When Eminem‘s surprise Kamikaze album arrived at midnight on Thursday, one name stood out in the credits: Illadaproducer is credited with production on four tracks, more than anyone other than Eminem himself. The beat-maker, real name Illya Fraser, is partially responsible for three of the first four songs, and his brawling beats help set the album’s feisty tone. On the first track alone, Eminem declares that every rapper except Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Big Sean is “a goner”; defies New York radio personality Charlamagne tha God; makes fun of Lil Pump, Lil Xan and Lil Yachty; and even decides his own anti-Trump cypher last fall may not have been worth it.
Illadaproducer, who works with Kent Jones and has produced songs for Lil Pump, sees Kamikaze as Eminem’s return to the viciously irreverent days of The Slim Shady LP, in contrast with the more contemplative tone of 2017’s Revival. The producer spoke with Rolling Stone about the importance of listening to your fans, sampling Little Dragon and why young rappers shouldn’t be offended by Eminem’s disses.
How did you first meet Eminem?
I did this song “Wait a Minute” for this artist Phresher from Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn for a while when I was younger, so anybody from Brooklyn I always try to work with. Right away I gave him that record, and it took off for us. That was one of Eminem’s favorite songs last year. He was like, “Who did that beat?” Phresher said, “My man Illa.” From there, Paul Rosenberg and Tracy [McNew] from Shady Records reached out to me. We’ve been working ever since.
I was on the road, because I also road-manage DJ Khaled’s artist Kent Jones. So I’ve been on tour running around doing stuff for different projects. I’ve just been feeding them beats.
Did you know you were feeding them beats for specific projects?
For Revival, I knew [Eminem] was fucking with my beats, the energy of my music. So I sent him beats with that hard-hitting 808s and that turn-up energy. That’s how he ended up on the “Offended” record, and that was one of the stand-out records on Revival.
I saw after he did the “Chloraseptic” song — oh, he’s ready to go bad. People were talking that shit on that internet. So I’m like, I’ve got some shit, if he wants to go bad, here it is. Kept feeding him, kept feeding him. And he kept going bad on my beats. Shout out to Tracy from Shady Records. I sent her some music like, Eminem just killed it on that “Chloraseptic” remix. That’s what he needs to keep doing. Here’s some music for him. She’s like, “He needs to hear this.”
A couple months went by and she hit me out of the blue: “Are these beats available?” I’m like, oh, shit! It was two beats at first, then I sent another batch, and he picked two more. By then I was about to pass out. But I didn’t know he was going to use all four. I turn in a lot of beats on a lot of projects. People pick stuff. Sometimes one will make it; sometimes none will make it. So I just kept it top secret. I didn’t tell nobody.
Then last night I’m sitting there, playing videogames at the crib, taking a break from making beats. I walk out back of my house, I see something about, Eminem dropped a new song. I thought it was the Venom record. So I’m like, let me check this out. I clicked on it, I see the link on iTunes, it’s the whole album! I almost dropped my phone, man. I lost it. I hit play on the first song, it was my beat! Oh, hell no! I’m outside trying to smoke a joint. I couldn’t even get high. I played song one through five, I produced the majority of ’em! And one of ’em’s a skit!
You didn’t get a heads up?
Two weeks ago I got some information from my lawyer, so I knew he was going to use these. But usually he drops in December. So I’m like, alright, I got a few months to wait. Hopefully he drops this year. If not, I’m gonna have to wait until next September. ‘Cause Em’s not rushing shit. But that shit came out two weeks later.
Eminem addresses the critics of Revival a lot on this album — did you notice the negative reaction to that album too?
Oh yeah. I’m somebody who’s always online. I pride myself on that. I read every fucking review. ‘Cause I’m part of this project, and Eminem’s one of the greatest! The problem is, Em reads all that shit too. That fucked him up. So he went back in, and that’s why eight months, nine months later, we got Kamikaze.
Which two beats were the first you sent over?
The one he used for the intro and the beat for the first half of “Normal.”
How did “The Ringer” come together?
I was trying to make something for the club. Something for either Migos, Pump or SmokePurpp. When they said they fuck with my music from “Wait a Minute,” I sent him a bunch of beats all like “Wait a Minute.” He didn’t pick any of ’em. So I’m like, alright, he wants something different. I sent him a new batch with a bunch of different sounds: Atlantic-sounding shit, Miami-sounding shit, up-north-sounding shit, West-Coast shit. He picked that beat.
You work with young rappers too, and on this album, Eminem is going after the young guys — does that put you in a funny spot?
Nah, man. To me, it’s art. They make two different types of hip-hop. There’s lyrical hip-hop, which always reigned supreme. Then there’s what they call mumble rap, which is feel-good music. It’s more about the feeling than the lyrics. They can both coincide. When I’m hearing him going at the younger guys, I’m like, this is the game you’re in. If you say you’re a rapper, if another rapper goes at you, even if it’s the G.O.A.T., either you’re gonna take some bars, or you’re gonna give some back. Most of ’em just gonna take ’em. ‘Cause there’s nothing you can do. What are you gonna do, battle rap Eminem? Nah. They do their own thing. Eminem just went pulled out the switch on niggas and handed out a whooping. Like, don’t think that I ain’t paying attention.
Do you think they’re listening?
Some cats are gonna be like, fuck that. But look at Lil Yachty: He was like, “yo, I don’t take that as a diss. I love Eminem.” I even think Pump won’t even take it as a diss. To me, Eminem is talking about how everybody’s a carbon copy of everybody. Pump’s one of the originators, so if I’m him, I’m not taking that as a diss.
Do ghostwriters bother you?
I can’t get mad; it’s about making a hit record. But you gotta respect the greats who don’t need a ghostwriter.
How did “Normal” come together?
Normal was a beat I made last year for a Kendrick or a J. Cole or a Drake. As I’m making it, I’m like, somebody’s gotta spit bars on this shit.
At the beginning of that one though, Eminem is singing like some of the young artists do.
Yeah it reminds of like a Post Malone mixed with Chance type of thing — you know how they have that sing-song thing flow on some of their records? I was excited when I was hearing all the flows, all the melodies he’s coming with, because like I said, he pays attention. As a great artist or an artist who’s just starting, you need to pay attention to your fanbase. If people are telling you, yo, we like this but not this, they’re not bossing you around, these are the people who you need to please. You should heed to it, just do it your own way. That’s what I think he did perfectly on this album.
The sample on “Normal” – that’s Little Dragon?
Little Dragon, man! I love indie music. I love diggin’ for samples. I don’t really sample anymore, because of publishing. But when I hear a sample that just lets me hear the whole beat, I can’t ignore that. I gotta knock the beat out, write the music really quick. Then I’ll deal with the business later.
How about “Lucky You,” what led to that beat?
That was the last beat I sent. I sat down, I was on the road. I was like, I’m gonna make beats just for Em. Because Tracy was like, “He likes these two beats, so if you have anything else, send some more.” So I just sat that whole week and made beats just for him. I’m like, Eminem always goes so bad on those big piano melody records. A lot of his big records have either guitar or piano. I need to make him one of those. That’s why I went with the big piano line.
What about “Good Guy,” what’s the sample there?
That’s me doing my video game thing. Kingdom Hearts. It’s a Japanese videogame, and that’s the theme song from it. It’s one of the dopest melodies I’ve ever heard. Shout out Japanese videogames and Japanimation for inspiration. Filtered it, did some chops, did some processing to it. I basically made it unrecognizable, but I know they would have still found it. That’s why we had to deal with the clearance. But when I do anything I try to make it to where it’s not fully recognizable.
They added Jessie Reyez to it after?
Yep. She killed that record. The “Nice Guy” record too. She’s special.
In your mind, how does Kamikaze stack up next to Revival?
You can’t even compare the two. Apples and oranges. A lot of Em’s more refined fans, people who wanted to see growth in him, they liked Revival. I liked Revival too. People wanted Slim Shady. He was doing his version of [Jay-Z’s] 4:44. People weren’t ready for it. It’s the marketplace; it’s not the music. But you’re not gonna know until you try, right? He gave it a try. He got his reaction. Then right away, he’s going right back to the drawing board. O.K., that’s what you want? And he delivered.
So this is the return of Slim Shady?
To me it is. Right away he comes out just blowing bad, spittin’. This is Eminem! Top five, dead or alive. I want to hear him go bad. And I got what I was looking for.