Drake’s longtime collaborator, Noah “40” Shebib (his nickname is short for 40 days and 40 nights), has credits on three of the year’s biggest hits, “God’s Plan,” “In My Feelings” and “Nice for What.” Yet if you asked the Toronto native why these songs took 2018 by storm, his self-effacing explanation is that, “Drake’s just really good at making music — that’s the real truth.”
However, the 35-year-old does have some deeper insight on why the sound of “Scorpion” — Drake’s 25-track album, released in June — resonated so deeply with listeners. “We all get stagnant and have hunger for new sounds and things that are unfamiliar,” says Shebib, who co-founded the OVO Sound label alongside Drake and Oliver El-Khatib. “For Drake to introduce bounce music in a way the world could understand was the brilliance of it all. And ‘God’s Plan’ was just a great song, period.”
Shebib, who began playing piano at age 3 and was a child actor from a fourth-generation showbiz family (his mom was in 1983’s “A Christmas Story”), has worked with Drake since 2005 and produced tracks on every major release, from 2009’s “So Far Gone” mixtape on. While all three of his honored songs are featured on “Scorpion,” he says each has its own story.
“An early version of ‘God’s Plan’ leaked and the feedback was so strong we knew it had to be released,” he says. “Drake wrote the most epic second verse, and it was clear then what we had.” Meanwhile, “Nice for What” began with a “sample and bounce” provided by Murda Beatz that went to the next level when Drake brought in co-producers BlaqNmilD and 5th Ward Weebie. “The tipping point was after Blaq did his thing,” he says. And he knew “In My Feelings” was “a smash right away” once Drake cut a rough vocal over TrapMoneyBenny’s beat; 40 then spent around 24 hours arranging the song’s elements.
Yet he summarizes by casting himself into the background again. “Everyone involved is a key person in making these songs hits,” says Shebib. “From [engineer] Noel Cadastre to myself to [mixer] Gadget to all the producers — and, most importantly, Drake.
“At the end of the day, my role is to produce Drake’s album,” he concludes. “So I’m always making sure all the people involved can work well together and enjoy the journey. That, to me, makes the most special music.”
See the full list of 2018 Hitmakers here.