No I.D. Chicago’s Hit Man
Most hip-hop artists have a select group of producers that they allow to be part of their creative process. If you check the credits of some of the best-selling CD’s by artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Common and Nas, one name is listed next to many of the hits that they have had over the past decade. Chicago’s Dion “No I.D.” Wilson is one of the most respected men in the music industry when it comes to making hip-hop beats and is arguably the most famous producer to hail from the Windy City. He recently announced plans to collaborate with fellow Mid-Westerner Eminem on his upcoming seventh album, according to MTV, and this is only one of his many projects as Executive Vice President of A&R at Def Jam Records.
Before No I.D. was producing tracks for seven or eight albums every year, he teamed up with Common during first recordings as “Common Sense.” According to All Music, he worked under the name “Immenslope” during this time and exclusively produced for Common. Common’s debut release they worked on together, “Can I Borrow A Dollar?,” sold well enough for Relativity Records to finance another project. Except for two tracks, Common’s critically acclaimed 1994 album “Resurrection” was entirely produced by No I.D., who for the first time was credited under his current alias. “Resurrection” remains one of the all-time greatest CD’s in alternative hip-hop, and hip-hop magazine The Source has listed it as one of the “100 Best Rap Albums.” This release gave Common the popularity needed to launch his career, and No I.D. was not far behind.
For the next three years, Common and No I.D. worked together on Common’s third record and No I.D.’s own debut. Although the pair made a huge effort to produce an even better follow-up to “Resurrection,” “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” did not sell as well, according to Billboard. No I.D.’s presence on the CD was scaled back to allow for a greater variety of producers, and after this album Common stopped working with No I.D. until his most recent release, 2011’s “The Dreamer/The Believer.” No I.D.’s own record “Accept Your Own and Be Yourself (The Black Album)” was also a commercial disappointment. However, his reputation in the hip-hop community had already grown from his work with Common, and soon he was working with some of music’s biggest names like Beanie Siegel in 2001 and Toni Braxton and Jay-Z in 2002.
His first collaboration with Jay-Z took place on “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse” and was another turning point in No I.D.’s career. Since then, he has gone on to produce tracks for Jay-Z’s “American Gangster” and “The Blueprint 3,” for which he composed the hits “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” and “Run This Town” featuring Rihanna and Kanye West. When asked once in Complex what working with Jay-Z taught him, he said, “I asked Jay-Z one day what he thought I should do, and he told me, ‘Bet on yourself. Don’t bet on someone else.’” No I.D.’s relationship with Jay-Z is similar to that of another of his creative partners, Kanye West, a fellow Chicago native who has worked extensively with No I.D. In addition to making beats for his “808s & Heartbrake” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” records, No I.D. has collaborated on songs for other artists with West. No I.D. was recently in the studio with him and Jay-Z during the recording of their collaborative album “Watch The Throne.”
He commented to Complex, “I came in when Watch The Throne was happening. It wasn’t like I was actively working on the project, but I came in with some insight that helped bring records like ‘Otis,’ ‘Made In America,’ and ‘No Church In The Wild.’” No I.D. was also President of West’s label G.O.O.D. Music before leaving to work with Def Jam. No I.D.’s biggest project this year has been Nas’ newest CD “Life Is Good.” With the five tracks that he created for the album, No I.D. is one of the most featured producers on the record. No I.D.’s immediate future is looking busy. In addition to recording with Eminem, he is already scheduled to produce tracks for Nas’ next album, as well as work with Def Jam artist Amerie on her upcoming record Cymatica Vol. 1. When asked about his excitement for working with Eminem, No I.D. told MTV, “He’s one of the best. I want to work with one of the best and try and give some music contributions. I think that would be one of the next steps in that lineage of what I’m trying to do.” It certainly seems to be the right step for him now.
- Taylor Burns