She & H.E.R. (Needlz)

Needlz also produced Suicide ediciuS and Stars.

She & H.E.R.

This was an interesting song. I originally started this as a spoken word. I linked up with J. Cardim and his manager Zack who played us about 30 beats. This one beat really stuck with me and we came to an agreement. I continued the spoken word over his beat. The beat, oddly enough, was about 10 years old. He could’t actually find the original session so I was doing most of the work off of a two-track.

I got the first verse and parts of the second verse written just as J found the session data. The day I was supposed to pick up the files, Zack called. He said that they had given the beat to Joe Budden a while ago and he just called and said he wanted to use it for his album. They had just started working with Joe, so this was a pretty important opportunity for them. He had offered me two substitute beats if I would let them give this one to Joe. I give a lot of credit to them because a lot of other producers in that situation might’ve just given the beat to Joe and not given me the option. I asked him to give me a little time to think on it. I really wanted the song. It fit the mood of the album really well and I had written some of my best lyrics over it.

She & H.E.R. (J. Cardim Reference Vocals)

I then had a conversation with J. He’s more of an artist while Zack is the businessman. He told me that we should take the beat and use it. He’s a man of his word and said that he had promised it to us and we should have it. That sealed it for me. I called Zack directly following that conversation and told him to give it to Budden and we’re square. They handled the situation with class and dignity, so I wanted to reciprocate. It’s the reason I consider them both friends to this day and would never hesitate to do business with them again.

So now we were a song short.

Fast forward a year. We were at the tail end of the project, about 9 or 10 songs in. I had begun to form a relationship with Needlz, helped greatly by my relationship with 88-Keys. While working on Nobody’s Somebody with 88, Needlz texted me. We were setting up an interview and discussing some options for his artist Honors English (E-Clipz at the time). I mentioned to him that I was with 88 working on a track. He didn’t realize I was involved in other facets of music. He inquired about the project and we spoke about maybe working together.

I had a couple of aspiring artists from the West Coast who were fairly well funded interested in buying some beats. I had Needlz send me some of his work to pitch to these artists. While listening to the beats, I became enamored. They were SO good. A different level from anything I had ever worked with. That isn’t a knock on YZ, by any means. I had just become so comfortable working with him that I never bothered exploring much outside production. But the work he had sent me…I had just never worked with someone so accomplished before. It sparked a whole new outlet of creativity for me. I felt like we could improve the album exponentially be involving him. We had starting doing some real work together and became fairly close. He told me that he would work with us on the album and to let him know whatever we needed. It was a turning point for the Sorry I’m Late.

The first beat we wanted was what ended up becoming Suicide ediciuS, but he had just promised it to an established artist. Stars and the beat that became She & H.E.R. Also really hit me. They fit SIL while adding an entirely different feel. I wrote Stars within a few hours. She & H.E.R., however, took me some time. The beat was so great but I couldn’t find anything that fit.

I love bringing talent together. It’s what I admire most about the Puffys and Kanyes. They’ll do anything to get a record right.

She & H.E.R. (Miss Poor, No Star vocals)

Finally, it hit me. One morning, I turned on the beats we were writing to, as I did every morning, and just spit the first few lines of my year-old scrapped She & H.E.R. verse. It worked! I recorded it on the Long Island Rail Road on my way to the city, through a quick mix into Logic and sent it off to John. Then I started tweaking the melody and flow to better fit the new beat, tightening up the lyrics on verse one and coming up with a new direction for verse two. John recorded a rough draft that night and we were rolling!

Needlz had told me he was on board with anything, as long as it was dope. I sent him over the reference. He loved it and gave me the green light.

We went through a ton of hook ideas. We had John’s boy Niyx record something that really didn’t work. Then I called my confidant and friend DJ Cinema again to help with ideas. He thought it should have an old school scratch. He threw out some ideas, including the Common samples. I then had the idea to scratch some of John’s lyrics and mix them in, as well. I sent everything over to DJ Pain1 again and he got it nearly perfect. I made a few adjustments on my own, but we really captured the feel of the song. Pain1 is so talented, man. I wish that I had met him earlier in the project so he could’ve been more heavily involved, but I’m blessed to have him involved at all. I tweaked the lyrics a little more to make sure all the “she’s” corresponded with his wife and all the “her’s” corresponded to hip-hop (yes, that’s how much of a perfectionist I am). I knew we had a great song. I released it as the “b-side” to Paint the World and it got a huge response.

She & H.E.R. (Niyx hook)

I’ve performed that song as a spoken word numerous times over the past year. It remains one of my favorite to perform, behind only Footprints.

Here’s the instrumental to the She & H.E.R. If anybody records anything over it, please email a copy to or reach me on twitter @culturevi. I’ll post or tweet the best ones.

She & H.E.R. Instrumental (prod. by Needlz)

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  • I don’t know where to start here. I can always start with “dope article” or “great post”, but I don’t want to come off as cliche.

    It’s always great to hear somebody tell a story about certain songs, depending on how dope the song is, and how interesting the story is. To know that “She & H.E.R.” started off as spoken word gives me a little hope in improving my writing, at least in the rhyme form. The perfectionist in me always makes it a more difficult struggle than it has to be.

    Definitely dope to know that Zack and J. Cardim held the situation they were in with the utmost class and respect. I know it must have been tough to give up that beat though… You know what Joe Budden song it ultimately became?

    But I love a story with a happy ending, so it’s nice to know that you found another beat that not only replaced the original, but was even better than it. Sometimes it all really does come full circle.

    It’s definitely one of those things where I learned a lot, and hope to apply when the time comes. I also hope to do it a little better with my spin on it, but that’s just the perfectionist (and creative mind) in me.

    • Thanks brother. Most of my earlier verses started off as spoken word. I was in the spoken word circuit for quite some time. It became less and less as I got older unfortunately, but I still go back to my roots every now and then.

      I feel that writing in spoken word is essential for any hip-hop artist because your words, your lyrics, are exposed. There is no beat or music or hook to mask the deficiencies of your words. Every person in the room is hanging on every syllable you say. Every line can be scrutinized. It’s the most natural form of hip-hop. If you can captivate a crowd with a spoken word piece, you know you have the potential for great song.

      J and Zack really handled themselves with integrity during that situation. J was just starting to build his name up and this was a great opportunity for him. Joe didn’t end up using the song. They came back to me after a while to let me know it was still available, but by that point, I had already decided to move on, despite still not having a new beat. Music is a feeling. And the feeling from that particular beat, with that particular song, had changed. It no longer felt right. Sometimes you just have to follow your instincts, and in this particular instance, it worked to our benefit.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read. I hope it helps in some small way.