based in Miami and I had just moved down to LA about six months ago. A lot of people that I work with, it works like that at the moment. But we have got plans to get in at some point.
As a co-producer, how did the workflow shakedown between you all?
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Basically, I started a melody for Cool & Dre about six months ago and sent it over to them while they were in Paris working with Jay and Beyoncé. They took what I started and flipped it into a new composition. Then they reached out to me for stems so they could do additional tweaks. It’s a collaborative effort from start to finish.
Having some legendary credits under your belt, what did it feel like to participate in another major cultural moment?
It’s been a very, very long time since I’d actually been excited by anything. This is really super exciting for me. Like I said, there’s a couple other things that’s been on the way and this kinda came out of the blue. I’d only known about this for two weeks, so you could imagine how excited I’m feeling about it [laughs]. And it’s the first album they’re doing together! They’re the most famous couple, and absolute legends as well.
There are so many layers to this beat. Which sonic elements on the final version of the record are you responsible for?
The horns, that little spade sound… It actually is a spade sound! It’s a shovel like digging [laughs], which I slowed down. I’m also the xylophone sort of sound. What was the process? I was just sitting down, messing around with that spade sound and to be honest with you, I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I was kind of depressed at the time and trying to cheer myself by making something more happy.
The funny thing is, you know that horn sound? It’s actually a bagpipe! I was messing around with that and I realized I could make it sound like a horn, so I started playing with chords and started layering up. There was no process to composing it, just going with the flow and the feeling.
Why a spade?
You know what it was? I was trying to find something an interesting percussion noise. Sometimes you just gotta mess around with stuff that isn’t… I’m all about experimenting and making something sound completely different from what it originally started as. I was going through a pack I had and found that noise and thought, “Oh, I could slow that down and make it sound like a squeaky bed. Like a bed rocking.” That was my idea with it, I was trying to make it sound like people were having sex in a bed.
Sometimes you just gotta find sounds that are interesting and different, and when I slowed it down and it sounded like that, I thought, “Oh, this could be an R&B song about breaking beds” [laughs]. That was my initial idea, to make something happier and on some R&B shit, and obviously, it has a Latin vibe instead.
Where does “SALUD!” rank in your catalog of work?
This is the greatest achievement so far, for sure. Nothing really trumps it, obviously. They’re both greatest of all times. It’s up there, man. It’s number one, probably.
Where do you go from here?
I’ve got a load more co-production coming. I’m also working on doing a bunch of solo production and I’ve got a little side project that I’m working on. Other than that, I’m just keeping on.
So you kept saying that you didn’t expect anything of this beat. Is that mindset what leads to the best music or success?
Absolutely. I mean, I never try working toward making a track for somebody. I think when you do that, you make the most honest music that you can make. I think that people gravitate towards stuff that’s kinda honest. I definitely do think it’s a better way to work, rather than trying to make a blah blah blah type beat. It always seems to be a trend in my life of going through hard times and immediately after the hard times that I’ve gone through, having some really positive things happen. In terms of expectations, you never know what’s coming [laughs].
Who is your next dream collab?
Boy, I’d love to work with André 3000, Thundercat. That would be a sick collaboration, and like, Erykah Badu. That would be fire.
I hope all of that happens on one song.
There’s a lot of people that I’d like to work with, new people like Migos and them kinda people I’d like to work with. In terms of dreams, definitely something kind of out there. People that are not scared to experiment.