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