Marcello "Cool" Valenzano and Andre "Dre" Lyon, widely known as production duo Cool & Dre, have an impressive hip-hop résumé, spanning over 15 years. Their breakout record—Ja Rule’s anthemic, Fat Joe and Jadakiss-featured “New York”—put the North Miami-born pairing on hip-hop’s radar. Not even a year later, in 2004, Cool & Dre took over hip-hop’s airwaves with “Hate It or Love It,” the classic, debut single by Compton rapper and Dr. Dre protégé, The Game.
Although “Hate It or Love It” remains Cool & Dre’s highest-charting single, peaking No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, the two have remained radio, album deep cuts, and fan-favorite mainstays. They represent what longevity requires: flexibility, consistency, reinvention, and enthusiasm for the craft.
It’s those four qualities that allow their discography to feature Juvenile’s “Rodeo,” Kent Jones’ “Don’t Mind,” DJ Khaled’s “Holla at Me,” Fat Joe’s “All the Way Up,” Wale’s “Chillin,” and THE CARTER’s “Black Effect.” Family Ties, Cool & Dre’s forthcoming collaboration album with Fat Joe, is coming soon. The Cardi B and Anuel AA-featured single, “Yes,” released earlier this month, is another example of how the duo refuses to slow down.
In celebration of their career, Cool & Dre jumped on the phone with DJBooth to discuss five of the biggest records in their catalog. Not only do they remember the stories behind each song, but they also shed light on the artists they've worked with along the way. From Royce da 5’9” not sleeping a wink during a three-day session to seeing Eminem qualities in Ameer Vann, Cool & Dre’s Beat Break is full of insight and memories.
Game ― “The City” ft. Kendrick Lamar (2011)
Cool: With Game, it’s like making music with a family member; with a blood brother. It’s effortless creating with Game. We go in with him, and we vibe out. It’s like magic enters the room.
I remember playing him the beat, the whole beat was mapped out, and he laid his verses. We cut several records with him in that session. We didn’t know he put Kendrick on it until we were back home.
This was the first time we ever heard about Kendrick Lamar. We're from Miami; we don’t know anything about Kendrick Lamar. This is before releasing [Overly Dedicated]. I was like, “Whoever this kid is, he bodied it. This is unreal what he did to this record.”
When we went to L.A. to make the album, it was one of those, the minute you heard the record, you knew it was special—just from the way it was put together. You know, Wyclef [Jean] played guitar on that record. Not a lot of people know that. He came in and did a couple of riffs.
I remember last minute, while we’re mixing the record, we’re adding elements, just last-minute tweaks. We scored that record. If you listen to the production, there’s a whole lot of shit going on. It was produced from beginning to end. You can tell when you listen.
Ghostface Killah ― “Three Bricks” ft. Notorious B.I.G. & Raekwon (2006)
Co-produced by Diddy
Cool: I was listening to this record the other day, funny you brought it up. So the story behind that record… Diddy was doing the Biggie album with a bunch of remixes [Duets: The Final Chapter] and a couple of originals. We got a pack of a capellas from Puff. Biggie’s “Niggas Bleed” is the one we chose to orchestrate. Last quarter, there was an issue with the sample. We replayed the record, got it sent to Puff, but it was too late, the album was already turned in.
It wasn’t like now where you turn in an album, and everything is digital. Now, if you have the right connects on the streaming services, you can put it in. Not in those days, though. Not when they were pressing up vinyl and doing the CDs. So it didn’t make the deadline.
Somehow, Ghostface heard the record and jumped on it. I don’t know if Diddy played it for him or how he could’ve gotten it. Then Raekwon got on it. Ghostface ended up keeping the record for himself, which ended up being amazing. It felt like a whole new record once he did his thing and Raekwon did his thing, too.
Lil Wayne ― “Phone Home” (2008)
Dre: We were working at an L.A. studio at the time. Wayne had bodied this freestyle of JAY-Z’s “Show Me What You Got.” In the middle of the song, he says, “We are not the same, I am a martian.” That shit just stuck in the brain. Legendary.
Cool and I, we wanted to make a record that felt out of this world. We’re huge fans of OutKast. All their production is crazy, but on their ATLiens album, they brought home that whole extraterrestrial feeling. So, for “Phone Home,” we worked with our man Eddie [Montilla] on the keys to create a crazy-ass intro to the song. It was like he was landing on Earth. I laid the hook, “Phone home, Weezy.” One of the assistants at the studio, this girl, we had her come in to say some shit at the beginning.
Wayne was working at the Hit Factory at the time. The day we dropped him off that record, he was cutting his verse for the DJ Khaled record “We Takin Over.”
I’ll never forget, the next time we saw him, two days later, he said, “Yo, I heard the beat man. I’m going crazy. Get ready.” Once we got the vocals back and everything, we were like, oh my God.
The funny story is, Tha Carter III album was humongous and “Phone Home” stuck out like a sore thumb. When I say stuck out, I’m not saying it was better than anything else. It just wasn’t “Mrs. Officer” where you can be in the car and catch a vibe to that. “Phone Home” is this loud ass record. I just hoped motherfuckas liked it; it’s so different.
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For the tour, I remember Slim inviting Cool and me to the show at West Palm. He was like, “Yo, ya’ll have to come to the show.” He opens up the whole set with “Phone Home,” and the kids are going crazy. It’s the biggest reaction we get from the whole show. So we went out there, and when he did it, the fucking place was nuts.
That’s one record that stands out. We got a shit load of records with Lil Wayne, but that one stands out.
Cool: The second [Lil Wayne] heard it, he was like “Oh, I know exactly what I’m going to do with this.” It just made sense with everything that was going on in his career. He was tuned in, you can hear it in the verses. There’s no area of the verse where he’s regular. And it resonated, that record stayed with people.
Dre: Once we did that record, it opened up ideas to do the Rebirth album. Wayne did Saturday Night Live, and he had this band with him. He did “Got Money,” and he rocked it out. Us doing the “Phone Home” record gave us a level of comfortability to be like, “Yo, let’s do some rock shit, bro.” He was like, “My nigga, send it to me.” We started flooding him with records like “On Fire” and “Hot Revolver” That’s what kicked off the Rebirth rock album.
Royce da 5’9” ― “Boblo Boat” ft. J. Cole (2018)
Co-produced by 808-Ray
Dre: When Royce da 5’9” reached out to work, we were excited. We’re big fans of Royce. He’s a gifted rapper and lyricist.
He came to the studio in Miami, we cut a bunch of records, and “Boblo Boat” was a beat we collaborated with 808-Ray, one of the producers signed to us. Immediately, when Royce heard the record, he started telling us a story about this boat ride that happened in Detroit back in the day called Boblo Boat. All the guys from Detroit with the fly Gators and the suits and everything would come out. After telling us, he was like, “Yo, I’m going to make this a concept record and reach out to J. Cole to see if he gets on it.”
Royce does his one-two, sends it to Cole, Cole lived with it for a little bit. Then Cole bodied it. Royce had a vision, and he executed it to perfection. Then the video came out crazy. We were just happy to contribute to his vision for that record.
Cool: Let’s not forget Royce’s crazy worth ethic, man. I’m not going to lie to you; I haven’t seen anything like that in all our years of making music.
This man was in the studio for three whole days. We damn near cut an album. In three days, and I’m not exaggerating, this man did not shut his eyes.
The engineer was bout to die after day one. Royce told the engineer, “I’m writing, go ahead and sleep.” While he was writing the songs, Smitty, our engineer, was sleeping. In three days I can tell you what Royce da 5’9” ate: three chicken wings, some fruit, and two pancakes.
Dre: And he walked out of the studio maybe two times. Meaning, he walked out of the room we were working in to go into the living room or the backyard of our studio, probably twice.
Ameer Vann ― “Glock 19” (2019)
Co-produced by Cubeatz & 808-Ray
Cool: “Glock 19” is a record we did with our guys Cubeatz and 808-Ray. When I heard the music elements, we changed the tempo, chopped it up, rearranged it, and added specific effects. We told Ray, “We need this shit to have a bounce and programming that's never been heard.” We went so crazy with the hi-hats and so disrespectful with the 808s.
Listen to that record; no other record has that programming, that shit is in the future. Man, Ameer Vann is amazing, bro. I didn’t know! Dre was like, “You know BROCKHAMPTON? He used to be in the group.” Dre was already on Ameer Vann; I wasn’t. But when I was in the studio, and I started hearing the melodies, I knew this kid was special.
We cut a bunch of records. What he did to these records… The bounce, the flow, and his voice, I was like, we need to find an artist like this!
Dre: I don’t want to say anything blasphemous. You know, certain names, when you compare artists, is like a third rail. So let me make that statement first. In no way am I trying to say Ameer Vann is like him or the greatest since him. But the content of his lyrics conjures up the feeling I got when I used to listen to Eminem at the beginning of his career—when he was battling so many demons. The issues with his mom and drugs, but at the same time being lyrically gifted. The pockets and the flows were so crazy.
Ameer Vann, on this “Glock 19” record, reminds me of that. And other records, we did a bunch more, I think three of the records we made the album and one we co-produced with G-Dav where we did the ending of “Pop Trunk” is on the EP as well. Also, his voice. He’s from Houston, Third Ward. So he got the accent, too. We gravitated toward his talent because he can spit and he’s speaking on shit that he’s going through that's very broad. Anyone can hear it and say, “I’m going through shit too.”
By Yoh, aka Yoh&Yoh, aka Yoh31