During his interviews for the Rolling Stone cover story, Ed Sheeran reveals that his 2017 song “Shape of You” nearly had a rap feature, by none other than JAY-Z.
The mega-hit began as Sheeran’s brainchild from a songwriting session for other artists, not himself. Surrounded by longtime friend and Snow Patrol musician Johnny McDaid and producer Steve Mac, the three held a quick buzz session of recording musical ideas. “Within 30 seconds Ed was firing melodies out,” McDaid told The New York Times. “Ed writes like nobody else in the world. He has a picture of the song in his mind before he’s even articulated it.” As it happened, Sheeran has revealed the picture for “Shape of You” included a JAY-Z feature.
“We were in touch,” the singer-songwriter told Rolling Stone. “I sent him the song, and he said, ‘I don’t think the song needs a rap verse.’ He was probably right. He’s got a very, very good ear. He usually gets things right. It was a very natural, respectful pass.”
As we now know, JAY-Z’s ear was more than good - he was perfectly on the mark. “Shape of You” became the best performing song of 2017 and broke countless records. The song lasted a total 12 weeks as #1 on the Billboard charts and over an entire year in the top 100. And yes, that’s beating out the now (in)famous "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonzi featuring Justin Bieber. Naturally the GRAMMYs followed suit and awarded Sheeran “Best Pop Solo Performance” for the song.
All that notoriety was achieved without the rap verse Ed Sheeran once believed in. It’s fair to say that things worked out for the singer regardless, and that JAY-Z’s honest rejection did him quite the favor.