The best non-Drake songs by Noah “40” Shebib, featuring Usher, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and more
Noah Shebib will forever be linked to Drake, his megastar pal, fellow child actor and closest collaborator. The Toronto producer better known as 40 has been shaping Drizzy’s sound ever since his 2009 breakthrough mixtape, So Far Gone. But the 33-year-old OVO Sound co-founder, a master of brooding soul and anthemic hip hop, is the secret weapon behind the tunes of so many more artists. We dug through Shebib’s catalogue to pin down the best songs he’s produced sans the 6 God (which meant painfully excluding A$AP Rocky, DK Khaled and Beyoncé hits that feature Drake). Here, the 10 best Aubrey-free tracks from one of Canada’s most versatile and influential producers.
Walk On Y’all
Back when the 6 was the T-Dot and Shebib was a teenager, he produced an eight-track EP, Runamuk: The Intro, for local underground rap conglomerate Empire. Young 40’s straightforward head-nod beats serve as a gritty platform for the group’s MCs to show off their rap-battle skills and fiery punchlines.
Twist My Hair
Shebib’s first legitimate production credit was this single from Toronto soul singer Divine Brown’s 2005 self-titled debut. Fun fact: 40 and Drake first met at this studio session.
Shebib whipped up this boudoir banger for Weezy’s No Ceilings mixtape in 2009, and Lil Wayne liked it enough to include it on his eighth studio LP, 2010’s platinum I Am Not a Human Being.
Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)
The first non-Drake smash in 40’s discography. The slow burn of “Un-Thinkable” gave Ms. Keys her first No. 1 R&B hit in three years and spent an incredible 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
The Moon and the Sky (Remix)
Sade feat. Jay-Z
It’s a reimagining of Sade’s 2009 hit, “Soldier of Love,” with 40 hardening the drums underneath Sade’s bittersweet lament. The Jay-Z verse feels a touch superfluous but makes for a marquee collab.
Shebib’s warbling synths and Bronson’s irreverent non sequiturs—“All I do is eat oysters / And speak six languages in three voices”—remind listeners that 40 can whip up raw rap records as well as atmospheric R&B. Plus, the green-screen video concept is incredible.
What Happened to U
40 co-produced this down-tempo jam with Harlem’s Omen for Usher’s diverse Looking 4 Myself. It borrows from Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance” and allows one of this century’s finest falsettos to glow.
Nasty Nas said goodbye to famous wife Kelis with this 2012 single from his rap opus Life Is Good. Shebib linked with longtime Nas producer Salaam Remi and cooks up a sample from new-jack-swing crew Guy (“Goodbye Love”) for this divorce soundtrack.
An overlooked gem from the 40 canon, this R&B slow jam was conceived after American JoJo recorded a female-centric cover of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” (also produced by Shebib). This is what it sounds like when a hip-hop DJ does quiet storm.
Eric Bellinger Ft. Jhene Aiko
Bellinger, a writer for Chris Brown and Usher, stepped to the mic for this airy break-up-to-make-up anthem featuring the ethereal Jhene Aiko, friend of the OVO family.