Behind the Boards is a series where we spotlight some of the biggest producers in the industry and explore some of their favorite projects. Here, we sit down with hit producers Nova Wav to talk about their work with Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, and more.
Production and songwriting duo Nova Wav are a secret weapon for some of your favorite artists, including Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande and more. More recently, Denisia “Blu June” Andrews and Brittany “Chi” Coney contributed half of Beyoncé’s latest masterpiece Renaissanceincluding the standout track “CUFF IT,” which won Best R&B Song at the 2023 Grammys on Sunday, February 5.
By talking to Result ahead of the Grammys, Chi says the inspiration for “CUFF IT” came from visiting a strip club and thinking about how they could get the Queen herself to dance. “We worked on ‘CUFF IT’ after we left the strip club, inspired by it – feeling a bit of happiness,” she recalled. “Everyone had been trapped in the house since the quarantine. We just wanted something big, something shiny, something joyful.
“Even before, she talked about how she felt like a renaissance was happening in music in general,” Chi continues. “Just knowing that it has to go out there with her, it has to push the needle, it has to be different from something she’s never done before. He has to say things and do things. She wanted just take it to the next level and she’s also one of the best dancers we’ve ever seen. It was like, ‘Yo, how can we make her dance?’ What does it do?”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Nova Wav describes working with a “powerful” artist like Ariana Grande. “She can do production, she can record, she can do background, she can record,” says Blu June. “She knows how to do everything, she knows how to write. She can literally do anything. You have to come with your A-game when you work with someone like Ariana because she doesn’t need anyone.
Read below for a deep dive into five standout productions, including Beyoncé’s. Renaissance“MEGATRON” by Nicki Minaj, “in my head” by Ariana Grande, “CRZY” by Kehlani and THE CARTERS ALL IS LOVE.
Beyoncé – “CUFF IT”
Denisia “Blu June” Andrews: As the record evolved, we kind of aligned with, “Okay, we think that’s the vibe, that’s what’s going on right now.” We just knew the album had to feel good, it had to sound like something new. It must have felt like a rebirth. And so we sort of aligned with the vibes.
Brittany “Chi” Coney: We were able to have a few conversations with [Beyoncé] and sitting down with her even a little earlier in the scenes, and she kind of played us where she was. It’s really just her genius, it’s who she is, you know what I mean? And everything falls into place and we’re still like, ‘Man, she’s still calling us. That’s great.”
We worked on “CUFF IT” after we got out of the strip club, inspired by it – feeling a little happiness. I think we all really, really wanted to spread joy. Everyone had been trapped in the house since the quarantine. We just wanted something big, something shiny, something joyful.
Even before, she talked about how she felt like a renaissance was happening in music in general. She had already pretty much told people what she was going to do. And so studying that, and knowing that it has to go out there with her, it has to push the needle, it has to be different from something she’s never done before. He has to say things and do things. She just wanted to take the next step and she is also one of the best dancers we have ever seen. It was like, “Yo, how can we make her dance?” What does it do?
June Blue: I mean, the theme of the album is escapism, right? So it was just to create something that feels like even though we’re locked inside the house, and no one’s really going out clubbing or doing anything like that, how can we do so that people feel outside when they are not? That’s where we got inspired by the song and just wanted to give something with that throwback feel, but also like a new age because even my 19-year-old nephew, he’s like, “This is very retro, but it’s also new. ” It’s fresh. So that was exactly what we wanted to create – something that felt fresh but true to who Beyoncé is as an artist and her maturity as an artist.
Nicki Minaj – “MEGATRON”
June Blue: We never had a cut on Nicki before “MEGATRON”. Someone we’ve collaborated with before, Pop Wansel — shoutout Pop — was working on some Nicki stuff. When we were in the studio, we weren’t thinking about Nicki or anyone in particular, but we had the hook and we were doing the beat in the studio, and we just did a song.
The next thing I know was like, “Hey, Nicki’s gonna put this record out.” So it was just a little out of the blue for us. And it usually happens that way, when you’re really not targeting anyone. This is usually where the magic happens. It’s just super organic and you know a lot of artists don’t really want to – most artists don’t really want to do something that looks like them or something that they’ve done before.
It was a very big dream to have a song with Nicki. Things were pretty slow at that time for her [music-wise]so I’m just glad it gave her some traction and got her back on her feet running.
Ariana Grande – “In My Head”
June Blue: Ariana was finishing thank you, next. We flew to work on the album there in New York, just a handful of people finishing the album. We sat down with her and she played us a few songs. And she was like, “Oh, I’m looking for a song like that.” She talked about some things, she knows what she means and came in and we took her out. It was just like hitting her, leaving her.
It’s always nice to be able to sit down with an artist because our job is to convey emotion, to say the things that artists can’t quite put into words. And so, it’s always good when artists can let you in on their deepest, darkest secrets. One of our gifts is that people, artists trust us and artists have shared very, very personal things with us. We’re good at putting things together, making things super simple, making it clear, but also making it cool at the same time and making other people feel like they can relate to even though it’s something they may never have lived or lived.
Ariana is a powerhouse. She can produce, she can record, she can do a background, she can record. She knows how to do everything, she knows how to write. She can literally do anything. You have to come with your A-game when you work with someone like Ariana because she doesn’t need anyone, you know what I mean? It’s always a great experience – we love Ariana.
Kehlani – “CRZY”
June Blue: When A&R and the label were trying to get his album ready, we were looking for a single and we were in Atlanta at the time. And we have a search sheet and they will give the type of record they are looking for. The description was something like, “Lauryn Hill meets, like Beyoncé. Beyoncé meets Calvin Harris meets Skrillex. It was like, what are you talking about? It was a bit confusing, right? And so I just remember looking at it and going, ‘Oh, we could do that, right? We can do this single. Like, just kind of saying it and not really thinking about it.
We ended up coming to Los Angeles. I think we just moved here in 2016. And we just happen to be like, ‘Let’s make a record’ or ‘Let’s just make a song’. Not necessarily for Kehlani or anyone, we were just doing a song and we ended up sending a song and they said, “We think that’s the single.” We were actually very surprised, like, “Really?” It happened so fast. I remember Chi had a beat and I was like, “Yeah, that beat is crazy. Sounds like it’s something the music needs right now.
The bounce was so different, like sonically, the beat just had like all these different sounds that you don’t normally hear. And a week, maybe two weeks after the song was sent and recorded, the song was out. It happened so fast, we didn’t even really have a chance to really understand what was going on.
Chi: [Kehlani] was going through a tough time at the time. And so to come in, and really, really give it something where it is, that’s exactly what I need to say, that’s exactly what I need to do. I remember doing the beat. And I remember the title was called “813 Sound”. The reason was that I’m from Tampa, and that was my area code when I was a little girl. I thought, “I just want to get back to what’s really me, do you know what I mean?” So this was one of those quick ones where it was like 20 minutes and I was like : “Okay, it’s dope.” Our sound is like, we’re dark and melodic and so it just kicked in, the song kicked in, it kind of wrote itself out of her It was amazing.
Blue June: I think a lot of different things must have happened. I think it had to be women who produced and co-wrote it because I think the things that she needed to say – I don’t think she was in a position at that time to get those things and I think a man would’ I didn’t really understand that perspective. I just think that made it more special considering that it’s just all the women who created this record. It will always probably be, I think, our two favorite moments in music for us, because it was like our stamp for our sound and it legitimized who we are as a production and songwriting team – like , “Yo they really got it, they really can do it.
THE CRANKCASES – ALL IS LOVE
June Blue: With [Beyoncé and JAY-Z], they make us go into our bags, where we actually have to look for different things to make sure we’ve given all we can give. I think that’s one of the things we always do with them. But it wasn’t really a pressure because they don’t make you feel that way. You know, it’s always a collaborative effort. Even when they called us into the room, everyone was thinking about it. They don’t interfere with anything. They just let the music do the talking.
Chi: We recorded some of that in Cardiff and Wales. What was so dope about it was that the stage crew was training for Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s tour, and we got to enjoy recording and seeing them practice for their show. It was so motivating and inspiring in itself.
June Blue: It just gave you an idea of how it’s supposed to feel. It gave you the inspiration to be in an arena. It gives you inspiration like, “Wow, like, if I created a song, this is how I want people to feel.” You know, take the mic and look outside and see people dancing and you know what I mean? It’s a first-hand look.