Humility Goes A Long Way

Wall Street Journal article on Timbaland’s protege-cum-superproducer Nate “Danjahandz” Hills

My older brother, who pays absolutely zero attention to hip-hop and the music industry, hipped me to this WSJ article over the weekend. It’s a pretty big coup for young Danja, particularly because he’s being profiled by a newspaper that is read by most of the moneyed elite in this country. Fuck a shrinking major label budget, can you say, “Where dem dollaz at?”

There’s one particular part of the article that I think a lot of upcoming, and even to a certain degree, established producers should take note of.

The biggest turning point in Mr. Hills’s short career came when he started working with Mr. Mosley, whose skittering beats and exotic samples had helped turn Ms. Elliott into an unlikely superstar. The two men met through a mutual friend at a music conference in 2001, but a partnership didn’t take shape until two years later, when Mr. Hills played a CD of his work on Mr. Mosley’s tour bus. Six months later, he says, he moved into a spare room in Mr. Mosley’s Miami home. Producer and protégé worked together for the next two years. Looking back, Mr. Hills says it was surreal to be called up by an industry leader he had hoped to supplant. “All my guns were aimed toward him, so the shock of all shocks was when he said, ‘I want you on my team,’ ” Mr. Hills says.

It’s really telling that Danja said he was at one point looking to supplant Tim as the industry’s go to guy. As producers, is that not what we’re always doing, gunning for that number 1 spot? Obviously anyone who makes tracks would love to become a Scott Storch, Just Blaze, Kanye West, or Timbaland type of person. Guys who’ve made their mark enough in the game where they can pretty much command whatever they want from the people who cut the checks, and beyond that work with whoever they choose. I mean, it’s the music business and all, but before all the industry shit we all have our music that we’re genuine fans of. Perhaps it’d behoove us at that point to work on that shit. Who knows?

The point is really that Danja went ahead and put himself in a subservient position in order to eventually get ahead. If you really track the timeline, the guy met Tim in ’01, didn’t really start working with him until two years later, and then spent another two years just working alongside Tim as a co-producer. At some point before Tim went ape shit and took over the entire game again, I’m sure Danja had to be questioning his 5 year plan. Who can forget the Beat Club debacle and Tim just seemingly floating under the radar for a few years? It’s hardly inspiring working alongside somewhat who isn’t inspired in the first place. Now I’m not insinuating Tim wasn’t doing shit or didn’t wanna make tracks. Just saying, comparing his stature in the game then and now is like night and day. But Danja stayed the course, and eventually Tim’s ship righted itself through his work with a variety of pop acts, and here you see before you Nate Hills has become a verifiable superproducer in his own right through working with him.

In an age where it seems like most people who are just breaking into the music industry suffer from microwave mentality, wanting their entire careers laid out before them after 15 minutes of half-ass grind, who can play the Scottie Pippen role long enough for their Jordan counterpart to step aside and go play baseball for a few years? It’s an ego thing. Everyone wants to be Dre, nobody wants to be Dre’s keyboard player. But you can clearly see what the benefits of doing so are.I met Danja at a dinner that Warner Chappell Music Publishing put together for him after he and Bryan Michael Cox won co-writers of the year at this year’s SESAC awards. Cool brother, no ego. Could hardly tell he just won an award. And for that reason I’m sure he’ll continue winning them.

-Paul Cantor

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  • Matt Caputo

    paul is the man, but yeah, watch out for side kicks.

  • T.R.E.Y.

    Danja’s cool, but if he starts doing more work without Timbo he needs to step his game up. i was impressed by “We Takin’ Over,” “Hurt” and “Tell ‘Em I Said That” but all the other Danjahandz solo stuff, i can’t help but feel like there’s somethin’ missing. it’s has elements of the stuff you hear in the Timbo/Danja collabo beats, but not near as complete.

  • BK Cyph

    the verdict still out on Danja- there gonnahave to be a point when he brands himself or he’ll always just be Tim’s lil homie.

    Im sure they workin on that… but fuck that where Polow Been at? he need another smash and quick! I remember he holla’d like he got Jay’s next hit… lol guess he aint make the cut.

  • Gooch

    Polow’s in the gym! Fuck a beat.

  • Cue Trax

    Pay attention! If in the event you can afford my rates!!!!

    If my most trusted constituate Paul Cantor has taken the time to put forth his own words advocating for an individual’s personal character in an online article stating that someone is a “cool brother,” I suggest that you should internalize it because it must be the truth! It is for a reason!

    So Danjahandz keep them hits coming. You have my team’s support.

    As for myself, I shall continue working on programs for the youth on Staten Island and this Frank Lucas project until we smack away the hands of these crumb snatchers who are trying to eat of the family plate.


    Last point! It is American Gangster Commission or it is nothing! The Legacy continues!!!! Because the Lords have risen!!!

  • Boogs

    Danja is that shit.. he slowly starting to brand himself. listen to the new britney record. he gettin his producer voice-over on.. i honestly think he is the reason Tim got his groove back.. pause

  • D.A. On The Track Man

    good article buddy.

  • iLL

    The guy is nice when it comes to production. The sad part is most of you people so used to producers; let me rephrase that. People are so used to common beat makers trying to be more than what they are, and always trying to be the front runner. Humility is needed in the game right now. I love the fact that this guy actually put in work, sat back in the background and look now. He still gettin major shine. Lesson to be learned to all of you people out there that want the lime light. You can still shine without the stage lights being in your face. Keep doing ya thing Danja.

  • G!

    Yeah, a lot of folks should realize that the grind requires a LOT of patience and consistency. Congrats Danja, I’m in the process too.

  • Tyler

    Fuck a Tim. . Dat artcle was cool but ‘dat ain’t all the real on the Timbaland story yo. U people really need 2 peep the earlier credits of the Jodeci & Ginuwine stuff cause Tim lies & fuck’d people over 2 get where he is and cause he threw one dude a bone U tryin’ 2 make a big deal about it? Great for Danja’ he seems cool but if Scott Storch didn’t pull Tim’s card a minute ago we still wouldn’t know who Danja is either. Love it or Hate it, it’s tha’ truth. aka

    • AlSween

      are you serious. you getting mad at tim for ghosting for devante swing?

  • Crillz Beatz

    Danja, keep doin’ what u doin’!!! Crillz Beatz

  • nappy_pappy

    Tyler u right bout that Tim has done some ppl dirty and u right bout storch. its good he spoke up we wouldnt know shit bout danja

  • Semothy Jones

    Nappy Pappy clearly don’t read Scratch! they did a thing on Danja before Storch mentioned him in the TERRIBLE diss track…

    Anyway, Danja got skills, an he’s versatile, which is always good…

    though, check out my version of Danja’s track with Britney on my myspace.


  • T.R.E.Y.

    Danjahandz’s name has been in the credits with Tim on ALL his recent stuff.

    funny how Tim’s instrumentalists/assistants that “ghosted” his earlier stuff haven’t blown up like Danja yeah? must’ve been some evil Timspiracy.

    Danja’s nice, but he ain’t as nice as Timbo, and you can tell when it’s a Danja beat and when it’s a Timbo/Danja beat.

  • EReal

    I read that article, it said dude’s dad is a preacher.

    I thought it was interesting that he said “When I was younger, everyone wanted to rap, but noone wanted to make beats.”
    Dude even busted his ass at fast food to buy his first Casio. Its tight to see people work hard and acheive their dreams, it makes you think theres still a shot if you work for it.

  • drctypea

    Thanks for the shout out lil bro

  • drctypea

    good looks lil bro.