Ever since Nas dropped “The Don,” he’s had the streets on fire. We knew it was a Salaam Remi production, based on a classic Super Cat sample, and “Heavy D gave this beat to Salaam for me to rap on.” But the details surrounding the creation of this modern-day classic have remained murky until now. As part of their big Nas cover story, Complex scribe Rob Marriott spoke with Remi about the making of “The Don.” Read on to learn the half that’s never been told…
Salaam Remi: We were talking about reggae stuff, and Hev was like, “Yo, here’s this Cat record, ‘Dance Inna New York.’ You ever heard it?” I’m like, “Nah.” He’s like, “Yo, I’ve never heard it before either. I’m going to send it to you. If you could find some way to flip this, I’m telling you, it would be crazy.”
Super Cat “Dance inna New York”
I was like, “Alright, cool.” So he sent it to me, and I was listening to it, and Nas called me. So I was telling him what Hev said. He was like, “Wow, the Overweight Lover’s calling us about a record, and we used to be listening to him.”
So we were having that whole convo, and he was like, “What’s that? That’s Cat?” I was like, “Yeah.” He was like, “Damn. It sounded like Cat said my name in that record.” I’m like, “Really?” But he’s on the phone now, like I’m talking to you now. And he’s telling me it sounded like he said his name.
So I’m like, “Really?” I rewinded it a little bit. I’m like, “Yeah, I kind of hear what you’re saying.” But if you listen to the song, it’s not obvious. It’s definitely not obvious. But he heard something, then I caught on and heard what he heard.
So one day, I had a little time, I just took the record and started messing around with it, chopping it up and playing, and I basically came up with the chop of what you hear on the record, and moving it around. But it was still kind of light.
I love the staccato feel of it. It lurches.
Yeah. I was just trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. I took the record, I chopped it up and that excitement that I love… And then I looked up who produced it, and I was like, “Ah, Jah Thomas, the reggae producer.
So I called him in Jamaica, sent Jah Thomas some money, he baked the multi-track, sent back the multi-track for me. So now, I have the 16-track of Cat’s song, that I’ve never heard before. So I call Hev like, “Yo, guess what I got?” He’s like, “What! Oh that’s crazy. I’ve got to come through and check it.”
So I played it for him, and he was like, “Yo, I don’t care if it works for Nas or it works for whoever. It would have been dope for me, but if it works for him, all good baby, I can do something different.” So I was like, “Alright, that’s what’s up.” So he went to London and hollered at me with some people out there.
Then, I was actually out in London working on an Amy Winehouse album, while he was there. It was the last one that came out. And then… doubled back, and by the time we got ready to release the record, he passed. So it was just something like, “Wow. OK.” And now, to see that record’s big and people appreciate it…
Then, after that we did that version and kept going. Nas had some other stuff he had some ideas for, so he got The Internz to add some sounds and different things to it, and there it is. That’s the record.
It’s a beautiful story and a beautiful record, because it really tastes, and feels, and brings that energy back in so many different ways. Just hearing Super Cat’s voice brings me back to basement parties in Queens.
Yeah, straight across. For me, it’s definitely a cycle. Nas, when he was first signed to Columbia, used to be on promo tours and stuff with Cat. I remember going to see them at Hammerstein Ballroom, and going back, and how much weed smoke was in the bathroom. I came up through that, because me and Bobby Konders were doing enough things in the ’90s…