Veteran producer No I.D. has forged classic records alongside Hip Hop luminaries Common, Jay Z, Kanye West, Nas, and Drake. So when the Cocaine 80s member attaches his name to a rising artist, the recipient receives a powerful co-sign from one of the most accomplished musicians in the entertainment business.
Snoh Allegra is one of the performers to be blessed with the No I.D. endorsement, but the singer-songwriter is not just the production master’s sidekick. Snoh’s own enchanting musical presentation is earning her a serious buzz in the industry.
Hailing from a 40,000-person town outside Stockholm, Snoh initially learned to speak English by watching American television programs such as The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills 90210 and by listening to Disney movie soundtracks. It was that love for American culture that led Snoh to write her first English-language song before she even reached her teen years.
By the age of 14, Snoh was signed to a label deal in her home country. That situation did not work out, but she eventually met No I.D. through a family connection. After hearing the music Snoh was working on, No I.D. decided to add her to the Sony wing of ARTium Records - joining a camp that also comprises of Jhené Aiko, Elijah Blake, Vince Staples, and Common in the Def Jam division.
Snoh even teamed with ARTium crew member Common for the track "Hustle Harder" off the Chicago rapper’s 2014 album Nobody’s Smiling. She further introduced her vocal talents on her debut EP There Will Be Sunshine released in November.
In the latest edition of AllHipHop.com’s “My Five Firsts,” Snoh recalls some of the memorable moments from her life and career including learning from No I.D., getting a verse from Common, and experiencing the music of Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.
[ALSO READ: My Five Firsts: Luke James]
First Time Performing A Song You Wrote Live
I wrote my first song when I was 9 years old. Funny enough, it was in English, but at that age English wasn't even my second language. I’m Persian, so I was speaking Farsi and Swedish the best. I was still learning English. But I did my attempt. [laughs]
I wrote this love song. It didn't make any sense of what love is. It was totally grammatically incorrect. The title was “Take A Ride In The Heaven.” It was so stupid. [laughs] I think a year or two after, I performed that song at a talent show, and I won. I think it was a defining moment for me. I knew I wanted to continue to write songs. Though I’ve gotten way better. [laughs]
First Time Visiting America
I visited L.A. I was here on a working trip, but not with the camp I’m with now. I remember coming to L.A. not thinking at all it was like the movies. It was so different from what I imagined. The first time I went to New York I thought, “This is exactly like the movies.” Even the sound of the sirens in the background, the buildings, everything was just like I imagined.
L.A. was so different. But L.A. has now become home to me. It’s like my second home, and I enjoy it. It’s a totally different vibe from Sweden. Everyone is so nice here. Not saying that they’re not nice in Sweden. We’re kind of closed off. We’re not as open. I notice here when you walk in a shop people say, “Oh my god, I love your jeans. You look amazing.” They’re overly friendly. I love people over here.
[In Sweden] it’s ingrained in our minds from an early age that you’re not allowed to compete and think you’re better than anyone. At least, you’re not allowed to verbalize it. So that was a thing that really hit me in the face when I came to the States where everybody has this different attitude like "I’m the s**t.” They really show it. I walk in a room kind of reserved, and people are like, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren't you owning it?” Swedish people are reserved and maybe more humble than people over here in the States.
First Time Recording With No I.D.
I would like to talk about the first time he vocal produced for me which was amazing. I had no idea he could vocal produce. He actually vocal produced me on the ballad “You Always Knew.” When I first recorded that song I sang it totally different. I recorded the vocal, and he would tell me, "Can you please talk the lyrics more on top of the piano as if you’re talking with somebody?" Then he would tell me, " Add more melody to what you're saying."
He would do it gradually and just guide me to make me sound the way I sound on that record. It was amazing, because how it sounded on the demo and how it ended up sounding on the album was totally different. He showed me a different way of singing. I had no idea he could do that. That’s a moment I really remember working with him. He’s amazing at painting a picture, and he really wants to know what the song means and what I want to say with the song.
I vocal produce all my songs myself, but that was the one song he did with me. He opened a different space for me. It helped me to sing from a different place.
First Time Finding Out Common Recorded A Verse For “Bad Things”
I wasn’t even in the studio when he did that. I was in Sweden. I was visiting my family. No I.D. was working on the beat, and I had already laid my vocals. Common was also working on Nobody’s Smiling at the same time in the studio.
It was the first time [Common] heard “Bad Things.” He walked in the room and said, “What is this beat? What is she saying? I’m really into what she’s saying. I want to jump on this.” When he was done No I.D. called me and said, “Oh by the way, Common jumped on your track, just so you know.” I said, “What?!” I was so happy and surprised.
I’m open to doing features, but I want it to happen organically. I never want No I.D. to call someone and say, “I got this girl here. Can you jump on her song?” I don’t believe in that. I want the person to want to be on the track. Otherwise they won’t give their all, and I don’t believe it would be good chemistry. It has to be the right feature for the right song. So it made me super happy that Common wanted to jump on that.
When I first heard Common's verse, obviously I was like, “Wow. This is amazing.” It was this weird feeling in my body. I was very honored, because No I.D. and Common are both legends. I’m just a girl from Sweden. [laughs]
First Time Hearing Michael Jackson's Dangerous and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
I remember I had Michael Jackson’s Dangerous on cassette. I used to play that and dance to that all the time. I remember I just wanted to be like him. To me, he was just magic. It was something about listening to his music that made me dream of being in a totally different world.
With Lauryn Hill, I remember that album very well. I was in high school. I listened to all the lyrics thinking “this woman is educating us. This is like nothing I‘ve ever heard. To this day, the album is still one of the best albums of all time. I still listen to it and hear details that I really appreciate and learn from. As a woman, I look up to her so much. She has so much integrity in her music. There’s nobody like her. There’s nobody like Michael Jackson either. It’s timeless art from both of them.
[ALSO READ: My Five Firsts: Dizzy Wright]
Purchase Snoh Aalegra’s There Will Be Sunshine EP on iTunes. Stream the EP below.