Grammy Award-Winning Producer Boi-1da Sampled Windshield Wipers

An examination of the "God's Plan" co-producer's origins, process, and unique sampling strategies.

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(Image Credit: Boi-1da’s Facebook page)

By early elementary school, 32-year-old Grammy Award-winning, Toronto-based producer Boi-1da was already showing signs that he had an affinity for music production. “I’ve always been into music; always had my little Casio keyboard annoying the crap out of my family with it when I was about 8 years old,” he told journalist Atkilt Geleta in a 2007 HipHopCanada interview.

Though his early keyboard creations may have seemed like a child’s fleeting interest at first, Boi-1da maintained his fascination with music through his early teenage years. By the time he entered 9th grade and a friend told him about FL Studio, it wasn’t long before he tracked down a copy of the digital audio workstation and instantly fell in love.

With no formal training besides school-provided music class and a short time spent playing trumpet, he learned to rely on a keen ear to make his music. “I used to sit there and try to replay songs on my keyboard but I never knew anything about notes and what not,” Boi-1da told HipHopCanada. “It was more about me just listening to what it sounds like and finding the note.”

Formal music may not have been his forte, but the multi-platinum hit maker wouldn’t let that get in the way of his success. He proved he was ready to advance his career to another level by entering the beat battle circuit and winning the now-prestigious Battle of the Beatmakers competition three years in a row. By age 20 he landed his first official production credits—providing a then-unknown Drake with the tracks "City is Mine” and “Do What You Do” for his 2006 mixtape Room For Improvement.

After more early beat placements in 2007 and 2008 with Point Blank, Tafar-I, and Kardinal Offishall, Boi-1da truly made his entrance by storming onto the music scene with "Best I Ever Had" from Drake's famed 2009 mixtape So Far Gone and "Over" for Drake's platinum debut studio album Thank Me Later—two song’s that were instrumental in launching the star rapper’s career.

How exactly did Boi-1da make these life-altering productions for Drake while also cranking out hits for a slew of other high-profile artists? A 2010 Keyboard Magazine interview by Drew Hinshaw provides some valuable insight into his production process during the transition from a largely unknown beatmaker to one of the most in-demand producers in the industry.

In the interview Boi-1da underscored the importance of simplicity and leaving beats “open” and sparse when making hit records, even admitting that Drake sometimes asked him to subtract elements from his instrumentals before rapping over them. “Simple always wins,” he told Keyboard Magazine. “Drake likes his beats very open. For most of the songs we’ve done together, he’s actually taken sounds out of my beats.”

Listeners shouldn’t confuse Boi-1da’s willingness to pair down his sound with a lazy approach. In fact, quite the opposite. During the same interview, he also spoke to the tremendous investment required to get his instrumentals just right, explaining how he was able to nail his signature “loud” sound because of the time and energy he put into mixing his beats. Some producers outsource the jobs of mixing and mastering, but Boi-1da mixed all of his beats by himself in FL Studio while using Adobe Audition to chop up samples.

Further highlighting his intense dedication to the craft, he talked about the importance of creating and designing unique sounds—sometimes by merging different elements together as one. “If I have sounds that I downloaded, or if I hear something from a song, I’ll combine it with other sounds that I previously had,” Boi-1da told Keyboard Magazine. “I fuse a lot of sounds together.”

This technique was on full display in 2012 when he sampled windshield wipers while crafting “Tony Story, Pt. 2” for Philly rapper Meek Mill. Drake, who had a highly-publicized and ongoing beef with Meek Mill that has since been squashed, originally floated the idea for the windshield wipers sample when the song was in its infancy. “He wanted something that reminds him of driving through the night, like he's driving through the night and he's rapping it to you,” Boi-1da told Naomi Zeichner in her excellent 2013 “Beat Construction” interview for Fader.

According to Boi-1da, he found a windshield wiper sound after Drake pitched his idea, but the sample quality was unsuitable. He then tried recording actual windshield wipers, but that didn’t sound quiet right either. Once again refusing to be denied, he used the two samples in tandem—much as he described fusing sounds in the Keyboard Magazine interview. “We ended up combining the original sounds with the real windshield wiper recording,” he told Fader. “The beat just came alive when we had the proper windshield wiper sound.”

Though Drake gets credit for the highly unusual sample idea, he decided to pass on the beat before it eventually made its way to Meek Mill.

Boi-1da’s resume has only grown in size, scope, and number of accolades in the seven years since he used windshield wiper noises as part of a beat for Meek Mill. Yet despite many impressive feats, he still isn’t satisfied. After lacing Rihanna’s 6x platinum “Work” in 2016 and co-producing Drake’s 8x platinum “God’s Plan” in 2018, it seems like he’s just as motivated as he was 13 years ago when he started getting album placements. “I don’t think I’ve accomplished the best thing I’ll ever accomplish yet, music-wise,” he told Shkyd in a 2017 interview for Cuepoint. “I feel like things just got started.”

Thanks for reading, see you on Wednesday!