“I mean, I’m no stranger to hard work myself. I’m like you, I’m from the hood too. But because I was always willing to sacrifice whatever I had to in order to get what I wanted. See, that’s why brothers got to stick together. You know, pull one another up in a time of need. Sooner than you think it’s going to be your responsibility to help another brother just like I helped you.” —Simuel St. James, Soul Food, 1999
Imagine you’re a budding producer without a notarized song to your name. You are unknown to the world. Then, suddenly, you have a record with three rising hip-hop talents and a famous, world-renowned rap superstar. The placement becomes the electrifying outro on one of the year’s biggest rap albums.
The above scenario is a reality for Groove, the 28-year-old Durham, North Carolina producer behind the song “Sacrifices” found on Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation album.
“Sacrifices” is Groove’s first major-label placement; a heartfelt record that features Olu of Atlanta rap duo EarthGang, Chicago’s Saba, St. Louis’ Smino, and North Carolina’s own J. Cole. The lineup is impressive—the formation of a rap superteam. With the song’s video amassing nearly two million views in seven days, “Sacrifices” has earned the reception worthy of a special record.
Groove, who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, is a DJ, collaborator, and a close friend of the multi-talented artist and frequent Dreamville colleague Childish Major. Every day, for 10 straight days, the pair attended the prolific recording sessions for Revenge of the Dreamers III that took place at the renowned Tree Sound Studios.
Groove created “Sacrifices” in Room 222 on the fifth day of recording—the same day and the same room as the Elite-produced “1993,” another ROTD3 standout. Groove vividly remembers every detail of how the song came to be. The story of its creation represents the magic of the sessions. Those 10 days brought together friends and strangers under one roof, a circumstance that led to a tight-knit community. Being present at the studio for the sessions didn’t just provide Groove a miracle placement, he gained a family.
In his own words, the budding producer explains how it all unfolded:
“The day before we made ‘Sacrifices,’ Olu of EarthGang and I stayed overnight at Tree Sound Studios. Bas stayed overnight, too. Playing beats for him was a goal of mine. I organized a folder of beats for him with ‘Sacrifices’ in the pack.
“The next morning, I wake up early. Besides a few of us scattered about, the studio is empty. Olu and I go up the street to Flying Biscuit. Olu is someone who pulled up on Childish and me all the time. I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s an incredible recording artist, but he always has a producer mind. Every song I’ve produced for EarthGang or with EarthGang, Olu has put his touch on it and made it much better than what it was. Every song.
“Olu and I talk about the sessions and pushing one another. He tells me his goal of making statements and having a ‘Hits Only’ attitude. To this day, every time I see him, I think ‘Hits Only.’
“To rewind a bit, the day before the sessions is when Monte Booker arrived. Monte and I met when Childish was opening for Billie Eilish. After our sold-out show at Irving Plaza, we went to this big Soulection show. Tyler is there. GoldLink is there. Backstage, I run into Monte and Sango for the first time. Monte has a welcoming spirit, and his energy is A-1. We hit it off. I hang with him all night. While on tour, I text him about sending beats for Childish.
“Fast forward now, the day before ‘Sacrifices,’ Monte and I are chopping it up in the kitchen. He hits me with, ‘Ain’t you Childish’s manager?’ I’m like, 'What? Man, that’s my brother. Any producer with fire beats I’m going to ask for him. I want the best music.’ I tell him I produce. I plug up in the kitchen and press play on slap after slap. He’s reacting like, ‘I need you to help me make Smi’s next album. You just got that sound.’ It was mind-blowing. I’m such a fan of them.
“Monte promised to introduce Smino to me the next day.
“Monte Booker’s energy is just so powerful. Even though he doesn’t have a production placement on the album, he’s apart of it. Everybody loves Monte Booker. As a producer, the energy he brought influenced the camaraderie; he’s a big piece of the glue. He’s like my long lost brother.
“Coming back from breakfast, I set up my computer in room 222. Monte and Smino get to Tree Sound early as hell. Monte brings him straight to 222. He bigs me up, and Smino says, ‘Play some shit.’ I saw the folder I organized for Bas on my desktop. I open it. The first beat I play is ‘Sacrifices.’
“Smino says, ‘Nigga, load that shit up!’
“It’s early, between 12 and one o’clock. Most of the engineers didn’t leave until 6 in the morning. We can’t find anyone. By now Childish is there. He has the interface and can record the session on his laptop. So we sit in the room, just chilling, while the beat plays. Smino is writing. Saba walks in. He only knows Monte and Smino, so he comes straight to 222.
“It’s day five of the Dreamville rap camp, January 11. The energy of the whole camp shifts that day. You had Smino, Saba, Mez, and Buddy all come that day. These are all my favorite artists, arriving on the same day, coming to my room.
“Saba and Smino are talking while the beat plays. Olu walks in; he sits down in the corner. Everyone is writing. Olu is the first to finish, which is why he starts the song. No one heard the verses before they were recorded. Olu begins to record. He comes in so demanding, ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!!’ Everyone in the room wakes up—the temperature changes. There’s a look on their faces; this shit is different.
“‘Sacrifices’ is all thanks to Childish’s computer. Without him, this song doesn’t exist. During the rap camp, ideas were lost so fast. There were beats with hooks—like almost whole ideas—but if a nigga walks out of the room, with so much going on at the studio, that shit will get lost. I was trying to hold niggas in this room to create a moment.
“By the time Olu starts rapping his verse, I’m gassed. I’m so happy. I haven’t heard Smi’s yet, but because of what Olu and I talked about that morning, it felt good for him to do that on my shit. I walk out of the room toward the end of Olu’s verse to see what else is going on in Tree Sounds. No need to listen to verses get recorded if I can be making more shit. When I come back in, it’s all the same people, except now J. Cole is sitting on the floor.
“In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Damn, shit just got real.’
“I listen to Smino record his verse; Cole is in there the whole time, it’s amazing. Then Saba records his. Saba’s verse was so amazing, I had to walk out of the room. I’m like, ‘This nigga just spit a classic verse.’ It might be too early to say, but I think it’s the best verse on Revenge of the Dreamers III. It’s just fucking amazing.
“Not even two minutes after I walk out, Cole comes out and finds me in the hallway. He says, ‘Text me that beat, I’m about to record my verse right now in my room.’ He said that once before, so it was like, I’m not gassed. To me, the song was already a classic, just off Olu, Smino, and Saba.
“I text him the beat, but for some reason, my text doesn’t go through. I didn’t know, though; I wasn’t paying attention. Cole comes back two minutes later, like, ‘Nigga, text me the beat!’ From that moment on, I knew bro was serious about recording a verse.
“I hit him with, ‘Pull your phone out, bruh. I’ll AirDrop it.’ That was that.
“It’s about six, maybe seven in the evening now. Cole taps me and gives me one of those crazy faces. He doesn’t say a word, just looks at me. I’m like, ‘Let me hear it!’ He says, ‘I’ll play it for you tonight.’ I’m feeling anxious the whole night.
“Three hours later, I walk in the M Room. It’s 50 people in that motherfucker. The most packed M Room ever was. Everyone came because Cole is about to play his ‘Sacrifices’ verse. I happen to walk in at the perfect time. Since Cole recorded his verse in his room, there are two separate sessions. He’s like, ‘Play y’all version first, and then we’ll play mine.’
“I close my eyes and got lost in his verse. The only reason I didn’t cry is that 50 niggas were in the room. I’ve based my whole career on sacrifices. For this to be my first placement, it just means so much to me.
“I don’t feel alone at all with this great accomplishment. ‘Sacrifices’ involves everyone who pushed me to the next level. Childish ushered me into these rooms, which allowed me to be at the right place at the right time. For him to be the one who recorded it, that’s special.
“The co-producer, Henny Tha Bizness, who is my mentor and the reason I moved to Atlanta in 2011, sent me a folder of loops and samples he had made. Guitar riffs and all types of shit. I used that folder months ago to make ‘Sacrifices.’
“I have a vision board from last year with artists I wanted to work with on it. Smino on that motherfucker. Saba on that motherfucker. Cole is on there too. This isn’t something that just up and happened; it’s something I manifested. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.”
By Yoh, aka Dreamville Yoh, aka @Yoh31