DJ Dahi On Working With ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar And Drake
"It's really kind of a blessing just to be able to have the opportunity to work with them from the start as they are starting to rise and get their recognition for their talent," he said in an interview with XXL this week. "Somehow, we got good chemistry, and we're definitely trying to keep making some dope, classic stuff."
With Oxymoron out this week and Dahi's run of hit songs seemingly set to continue, XXL spoke to the producer about some of the most high-profile tracks of his career, from producing for Q and Kendrick, to working with Drake, to lacing up some magic for Dom Kennedy and Smoke DZA. Let the beat build. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
DJ Dahi: I was messing with some sounds at the crib, and I was listening to some vocal samples and stuff that I got from some sound programs, and was like, Oh, this is a cool vocal passage, dope melodies, and I just build a dope hip-hop/dance record, sent it to my manager Brock. And Brock, we've been working with the whole TDE fam for a minute. So he sent it to Q, and I was actually playing some beats at the crib, and Q was like, "Yo, that beat is crazy." I think the next day he wrote the full song to the record. And then I went to the studio the next day while he was recording it, so we just kind of built the record up.
"Hell Of A Night"
I'm not with [TDE], but I'm definitely one of the guys in the sense of, we started working with each other a while back. I started working with them in probably 2011, 2012, when Q was working on Habits And Contradictions. And from there, we kept in touch, my manager Brock has a good relationship with everyone there, I built relationships with MixedByAli and Sounwave and all the different producers over there. And I'm in L.A. too, so that was really one of my goals, to really start to work with artists at the start of their careers and build with them and make something happen. So it's really kind of a blessing just to be able to have the opportunity to work with them from the start as they are starting to rise and get their recognition for their talent. Somehow, we got good chemistry, and we're definitely trying to keep making some dope, classic stuff.
What I appreciate about all of them is that they don't really have a certain formula as to a certain type of track. If the track feels good, and it's something a little different, they're not afraid to take it there. It was cool to have the record that I did, because at first it didn't pop in my head that this could be a record for Q, it was like, let me just make it and send it out to him and see if he really likes it. And then he literally just jumped on it as soon as he heard it. That's how you know you got one, 'cause it really wasn't hard for him to write the record. They're trying to do something different, so it's a mutual progression.
It wasn't even like a record that was lyrically trying to be like a rappity rap record, it was a record kind of just about living life, and living a certain type of life, and trying to just live for the moment. So I would say just based on that, it's not a really super introspective-type thing, this is a record to get people up and out of their chairs and running a little bit. Which is fine, too, especially for an album that has a lot of strong content aside from the L.A. lifestyle, growing up in the hood, doing a whole bunch of things that are not necessarily super-positive, but telling the story of how he got here. And then you have a record like "Hell Of A Night" and it's a little bit of a distraction to the story a little bit, which is cool. It's a record which is about having fun and exploring that whole end. In the context of the album, it seemed to fit well.
DJ Dahi: ["Money Trees"] was similar, where I just made the joint and sent it to him and he had kind of the same reaction, where he just started writing to it, and just kinda went in on the record. It's really the same thing, I went to the studio, heard the record, I added a couple things, changed a couple things in the production to make it fit the record, but that process is cool, because for me, I never know what record a person is gonna really want, but I personally will try anything. I don't really have a method to my madness, I just kinda feel somethin' for that day, and it's like, this is dope, let me try it and see where it goes.
The process of that record was really just me and Kendrick—and that was the first time I actually met Kendrick, that day we made the record, I had known him but that was the first day I actually met him in the recording studio and chopped it up—it was a little surreal, just being connected with that type of upstart, with the whole TDE camp and working with them. Because I pretty much work with everybody now, the whole team. So it's kind of like, "Okay, let me make sure I keep doing my job, keep trying to push the envelope a little bit, and it'll find a home."
It's cool, it's interesting when you've got the track and you hear the fans have an uproar, and you think back to the time when you made that beat in your room in your little space, and people are saying, "Yo, this beat is crazy!" To me, the beat is kind of a regular beat, it's not even my top favorite. But just song-wise, it's one of my favorite songs ever. It's cool to obviously be associated with it, but it's just weird, you know? It's cool, it's cool. It's just one of those moments, you know?
DJ Dahi: It's kinda crazy, it's one of those things where I was just trying to do something a little different, and it kind of was a record that I think was a really different record. Sonically, it had a different bounce to the beat, and when you start hearing the mimics of those type of records, when you hear people trying to recreate that, that's when you know. It's like, okay, you started something. It's kinda cool to be able to do that.
And with Drake, it's good to have artists who appreciate what I do that is different. That's one of the things I've come to understand about some of the greats; they're trying to say something, hear something that triggers something a little bit different in the music. It's cool. Kinda like, I guess I'll stick to the script.
drake worst behavior
DJ Dahi: It's funny, I feel like when I made that beat I made it with Drake in mind. It was kind of just a beat that, sonically, when I was making it, I was humming melodies that Drake might do or something. But when I made the beat, the tempo was super slow, and it kinda caught wind when I was in the studio with [Dom]. I was just playing a bunch of beats, and when he heard it he already knew the song he was gonna do, 'cause I guess he had written that lyric for something else, and he started doing his thing. I was in the studio with him, and me and Dom started working because when I was working with Pac Div and those guys, he was kind of coming up at the same time.
"My Type Of Party"
We tried to get some time and work with each other but we didn't, but it was kind of a situation where we went into the studio and just started talking, and played some shit, and that really, to me, helped merge what he did on the Yellow Album. It was a record he did that really connected with people, and helped him as a big step in his career. It's kind of cool to be associated with that. Dom is an artist who reps L.A. to the fullest, and what it's about, and to be a part of the start of his career in the sense of the mainstream, it's cool. It wasn't expected, but I kind of rolled with the punches, and that beat in particular just did it. I was gonna skip that beat, and he heard it and was like, "Go back, go back."
dom kennedy type of party
DJ Dahi: That was all through my boy Tunji at Interscope. He was trying to work with Vic, and that was a beat I did for Freddie Gibbs on "Stay Down," and I played him the beat and he just wrote to it. Then Tunji hit me up and was like, "Yo, Vic did something to the record, too, they wanna use it." So I was cool with it, and Freddie was cool with it, too. So they put it on the tape, and it turned out to be one of the songs that a lot of people liked on it.
Some people do actually know it's Freddie Gibbs, and maybe some of his fans aren't Freddie fans, but it was funny when it came out that a bunch of people thought it was a new track. Nah, that was for Freddie. But that's kinda cool, too, different fan base, different type of record that I think is a good record for what he did on it. I thought it was really dope. Hopefully we'll be able to work more in the future, too.
vic mensa ynsp
DJ Dahi: We got two records for his new album. One of them I know he did with Ab-Soul, then the other one I did I think is just me and him. But yeah, Smoke is dope, I worked with Smoke on the King Of New York project that he did. And that, to me, was one of my favorite beats I did, the title track that I gave him. I just love the bounce of that, and he killed it. It was cool, when I heard that shit I was like, "Damn, he killed it."
"King Of New York"
But Smoke is dope, Smoke is the homie, and his project is dope. It's definitely New York, but it's got an updated sound. It's not old school New York shit, it's got a dope vibe to it that I think New York needs. I think Smoke can really, given an opportunity, make a mark, if people have their ears open to it.