When it came to recruiting guest artists for Damn, Kendrick clearly favored quality over quantity. There was U2 on “XXX,” Zacari on “Love,” and, perhaps the most highly anticipated feature, Rihanna, who assisted in the standout track “Loyalty.” The song found the two artists addressing the topics of allegiance and honesty over a sample of Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic.” Producers Terrace Martin, DJ Dahi, and Sounwave reworked the familiar beat to give it a distinct edge; and the final result was one of Damn’s most radio-friendly cuts.
In a recent interview with The Fader, Martin shed more light on the creation of “Loyalty,” revealing everybody’s role in the record as well as the vibe they were trying to achieve. He said it really started after producer Khrysis, who was working under 9th Wonder, sent him the “24K Magic” sample.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, that sounds crazy.’ I said, ‘I wanna replay it, reverse it, change the key, add a third harmony—do all these things to it. But still make it sound just like the sample, but with a different edge.’ I turned the sample around, set it up, and then hit Sounwave,” Martin explained. “From there, me, Sounwave, and DJ Dahi got in the studio and started to put drums on that motherfucker. Right there, on my mama, Kendrick said: ‘Imma get Rihanna on this.’ That day. Right when the drums started, he looked at me saying, ‘Aye, I’m gonna get Rihanna on this record.’”
Martin said he loved that the record was a group effort, and it couldn’t have been done without the diverse mix of approaches and skills. He credited Dahi for never shying away from experimental ideas; Sounwave for being able to refine sounds and “making songs out of everything"; and Kendrick for providing the melodies.
“Loyalty” was recorded over a few days, but Martin said he spent a long time re-imagining the Mars sample.
“When ‘Loyalty’ was done, I looked at Dahi and Sounwave, and told them that I was happy that we were all a part of a composition. I was just happy that we all saw that seed grow,” he said. “The best feeling is when you’re next to your brothers and you listen to a record, and everybody got they eyes closed, and everybody kind of look at each other on their own time, and everybody’s in the zone […] We tryna change shit. Like, let’s not do nothing we did. Let’s just go back to the essence […] Let’s go back to the point of direction and find a new way.”
You can read the full interview at The Fader.