Perhaps no one understands the awesomeness of being The-Dream better than The-Dream himself. This thought occurs to me approximately .00064 seconds after The-Dream jokingly claims that the curtains in the back of the Maybach we’re riding in are made from a bunch of stitched-together panties, but perhaps 74 seconds before he reveals that he has no idea who Macklemore is. In person, the artist known as Terius Nash is pretty much exactly how you'd expect him to be—upbeat, funny as fuck, unfiltered, self-aware, and supremely confident in all things The-Dream.
After thirty or so minute ride in the Maybach, we arrived at a large, nice-ish building and took an elevator to a studio where Dream is currently working with Beyoncé on her next album, and with a small group of music industry people proceeded to listen to IV Play (out of order; Dream doesn’t know if he wants to slot the Beyoncé song before the Jay-Z one or the Jay-Z one before the Beyoncé song, as always Big Sean is an implacable entity, etc.). On the table where The-Dream’s MacBook was set up also stood his album packaging (a trifold CD case with a pop-up pyramid in the center panel somewhat reminiscent of an Illuminati Starter Kit), a single lit candle, and a bucket of Red Bull on ice. Though my experience with IV Play was admittedly limited, I can confidently say that the world will be a markedly better place once IV Play enters it.
While in the Maybach, we discussed his creative process, his impact on culture, and golf.
Noisey: When you're in the studio with a Beyoncé or a Rihanna, what is exactly your role?
I'm probably more so involved with them on the level where it's kind of defining what we're going to talk about in the whole album period. It's never, "Hey, I got something for you." It's always a conversation that happens before hand. My role is to make sure the body of the record is there.
What do you think draws you and extremely famous female singers together?
I have a certain sensitivity because of the relationship I have with my mom. Even though I'm a guy, I get it. I'm able to have those conversations and keep it 100 and forget that I'm a guy for a second. Just simply have a conversation about X, Y, and Z and hold my position, but try to listen to their position and try to find a medium ground.
What advice would you give someone to be more confident around women?
I don't know… I guess just be yourself. Whether it be a woman or a man, the opposition doesn't respect that you don't respect yourself. If you don't like who I am, then beat it. Like me the way my family likes me if you're going to be with me to the point where you basically are my family. If I'm the crazy uncle, then you're with the crazy uncle.
Talk to me about your jewelry.
Oh, my whole Jesus thing?
Everybody got to have a little bit of Jesus every now and then.
Well, it's an interesting juxtaposition because you have a gun in your ear.
Guns in my ear? It's just culture, man. Uzi earrings are back from the 80's. You’re probably too young for that. How old are you?
Tell me! The people want to know.
This is just some old throwback shit. This is from when pagers got hot. You probably don't remember those.
I know what a pager is.
Yeah, but you didn't have one.
Yeah! I still got a pager now.
I don't have it on me.
I don't believe you, then.
It's in the “Ghetto” video.
How do I know it wasn't a prop?
I don't lie about things I got. It's like lying that we aren't in the back of the Maybach right now that I own.
That'd be kind of impressive if you managed to convince me that we weren't in a Maybach.
We not in a Maybach. What we did was bought a Honda and wrapped it in delusion. These aren't really curtains. These are panties that I took and sewed together.
You own this?
Yeah, notice the Georgia plate. That's the call sign.
Does it go back to Atlanta with you?
No it stays here. You think I'm driving a Maybach all the way back to Georgia?
Let's talk about the album more. What does it sound like? Is it an evolution? Throwback?
It's not a throwback. I think it's a little bit more of me stepping out of what I'm usually doing. I got three or four songs that are catered to my audience. Most of the time, people want to grow with me. I don't usually have problems with people being ready to take that leap. I'd say it's definitely not a throwback. Every album has its own component like I like to believe. 1977 was a great record in a certain type of way because it allowed me to see is that as long as you make something good or great, people will still want to listen in whatever it is, regardless of what expectations you have from a standpoint of how many records you could sell. All of those things are really predicated on getting people ready for a certain thing. If you're the first one to do something, usually nobody buys it. You're usually better off being the third person to sing a song.
What do you think of Macklemore?
The “Thrift Shop” guy.
I don't know who that is.
He's got one of the number-one songs in the country.
Yeah, I don't know who that is. There are a lot of Number Ones now. In '09 when they changed the way you get to Number One, a Number One could literally be outside of your culture; something you never hear. My radio stays on Sinatra so I wouldn't even hear what be on the radio. And when I'm in the studio, I'm working on new shit… it’s what's going to be on the radio. Not to take anything away, of course. I'm sure he's great.
How do you feel like you've influenced culture?
Oh, man. I don't know how I've done it. I think attitude-wise I definitely have influenced things. I've changed the way you talk about things in a more aggressive manner, especially for women. It's not as whiney as was before '07. Even R&B isn't whiney. It's more thugged-out in a way. What was funny what I changed in rap was rappers were okay singing now. Now, it's a place where rap almost can be R&B records on certain days. It's only rap because there's a rapper in the song.
How many words in your lifetime do you think you've written?
Millions, I'm sure. Millions upon millions. Probably over 25 million.
When you write, how do you do it?
I never actually go to the paper to write anything down. Sometimes when I have a great concept, I'll just log that I have a concept. With "Umbrella," I just walked into the studio like a rapper and did what the track needed based on chords, feelings, all of that. That's usually how those records start. I'm not writing it down in my mind. I'm more so going with the flow. We're all the studio and we're all just vibing. It's almost like a jam session. I play what I play and then I get that feeling of what I want to talk about. After that, I just say, "Give me a mic and give me a line." I'll sing over the roughest shit. The chords may not even the way they are supposed to be, but we get it, flush it out, and next thing you know we have a song. I wasn't walking in knowing I was going to write "Birthday Cake." It just happened.
At what point in your life do you think you're the happiest?
When I'm on the golf course.
What's your handicap?
I have no idea. Usually when I play I'm 19 or 20 over. I'm really good. I just started to weigh what my handicap is. The guy that golfs with me now, Mike, he's like, "Wait til you've practiced four days in a row." I'll roll out of bed and if I don't have time to go to the range, I'll just play. By hole number eight, I'm usually good to go. I’ve been playing for ten years. I can play, but I'm not in it at that point. I actually just started to keep my scores. For me, playing golf is just everything.
How far can you drive?
I can usually average about 280, but last week I as hitting the ball 330.
Yeah, I'm pretty alright. I have this real nice thing in my wrist that they say is creating the torque. I just snap it right at the end and when I catch it, it’s going a long way. And I can pretty much keep it straight.
What element of your game are you most proficient in?
Oh man. I use my four iron to tee. I'm good at my irons. When you first start playing golf, since you have a driver you think you're supposed to use it all the time. But now, I've gotten to the point where I'd rather leave myself a five-iron shot to the green than driving it so far that you have to use an in-between club, like a nine or an eight-iron. I usually end up hitting it too hard or too short. So, I eliminated the whole power shit. I can literally hit my four-iron 220. Let's say it's a 565-yard par five. If it has a lot of turns and it's not straightforward, I just hit the four two times and leave that to lay up and take my time. Not trying to be Tiger Woods and get an eagle. And we bet a lot, so I guess it's best that we do that. Betting makes sure that you got some sense.
How much do you bet?
Oh it just depends on the person. It's usually not so much about the money, but there have been games that have been a thousand dollars a hole. There have been games that have been ten dollars a hole. It's just something to do better or to think straight. I can look at my phone and really fuck up. It's not that it's bothering me, it's just because I'm distracted. If I'm playing golf, I turn my phone off. I try to play golf at 7:30 am so that nobody can bother me and so that I'm not pissed at them for calling me at hole number ten. Nobody knows this, but every golf course has an ex-girlfriend’s name on it. There's always the arch nemesis. Like, “Hole number seven is the worst hole ever.” So we just name ‘em.
Have you played with Timberlake?
I haven't, actually. I was supposed to play with him and T.I. last year, but it didn't happen. It's probably going to happen soon now. I'm trying to do this thing with the Grammy's and do a charity event sponsored around the Grammy's where celebrities come out and play. Some kind of celebrity pro/am kind of thing. I think that'd be cool. So many celebrities play that you wouldn't even guess.
Tip, for instance. He plays. There's a bunch of executives play that you wouldn't even know who they are. But there are plenty of people in the industry that play that you wouldn't even know they play. Then they find out you play and we'll play together. I love golf, man.
Golf is very Zen.
It is. It's just nice and slow. It's just you, your clubs, and the motherfucking ball. You and your friends are just talking about whatever. No work shit, none of that. Just light up that cigar on the 13th hole, drink Patron or whatever. It's just great.
How many interviews you think you've done in your lifetime?
Probably 400. That's pretty accurate.
When you meet somebody on the street and they don't know who you are do you have them call you Dream or Terius?
The-Dream. Nobody wants to really see Terius. I will say Nash, though. It's not because it's all about The-Dream, it's because it's one syllable. I just want to give people something short and simple.
Drew Millard prefers to go by The-Drew. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard
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