DJ Toomp
Look At Me Now

toomp-1.jpgBefore DJ Toomp was producing some of T.I.’s biggest hits, he was a long-time struggling producer. The man behind T.I.P.’s “What You Know,” “24′s” and “U Don’t Know Me” received his start in 1985 with Atlanta MC, Raheem the Dream, producing Raheem’s self-titled record when he was only 16-years-old. But Toomp’s early success came as no surprise to his family and close ones. His father was the lead singer of the R&B group, the MVP’s, and groomed a young Aldrin Davis a.k.a Toomp to be a singer since the age of six. In high school, he was always musical but opted out of singing and began to DJ and produce.

After the modest regional success of Raheem the Dream, Toomp acquired a small local following in his hometown of Atlanta. He DJed for MC Shy D and Luke and the 2 Live Crew in the early 90’s but as a producer, he was still a relative unknown. Things changed, however, in 1997 when the A-Town boardsman crossed paths with local rapper T.I. The two formed a friendship and in 2001 Toomp served as associate producer for T.I.P.’s debut album, I’m Serious. In 2003 the two partnered again on T.I.’s gold selling album, Trap Muzik, which Toomp executive produced. On T.I.’s following albums — Urban Legend (2004) and King (2006) — Toomp decided to concentrate on making beats instead of handling an executive producer role.

His discography also includes, Ludacris’ “Two Miles An Hour” off The Red Light District, Young Jeezy’s “I Luv It” off The Inspiration and Young Buck’s “Pocket Full of Paper” off Buck The World. In addition, Toomp has signed two new rappers, Jack Buna and Suga Suga to his newly formed label, Nzone Entertainment. Minutes after attending a songwriter’s convention sponsored by EMI Publishing, Toomp sits with XXLMag.com at Time Square’s Hilton Hotel in New York City to talk about his journey as a producer and his relationship with T.I.

How did your fathers experience in the music business help you on your journey as a producer?
My father was apart of a group called The MVP’s. They were signed to Buddha Records, which was the same label Gladys Knights and the Pips and Curtis Mayfield were on. My father was the lead singer [in the group] and he can still sing his ass off. We used to sing in the car together and he used to teach me harmonies. So I was always interested in music. From there, everything [fell into place]. I started singing and listening to how music was put together. The first time I actually heard a DJ mixing on a tape, I already knew how it was done because I remembered how the original song went. So the first thing I did was a pause tape. Then, once I hit the turntables, I already knew how it went without anyone showing me. That’s when I first started to DJ.

How did you get into producing?
Through an artist from Atlanta, Raheem the Dream. We both started around the same time and we went to high school together. I was DJing at pep rallies at the time and he was throwing parties at different hotel ballrooms. So he asked me to come DJ and by that time, I had my weight up, so everybody was talking about DJ Toomp. So from there, I started going into different studios and playing around. Even in school, I used to hit a couple of notes on the piano. To this day, I still don’t know how to read music but I know what it’s supposed to sound like. So I was just tapping around on the keyboard and I figured I had the knack for [producing].

How has the game changed over the years?
Cats these days are scared to be fans. I’m about a year younger than LL Cool J, but I’m a fan. It’s like these cats are too cocky to be fans. I would love to see more new cats take the time out to do their history. You might have a 16-year-old R&B artist who will tell you his influence was Marvin Gaye. You know during those 16 years, Marvin Gaye wasn’t putting out music. But he went and did his history. For some reason, in hip-hop it’s out with the old and in with the new. People don’t take time to see where hip-hop came from and what it’s about. So I feel it’s my job to keep it going. I’m 37 and I’m still active.

Do you like working with a new artists as opposed to a well-established ones?
I wouldn’t say it’s better, but it does feel better when you break someone new. You can be a producer, jump on the right artist’s project and then all of the sudden your life changes. That’s why I give certain producers props. Like Scott Storch, he broke Chris Brown. Jermaine Dupri broke Jagged Edge, Kriss Kross and Da Brat. That is when you really become a super producer. I’m known for breaking T.I. When you can get credit for breaking somebody it’s a good feeling. There isn’t anything wrong with jumping on an established artists’ project, but it’s almost like a no brainer.

toomp-2.jpgWhen you first worked with T.I. did you know he was going to be a star?
When I met him he had a hell of a presence. He was cutting hair at a barbershop when I met him, but it was the way he carried himself. You would think he already had bread. At the same time, I’ll be in the barbershop and all kind of women was checking for him. I was like, ‘Damn, this nigga already got hoes and everything.’ There are rap cats that got a hit record out now that can’t get that many women. I was telling him, ‘You got it already. So when you blow up, it shouldn’t be a problem.’ I saw that in him. At the time, I had a certain sound that I was going with and I needed an artist who could challenge me and he was the one. It’s a crazy chemistry and I’m responsible for that sound.

You have a unique sound that isn’t easily categorized. Do you sample or mainly use live instrumentation?
If I do sample, it may be drum sounds or certain horn strikes. So as far as loops, I love to play it over, rather than sample it. There are very few producers out there who really sit in a room and make great music by themselves. You could close me in an elevator if you want to, as long as there is a keyboard and an MPC, then [I’m fine]. Give me about an hour and I’ll have you some real shit. I’m creating my own sounds. On the first two T.I. albums, people started figuring out what kind of equipment I was using. Later on, I started hearing tracks that sound like mine — certain organs. So I’m always switching it up. That’s why it’s hard to duplicate Jeezy’s “I Luv It” or T.I.’s “What You Know.” Those don’t just come straight out of a keyboard. There is some other shit going on. It’s gonna be about five or 10 years before they get on that.

Does it bother you when you hear someone copying your sound?
Believe it or not, it doesn’t make me mad. Because when the public eventually notices, they are gonna be like, “This producer ain’t gonna last for long.” Almost every producer that came out sounding like someone else doesn’t last too long. Because when people want that sound, they are going to get it from the source. Why come out with a Lil Jon sound? You ain’t gonna get props. So I don’t get upset. If anything, it’s flattering.

More producers are starting to become artists. Do you have an aspirations to come out with an album?
I have been rapping for a long time, but I never considered myself an artist. Not that I’m afraid, but I don’t want the responsibility of having to be on a promo tour and all that kind of stuff. I’d rather stay home and do some beats. But I have ideas to put an album together, sort of like The Chronic. So I won’t rule it out.

  • Holla

    Toomp is the best producer in the south – holla!

    Oh yeah – and he met T.I. when he was cutting hair – lol – i thought T.I. was the biggest drug dealer in the world…LOL

  • lukee lefty

    he was selling drugs out the barbershop im not even from the south or a big TI fan and i know that.

  • http://myspace.com/juiceblack Juice Black

    London to Atlanta, gotta give props to Toomp…

    JUICE

  • Holla

    Excuse me for not knowing the drug history of T.I.

    He was probably selling dime bags – he ain’t move the type of weight he talks about on his songs.

  • SPitta

    drugs or no drugs that boy T.I. is a cold rapper and that’s all that matter cause all rappers exaggerate just a little bit for creative purposes.

  • Atl’s own

    shout out to DJ Toomp!

    long live da south ho!

  • lake

    o god no not agian this feels almost as bad at the time when defla the hustler was born

  • runninthe617

    toomp is fuckin sick no lie

  • John Cochran

    Toomp is nice. I like TI’s other man too, the one that did “why you wanna”. People dont understand that when you sit down and build chemistry with artist and producers it comes out better. Not saying that TI is that good, but he’s better than most.

  • http://yahoo.com Sage Francis

    Ta hell with these mainstream a-holes

  • http://yahoo.com swapmeet willy

    Meet me down at the compton swapmeet you can bid on toomps career maybe revive it booo to ti and toomp

  • http://yahoo.com Milk and Beans

    Its time for a change toomp is poop we need some real hip hop

  • http://yahoo.com Hilbert Humperdink

    I like will smith and black eyed peas

  • Joseph Tegano

    fuck this shit ur all cowards n bitches anyways so suck a dick homoms

    hit the celly if u got a problem ya heard? (612) 203 – 6829

  • Joseph Tegano

    (613) 203-6829

  • Bama Nigga

    dat nicca toomp been doin it in da south 4 a minute and JOHN COCHRAN right about dat Nicca KHAO who do beats 4 him. dat boy 4rm the gump,Alabama.he started off on dirty boyz first cd

  • lake

    awww atls own is actin all rowdy how cute hes almost as rowdy as derfla the hustla

  • http://www.theyreminisceoveryou.wordpress.com Theophilus Jamal (Love Free I)

    BIGITUP DJ TOOMP! Wutchall know about the man Brother Marquis and the muddaphuggin’ Ill Nazty click? “Pussy Whipped” is my JAM! (Thank you Noz.)

    Yeah, “What You Know” is definitely one of the biggest records in years. I doesn’t fucks wid Jeezy or Ricky Rawsss, but if Toomp gon’ do it up large for ‘em I ain’t gon’ begrudge him. What I really want, though? Get some real crazy fuckin’ lyricists on ‘em tracks, cat! I got love for T.I.P., but on the real, what I reckon we need is some of the East Coast monsters on that shit. Not to mention I don’t think there’s been a Toomp & Weezy collaboration yet– hook that shit on up, homie! Bar Bun B, we talkin’ the most gifted an’ interesting lyricist presently active in the South right thea’. An’ what of some of the old guard? David Banner perhaps? Assholes By Nature? Come on now! This man deserves to blow up BIG, an’ when it happens I want him to take the best rappers in the South along wid ‘im.

  • http://yahoo.com swapmeet willy

    F*ck Toomp

  • PIMPTYTE

    I See That A Lot Of Yall Are Just Getting Up On Dj Toomp Because Of The Hits He Done For T.i. Like He Said In The Interviews A Lot Of Young Cats Don’t Do Their History Pertaining To Rap. I Know Bout Toomp When He Was Doing Booty Shake Track Back In The Late 80′s And Early 90′s For Mc Shy, 2 Live Crew And Many More. Yall Don’t Know Bout The Album He Did With Brother Marquis Of 2 Live Crew Call 2 Nazty “indicent Exposure” Back In 93 Or The Tracks He Did On Lil Jon And The Eastside Boys First Album In 97. I Just Felt Like Informing These People Who Ain’t Up On Their Southern Rap History Or Rap History Period.

  • Sik Wit It

    actually not to take away any of the credit from dj toomp but dude didnt do t.i.s what you know record. my boy wonder did
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5jQtogqRMo

  • Ced

    These guys love claiming that people are imitating their sounds and/or style. Who exactly is imitating his style? I would like to know. His biggest hit another guy had to play the main melody part so he did not do that track by himself. Yes, he is a southern producer but he did not come up with that melody line himself in “What You Know.” It came from another record so he had to pay the original publisher a cut.

  • MFM

    ^^Who cares? What producer do you know plays all their instruments and never samples from anyone else? Fact is a lot of ppl act like they know what goes on behind the music when they don’t, nor do I. But I’ve seen footage of musicians playing the instruments for the producers the way the producers want it to sound. That doesn’t take any credit from the producer because he’s the one behind the construction of the music.

  • jacquez
  • Holla

    Southcrack stop postin’ – you’re garbage – nobody cares about your wack ass myspace career

  • johnnycakes

    CED: he did not come up with that melody line himself in “What You Know.” It came from another record

    what record would that be??

  • http://www.coredjs.com CEO

    Core DJ’s in the fuckin building … Good look for our family ..!! Toomp, keep holdin it down for the DJ’s, homie ..!!

  • http://myspace.com//cjda5th CJ

    Good looking on the DJ Toomp article. Hey Toomp if you reading this I’m Clee homeboy from College Park. I gotta’ get back in your studio one good time over one of you rtracks. Holla at me. The South shall rise again.

  • Stax On Deck

    He is one hell of a producer. Dirty South 4Ever!

  • ICE GOTTI

    this nigga make some of the best beats for real. he one of the best without a doubt.

  • lester

    Jus to confirm, Wonder done the beat for ‘What you know’ and wonder done the drums.

  • East St. Louis boi

    people need to stop hatin on Toomp and T.I. cause yall know when they bring a single out together yall niggas be reciting that shit so stop fucking hating u bitches.

  • Those Damn Ques

    Toomp has been my homeboy since we were 8 and stayed next door to each other. Toomp has been grinding since he was in the 6th grade. He would never come out and play ball, just stay on the turntables and make music! Toomp deserves every accolade he is getting right now and to anyone who doesn’t appreciate that type of grind and commitment is a loser. Toomps hands down is one of the best in the game. By the way fuck wonder!!! Ques

  • krb

    yeah tommp! help jovan dais blow up!

  • http://DoubleXlargeNigga Thoomp Classmate (SBA)

    Swapmeet willy and the rest of you hating cat fucks, get of my DAWG Thoomp I remember when the Nigga was call TAD, hitting that SHIT back in the early 80′s back in the middle school. ya’ll talking that shit like the ya’ll pay his FUCKING bills, The first day of middle Thoomp i meet in the bleachers at Ralph J. Bunch, he smacked me for no apparent reasing and i turned back to smack the shit out of him. And we’ve been boys since 1980. Let my man do his thang and Swap, Keep your CAT ASSa comments to yourself.

  • DJ

    HOLLA ima samck u upside da head TI is from bankhead now if u noe anyrhing about da ATL u wld noe dat iz zone 1 were ppl get killed fer no fuckin reason everyday i dont live i nthe south and i noe dat bankhead is fuckin scary so TI iz a real nigga u dont last in a place like dat if u a fake pussy or a lier

  • http://www.myspace.com/zeeprod Zee Productions

    Tupac & Biggie – Deadly Combination Zeemix
    Nas – Hope Zeemix
    Eminem ft 50 Cent – You Dont Know Zeemix
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    Produced by Zee…Hottest Production coming from a 16 year old in the UK

    http://WWW.MYSPACE.COM/ZEEPROD

  • Haze3

    Doesn’t Toomp use an MPC-60 to make his beats? I read that somewhere and you can kinda tell also. I knew all along this guy had next since I first heard “don’t know me”; kinda like the first time I heard N.O.R.E. waaaaaay back in ’97 (LA LA) I knew there’d be problems.

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  • Anonymous

    Chile, TIP and several of those barbers were major dope dealers using that shop as a cover. That is well known in the A.

  • Kit

    TIP and several of those barbers were using that shop as a cover and they stang dope out of it. That is well known in the A.