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How Stevie Wonder sparked Drake's 'Marvin's Room'

Drake


Before a late-night drunk dial became the anchor of Drake’s bitter breakup jam, “Marvin’s Room,” his phone buzzed during a studio session with a surprising voice on the other end: Stevie Wonder.

“He’s one of the kindest, most spontaneous individuals. He said, ‘I’ll be there in 20 minutes,’” the Canadian rapper-singer recalled from a booth in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “So we started cleaning up.”

Drake was already in the legendary Marvin’s Room studios in L.A. when he received the call from Wonder, who, true to his word quickly, arrived. Drizzy and his longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib were cutting “Doing It Wrong" when Wonder requested to go into the booth.

“I thought I was going to play the music and see what he thought. But he goes in and starts playing the harmonica and starts adding all this production on this ballad, which I never even thought I’d do before,” he laughs, still in disbelief. “I’m like, ‘This is not happening.’”

The finished version, featuring Wonder, is included on "Take Care," which hits stores on Tuesday. Inspired by the impromptu jam session, the two continued to work after Wonder departed.

“[Shebib] started making this beat, and I started singing these melodies, and I got a phone call from this girl. I was in the booth singing [hums opening bars of the chorus]. I remember that was the first part I had.”

“Middle of recording I got a call from this girl, and she had been drinking,” he continued. “Because I was recording, I just put the phone on the speaker and sat it on the music stand. ‘40’ thought so quick to record it. I went back to recording more melodies. As I was recording, he was taking pieces of the conversation out … You know where the story is going. At the end of the night we had a song called ‘Marvin’s Room.’”

The track, a promo single he released earlier this summer for “Take Care,” instantly became a trending topic online when it debuted. Perhaps it was the hook of that late-night drunk dial that’s interpolated throughout the track (or the cringe-worthy relatability), or maybe it's the almost-muted bass and keyboard Shebib employed. Then there's the appeal of the song's lyrics, which manage to boast superiority over an ex’s new lover and the loneliness of the breakup. 

At one point it seemed everyone wanted to remix the song, including R&B singer JoJo and Chris Brown. Drizzy said he was quite flattered by the numerous spawns of the track but points to the session with Wonder as the catalyst.

“Without Stevie being there, I don’t know if I would have been as inspired to make that song,” he said. “I wanted to make something that people did.”

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-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

twitter.com/gerrickkennedy

Photo: Drake photographed inside the Nineteen 12 bar at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 2, 2011. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
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