No I.D. on the track, let the story begin. Also known as “The Godfather of Chicago Hip-Hop,” Ernest Dion Wilson is a Chicagoan producer perhaps best known for his extensive work with fellow windy city native and childhood friend Common, including the classic “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and mentoring Kanye West at their mothers' request. Indeed, Wilson has played a key part in his career since Ye was 14: guiding him, contributing production to multiple songs including “Heartless” and “Gorgeous,” and challenging him to make the beat that would ultimately become “Otis.”
Like many of his peers Dion (then called Immenslope) started out as a DJ, forming a group with Common, and was given his name by Twilite Tone who later joined. Initially thinking it wouldn’t work out, he went to college only to get back into music after leaving. He began going to seminars, learning the culture, got into production and signed with Relativity, eventually beginning to learn management. Early on he admired the likes of Pete Rock, Large Professor, The Beatnuts and A Tribe Called Quest and started on an SP-1200, a very limited machine. The WHPK radio station was home to the Late Show which he hosted with Tone, where Common and West actually had a rap-battle in 1996.
Circa 2001, following a slump after a rift with Common who had gone on to record with the Soulquarians, he re-focused on production. Both he and Bink! turned down contracts from Roc-A-Fella, though Just Blaze and Kanye signed. In pursuit of financial security he moved to Atlanta to learn more about the economic side of the music business from Jermaine Dupri, culminating in his first #1 hit, Bow Wow’s “Let Me Hold You.”
Nowadays No I.D. is renowned for his sampling, strong drum technique and musical sensibilities. He’s produced Rihanna’s “Higher” ballad, blessed Rick Ross with “Tears of Joy”, did Big Sean’s “Control” and provided dark backdrops for Vince Staples' Summertime ‘06. He’s also part of the group Cocaine 80’s with James Fauntleroy, Steve Wyreman and others, producing their four EPs.
Dion has developed a strong relationship with legends Nas and Jay-Z, first releasing a song with the former as Common’s “Ghetto Dreams” and linking with the latter in the early 2000’s for “All Around the World” though the two have known one another since at least 1997. He went on to produce multiple records on Nas' Life Is Good and the entirety of Jay-Z’s 4:44.
On the business side, following time as the president of G.O.O.D. Music (at Kanye’s request circa 2008) he went on to join Def Jam Recordings in 2011 at Karen Kwok and L.A. Reid’s behest, rising to the position of Executive Vice President of A&R in 2014. He also became head of his own imprint, ARTium Recordings. In 2017 he left Def Jam to become the Executive Vice President of the Capitol Music Group. He’s focused on the long-term:
My personal philosophy is, ‘Do I love the artist?’ Not, ‘Do they have a hit?’ I’m looking for artists who can deliver for the next 10 to 15 years because record labels aren’t even going to recoup unless you sell for a long time. I’m here to find the next Jay Z, Nas, 2Pac or Biggie. If not, what’s the point?