By Tara Muldoon"Most people are surprised this is my studio," jokes hip-hop producer Matthew "Boi-1da" Samuels, looking around at an empty basement equipped with a laptop, a mini fridge and an X-Box. A laptop is where Drake's history making single "Best I Ever Had" was created? To say the least, what 1da lacks in a studio ensemble, he makes up for in talent and accessibility.
The Ajax, ON native started producing just a few years ago "out of boredom," and has since turned his hobby to a career. At first, he got his beats into the hands of anyone he could in the Toronto scene, but it was his work with Kardinal Offishall and then Drake on "Best I Ever Had" that put him all over the charts, literally. "I've known Drake for years and we work really well together," 1da says of how the single came to be. The two put blood, sweat and tears into the music and began to build a strong buzz. Around this time, Drake became Lil Wayne's wonder protégé and was doing verses on Lil Wayne tracks; by the time Drake was set to release his free mixtape So Far Gone online in late 2008, there were already rumours of multi-million dollar record deal offers. The free download did so well that it was formally released on CD, which have sold over 300,000 copies to date. The lead single from So Far Gone was the Boi-1da produced "Best I Ever Had," which topped the Billboard singles chart.
How did 1da make this all happen? He has no formal training and keeps to himself the majority of the time. As a new kid in the game, 1da originally entered the Toronto-based "Battle Of The Beatmakers" and won his first competition. This key moment brought praise from industry peers and helped 1da's confidence that he had talent he could build on. "It's very easy to lose focus, especially when the bright lights are in your eyes," he offers wisely, "but you can lose it all just as fast as it comes."
When 1da is not in New York or Los Angeles, he's been spending time on panels and conferences speaking about the music industry, encouraging Canada to keep up the momentum. The way he sees it, hard work can get anyone anywhere. His hustle, combined with FL Studio 9 on his laptop, has made him one of the most sought after ― and convenient ― producers in the industry. When asked about his formula for creating hits, he says he has the best strategy: "having no strategy." Trust the flow of ideas. "I have a mainstream sound, so I don't have any limitations on what I produce. In fact, I've been branching out a lot more into R&B, some rock samples. For example, I've actually been in talks about doing some stuff with the Jonas Brothers."
He also handles the majority of his business himself ― currently without a manager, he feels it's crucial to understand the industry thoroughly. "I have quite a few people who want to manage me; it's a bit of a touchy situation but I'd rather leave it in my own hands for now."
He sends and sells his beats himself, and makes the final decision on who he will work with. "I'll work with anyone who has talent," he laughs. He supports an array of local artists, including Kim Davis and Rich Kidd, both of whom will be working with 1da in the near future.
But the next year is sure to be much bigger than the breakthrough he's just had. "I've got a few tracks in with Eminem's management, and of course the Drake album in 2010." He's still adjusting to the breadth of his new playing field, which basically puts every hip-hop artist imaginable within his grasp. "Lil Wayne and Drake originally were on a track I produced," he says. "Then Kanye West jumped on, then Eminem." The resulting posse cut, "Forever," currently appears on the soundtrack to LeBron James basketball doc More Than A Game.
While this may be impressive for any producer, 1da is not yet 23 years old. "I don't feel my age really defines me. I'm not even close to being satisfied with my career." What about the fact that he's been short-listed for four Grammy nominations, including Single of the Year? "That's kind of cool," 1da says with a smile. "There's more of that to come."