British singer-songwriter-producer Labrinth knew what he was in for when he learnt he was about to work with Beyonce: “She’s a perfectionist and she’s a Virgo, like my wife. Virgos are serious perfectionists.”
“I was like, ‘I know what I’m in for and I like that,’” he added.
The Grammy-nominated musician, born Timothy McKenzie, worked on the pop icon’s newest song, ‘Spirit’, from the new ‘Lion King’ film, where she voices the character Nala. Labrinth said he and co-writer Ilya Salmanzadeh, who has crafted a number of Top 10 hits for Ariana Grande, were working on tracks for the film and hoped they’d come up with something Beyonce could connect to.
“We kind of sent a rough demo over to her. She heard the song and she loved the vibe. She was like, ‘OK, I’m going to get in on it with you.’ She started helping us write the rest of the record,” Labrinth said in an interview from London on Wednesday. “It was just like, ‘This is incredible. It was just one of those moments where it was like, ‘OK, I think God’s blessing me now.’”
‘Spirit’ was released last week and appears on two albums: The new “Lion King” soundtrack as well as ‘The Lion King: The Gift’, a Beyonce-produced album featuring songs inspired by the film. ‘The Gift’, out Friday, includes collaborations with Jay-Z, Blue Ivy and Kendrick Lamar, as well as African artists such as Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy.
Labrinth, who has six Top 10 hits in the United Kingdom and has produced for the Weeknd, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and Nicki Minaj, said he was impressed with Beyonce’s attention to detail and human spirit when working together.
“She cared about everything that was in the record. She cared about what piano we were going to use. Is there enough bass? Not many artists care that much,” he said. “Also, just the way she treated us as well. A lot of artists in her position, they can be divas and they can be hard to deal with. Her energy and the messages she sent to us in terms of saying thank you for contributing to ‘The Lion King’ — she sent really beautiful messages. I was really kind of surprised to see that someone in her position still has that humility. For me that’s when I was like, ‘She’s got all the respect from me in the world that I can give.’”
Labrinth, 30, is probably having his best month ever: He’s also the lead composer on the hit HBO series “Euphoria,” which stars Zendaya and is co-produced by Drake. The show, which follows a group of suburban high school students dealing with sex, drugs, love and social media, has been highlighted for its acting and also its music, which ranges from ‘50s crooner Jim Reeves to Beyonce and Lil Wayne.
Labrinth, who is in the supergroup LSD alongside Sia and Diplo, said he got the gig after show creator Sam Levinson heard his song “All for Us” and more of his music, and asked him to jump on board.
“Being involved with ‘Euphoria’ has given me another outlet to show how deep my world goes. I’m kind of doing orchestral compositions on there as well electric productions, hip-hop, 1960s classic music. It’s allowed me to be a kid in a playground,” he said.
Though Drake is part of the show, Labrinth hasn’t gotten a chance to work with the rap star yet: “Funny enough, I did a tour years ago and I supported him around Europe and we spoke then. It was weird that we crossed paths again on a whole different platform [with ‘Euphoria’].”
“Zendaya’s actually been a good creative to bat ideas with [regarding] the music,” he added.
The show has become a family affair, literally, for Labrinth, who grew up in a musical home and has relatives who have worked with gospel icon Kirk Franklin and R&B singer Angie Stone.
“My family is singing on some of the ‘Euphoria’ records,” Labrinth said. “I love using their voices. They sound amazing together.”