Dahi Details Production Process of Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Album
Interview: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Dahi came up as a youngin’ experimenting with playing instruments. His early passion would pay off as he transitioned to making beats when he got older. As of today, he’s worked with some of hiphop’s biggest stars such as Dr. Dre, Drake, Big Sean and, most recently, Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples. In the first half of this year, the 39-year-old Inglewood, Calif. native produced albums like Kendrick’s chart-topping Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and Vince’s Ramona Park Broke My Heart. Here, Dacoury Dahi Natche aka DJ Dahi, speaks with XXL about his latest contributions to the culture.
You’ve been working with Kendrick for a decade now. Did you both approach this new album differently?
Not really. Because I think we’ve developed a certain relationship over the years with just being able to hear music from a storytelling aspect and through moods and different sounds—music that literally has an emotional tie to it. We’ve all known each other for years and we’ve all collaborated on different stuff. But at the end of the day, we’re trusting people’s ears and knowing that they have a perspective about life that they bring into music.
How did K-Dot’s record “Count Me Out” come together?
I’ve been working on my album, so I’ve been kinda just doing a lot of dope jam sessions with my friends, like Ely Rise and Danny McKinnon. We just cook up ideas and record little music bits. So that was the idea I had. I think I started it maybe like four years ago. I had written some lyrics and had a choir of these young students from Los Angeles get on it. And then I played it for Kendrick. And he loved it immediately. That song went through a lot of changes to fit what the album was going to be, sound like and go into. It had a journey.
What was it like braiding generations together on “DJ Quik” with Quik and Vince Staples?
I think it’s amazing, man. It just shows the bridge of giving credence and respect. And just real appreciation for cats who really built this hip-hop shit and really got it to the point where it is what it is today. I think it’s important to be in the presence and around some of our elder statesmen and really gain some game of how to really go about things. And even in this situation, I didn’t get the chance to meet Quik. They had did it in another session when I wasn’t there. But when I got the track, that’s when I was like, Oh shit, this is gonna be hard.
What advice would you give to any up-and-coming producers out there?
At the end of the day, just make what feels right to you. I just try to go with my gut instinct around the different things that I like and things that catch my ear regardless of if it’s hot or popular. So, yeah, go with your instinct. And really keep learning.
Read all about producer Dahi and his work with Kendrick Lamar on K-Dot's Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, on newsstands everywhere now. The issue includes additional interviews with the Freshmen featuring BabyTron, Cochise, Saucy Santana, Babyface Ray, KenTheMan, SoFaygo, Big Scarr, Big30, KayCyy, Doechii, Kali and Nardo Wick, 2022 XXL Freshman producer Wheezy Outta Here, Lupe Fiasco, Kevin Gates, NLE Choppa, D Smoke, Yvngxchris, engineer Teezio and singer Chlöe, plus a breakdown of every Freshman Class from a numbers standpoint, a look back at what the 2021 XXL Freshman Class is doing, the story of why the 2016 XXL Freshman Class gets so much respect now and exploring rappers' most valuable collections. You can also buy the 2022 XXL Freshman Class issue here.