Streetrunner Remembers the Moment Lil Wayne Started 'Tha Carter III'
One of Wayne's go-to producers talked to A Year of Lil Wayne about leaks, the never-released 'I Can't Feel My Face,' and more.
Day 360: "1 Arm" feat. Juelz Santana – I Can't Feel My Face (leak), 2007 ; "1 Night Only" – leak, 2006; "Cry Out (Amen)" – leak, 2006; "Let's Talk It Over" – leak, 2007
"We could always throw in a Illmatic album and hear it exactly how it was intended to be," the producer Streetrunner told me, earlier this year when I called him up to talk about Lil Wayne. The same is true of the other rap he loves, like Biggie or Mobb Deep, he added. "We could listen to it and be like 'all right, that's the way that was supposed to sound.' But I felt like those classic Wayne joints never got that look."
He was talking, in particular, about the period in 2006 and 2007 leading up to Tha Carter III, during which many of the most beloved Lil Wayne tracks were recorded and then subsequently leaked, never to see a commercial release. This era has taken on a mythical status for Lil Wayne fans; many see it as his artistic peak despite its unofficial nature, and many would name leaked tracks like "I Feel Like Dying," "La La La," or "Prostitute Flange" among their Lil Wayne classics. Yet these songs are the ones most at risk at falling victim to erasure from the historical record.
Streetrunner understands that. He has worked with Lil Wayne since 2006, making songs like "Gossip," the 2 Chainz collaboration "Yuck," "My Homies Still," and even last year's "Grateful," with Gudda Gudda. But few producers were hit harder by the leaks; many of Streetrunner's most beloved Wayne beats, including ones meant for Tha Carter III and the much-anticipated but never-released Juelz Santana collaborative album, I Can't Feel My Face. To remedy this historical crime, last year Streetrunner remastered and re-released a number of his best leaked and therefore officially unreleased Lil Wayne collaborations. I called him up earlier this year to discuss those songs and what it was like working with Lil Wayne. Snippets of that conversation have been featured in previous posts, but I wanted to share the rest of the interview for posterity's sake. So here it is.
Noisey: I thought it was cool how you've been releasing all these remastered versions of leaked Wayne songs from that 2006-2007 on your Soundcloud.
Streetrunner: I didn't know how people were gonna react toward it, 'cause you drop music, and, you know, the fans are sometimes like "ah, where's the new stuff? I already heard this." It's like they just run through that shit, like nobody really lives with the music. But the first song I dropped, man, I was just blown away how it impacted. And after I tweeted it, I had to upgrade my Soundcloud two times within like 30 minutes.
The main reason why I wanted to do a mix and master of particular songs is when they were released they never had that. None of these songs ever had a mix and master to them. Like Wayne would rap on the two track, and sometimes he would get the session from me, but sometimes it still wouldn't get mixed. It would just be the bounce that the engineer made after he wrapped on it. The mix still wasn't right, or the mastering and all that. And at that time, mp3s, whatever limiter you put on the ProTools session, however it came out, it came out.
There were a lot of poor quality versions. There were some versions on YouTube that I would just cringe when I heard them. And they had millions of views. I was just thinking to myself, "man, these songs sound so fucking terrible." You can tell they're great songs, classic material. But like mix, master, and sonically, they just sounded terrible. It was my goal to revamp that and make it sound a little more special.
What was it like when you were recording those at the time, when they would leak? Do you know what was going on, like how the Empire would leak them?
It's tough to call. I know then Wayne wasn't as tight with his music as he is now. Back then, he would let the producers get the sessions. Not that I would leak any of my music because that would be like self-sabotage. 'Cause we all knew what we were working for.
I was going in the studio with him, and he would give me the session, the vocal session. I would give him the beat session, and we'd go back and forth and make these records. But I know people would get copies however they would get copies. Like if somebody liked a song, and Wayne fucked with 'em, he'd give 'em a copy of the song. There's also rumors that valets or people would get in his car and steal his CDs, or a CD would be left in Hit Factory with the bounce.
Songs would get leaked off of CDs because we actually had to have CDs at that point. It was still, like, I want to say 2006 going into 2007. We were still transferring files to CDs. If you wanted to hear a playlist, you dropped that bitch on a CD and would get in the car and ride to it. So those are all ways those records could have gotten leaked. Now you just plug a phone into the aux, and you go and you keep your phone on you, and if you lose your phone it's locked up. So it's safer now to transport music than it was before that.
I was lucky enough to have that song "Gossip" escape the leaks. There was a time when I spoke to Tez, like what's it looking like, "what's the track listing looking like?" And I had four songs on Tha Carter III: It was "I Run With Trouble," "RappaPomPom," "1 Night Only," and one other record, I forget which one. And then "Talk It Over" was gonna go on one of Khaled's albums. But something happened with that. Then, of course, it leaked. Everything just leaks and shit. It is what it is.
I've made plenty of music with Wayne since then. I've made it on plenty of albums. I got to be on Tha Carter III probably because of all these songs I did with him. You had to keep up with Wayne's work ethic at that time 'cause he was making so much music, so you just had to make so much music with him. I got that song "Playing with Fire" on Tha Carter III.
That's the one that got taken off because of the Rolling Stones suing you, right?
(Sighs) That was a nightmare in my way up. It was like the gift and the curse. But, you know, it is what it is. It would be my luck that the one time I get sued for some shit, it be for a million dollars, and then the song get removed from the album, a hundred percent of the publishing gets taken. Everything you could fucking think of, that they could possibly do for a song. Other people I know that get sued for songs, they lose 20 percent of their publishing, the person suing gets an advance, and it keeps moving like nothing happened. My shit was like the ultimate lawsuit.
Don't fuck with the Rolling Stones. That's it. You know what's fucked up, I didn't even know it was the Rolling Stones. That's the fucked up part. 'Cause they have a ghost publisher, and the song that I sampled was a Ruth Copeland. Actually I didn't even sample. We took the Ruth Copeland record, and we liked the hook, but we wanted to change the words. And just kind of like do it differently. The beat has no sample. But the way we flipped the hook is what they were fighting us on because they said it was derivative of their work. I have no hard feelings toward the Rolling Stones; I just wish they didn't have it removed from the album.
Do you remember the first time you met Lil Wayne?
Oh yeah, definitely. I was at Hit Factory in Miami. We was just chilling outside, me and Macho. We was waiting for Fat Joe to get there because Joe was working on a mixdown. I think he was going in with Scott Storch. They were doing some finishing touches with a track. It might have even been "Make It Rain," if I remember correctly. Wayne came outside. And you know, it was, like, normal. Wayne wasn't like that huge, huge superstar that he is today. So he's just like chilling, by himself, walking around Hit Factory. And my man Macho was like, "yo, this is Streetrunner, he's Fat Joe's producer, super dope."
And I was like, "yo, can I pass you a CD?" And he's like, "yo, give it to me." And luckily my mans had a CD in his ride that I'd made for Jeezy. So I was able to get that and give it to him. And I would say within 15 minutes after, Wayne's mans called up my guy and was like, "yo, hold '1 Night Only' and 'RappaPomPom.'" So we were like, "all right, cool, that's what's up."
So we get in the studio—Joe finally arrives—we go in with Scott, and I guess, like, Joe's listening to some of his project, or he was working on "Make It Rain," and they were getting the mix ready for that. And then Birdman comes in and was like, "yo, I need you to come hear this. Wayne started working on Carter III. This shit is a problem."
I was like, "oh shit, this is gonna be dope. Now if I hear what he's working on, I'll be able to go back to the crib, I'll knock some shit out, I'll make some heat for him, and I'll get it over to him. This is gonna be dope." So I follow them. We all go up there into Wayne's studio. And he hits play, and that shit is "1 Night Only" and then "RappaPomPom"—done, full songs, exactly how you hear 'em today. This might have been like an hour, maybe an hour and a half after I gave him the CD. Never would I have thought I was going up there to hear my joints finished. And those were the first songs created for Tha Carter III.
And the funniest shit in the world is I played those tracks for Fat Joe. He turned them shits down. And when we're leaving the studio, all I hear is Fat Joe going "Streetrunner, why'd you do 'em like that Streetrunner?" Like, you know, complaining and shit. I'm like, "yo, Joe, I passed you these beats!"
How have you seen Wayne as a person change and working with him change over the years?
Well, working with him was a lot easier back then. It was as simple as going to the studio. He'd be there, I'd get in the room with him, play him some shit, and he would vibe to something, give it back to me, give me some ideas, whatever the case. That was kind of where we were at. Also we would record a little bit earlier. Like, he would start earlier in the night. As the years go by, it seems like his sessions were getting later and later at night, so it was harder to catch him. Or he was recording in more, different places. Like, he used to have a room in Hit Factory, and you know, like, that's Wayne's room.
It might be a little bit my fault, not staying all the way in touch. It's hard to keep up with what he's got going on. But I just keep sending him shit. You just gotta let him do what he does.
He was always hella cool. He seemed to always have a good vibe with me and good respect for what I had going on with my music and what I was doing. So it was always love, man.
One of the remastered ones that you uploaded was "1 Arm" with Juelz Santana. There was that whole period where they were going to release an album, and ultimately a mixtape leaked.
It was gonna be called I Can't Feel My Face. And that song right there was one of them, one of the I Can't Feel My Face records. It leaked at the right time. It leaked during the Carter III movement, but it was actually for the I Can't Feel My Face album.
What do you remember about that project, or that era?
All the producers that I remember that were working on Carter III—I was around DVLP, I was around Infamous—we all knew that I Can't Feel My Face was a potential project. Honestly speaking, if they would have dropped it, it would have been a multi-platinum album. There is no doubt about it, between the hype that Juelz had coming off his solo album—and everybody always respected Juelz Santana as a spitter—and then the momentum that Wayne had coming off Carter III. But I think Carter III was just a whole other level of monster, and I think once Carter III dropped and how far out of here that sent Wayne, I don't think there was no way he could get back to doing the I Can't Feel My Face after that.
You can't do an album for the rap fans after you become the biggest pop star in the world.
Yeah, but even though it would have been for the rap fans, that would have sold a million copies, no doubt about it. People were hungry and thirsty for Wayne no matter what. And no offense to the rock album, which I worked on, the Rebirth album, but, like, I wouldn't have minded hearing the I Can't Feel My Face album over the rock album. Me personally. If I was able to organize priority in projects, I would have been like "let's do this project, and set if off for whatever else you want to do." But maybe there was other business that we don't know about. Maybe there was a holdup with Juelz Santana's business, or maybe the check wasn't gonna get cut for an I Can't Feel My Face album. Who knows.
What was the vibe around that Rebirth album? What were the producers' reactions when you guys found out Wayne was going to make a rock album?
I'm gonna be honest with you, I didn't know it was gonna be that rock. I thought it was gonna be like the fine line of maybe like guitar stabs and 808s, almost like the Licensed to Ill, Beastie Boys album type vibe. That's kind of what I thought it was gonna be. But then I started hearing songs, and I was like "yo, this is going all the way rock." The album still went gold. He had multiplatinum singles from it. It just shows you, you can really gauge his artistry from there. Like, he had fans. People really wanted to hear what the fuck he was doing.
You could make a greatest hits for Wayne of songs that never saw a commercial release.
Yeah, I want to see if one day Birdman would put these out on like a major scale. Birdman, Tez, Wayne, whoever. I'm not talking about just throwing this shit on fucking a website or something like that. Stream it for everybody. They could easily do all these songs, like five volumes, easily, and make sure people have that quality music, mixed and mastered.
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- lil wayne
- Juelz Santana
- I Can't Feel My Face
- Tha Carter III